Good bones: the architect's perspective

This guest post is part of a short series on "good bones." This first post was written by Loren Hill, a Seattle-based architect who was instrumental in my own personal remodel. Loren has a very thoughtful way of seeing homes and he's been a fantastic resource for me and for several of my clients. Loren can be reached at: loren.hill@gmail.com or (206) 910-7438.

The Architect's Perspective

You often hear the phrase "this house has good bones." While the term is used often, it's pretty tough to define.

Homes often have rooms that just don’t feel right, but you can't exactly explain why. Good bones in a house can be subtle like a timeless character or charm that resonates. Because space is three dimensional, the rooms in a home should feel comfortable in every direction.

For example, higher ceilings allow for taller, larger windows, allowing light to penetrate further into the space. I believe one gets an overall good feeling when space is balanced with regard to lighting.

As such, I see natural daylight as part of a home's "bones." But raising a ceiling can be an expensive endeavor, so these changes can be difficult to make if not part of the original design. Another example of good bones is the way a house is situated on the property to take advantage of the sun's orientation, views, and other natural features outside. I would even consider a quiet street part of the bones of a home.

Then there are the hidden good bones waiting to be discovered. For example, removing a wall between a small kitchen and a dining room can create a communal space for gathering and dining.

Perhaps windows can be added or raised to allow more light and air into the house. Is the ridgeline high enough to convert an attic into a room or create vaulted ceilings?

 Photo courtesy of NWMLS ( 3618 Whitman Ave N )

Photo courtesy of NWMLS (3618 Whitman Ave N)

In some cases (in older homes in Seattle, for example) furnaces and ducting can be moved to make an unfinished basement into a nice living space for a surprisingly small cost. Changes like this can be complicated and, in many cases, may not be practical depending on the cost.

There is certainly some science to discovering these bones, but more often than not, your gut knows good bones from bad. If not, you may just need an architect!