When my firm begins a new house with a client, and after an initial meeting, we create a customized “design questionnaire” that we think will be useful in asking and soliciting answers to a number of important questions.
These questions form a framework for uncovering your needs and desires for your house, what you expect in a home (including expectations that you may not have consciously examined) and how you may plan on using your home.
We ask couples and family members to answer these questionnaires separately since many of our clients will need time alone to think deeply about their expectations in a house. They may also often be influenced by others, sometimes distracted, and even dissuaded from their own needs and desires by their spouse or other family members. We insist that all family members (including children) answer these questions; many of the most creative and most honest needs and desires influencing the initial goals for a house originate with children’s answers. A couple of examples that we have used follow.
These questionnaires are simple, straight forward, and customized for each project, project site and client. The following are two questionnaires; the first is an example that was created for a couple without children.
Design + Living Questionnaire I
Describe your current home. What do you like about it? What’s missing? What don’t you like? Do you want to change the space you have? How?
What aspects/places in the land you are building on are important to you? How will you use the land around the new home?
What do you most want in a new home?
How would you describe your lifestyle? Are you at home a great deal? Do you work at home? Do you entertain often? How often do you have guests? How many?
How much time do you spend in the living areas, bedroom, kitchen, utility space etc.? (List the areas where you spend the most time, please). What functions, objects, or activities will be housed in the new space?
What kind of spaces are most important to you, e.g. bedrooms, kitchen, family room, bathrooms, etc.?
Do you have ideas about the style of the new home, the “architecture”?
What do you most want your architect to understand about you and your space?
What Materials and Finishes (Exterior and Interior) are you most interested in using? Not using?
How much time and energy are you willing to invest to maintain your home? How important is maintenance of the exterior and interior to you?
What is your budget for the construction, permits, fees, site and utility work, professionals including an Architect and Structural Engineer?
Another example, created for a substantial renovation of an existing house and for a couple is more personalized. The following is a second design questionnaire that is both more specific and somewhat more pragmatic.
Project Questionnaire II
What is unique or special about the land that you are planning to living on?
Where and how does/will your house sit on the land?
What views/environments will you see from the Entry? Living Room? Dining Room? Kitchen? Bedrooms? From what spaces are views critical? Unimportant to you?
What part of your house do you spend the most time in now?