‘House to Home’: Designing for the Way You Live

Devi Dutta-Choudhury is an architect with a practical side.

Her new book, “House to Home: Designing Your Space for the Way You Live” is a case in point.

It’s a how-to guide to understanding a site, working with an architect, and either hiring a contractor or acting as your own.

She’s smart about the basics of choosing an architect. “That’s about finding a good fit and making sure you understand what architects do and what they provide,” she says. “Conflicts arise when expectations are mismatched, and you want to get results from that relationship.”

As she writes, your architect is your advocate during construction, and the drawings prepared by him or her are the contract. Some builders will follow them to a T, while others regard them as mere guidelines. How, she asks, do you navigate the range of services for your particular project?

She answers her own question first with a word – communication – and then with a chart containing essential elements for construction communication. Surrounding a drawing of a home are three phrases: Regular meetings, Submittal reviews (materials, shop drawings, product data), and Questions asked and answered.

All of the team players – owner, architect, and contractor – need to be in the same room and set the tone for the project, she writes. Weekly meetings keep everybody on the same page.

It’s that kind of information that makes this book so valuable to anyone considering building a home or buying and renovating one. The prose is important, but the visual aids are absolutely essential in defining a lifestyle.

“I wanted it to be an interactive book with sketch pages, quizzes, and questionnaires so the reader interacts with the design process, not just a list,” she says. “It’s about how you inhabit a space and all the aspects that go into it.”

As for the to-be-or-not-to-be-a-contractor question, the Tulane-and-Berkeley-trained architect, on her own for 10 years now, runs down a list of trades to consider, like shoring, excavation, concrete, waterproofing, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, roofing, drywall, finish carpentry, tile, flooring, cabinetmakers/installers, windows and doors, exterior finishes, painting, landscaping and exterior work.

If this list isn’t too daunting, she writes, contracting your home may be right for you!

She knows this, because she was her own contractor on her own home. “You definitely have to be a certain personality type and be able to manage a lot of different things at once,” she says. “The benefit is you know everything that’s going to go in.”

And she’s clear that contracting isn’t for everyone. “In a normal contractor relationship you can call them back to fix something but if it’s you, you have the accountability,” she says. “You have to know the process and be in charge of it.”

Either way, the big idea with this book is to find out how you live in a home (not a house) – and design the spaces to accommodate that. “A house is a list of spaces, like two bedrooms and two baths, but a home is how you live in it,” she says. “Where do you go outside, and where do you cook, and what are the specifics of your personality?”

Inside the covers of this 150-page tome, most of those answers can be readily mined.

For more, go here.

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