10 Most Important Things to Consider When Building a New Home

April 22, 2021
7 min read

In our new interview series, FORMA Construction talks with some of the Bay Area’s most distinguished architects and designers about what to consider when embarking on a new construction project. In our first article, we sit down with Interior Designer Kari McIntosh and Architect Takashi Yanai to discuss some of the most important things to consider when building a new home. Let’s see what the experts have to say.

Waverley Residence designed by EYRC. Photo by Matthew Millman.

1. Spatial Characteristics

Think about the type of environment where you thrive. Do you prefer large open areas, intimate nooks, or a mix of both? Some spaces may benefit from ample light, whereas others may need to be more controlled to avoid glare. (TY)

While volume is an intuitive spatial character, light and air cannot be underestimated. For instance, having a retractable roof that opens to the sky or doors that open up to outdoor decks creates an infinite expansion of volume as seamless entertaining spaces. (VM)

Cow Hollow Residence built by FORMA. With Lindsay Gerber Interiors and Studio G+S.

2. Context & Community

If you have chosen a neighborhood you enjoy, reflect on how you would like your home to interact with it. A house can be very open to its surroundings or could be more private and camouflaged. Different considerations for “framing views” or experiencing your site could impact the orientation or organization of the home. (TY)

Laidley Street Cottage with Red Dot Studio. Built by FORMA. Photo by Jake Stangel.

An example that comes to mind is a project that we built in collaboration with Red Dot Studio. The Laidley Street Cottage is set back from the street, just enough to blend in with its surrounding neighbors while also creating space for the kitchen to completely open to the front deck. We were to expand the footprint of the ground floor while keeping the clients’ privacy out of public view. (VM)

3. Landscape

Bringing nature into a project can elevate your home and create a tranquil environment. Consider whether you enjoy spending time outdoors or whether you prefer a garden for viewing. Even on a small site, interior courtyards can help bring greenery into your project. Either way, landscape design will help elevate your home. (TY)

700 Palms residence designed by EYRC. Photo by Grey Crawford.
Sliding glass doors allow the living space to expand outdoors. Built by FORMA with Cass Calder Smith. Photo by Eric Laignel.

Creating spaces that allow for indoor/outdoor connections can create larger living areas and take advantage of the mild climate in the Bay Area. (VM)

4. Sustainability & Wellness

Solar panels are only one element of sustainability that can be incorporated into a project. Plan how your project is oriented in relation to the sun path and prevailing winds to create a passively comfortable house. Consider using electric appliances in your home to reduce combustion in the home and improve air quality. (TY)

A spa-inspired master bath. Designed by Cass Calder Smith, built by FORMA. Photo by Eric Laignel.

Wellness in the home is more important now than ever. Working from home, long hours, homeschooling — they all cause added stress in our lives. Creating a calming space in the house where you can unwind and get away from the rest of the world is hugely cathartic and should be prioritized. (VM)

5. Customization

It’s crucial to work with the homeowners to create a custom solution that speaks to their lifestyle and desires — not trendy or broadly encompassing what is most popular. (KM)

Bernal Heights project for foodies that wanted a European Hospitality vibe. By Kari McIntosh. Photo by John Merkl.

Storage and organization are luxuries. It’s essential to have a place for everything and everything in its place to maintain a sense of peace and calm for busy lifestyles. When you are building a home, there are opportunities for customization to maximize awkward areas (under stairs come to mind) or a wall of built-ins for a home office to hide all of the electronics neatly away. (KM)

A butler’s pantry was created in a small vestibule at 2019 Decorator’s Showcase. Designed by Kari McIntosh. Photo by John Merkl.
A custom music room in Glen Park has a place for everything, including a cozy sound dampening “nook” for playing guitar. Designed by Cass Calder Smith, built by FORMA. Photo by Eric Laignel.

6. Materials

Materials are a way to bring texture and detail into your project. Think about the materials you are drawn to and where you would like to incorporate them in your home. (TY)

An extreme example of materiality would be a project we completed in South Park. We used №7 polished stainless steel as the exterior panels. While the building is extremely modern, the material nearly camouflages the building behind a reflection of the park, making it almost disappear into its surroundings. Fun fact, we had to level every single panel as it was installed so that it was straight and wouldn’t bow, which would have caused a “fun house” effect. (VM)

7. Smart Home Systems

Spend some time thinking about what type of audiovisual, temperature, and security controls to incorporate into your home and whether it’s essential to interact with those controls remotely through an app or other system. (KM)

Ideally, a clients’ AV plan needs to come in with the architect’s plans. This way, the team is already specifying all the product locations and prewires along with the rest of the electrical plan. This way, we can consider Wi-fi, amps, speakers, window shades, sprinkler heads, and applied trim, if any.

8. Architectural Style

I believe you can have a lot of fun mixing styles and decorative work as long as the architectural elements and language of the home maintain a consistent style. It’s important to correct those when beginning a remodel project. (KM)

Modern Tudor, designed by Kari McIntosh as featured in GENTRY magazine.
Silverado guest house fire re-build with Taylor Lombardo Architects. Built by FORMA.

It’s also important to understand your home’s surrounding environment and design a house to be coherent with the surroundings. FORMA built the above home to look exactly like the existing estate across the street after it burned down in a fire. (VM)

9. Influences & Inspiration

Modern Tudor, designed by Kari McIntosh as featured in GENTRY magazine.

Your travel experiences, cultural lineage, passion for art or film could all be factors that influence the design of the house. Your architect can help make sure the home is a reflection of the objects and experiences you love. (TY)

10. Well-Designed Kitchen

Space planning in the kitchen with appropriate work triangles, storage, and appliances. (KM)

The kitchen is the busiest room of the house and should be designed to handle it. Our team designed a kitchen that, while looks very adult, is exceptionally kid-friendly. It has five dishwashers, child locks, an appliance garage, pull-out pantries, cutlery trays, and special hardware/magic corners. (VM)

A kitchen for a family of four in the Marina, designed by Lindsay Gerber Interiors, built by FORMA.

A huge thank you to our contributors for taking the time to share their thoughts with us! View more of their wonderful work at Kari McIntosh Design and EYRC Architects. We look forward to sharing more of our partner’s work and thoughts with you each month. Until next time!