The Jackie Cottage - Fun With Home Design Software

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Using Home Designer: The Jackie Cottage

Landscaped Perspective Full Overview 3D Rendering Using Home Designer Software
Landscaped Perspective Full Overview 3D Rendering of The Jackie Cottage Using Home Designer Software. Illustration created and ©Jackie Craven using Home Designer Suite 2015 Chief Architect Software (crop)

I received a review copy of a popular brand of home designer software, and immediately I knew I was going to have some fun. Software can make dreams more real, so I set out to digitize my imagination as I evaluated Home Designer®Suite 2015 by Chief Architect.

Creativity is often derivative, a process that builds on past successes. We examine what's already done and imagine it a different way—a better meatball; a new color combination; a blend of designs. I had already read the books to help build smaller homes, so now it was my turn. I was going to design my own Katrina Cottage, which, of course, I would call the Jackie Cottage. How difficult could it be to make a modern Primitive Hut?

It's plenty difficult, I knew, but this Do-It-Yourself (DIY) software by Chief Architect should make it possible. I gave myself the freedom and permission to become a home designer.

Project Goal for the Jackie Cottage:

The business of architecture is project-driven, so the first thing I did was to set a design plan for the Jackie Cottage project:

  1. Exterior Space: Use the footprint and the dimensions of the Katrina Kernel Cottage II by architect Steve Mouzon.
  2. Interior Space: Create a sparse interior design similar to architect Philip Johnson's Glass House in Connecticut.

Whoa. I realize I'm using the ideas of two successful giants in architecture, but nobody is watching, so what the heck. Mouzon's Katrina Kernel Cottage II gave me the architectural direction I needed to begin. I studied his online floor plan diagram and kept it open in a browser window as I loaded up Home Designer Suite.

NEXT: Day 1 Floor Plan >>

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Day 1 Floor Plan for the Jackie Cottage

Simple floor plan made on Day 1 learning Home Designer software
The Jackie Cottage simple floor plan made on Day 1. Illustration ©Jackie Craven using Home Designer Suite 2015 Chief Architect Software

My first day with the Home Designer®Suite software was a learning experience. The program wanted me to actually build instead of simply draw. I tried to follow Steve Mouzon's floor plan but didn't even get the dimensions correct the first time around.

Using home design software makes you think—what do you want and what don't you like? I knew I wanted to design a Katrina Cottage-like house, but I rejected Mouzon's interior design for a Murphy Bed Area. I couldn't see anyone pulling a bed out of the wall every day. So how do I maintain open spaces but hide elements of living? I remembered a tour I had taken of Philip Johnson's Glass House in Connecticut.

A curved wall seemed like a good idea.

This Chief Architect software leads you through the creation of a floor plan. Once you get the hang of it, walls can be easily moved and windows and doors popped in anywhere. Then, select from a dropdown menu to render a three-dimensional view of the floor plan.

My initial interior was open, sparse, and I thought I was on the right track until rendering the 3D exterior view. Yikes! I had created a stairway to heaven!

NEXT: Day 1 Stairway to Heaven >>

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Day 1 User Error - Stairway to Heaven

Stairs from ground to roof, a 3D Rendering on Day 1 of learning Home Designer software
Stairs Designed by a Roofer, a 3D Rendering of the Jackie Cottage on Day 1. Illustration ©Jackie Craven using Home Designer Suite 2015 Chief Architect Software

After getting a handle on how the Home Designer®Suite software worked, I was smugly pleased with my first floor plan. I quickly realized that I should have been checking the 3D views more often. Apparently I had misplaced the outside stairs, which went up to the roof. I call this version my Cabin Designed for Roofers.

At first I was shocked and embarrassed, but then I realized that this is what theoretical architecture is all about—the "what ifs" that can remain fantasies until being visually realized. I remember that today's skyscrapers were yesterday's imaginary buildings. What will tomorrow's buildings look like? With home design software, digital experimentation is more cost-effective than nails and mortar.

With this odd image of my Jackie Cottage, I gained a new appreciation of what architects mean when they go "back to the old drawing board." Tomorrow is another day.

NEXT: Day 2 Revised Floor Plan >>

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Day 2 Revised Floor Plan for the Jackie Cottage

More complicated floor plan on Day 2 of Using Home Designer Suite software
More complicated floor plan on Day 2 of Using Home Designer Suite software. Illustration ©Jackie Craven using Home Designer Suite 2015 Chief Architect Software

Home Designer®Suite software has an abundance of choices. The Library Browser listing easily toggles on and off to display the choices from the Home Designer Core Catalog, which may have more stuff in it than the old printed Sears catalog from yesteryear. You can import other vendor catalogs, too, but the core catalog is a wishlist of necessities (e.g., toilets) and possibilities (e.g., toothbrush holders). Like most catalogs, the choices are just too many, and you remember that just because you can have something does not mean you have to.

Simplicity is a conscious effort with home design software.

After a good night's sleep, I realized that my open floor plan from Day 1 was impractical with room-centric software and a catalog of standard, rectangular appliances. Okay, I'll have a bathroom and a bedroom, but how about an open kitchen with a small curved wall to hide a pantry?

With additional skill on Day Two, I was able to create a more complex floor plan than my Day One attempt. "Practice makes perfect," so they say.

NEXT: Dollhouse View of the Jackie Cottage >>

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Dollhouse View of the Jackie Cottage

Interior dollhouse view of Floor Plan made on Day 2 learning Home Designer software
Interior dollhouse view of Floor Plan made on Day 2 learning Home Designer software. Illustration ©Jackie Craven using Home Designer Suite 2015 Chief Architect Software

Home Designer®Suite has a number of 3D views to easily admire your work. I suggest that you "Create Camera View" often. Why?

  1. The life-like pictures give you a feeling of accomplishment. You can really begin to see what you're building.
  2. Design mistakes are unrelentingly displayed. The program has some error messages when you try to put a too-big object into a too-small space, but sometimes it simply will display your glaring design errors in a "garbage-in-garbage-out" way.

Such was the case with the front porch columns of my Katrina Cottage. I forgot to mention height to the software program, and the results went through the roof—literally, the columns went through the roof.

NEXT: 3D View of Columns Through the Roof >>

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3D View of Columns Through the Roof

Columns designed to go through the roof using/learning Home Designer Suite software
Columns mistakenly designed to go through the roof using/learning Home Designer Suite software. Illustration ©Jackie Craven using Home Designer Suite 2015 Chief Architect Software

I really liked the Greek Revival Front Porch of the Katrina Cottage designed by by Steve Mouzon, so I added them to my own Jackie Cottage floor plan design. Home Designer®Suite software, however, seems to think that columns are not structural. You add them from the Library Browser catalog as "millwork," like a corbel or exterior shutter.

It's easy to fix. Just double-click to find the height of the porch ceiling, then select and double-click the column element to display the "Millwork Specification" dialog box. Adjust the height to the roof height, and you're done.

Then again, Home Designer®Suite can be used as a very economical way to create crazy art designs. I called this rendering Vignola's Country Cottage after the The Five Orders of Architecture by Italian Renaissance architect Giacomo da Vignola.

NEXT: Location-Specific Designs >>

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Location-Specific Home Designs

Full Camera 3D View of Design Can be Placed on a Variety of Backgrounds
Full Camera 3D View of Design Can be Placed on a Variety of Backgrounds. Illustration ©Jackie Craven using Home Designer Suite 2015 Chief Architect Software

Home Designer®Suite has a variety of 3D backgrounds from which to choose—Land, Sky, and Water. With a simple click, you can move your house from a meadow to the desert. What would your house look like in the woods? By a lake? Floating in the clouds?

Design software allows you to think about the environment and a building's surroundings. The focus of this particular DIY software seems to be on the structure, but an architect usually first considers a building in context and on location. I remembered what Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry has said: "I always spend a long time looking at the site and thinking about what's contextual."

Core Catalog Backdrops built into the software allow you to design theoretical architecture, for spaces that may be impractical to build on or in. How often do you get to experiment with building a Stairway to Heaven? Why not design a house that floats or flies?

Real Life Ideas:

Source: Conversations with Frank Gehry by Barbara Isenberg, p. 92.

NEXT: The Jackie Cottage Glass House 3D View >>

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The Jackie Cottage Glass House 3D View

Glass House 3D View of Design Using Home Designer Software 2015
Glass House 3D View of Design Using Home Designer Software 2015. Illustration ©Jackie Craven using Home Designer Suite 2015 Chief Architect Software

My original Project Goal was to create a Katrina Cottage with an interior similar to Philip Johnson's Glass House. To my delight, Home Designer® Suite software comes with a 3D view they call Glass House.

My Jackie Cottage design looks more like a Ghost House than a Glass House, but I sure had fun doing it. Maybe as much fun as Philip Johnson did building his real Glass House.

Read a review of Home Designer®Suite >>

Beginning My Project Using Home Designer® Suite 2015 >>

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Craven, Jackie. "The Jackie Cottage - Fun With Home Design Software." ThoughtCo, Aug. 9, 2016, thoughtco.com/jackie-cottage-fun-home-design-software-177578. Craven, Jackie. (2016, August 9). The Jackie Cottage - Fun With Home Design Software. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/jackie-cottage-fun-home-design-software-177578 Craven, Jackie. "The Jackie Cottage - Fun With Home Design Software." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/jackie-cottage-fun-home-design-software-177578 (accessed November 19, 2017).