Architect’s Toolbox: Celebrate Individuals Happy Accidents

Many years ago while I was still in design school, a guest lecturer spoke to us about homes that he was building in the American Southwest. What was special about those homes were the master bedrooms, that would nearly always have a large expanse of glass above the beds. The people who slept in those beds would always discuss the night sky whenever they had a chance.

When groups of those homeowners would collect, their discussions frequently would be centered upon the stars, constellations, other celestial bodies and atmospheric occasions. What struck me wasn’t that these homeowners had a chance to view the night sky from their beds — after all this was a designed-in feature of their homes — but that their cocktail chatter afterwards with friends would centre around their maternity stargazing.

The additional amazement and wonderment a happy accident give a homeowner is remarkable. As architects and designers we ought to be open to serendipity as a design instrument.

Below are just two examples of happy injuries from my layout work. One is about using a toilet in an unexpected manner. Another is about a twice-yearly ritual with an unexpected piece of moonlight.

Please share your story of a happy accident you’ve had with your new home, kitchen remodel, renovation, or other endeavor. Just how has serendipity added into how you experience your home?

AIA, bud Dietrich

Happy accident 1. My very first serendipity-in-design story is about a toilet that became party central.

This bathroom, a part of a master bedroom addition to an present home, includes a claw-foot bath, a set of vanities, a fireplace with brick hearth and the toilet area in a separate compartment. The toilet was conceived and constructed as a cozy room for taking a bath and pampering oneself.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

It was taken to a whole new level when the homeowners threw a party and used the toilet as the pub. Beer, soda and ice filled with tub. Bottles of wine and glasses were organized on the vanities, and there was a fire in the fireplace.

Through the night, the area became an area for people to grab a drink and sit on the hearth to chat. The simple fact that this was happening in the master bath wasn’t an issue in any way. People sauntered in and out all night long. It was as if the toilet wasn’t a toilet but the local lounge. Have to say I completely did not expect this happy accident, but I am happy it happened.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

Happy accident two. Another example of an unexpected effect is that the story of the proprietor being awakened by a sound sleep by moonlight coming through the transom window opposite the bed, projecting its ray of light onto the homeowner’s thoughts.

Bud Dietrich, AIA

We have dubbed this our”moonbeam headboard” And, like their ancestors of millennia ago observing some pagan rite, the owners look ahead to the twice annual triangular piece of moonlight shining in their heads, connecting them into the nighttime sky and all the wonder that brings.

How has your house surprised you? Please share your happy accident in the Comments section below!

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