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Finding Measure

It was once stated that a person’s body is the proper measure of their property, as the foot is used to measure a shoe. Although this philosophical musing is from ancient times, it continues to have validity in the 21st century, particularly when discussing residential architecture. There is a common tendency to focus on the square footage of a home to gauge its level of comfort, luxury and value. However, the one true measure of these factors is in how the building meets the needs of the people who use it.

Some feel the need for a large home, while others are happy in a modest one. Some families are likely to outgrow their existing homes, while others may have only a small piece of land to build on.

Architects charged with designing homes should understand these issues well.  As the primary professionals in the design and construction process, they need to find a balance between their client’s desires and budget, environmental factors, and the limitations and possibilities of the site or the existing building.

They need to look into the future, to anticipate the home’s expansion requirements and capabilities, its future resale value and its long-term storage ability.  Whether you are retrofitting your home, or building a brand new one, you can personalize and customize your project by using a professional design team that can offer innovative designs, which are highly detailed and imaginatively conceived, regardless of size.  

Investing in design
With material and labour costs on the rise, it pays to consider your space requirements very carefully. A more modest-sized building project will help to minimize construction costs and allow you to focus your money and attention on the detail and finishes.

A truly comfortable and sustainable home may not need to be as big as you might first imagine. A well-designed house can be around a third smaller than you thought you needed, with all its spaces used every day rather than only occasionally. With a focus on quality, rather than quantity, and building better, not bigger, the result can be a home with character and human scale that is filled with special details which will encourage its owners to care for it and make it their own, to last for generations.


Beginning at the drawing table, an architect can help in many ways to make your home more efficient and interesting. For instance, one of the most enduring and popular design trends is the move away from formal and separate living rooms. By integrating and linking dining, kitchen and living spaces, these can become the main place for family or friends to gather. In our Caribbean environment, we are fortunate that our homes can be opened up, allowing us to reduce the size of the rooms, increase the size of windows and doors, and let the indoors flow into the outdoors. Large terraces and balconies can become the most used living spaces, and indoor spaces can feel bigger through their seamless connection with the outside.

By linking spaces creatively, an architect can reduce the amount of wasteful and unnecessary circulation space.  An apparently simple decision about where to locate the entrance door and staircase can dramatically eliminate wasted space. Careful thought and attention to detail can help to create useful storage areas, which will help to reduce clutter. An additional room can be incorporated in the roof space, creating a mezzanine, which can double as a study, office or sleeping space.

Further ways to achieve beauty and character can be found in the finishes and furnishings in your home. Doors, cabinets, hardware and finishes should be carefully selected in order to have complete control over the final product as well as the added confidence that your choices will stand the test of time.

How do I get started?
Whether you are looking to maximize your home’s potential for personal use, or to increase its value in today’s competitive real estate market, recruit the help of a professional design team. Designing with quality is a specialized discipline, and is dependent on the skill of the architect, the capabilities of the builder, the availability of materials and the experience of the subcontractors. With their tricks of the trade, the team can design a house that fits your lifestyle and budget.
Steve Fox is the Managing Director and Senior Architect of OBM International’s British Virgin Islands office. He is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited design professional and co-founder of the BVI Sustainable Living Network.

For more than seven decades, OBM International has been the premier full-service design-consulting firm in Bermuda and the Caribbean.  Today, with nine multinational offices, projects throughout the world and a diverse team of experts, OBM is a global leader in luxury hotel/resort design development, architecture, master/town planning and interior design, with landmark projects in the Caribbean, the Americas, Europe and the Arabian Peninsula.

OBM has design offices located in Antigua, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Madrid, Miami, Trinidad and Tobago and Turks & Caicos Islands, a strategic alliance in the Bahamas, and a business development office in Bath (UK).

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