GUEST POST: Architect Karen Krauskopf's Tips On Choosing A Home

Karen Krauskopf and I met our first semester of college and have shared a passion for design, style and spirited conversation ever since.  I thought it would be wonderful to add some architectural expertise and perspective to our Thoughts On Home this month and I am delighted that Karen agreed to contribute this guest post to Style Maniac.

ONE | First – and above all else: Understand how you live.
Private or public? Formal or informal? How do you entertain? What are your hobbies, and how often do you pursue them? These questions greatly influence the collection of rooms and the relationships that create a pleasing experience in your home. If you only use a formal living room once a year for the family photo, you do not have to have it in your home just because your mother did. On the other hand, if you use it every day – perhaps it is the one quiet place in the house with great light where you can curl up with a book or there is a budding pianist in the family, by all means include it. Honor and embrace what makes you and your family happy, and communicate that to your architect or real estate agent. 
The client in the above photos lives a "public" life. Double height windows and terraces face the street and allow the homeowner’s wonderful sculpture collection to be visible to and enjoyed by passersby. (PHOTO: MC2 Architects)

TWO | Understand where you live.
Since a home is permanently situated, understanding its place is paramount. Here on the Southern Gulf Coast, we raise our homes off the ground in order to ventilate them from underneath and also keep them from flooding. We have deep porches to shade us from the harsh sunlight and to channel breezes through the house. The same house – if built in Pennsylvania or New England – would be painfully cold and dark, no matter the level of insulation.  Take a look at the houses in your area built before the advent of central heat and A/C. These homes were built for performance as well as aesthetic beauty.

THREE | Choose quality of design over quantity of square feet.
Quality of design involves room sizes and proportions, ceiling height, window and door locations, views and connection to the outdoors, natural light; and details such as the craftsmanship of stair railings, built-in casework, window selections, trim and connection details, lighting selection and design.  Thoughtful attention to these details increases the per-square-foot construction budget, but give a space character. In most every case, a smaller, detailed home is preferable and more livable than generic largesse.
I love this little house and its contrast of  scale - the small, small footprint (20' x 20') with huge glass doors and windows. It really connects this tiny space to its surroundings while creating a warm, sheltering refuge. The house is intricately detailed with industrial metal materials offset by warm wood.  The large wheel is more than just decoration--it operates the steel shutters which protect the home from harsh conditions. (PHOTO: Olsen Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects)

FOUR | Consider all three dimensions of your home.
I have heard countless horror stories from friends who focused intensely on adjusting the floor plans of their dream homes – not realizing the volume implications until the home was well under construction and changes prohibitively expensive. Think vertically. How will the home look standing on the building site?  In open floor plans, do the interiors have height variations that create intimate spaces?
Note how the partition walls in this home stop short of the ceiling, allowing light into and out of that room to penetrate other areas; and how the bridge breaks up the double height space.  Without the connecting bridge the vast volume would be a generic echo dome. (PHOTO: Stern Bucek Architects)

I find the most beautiful and cohesive homes those in which there is a clear connection between the exterior form and the interior layout.  (SCHEMATIC ELEVATION: Karen Krauskopf)

FIVE | Consult a professional.
This is not shameless self-promotion.  Whether you are shopping for an existing home or a lot on which to build, consult an architect or interior designer. Ask your real estate agent for a second showing and bring your team in for feedback. We are trained to evaluate the assets and liabilities of existing spaces and building sites, local renovation and construction codes and restrictions, and we are definitely trained to “see” possibilities. Of all the professionals involved in buying or building your home, these two are the only ones whose sole interest is representing you and finding that unique home design that is the balance of your dreams, aspirations and of course your budget.

Karen A. Krauskopf

"Use the good china for breakfast."