How to Design
Luxury Homes are based on traditional geometries. The
most basic plan layout is a rectangle with an entry door in
the center of the house. Formal rooms are typically on
the first floor with bedrooms upstairs. As houses became
larger and modern conveniences/lifestyle was incorporated
outdoor sheds for baths, kitchens and horse carriages were
attached to the basic footprint. Obviously, some houses
can be entirely a one story design but most, now because of
limited lot sizes and other factors, are two story and Master
Suites can be located up or down.
A 2 story house affords a taller and more powerful
statement. Rooflines define the various historic
styles and become key identifiers.
Exterior materials and overall style should be based on
the immediate property location and landscaping. For
example: an Italian Villa may look odd in a grove of pine
trees; a French Castle will look out of place in an orange
grove. For large estates though any style can be
worked into a particular site by taking advantage of
existing trees and foliage, prevailing winds/movement of the
sun, and views.
If you are bound to design covenants in a 'gated
community' you may be limited greatly in your options
related to height, colors, and style of house. Some
communities also regulate the materials of construction,
pitch of roof, etc. For the freedom to build as high
as you like (most covenants limit height to 35 feet) to
create a true French Chateau for example, find a rural
location on a large property. Make sure that variances
to height are allowed or no limits are placed.
Floor Plan Layout
The actual floor plan design can be straightforward based
on the most contemporary layouts developed in recent times
or can mirror a period style historic plan. There are
small and larger options and the intricate geometries of
historic houses are amazing. Find a reference book on
the style of house you wish to build and study the floor
plan diagrams. You will see some outdated planning of
spaces but there are fabulous staircases, elliptical and
curved rooms, etc.
To create a modern interpretation
of a historic style we have to realize that the scale of the
prototypes were a result not only of the rooms required for
service staff but the addition of state rooms available for
dignitaries. When these rooms are scaled down or
eliminated we generally arrive at a sort of personal villa
or small chateau design -- at least for the average family
The facades or elevations are a direct implication of the
geometry of the floor plan. The variation of
projections on the exterior walls also make breaks in the
roof line. A very simple floor plan geometry results
in a simple roof design, a variation of either hipped or
gabled themes. The height of each floor has a great
bearing on the proportions of the facade. Windows and
doors must be adjusted in height and width based on the
floor to ceiling heights of the first and second floors and
the spandrel dimension.
Materials should match the historic style. Note
that French Chateaux had brick work mixed with limestone
early on but later were entirely of stone. Italian
villas were built from field stone, the smaller ones, and
then covered in stucco. Most of Palladio's villas were
brick with stucco exterior, not stone.
Addison Mizner, Florida's premier historic architect,
said this about the design of houses:
"...the whole of
architecture is in the proportions"
A great house
will be perfect in proportions, in complementary detailing,
in proper fenestration, in correct roof pitch and
accouterments, in materials and coloration.