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Designing a Modern Home with Style: An Interview with Tim McCotter of McCotter Architecture & Design

By Tim McCotter

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

McCotter Architecture and Design is a full service architectural firm specializing in custom residential design. We tailor our services to each Client providing the level of involvement and extent of scope to match both their budget and the project's needs. This allows us to assist clients with all types of projects from remodels to custom new homes.

What are some of the biggest decisions that a homeowner will need to make about the design of a modern home?

There are an innumerable amount of decisions, which have to be made throughout the design process. In order to make the decisions easier to digest and respond to, we have, over the years, developed a design process which breaks the decisions down into smaller "bite size" chunks. Generally though we find there are a few primary elements which guide the decisions and design of a modern home. First and foremost is for the homeowner to find a parcel they are in love with. There is a tremendous investment of time, spirit and money in creating your custom home, and when clients love the property it helps direct and energize the design process.

Second of course is budget. Knowledge of your desired budget helps allow the design to explore alternative construction methods and use of materials in ways, which provide both unique solutions and economical benefit.

In addition, it is important to determine your own definition of modern and contemporary. There is a wide range of styles and concepts within the modern architecture definition. Some are readily accepted by society while others are not as quickly accepted. Knowing your comfort level and the type of architecture, which you feel most at ease living within helps to make the design process and the numerous decisions a pleasurable and fun experience.

What is your design philosophy, or style, with including raw elements in order to create a modern feel?

We generally let the client's lifestyle and function of the home guide which raw elements we include within a design. Introducing elements into architecture simply for the sake of a modern feel tend to create homes with details that quickly become stylistically dated.

However, one of the philosophies of modern architecture, which we usually work with, is the concept of breaking down the barriers between the interior and exterior. Typically the client has fallen in love with the site first. With the views the site provides along with the desire to live within the landscape, the home becomes an extension of this, not just a shelter to hide within. Obviously, with careful placement of windows and openings we can maximize this experience. Yet, we also find that carrying the raw materials of the exterior into interior spaces allows the lines between interior and exterior to blur even further.

Another philosophy we often use in modern architecture is to let the function of the architecture express itself. While this is often explored through the traffic flow and schematic design early in the project, it can also be expressed by simply exposing the core structure of the home. Letting these raw elements become an expression of the design provide a feeling of support and visual structure to the home. With the proper finishes these elements can become beautiful warm backdrops to our daily lives.

What are some important design elements that define a modern styled building or home?

While there are various types of modern architecture typically this style has less applied details and trim. This allows the structure and form of the home to become the primary design element. Even though there are many ways that this concept could be displayed, one of the often seen elements is a low sloped mono pitch or even a flat roof. While these are typically found in commercial structures, they can easily be translated into residential architecture. The simplicity of these roof types can many times accentuate the massing and forms of the home. This style of roof also provides the right language for other contemporary elements such as clerestory windows and large shade overhangs.

Another common element, in modern architecture, is the celebration of the building structure. These items, which are typically concealed, provide a visual structure for the home which is at a very pleasing human scale. This concept also allows the natural beauty of these materials to become a part of the experience providing a contemporary feeling.

By studying the existing natural elements of the landscape we often find clues to concepts which can be repeated and glorified within the structure and massing. It is these types of expressions of the surroundings and integration with the natural environment that is really the core element of contemporary design.

What are some of the misconceptions you've come across when it comes to modern homes?

Many people consider contemporary homes to be very cold and impersonal. While there are many examples of bad design in all types of architecture, contemporary architecture allows for a unique expression of form built at a comfortable human scale. Through the use of this scale and careful blending of natural and man made materials we are able to create unique contemporary spaces, which are as comfortable to live in as they are to explore and enjoy.

Another common misconception is that contemporary homes are expensive. Modern architecture is built upon the ideals of form following function and using materials in unexpected ways. These basic concepts are driven by the idea of fiscal conservation. So with careful planning and consideration of the desired project contemporary architecture can be more economical than standard construction methods.

What advice would you give a client who wants a modern home that combines progressive design and comfort?

After you have found a site which you absolutely love living within, take stock of how you live day to day. What are the elements in your current home you love, and what areas could use improvement. Examine what things are important to your family so the architecture can be designed to support and nurture these passions. LeCorbusier explained modern architecture best when he said "A house is a machine for living in". We spend a tremendous amount of time in our homes and they should support our daily lives and habits. Your home should be a place of comfort and relaxation where you can feel at ease and rejuvenation of the spirit. This is accomplished by understanding how you live within a home as much as using unique materials and forms to create creative contemporary spaces.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you and your company?

We look forward to the opportunity to talk with individuals about the project they are considering. With their dreams and our expertise, we can work together to help make those dreams a reality. We can easily be reached by phone at 734.216.7768 or by email at MccotterArchitecture@gmail.com.

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