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Creating a Sense of Place
NOTE: This is the third of a series of posts on designing and building a dream home. We just happen to be doing it in paradise. If you’re interested in home design, or just enjoy amazing home design pictures, follow us room by room in the Ahonui section of Aloha Dreams as we design and build our house. The posts can be accessed in chronological order at the bottom of the page.
Our guests will get a initial sense of the place as they arrive at the gate. Then more of the picture will unfold as they drive down the drive way and ‘arrive’ in front of Hale Ahonui. Our front walkway and entry are the final, and perhaps most important, ‘first impression’. It’s when they begin walking up to the front door that we really need to set the mood. After all, we’re in Hawaii baby!
So let’s establish a sense of place. We don’t have the $33 million required to arrange that initial picture, but I think we can still do something pretty cool. For starters, we need to make the transition from a semi-arid grassland (complete with cattle and of course our piggy family) beyond the footprint of the house to a lush landscape. It would be jarring to just do it abruptly, but the perimeter walkway around the house can serve as our demarcation zone. We don’t want Easter Island figures or general Hawaiian kitsch, but we do want to make sure our guests know they’re not in Kansas anymore. A good way to provide that all-important sense of place is with local foliage. Something along the lines of this perhaps?
Let’s talk about the actual entry for a minute. We definitely want a portico. In case that term is new to you, a portico is an open structure with a roof supported by columns. It serves as an entrance to a home or building. It provides your guests with a place to stand protected from the elements while they wait for you to open the door. It also has another purpose. It provides a nice, gradual psychological transition from ‘outside’ to ‘inside’. Homes just feel more welcoming and cozy, less abrupt, with that transition space. That’s one of the reasons folks feel drawn to front porches and lanais. How about this?
It’s actually a porte-cochere (a portico designed to admit a car). It’s nice, but it’s too big for our purposes. We won’t have room for an actual porte-cochere. We’ll need to scale it back a bit.
Do you like this one? It incorporates the lovely zen walk way and we can add in more foliage. I really like the way the wood provides a sense of warmth. The door is understated and elegant letting the setting take center stage. Here’s an interesting note: the trade winds on the Big Island provide a welcoming breeze to cool the house, but two doors on the windward side can be an issue. According to builders we’ve spoken to, the wind can sometimes whistle between the doors. Maybe we’ll stick with one.
Entryway Design Principles
Before we step into the house let’s talk design principles. The purpose of the foyer is to welcome our guests and bridge the space from outside to inside. Foyers also provide the first impression of the inside of the home. Have you ever noticed it doesn’t feel quite right when the front door opens abruptly into the middle of a living room. We need not only a physical, but a psychological transition from the outside.
To accomplish these things, we should consider the following.
Gradual Transition from outside to inside
We employed this principle outside and we want to continue it here. To help with this we’ll have plenty of windows to bring the beautiful courtyard landscaping in. There won’t be a lot of furniture in our entry way so this will also provide additional visual interest to our guests as they leave.
Sight lines and focal points
It’s at this stage we have to ask ourselves whether we would like to see all the way through the house to the ocean view. This can be dramatic, and more importantly, convey the significance of the view in our overall design. Because of that, it is here I think we want to deviate from the brilliant Disney ‘hidden view’ design guideline. In Hawaii the homes are open. The transition between inside and outside is very blurred. With temperatures in the balmy 70’s and 80’s, who can blame them! Let’s showcase the ocean view from the front door and entry way. We want a WOW! in every room. Our ocean view should more than do it in this one.
Gradual Transition from public entry to private spaces
The entry is the most public space in a house. Just like we want a gradual transition from the outside to the inside, there should always be a gradual transition from the most public space (the entry) to the most private spaces (bedrooms and bathrooms). Anything else feels jarring, although people may not realize the immediate source. For this reason, entry ways open into living rooms. Let’s keep the more private spaces unseen from the entry. (And under no circumstances do we want a view into any bathrooms.) Because we want an open plan design, the kitchen will be slightly visible from the entry, but only barely.
Come in! Aloha!
Once inside the entry way we need to consider the function of the space. It is here we will be greeting people, welcoming them to the house and saying good bye. In Hawaii folks remove their shoes when entering a home. It’s a nice custom. We never insist that anyone visiting our home take off their shoes – though a large percentage of our friends and family automatically do. We’ll need room for at least six people to take off and put on their shoes. A bench would be a nice touch, don’t you think? How about this one?
We’re going to have a lot of shoes piled up in the entry way. Do we want a chest to put them in? I don’t want to be obsessive about it, but they might look better tucked away. Besides it would give us a great excuse to buy a wonderful Asian inspired chest like this one. (Just sayin’)
So with all of that in mind…..
…. what do you think about this for the front of our home?
Hale Ahonui Front View
Join me as we walk towards the door. Can you see the ocean? I am using a Google program called Sketchup to design Hale Ahonui. Have you ever used Sketchup? If not, and if you like to draw or design, you owe it to yourself to download it. I use the Pro version, but the basic is wonderful and very addictive. You can draw a house plan in 2-dimension and simply expand it into a 3-D view like those below. You can do cross sections, elevations, and square footage calculations for budgeting. It is the bomb!
And once you’re in, this is the view of the foyer (No cool furniture yet. We’ll need to do something about that!) and the front door.
I hope you’ll join me again next month as we design a fabulous living room for our Dream Home in Paradise. Meanwhile…
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