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Flexible spaces

House for Tree lovers by Min Hall Architect, a 2012 Nelson Marlborough Architecture Award winner

Architect Min Hall explains some strategies for finding economy in the design process by designing spaces with multiple uses.

The best thing about being an architect is sharing the excitement of creating new spaces for people. The hardest thing is trying to match their desires with their budget. We’re optimistic creatures: there is inevitably a mismatch. What to do? Increasing the budget isn’t always an option – and, ironically, may not be the best solution. 

Floor area can be reduced by designing flexible spaces that can be configured for different uses, or by using one space for two functions – guest room and office being the obvious example. Circulation areas can be made to work hard, accommodating storage, a seat in the sun or a home hot desk. Outdoor areas are much cheaper to construct than fully insulated weathertight ones, so smart indoor-outdoor planning is another way to keep size down. Can the laundry be under a veranda, for instance? 

Often these space-saving solutions, arrived at by designing to a tight budget, result in some of the most enjoyable and appreciated spaces in a finished project.

undefinedMin Hall is an Auckland-based architect and former director of Arthouse Architects in Nelson.

This article first appeared in Design Guide (issue 5), a resource written by architects and designers for those thinking about undertaking a new house or renovation project.