Architects That Design Their Own Home
Architects are people too. But they do have one major difference when it comes to the normal man, or woman for that matter. When it comes to designing their own homes, they can design it themselves, unlike the rest of us commoners who have to hire an architect. We went ahead and talked to Marvin Flax, Managing Director, and architect at OBMI, who happens to be designing his home as we speak. Let’s see what insider info he has for us.
Marvin Flax: My job consists of helping my clients with their dreams every day. So I have a lot of practice in that (laugh). It’s only natural that I’ve applied everything I’ve learned over the years to my home, just as I do to my clients’ projects.
Since we do this every day, the sequence of things to be done, the steps, do come naturally to me. When I was thinking of the design for my own home, I took bits and pieces of designs that I’ve done before, which I thought fitted me very well. There is one myth I have to dispel though. We architects have the same design constraints as anybody else, for example, budget, costs, property sites, time frames, etc. Unfortunately, we can’t make these go away just because we’re architects. It is what it is.
Another thing I would like to talk about, which is more personal and regards recent events, the effects of which are still being very much felt, is what I learned from Hurricane Irma, that knocked out the British Virgin Islands, which is where I’m from, and where I live. In the Caribbean we’re blessed and have always taken advantage of the natural climate, building designs with liberal open spaces and large windows to take in the stunning views. We’ve never experienced something like Irma, so now have to sit down and rethink everything we used to do. We have to be more responsible when it comes to design and scope. For example, we have to start incorporating strong blast proof panels, decrease the size of openings, use only certified agency tested glass, and use more of the materials that we saw fared better through the hurricane.
Now coming back to a previous gear a bit, to some of the benefits we have as architects designing our own homes. One plus is that we get professional discounts. I guess this a sort of secret non-secret. It’s not a backhanded thing, it’s the same as it is for many other professional industries, clear, transparent, and legal! Another factor which is helpful is that we’re always on site, so the design moves through more seamlessly. It’s more work because we centralize everything, taking out the contractors. We eliminate the middleman cost and also order more exact material amounts. It’s a big headache and a ton of extra work but it saves money, although not time. It actually takes more time because you’re doing everything yourself. Why do we do it? Maybe because we like the control and also (dispelling another myth), the majority of us are not wealthy, so we’re happy to save.
What’s wonderful being able to design my own home is that everything is accounted for, I can design exactly to the line, I know exactly where I want everything to go. I love being outside. So for my home, I have a lot of indoor-outdoor living spaces, which blend into one another, and a lot of green and garden for my kids. What’s nice is that this house is 100% me, well 50% really because of my wife (laugh). And although any site always has its limitations, I take these as opportunities to do something creative and different with them. Now that I’m designing my own home, I’m putting into practice everything I preach, so it’s also a signature piece, in terms of location, look, feel, and functionality.
The design of my home just like the ones I do for my clients also has multiple stakeholders in mind. It’s not just my wife and kids, it’s also my parents, my friends, cousins, guests, etc. For example, how many steps do I want my grandmother to climb? With this being said, I love beauty, so I will always have elements which are just for beauty’s sake, something that’s going to stand out, unforgettable.
Architects’ homes don’t have any elements which are “just for architects.” In my home, I look for the same things my clients do, which is comfort, functionality, beauty, and overall happiness. Also, the design for my own home doesn’t go faster than other projects, it actually goes much slower. I change my mind all the time, so I go back and forth. The design of my home also takes a backseat to those of my clients, I do it after hours when I have time after work. When I talk to my colleagues, they’re in the same boat, which is nice, because we can relate and commiserate together (laugh).
The great thing about the property I bought for the house is that it’s a clean slate. I have a blank canvas to work with, that I can push the envelope with, architecturally speaking and also in terms of interior design. One thing I don’t want to do is copy. So, if there are elements I like from other designs I’ve done, I’ll modify them, so it’s always unique.
I remember very well when I saw the plot of land I bought for my home. I knew it was “the one” and envisioned it all already built right on the spot, as if I had 3D goggles on. The land inspired me. Right away I saw its angles, the accessible views, access points, entrances, distances, how it would look at night, the winds, where the sun sets and rises, potential neighbors, and even the people (me included!) living in it and interacting within the house, etc. With this said, I would advise anyone who’s shopping for a piece of land to take an architect along with them, because we can prefigure everything on the spot and notice details which are very important, but that are very easy to overlook if you’re not an architect.
In the end, I guess the moral of the story is that an architect designing his own home has just as many of the common restraints as anyone else. However, with extra work coupled with know-how built over the years, we can more easily design our dream as we see it. Down to the dot, down to the brick.