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21 Big Ideas for Home Design this Year
Great article from Builder Online today. I am very optimistic to see so many articles in the builder magazines talking about the importance of good architectural design. Customers are demanding it and understand the rewards of professional design no matter the size of the project. In fact one of the top 10 things people are looking for when buying a house is architectural design.

Follow this LINK to see the article!

Ashli Slawter, Architect, LEED Associate
Residential Design, Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati
Defining Custom Residential Design
What does is mean to complete a truly custom project? Is it custom if you have selected your fixtures or cabinets? I would argue, no. This might make some of you angry. But, selecting from one of five pre-determined floor plans and a few finishes does not make a custom home.

It is important to understand that custom design starts with words and ends with a unique project suited to you and your families needs. This process is the road map to success. It is so important to make sure all of the goals are achieved. After all your house is an exention of you not just a box to decorate.

Take a look at my projects page and what do you note first? I would say they are all different, unique...and most of all suited to the client. This is what can be created when you start with words and end with architecture!

Written by: Ashli Slawter, Architect, Northern Kentucky

Specializing in Residential Design, Green Home Design, Energy Efficient Homes, Home Design
The Energy Efficient Home
Now that we have all taken steps to make our houses cozy, letís talk about what we can do to save some money. Before getting to deep into this subject, there is one question you should ask yourself. How long will I be in this home? Why? To realize savings on big ticket items like furnaces and windows you will need to stay in your house for 8-10 years.
For example, say you put a new furnace in your home and the cost is $5,000. After putting the new furnace in, your energy bills drop an average of $50 per month. In 100 months or 8.3 years you will have saved $5,000 and the furnace has paid for itself. So, if you plan to sell in a couple of years a new furnace is not the answer.
Ok, now that we have touched on that, letís talk about heat loss mitigation. The number one place that houses lose heat is through the roof. Climb up into your attic and take a look. Is it insulated? Is the insulation old or matted down? If so the first thing on your to-do list should be insulate the attic. The best insulation is blown in. There are several companies locally that provide blown insulation. The goal: R-36
Second, take a look around your house. Are the doors and windows tight? What about other penetrations? A leaky house is a drafty house. It is worth every penny to spend a Saturday afternoon sealing up your house. Is your basement unheated? If so, take a walk down to the basement and look up. Is there bat insulation between the floor joists above? This is another quick fix that will make the house feel a lot better and save some money. Purchase some bats at the hardware store and staple them between the floor joists. Minimum: R-13
Third on your to-do list: call a local heating and cooling company and have them inspect your current system. Does it provide the correct amount of heating for your home? Is it installed correctly? How old is it? How efficient is it? Are you ducts size to supply the air needed to each space? These are all questions that impact your energy consumption. A high efficiency (95% or higher) furnace sized to meet the loads of the house will save the most on energy costs. If you plan to stay in your house for the long haul and have an old furnace, replace it now to realize the long term savings.
Now to windows. Are you living in a house with single pain windows? Burrrrrrr! At least get some storm windows. The second greatest place for heat loss is through the windows. You may recall that we discussed windows a few months back. If you remember I compared them to cars. The bottom line; buy good windows. Look for the following: U-value ~.3, SHGC .4-.5, Low-E, argon filled, and a good warranty. I usually donít recommend vinyl windows and I will tell you why. The coefficient of thermal expansion (COTE) for vinyl is very different than that of glass. This results in broken seals and structural problems within the window. Also, vinyl is slowly broken down by UV rays and canít be repaired. One of my favorite windows is Integrity by Marvin. It is a really good mid-grade window built out of pulltruded fiberglass. Pulltruded fiberglass is extremely strong and resists the elements in every way. It also has a COTE that is nearly identical to glass. Wood clad windows are also great, but a little more expensive. Replacement windows are a must if you plan to stay in your home and will generally pay for themselves within 10 years.
Last but not least letís talk about the walls. If you live in a house that is more than 60 years old chances are good that your walls arenít insulated. There are options to improve this situation. In fact there are companies that specialize in filling wall cavities. Generally they cut openings near the ceiling and fill the walls with a cellulose type insulation. The walls are then patched and refinished. I put this at the end of the list because walls are not the greatest source of heat loss and the installation is more invasive.
The architect in me says do all of these things right away. The homeowner says this could get expensive. So, do what you can! Even if you only address the attic, the floor, and exterior penetrations you will realize cost savings and be more comfortable in your home.

Written by: Ashli Slawter, Architect, Northern Kentucky

Specializing in Residential Design, Green Home Design, Energy Efficient Homes, Home Design
Architect's Toolbox
Architects are sculptors creating spatial experiences. What? Let me see if I can break this down. Have you ever walked into a building, maybe a church, or a house that stops you in your tracks? What is it about the space that makes it breathtaking; the color, the light, the proportions, or maybe the ordering of materials? Most likely, it is all of these things working in unison. My point being, these things donít happen by accident. Architects mold space to create a desired outcome.
Consider the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. Everything about this building says power. Visitors standing beneath the huge dome are awed into silence. Why? Structurally the dome is amazing; the height, the size, the way light streams through the openings. The materials used in the space are equally beautiful, marble and granite in a Corinthian order. It is the combination of these things that makes the building magnificent.
What about Falling Water? Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it is one of the most famous houses in the United States. Wright was a master at using light, materials, and spatial relationships to create really great houses. His design influence can be seen throughout the Midwest in the craftsman style bungalows dotting the local streets.
Architects apply similar design principals to all buildings. In the toolbox you will find light, materials, texture, order, proportion, and most of all space. We understand what makes space comfortable, beautiful, and magnificent. This is called the spatial experience. As we design, we are sculpting the spaces, and considering the impact of light, materials and order. We consider the occupants and how the space will be used, when the space will be used and any unique requirements. This is the architectís toolbox.
You might be thinking, this really doesnít apply to me and my house. But, Iím telling you, it does. A well designed house or addition can make all the difference. My clients are mostly residential and I apply the same principals noted above to all of my projects. The first goal, when meeting a new client, is to understand what they are truly trying to accomplish. What is the end state? What is the clientís lifestyle? Itís not just about the size of a space, but how it will function, and the atmosphere desired. I use this information to create spaces that will fit the clientís needs perfectly. Next time you walk into a house that really feels good look around and think about these things; materials, light, order, space, and proportions and remember these things donít happen by accident.

Written by: Ashli Slawter, Architect, Northern Kentucky

Specializing in Residential Design, Green Home Design, Energy Efficient Homes, Home Design
The Rewards of Renovation
I meet with clients that often ask me one simple question: Should we renovate? This question usually results in me firing back several questions. Will you be staying in this house? Are you renovating for resale? How much money do you have into the property? What are house values on your street? These are questions that must be considered before starting a project.
Resale is always a consideration. But, most people are looking to improve the over quality of their home. If this is your intent, you are on the right track. Avoid making decisions based on what other people might like or based on trends. Make decisions based on what you like and the needs of your family.
Renovations can be expensive. So, itís important that you and your family are happy with the end result. Would you go down to the car dealer and purchase a red car instead of a blue car based on an assumption that resale on a red car is better? No. You will buy the color you like best. Apply this same strategy to your home. Why spend all that money if you donít get what you want? After all, getting what you want is the reward of renovation.
Back to the money, on average you can expect to recover 75% of the cost of renovations when you sell. Are you surprised? Many people go into a renovation under the assumption they will recover 100%. A few of the lucky will, but this is not the norm. Last year, the average percent recovered for a complete kitchen renovation in Cincinnati was ~70%. The average recovered for a bathroom renovation was ~68%.
After seeing these numbers you might say, ďGee, why renovate?Ē, but that is missing the point. You are renovating for you and your family, not for the next family that will own the home. The reward of renovation is the happiness you gain through the completion of your project.

Written By: Ashli Slawter, Architect, Northern Kentucky
Specializing in Residential Design, Green Home Design, Energy Efficient Homes, Home Design

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