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  • Writer's pictureAtiqah Nadiah Zailani

Designing A Home For Yourself

When you're not an architect or a construction worker but you still insist on designing and building your own home.

architectural drawing

There’s nothing quite as luxurious as having something tailored just for you, be it a custom business suit that fits like a dream, a custom holiday with all your favourite activities, or... a custom house built with your lifestyle in mind!

The beauty of building your own home is getting to have complete control over what it will be like. Rather than purchasing a house that's too big or too small, with too many rooms or too few rooms, you can build one that is just right.

But how big is big enough?

The answer to this will vary with individuals; some have found a tiny 150 sq ft to be sufficient, some are more comfortable with 1000 sq ft, while some were able to comfortably fit a family of four within half that space without sacrificing quality of life. The key is to observe your own self and the space you actually use on a daily basis.

To start, I first examined the things I do in my daily life, and listed them by priority, frequency of use and amount of time spent. The following ranking emerged:

A week of My Life pie chart

A statistical analysis revealing just how lazy I am.

Clearly, the spaces that are going to get most of my attention are: the bedroom and the work space.

The rest are secondary – I rarely entertain people because I am a terrible host, so I don’t need a fancy or large living room or sitting room (heck, I don’t even watch TV, so don’t need that either). I cook only when the mood strikes (which is rarely) and even then I cook very simple food, therefore a small kitchenette is sufficient and a pantry is unnecessary. As for the bathroom and laundry room, they need not be lavish – after all, I hardly spend time there except when forced to.

I then added on the quirky bits that are not necessary, but that would make my life 10x better: an outdoor deck for hanging out in the sun and a skylight to stargaze with.

Taking a stab at designing

As previously mentioned, the first version of my house plan emerged in the middle of a work meeting. At the time, the notion had just taken root and was not fully fleshed out. I had no idea where I was going to put the house or what terrain it will be on, and so the plan was generic and I had assumed a flat land surface. It looked something like this:

early sketches of dream home

A (terrible) sketch of my dream house.

Initial Moodboard

A much better visualisation of my dream house.

After I went through the long process of finding land and finally bought one, it was not flat like the land of my imagination, but sloped at roughly 20 degree angle (but with a kickass view). That required some adjustments to the plan, so I went back to the drawing board.

After a few iterations, I ended up with something that resembled these:

Revised moodpboard

Tiny Houses on stilts for uneven, sloping land

At this point, I’ve been tinkering with the design for almost a year, all by my lonesome self. And despite my best, most earnest effort on the sketches and moodboards, I badly needed the help of a professional to draw up real architectural plans with all the proper architectural components and architectural measurements.

Getting professional help

I reached out to Epic Home, an organisation that specialises in bringing laymen volunteers together to build a modular house for native Malaysians in the span of 3 days. If anyone could figure out how to make my vision buildable, especially by noobs like me, it would be them.

So I sent them this:

Better but still primitive architectural sketches

An embarrassingly primitive architectural drawing by yours truly

And they turned them into this:

Epic Home rendition of house design

A less embarrassing architectural drawing by professionals

Thank God for professionals.

A virtual tour of my non-existent house

Now armed with pretty and realistic drawings, let's take a virtual tour of my non-existent house!

Bird's eye view

Bird's eye view of the house

The house is really a studio with a bedroom loft. It's designed for 1-2 people, but if the need arises, can be expanded on by adding more modular extensions on the side. At this point in time, the need has not yet arisen, so the 400 sq ft is all I really need at this stage of my life.

Living area

View of the living area, plus the staircase cum wardrobe

You'll notice that I'm using an obscene amount of glass in this house. While that is not necessarily the smartest, most logical or most secure decision, I was adamant on being able to look outside and take advantage of the view. The last thing I wanted was to feel cooped up within four walls, and it was important enough to me that I was happy to take on the additional risks and complications that come with it.

Loft & bathroom

View from the opposite side, of the veranda, kitchen, bathroom and loft above

There is a decent-sized living room that can spill out into the verandah. The area under the loft is meant to be a kitchen, with windows that also open up to the verandah. The bathroom is located just beyond it. Both are very small as I don't expect to spend a lot of time in them.


The most important part of the house

The loft is likely where I will spend 80% of my time in, and combines the sleeping space and the work space (I do most of my work while sprawled in bed anyway). So excited to fill the shelves with my books, and the tables with my sewing machine, even more books and assorted junk!

Let's get building!

It has taken forever and a day, but with a design and a plan in place, it is finally time to get building!

Am looking for interested volunteers to come help make the above illustrations into reality, and if you are reading this right now, you should definitely join in!

“But why should I join?” you may be thinking.

Out of your kindness, generosity, sense of adventure, love for me and concern over whether I will have a good roof over my head, naturally!

But if that’s not enough, here are a few more reasons why you should join in the build:

  1. You will learn some new skills!

  2. You will get some exercise! (For free, without any gym fees!)

  3. You will get free food! (I hope you’re okay going without meat...)

  4. You will have bragging rights! (please, how often can you say that you built a house, or part of the house, with your bare hands?)

  5. You will have fun! (What else are you going to do on the weekends anyway?)

More importantly, you will have a lifetime invitation to come back and help me with landscaping the rest of the property (plus the occasional bbq on the verandah)! There's fruit trees to plant, vegetable beds to make, chicken coops to build...

Save the dates!

The build will take place throughout the month of September 2017. Since most responsible, productive adults like you will be working during the weekday, the weekends are the most likely slots to join.

Weekend 1: 9-10 September (2 day weekend)

Weekend 2: 16-17 September (2 day weekend)

Weekend 3: 22 - 24 September (3 day weekend)

Click the below link to sign up!

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