How to design a home

MOBIE’s Head of Design, Owen Jones, offers some top tips on how to design a great home.

With a month to go until the closing date of the Home of 2030 Young Persons’ Design Challenge, MOBIE’s Head of Design, Owen Jones, offers some top tips on how to design a great home.

Designing a home is a bit like assembling a series of great ideas to create an amazing whole. What makes a great idea? You need to think about key factors such as who lives in the home and how will your design benefit them by meeting their needs, and as those needs change over time. You could also consider wider factors such as the environment – what could your home do to positively contribute to its surroundings and creating a great place to live?

Dieter Rams, the German Designer created 10 Principles of “Good Design” which are a useful starting point. Good design:

  • is innovative
  • makes a product useful
  • is aesthetic– only well-executed objects can be beautiful
  • makes a product understandable – at best it is self-explanatory
  • is unobtrusive– neither a decorative object nor a work of art
  • is honest
  • is long-lasting– avoids being fashionable, especially in today’s throwaway society
  • is thorough down to the last detail– care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer
  • is environmentally friendly
  • is as little design as possible– less, but better. Back to purity, back to simplicity

Organisation: You will probably have many ideas for your Home of 2030, so many that it could become overwhelming to explain them all. This is where you need to begin to organise your ideas. To do this, it is important to identify your main ideas – maybe choose three – these will form your key concept. For instance, your key concepts could be 1. A home that has ease of mobility for the elderly 2. Has low energy use and 3. Is made of natural materials. These should be the fundamental aims that make your idea stand out as unique. It might help to picture your key concepts as the big branches of a tree, your home is the trunk and all your various ideas are supported from the big branches as smaller branches, twigs and leaves. By organising your ideas, they become easier to communicate. Your three key concepts will broadly encompass everything that makes your design unique, but they will also justify all the individual, well-designed elements of your home.

Inspiration: Learn from what’s around you! You could start by looking at good examples of home design online or in books or websites (eg Dezeen or Archdaily have large archives of homes). This is a quick, helpful way to form an opinion on what makes a great home design. You may also find inspiration in more diverse fields of design such as transport, product, tech or even the arts, music, sculpture, painting or the many astounding solutions in nature. It’s a great way to trigger inspiration. Don’t worry too much about borrowing ideas, just make sure you understand and then improve them – make them your own!

Stand back: As your design progresses, it will be helpful to stand back and reassess it. Check how your design is shaping up to your key concepts and, importantly, the competition brief. Use them as your touchstone that you revisit, as its easy to sometimes get lost in detail. Designing a home is an iterative process, as you design and draw your ideas will evolve, so don’t be afraid to revisit and change your design as you progress. You can work quickly to begin with making use of sketches or rough models to gradually refine and hone your ideas and representations. Sometimes you’ll get stuck, this is a clear sign to step back! Also, bear in mind that nothing is perfect, think of it as the best you can do in the time available while capturing as many of your good ideas as possible.

Presentation: This is critical. Your presentation needs to communicate your key concepts clearly as well as looking exciting and inspiring. It’s not an easy task which is why it needs to be planned! While you’re resolving your key concept, try to visualise how you want your ideas to look and how they would ideally be presented. What will best tell people the story of your idea? For example, if part of your concept is about green spaces and well-being then you will want to see a lot of greenery and trees – how will you work this in to your presentation?

As long as you’ve considered why you’ve designed something a certain way and identified what the benefits are then it’s good to go! Be creative and have fun, there’s no need worry about right or wrong answers!

The deadline for entries for the Home of 2030 Young Persons’ Design Challenge is February 28th.

This checklist provides some further ideas about what key elements to include in your Home of 2030. Good luck!