Here at AD&D, we desire to work with our clients and translate their dreams into a house plan that is beautiful, unique, functional, contextual, cost effective, interesting, and welcoming. We recently had a comment on one of our social media outlets about a home we designed in the last couple years- essentially, our keyboard commando stated:
“I could design something more unique on my worst day.”
There are obviously many problems with a comment like this; but essentially it’s rude, narcissistic, and presumptuous. I am not here to rant and complain about the first two issues, but the issue of presumption raises an important point. The person who made this comment obviously believes the idiosyncratic element in design is the most important, or only element. This may be true of some modern art, and architecture, but it is simply not a reality or a priority for the majority of homeowners in residential design.
Below are four observations about the element of uniqueness in home design.
Unique ≠ Good
For the record, Idiosyncratic (unique) does not necessarily mean Beautiful or Good. True, Idiosyncrasy can be beautiful, valuable, and desirable; as many rare things are. However, some things are unique not because they were penned by someone of extraordinary skill and vision, but because no one else feels the same way. For example, there have been a number of unique car designs over the years that were complete flops, or never took hold. One of the most notable was the three wheeled car. Unique? Yes. Small? Yes. Clever? Probably. Beautiful? It’s in the eye of the beholder… Safe? No, they were unstable, and prone to tip over. So, three wheeled cars were, and are very unique. But are they good? The answer historically is “No.”
Unique ≠ Desirable
Put plainly, not every client wants ‘Unique,’ or even prioritizes it in the design of their home. Do we enjoy idiosyncratic architecture? Yes, maybe even more than most. But, in our experience the majority of our clients already have a good idea of what they want in their home (at least stylistically) before they walk through the door. More often than not, we have very little say in the style of the home; and this is intentional. We do not railroad our clients into our own preconceived notion of what their home should be, simply to add another unique design to our portfolio.
It isn’t about us.
Home Design ≠ Artwork
It is important to note that we are not merely designing artwork. Home design should be artistic, and it is an incredible joy to imbed artistry into the design; however, a painting does not need to be:
A home design needs to be functional; It needs to flow, be useful, utilitarian, and logical. A painting does not need to be any of those things. A home design needs to be structurally sound, and ergonomic; It needs to adhere to the building codes, be safe, and pass permitting. A painting does not need to meet building codes, pass permitting, and inherently has very few safety issues (if any). Lastly, and most importantly for our purposes; a home design is synergetic. When was the last time you went to an art museum and saw a painting that had two signatures on it? This is the point. One of the core tenants of our philosophy here at AD&D is the integration of our skills and experience with the customer’s wants, needs, and dreams to produce one cohesive product (essentially with two signatures on it).
The house photos in question which were disparaged for their “lack of uniqueness,” depict one of those homes where the homeowner being a builder/developer had a large amount of input in the design. He and his wife frankly didn’t want ‘unique,’ or should I say, ‘Unique’ was relatively low on their list of priorities. This couple having multiple kids, prioritized a family oriented floorplan first, and secondly they had chosen an overall design scheme called ‘Florida Vernacular’ which is very popular in this area (and therefore not very unique).
Unique ≠ Inexpensive
We will design a home as unique as the client(s) desire. However, desire is not the only factor in home design.
Uniqueness is proportional to Cost.
Cost and Budget always play a major role; and generally speaking, the more unique a design is, the more expensive it becomes (have you ever priced out custom cut large sections of glass rated for Florida wind speeds?) to build. Honestly, most clients cannot afford to tread into the unique zone very far; and we always try to design with the overall budget in mind.
How unique do you want it?
Don’t get us wrong, unique is a legitimate element in home design, and for some clients it is more important than others. We absolutely love a skillful, beautiful, unique design as much as the next person; but we are not day-in-and-day-out designing our own homes, or an urban art museum. We are designing other people’s homes. And for us, that is priority number one.