Designing your home to ensure maximize comfort – both physical and visual – requires a certain degree of experience and know-how. Obviously, the nature of what exactly provides this maximum comfort will differ from person to person. But there are certain principles that are fairly universal, some of which we’ll talk about here.
As far as the importance of visual comfort, this will also vary from person to person. However, it’s safe to say that many people are very much visually affected – for better or worse – by their immediate surroundings. By taloring your home to fit your personal preference regarding the right balance between factors such as space, light, and privacy, you can create a home environment you look forward to at the end of the day.
Atriums and downfloors are architectural features that are directional opposites – the former being a spatial extension upwards, and the latter being one that goes downwards. While residential atriums tend to extend through to the ceiling of the top floor of the house, downfloors rarely drop more than 40 or 50 centimeters – or 2 or 3 steps. (The image above shows a landing with a small staircase – not a downfloor, but an elevation-change that simulates a “lookout” of sorts.)
Atriums serve as a dispenser of both natural and artificial light, to all connected floors, as well as an unobstructed visual corridor that creates a feeling of spaciousness. A ceiling fan and/or windows can also allow for excellent air circulation and ventilation throughout the house. The downside to an atrium is that it eats up floor area that can otherwise be used. This is where your personal preference comes into play.
Downfloors are what certain parts of the world call a floor that changes elevation – in this case, to a lower elevation. Downfloors are a design feature that attempts to create an environment suitable for rest and relaxation, hanging out, etc. Common areas of the house that incorporate this design feature are living rooms, play rooms, libraries and studies, etc.
When descending into a downfloor, you feel like it’s your “final destination”, or a place that you might want to stop and sit, as opposed to one that is a stepping stone to another area of the house. By exploiting these 2 visual effects, you can step outside the mainstream box of the comparatively mundane architecture found in many mass-produced homes today.