The Chicken or the Egg – Land or Home Design, which comes first?

Should you plan your home layout then look for the perfect piece of property or find the choice property then design the house to fit? The puzzle works both ways and in fact, there is no wrong answer with proper planning. No matter which comes first the design of home and the land where it sits go hand in hand. Designing the house we live in comes down to the practical ideas of work flow in the kitchen, space to entertain and relax, and sleeping/personal spaces, all of which need to fit our lifestyle. Particularly in a rural setting, the out door space may be so compelling that you want to take full advantage of views or sunlight or topography. Sometimes the design process is pretty cut and dried but when it is not, what are some “guidelines” that can help?

Here are some practical thoughts that can help guide the process;

If you own but don’t already live on the land, I’m talking rural setting now, taking time to experience the land for longer periods of time by walking it, or even camping out if possible, are really helpful to add perspective. Time spent on site allows opportunity for the subtleties  of location to become more evident. For example, you may find out that the sunlight creates shade at certain times of day or season that were not considered before. You might find out that the neighboring properties offer something that you want to be closer to or further away from. It is also worth mentioning, as you consider the smaller details, to not loose sight of what first drew you to the property.

Practical things that affect the budget:

  • Grade and natural drainage – how much dirt work will be needed to prepare the site.  Grading could also affect the Style of house; walk out or conventional basement for example.
  • Style of house – Functionality, layout, cost and appearance may suit one area of the land over another.
  • Distance from road – cost and look of the of driveway (straight run in or winding laneway)
  • Distance to existing utilities – cost to bring them to the building site.
  • Water well and septic field location. – room for separation between them and not affected by the driveway or yard location.
  • Guidelines like setbacks bylaws, architectural controls etc from the municipality.

For the living space, will you like an open concept or smaller more intimate spaces. Vaulted ceilings make rooms feel larger while coffered or tray ceilings add a different kind of charm but add to the cost. A painted or textured 9′ ceiling also fits the bill for an open feel which might leave money in the budget to spend on other features you like. It is more cost effective to build down to a walk out basement than up to a second floor so the location you have, or are looking for, or budget, may favor one design over the other. A good designer will ask you questions to help define the living space to suit your needs and how it will all fit together in the home.

So whether you have the land and are ready to plan the house to suit or vise versa, take time to dream then budget and plan carefully so the building process will be most enjoyable and the end result will be magnificent!