Public or Private
In designing houses, it is important to consider the ways in which these structures ought to vary according to their unique contexts. One aspect that I fear becomes rather cloudy, or altogether overlooked, concerns the degree to which a house serves as a seat for public functions. At one end stands a stately English manor house, and at the other a remote log cabin in the east of Oregon. Ignoring the different roles that houses play leads to all sorts of confusion and poor uses of space.
Consider the less common, but necessary house capable of hosting public events and people (note, that here public refers to anybody or any event outside the immediate sphere of friends and family) Such a house needs to clearly define the boundaries between guest-space and resident-space. This benefits both the resident and the guest. Clear, visual boundaries between allow for the resident to easily maintain privacy within his rather public house, giving him a home within his house. For the guest in such a house, clear boundaries actually make him feel more at home and at ease. Removing the need of explaining the do’s and dont’s. Removing the awkwardness of being unsure of their level of clearance within the house. Giving guests a clear sense of their place within a relatively foreign place helps provide them a sense of ease. No one wants to find themselves in a space that contains both a public and intimate feature.
This leads to designing with two elements in mind.
1. The layout and floor plan needs to adequately signify the boundaries between the public and private spaces of the house.
2. The public spaces should only try and address one (two at the most) needs. One room, one function in public spaces helps guests readily gauge where to be and what to do.
Considering the more common house, the private house, only graced by close friends and family, the rules of the public house need not apply. In fact, trying to apply theses rules hurts more than helps. Folks who try and design a private house like a public one waste valuable space in design. They also ruin the intimacy and closeness that a private house provides. You wind up inadvertently keeping those closest to you at arms length because the floor plan needlessly compartmentalizes your life away from them. A house that only ever opens its doors to intimate friends needs to open itself up to that same intimacy.