The Beauty Within – Transitions

The Beauty Within – Transitions

by Maurice Levitch, AIA

It is difficult for me to think of the interior of the home as distinctly separate from the exterior. While interior design is a specialty in itself, an Architect must keep both the interior and exterior design in perspective, keeping transitions in mind, as he/she develops a project.

It is true that one can separate outside from inside in order to create an intentional surprise or contrast upon entry. One may choose to keep the exterior design of an existing building as-is while changing the interior to something completely different due to cost, to avoid exterior design review from the City or homeowners association, or just to update to a new look or style. You might think of the exterior as one room which has its own consistent design and the interior as many rooms with different uses and design themes; working together as a whole. There are a lot of decisions to be made when it comes to interior design.

Whether remodeling or building new there are some building features that you can’t help but integrate such as windows and doors. The placement, proportion, materials, and mullion lay-out, involved in designing for windows along with floor plan, massing, and roof design are the glue that keeps a project together. Given the opportunity most architects will want a high degree of control over these features.

After these decisions are in place it is not uncommon to separate out the interior design which involves filling in the space with a multitude of choices. Providing guidance to a home or business owner who is interested in selecting interior products and finishes can either be a simple task or a time consuming project with a life of its own. If the client is not sure what they want or has a difficult time narrowing down choices I recommend that they consult with an interior designer to either confirm their choices or to develop a complete plan for interior finishes. The danger in this is that now with another design professional involved there is a possibility that the overall vision of the Architect could be compromised or changed to something different from the Architect’s original vision. Sometimes you just need to let go. The benefit is that the Architect can offer the vision and the interior Designer and client can follow it through while the Architect keeps a broader focus on the entire project. The interior designer should be acceptable to both the Owner and Architect.

There is such a great opportunity today to make product selections that are aesthetically pleasing, functional, and environmentally responsible that it is fun! From flooring, to cabinets, paint, tile, lighting, appliances, countertops, and plumbing fixtures, as well as salvaged products, there is an abundance of choices. There are also a variety of Palm products for the floors and other architectural woodwork. In tile products, porcelain tile has such a nice range of textures and colors and is so hard you can roller skate on it (with the old fashioned metal wheels if you like).

Of course the interior designer can help with furniture selection and choice in window coverings (drapes and Venetian blinds are out). There is a nice selection of motorized shades (invisible when you don’t need them) to help with shading and privacy.

No matter how you slice up your time in delivering professional services there will be this set of interior finish selections that has a life of its own; much more complex and time consuming than the exterior design of the building. This work may best be handed off to a competent Owner or to the Owner with assistance by an interior designer. If you are an Architect that loves to do this stuff on your own, more power to you. I do have my limits, however, and will let my opinions be known if the interior design solutions or details are not in keeping with my vision. If all is under control I have plenty other details to worry about such as trim and railing details, and how one material starts and the other finishes-it’s all about transitions.

This article was originally published in the June 2007 issue of Builder/Architect magazine and updated in August 2018.