Happy to Be Here: Dream Houses for Today and Your Future Self

August 30th, 2017

Drawing by Heather Ryan of Rotelle Studio(e).

Growing up, my brother and I had the luxury of living in a neighborhood where no two homes were alike and a mature wooded lot sat right next to our house. We spent many summer hours building “houses” in those woods, constructing the walls out of tree limbs and using pine needle “thatch” for the roofs.Sometimes our materials were large cardboard boxes or plywood and metal scraps from our father’s woodshop. I imagined elaborate rooms, and invented stories to inhabit our dream houses. I didn’t know then, but these small shelters would be the tiny seeds of a lifelong career as a residential home designer and greatly influence my creativity and passion.
Several months ago, Rotelle Development Company asked me to create a compact house design targeted toward first-time and downsizing buyers. What did I need to know specific to these buyer groups? How might they be different from a typical family home owner? What type of home were they currently living in?

I began to look around and think about the longevity of some of the established homes in my neighborhood. What was special about these homes that gave these residents the ability to stay in their houses for a significantly longer time than others? What did these homes have that others didn’t?

By observation, the best neighborhoods had a variety of home styles and sizes. Some had additions and finished garage spaces; others added onto the attic or re-configured the first floor to add a master-down bedroom. What all these houses had in common was their allowance for change. Why wouldn’t all of us want our homes to be flexible enough to allow for these changes or life transitions?

My motivation was to create a house design that had “built-in flexibility.” I envisioned one that buyers could add onto in the future as needed or for aging-in-place.

A growing family could add additional bedrooms to the basic floor plan right away or at a later time.

A downsizing or multi-generational buyer could add or use specific rooms well-suited for their needs, and also include accessibility accommodations.

My intent was that all of these buyers would get to choose a floor plan that suited their lifestyle and budget.

This new home would be well appointed to include flexible rooms, retreats, entertainment spaces and great kitchens, yet be small enough to market at an affordable price point.

I also wanted these designs to be Dream Houses, where buyers would be able to express their values and personalities and accommodate their individual lifestyles. I wanted a home that created connections and a sense of belonging, not just space to store belongings, a soul oasis concept not that foreign from the dream homes I built out of pine limbs so very long ago.