Five Architectural Gifts That Keep On Giving

"We shape our dwellings; thereafter they shape us..." Winston Churchill's famous maxim comes to mind when pondering this season's theme of "munificence." Let's focus on its positive implications by contemplating the potential for generosity, bounty and inspiration to spill into our daily lives based on the decisions we make as we shape our home designs. Think of them as five architectural gifts that keep on giving:

by eden muir LIGHT. Generous light is fundamental and inspirational. Large and thoughtfully positioned windows and skylights bring illumination and joy all year round, especially in the winter. Fortunately, modern windows have been significantly improved in terms of heat loss and durability, making larger glass surfaces practical.

Using Google Sketchup, you can preview with scientific precision the shadow and light in every space inside and around your future house. You'll see exactly how far the sun's rays reach across your living room at any time on any day and you can adjust the design until each space gets the light it needs.

1) Computer simulation of sunlight and shadow in a residential design

by eden muir SHADE. As much as you need generous light, you also need to modulate the light. The classic outdoor shade device is the pergola, a framework of columns and beams covered by trellis or vines. No space is more relaxing and seductive than a sun-dappled summer patio under a broad pergola. The Romans understood the special charms of serving a good local wine under a protective pergola, and in this regard, nothing has changed in two millennia.

2) A shaded terrace and pergola at Domaine Pinnacle

by eden muir HEIGHT. If the ground plane of your life is analogous to the X-Y plane of Cartesian geometry, you may need a little more Z-axis in your life. The vertical lift from even a small area of double-height ceiling can transform a living space. Tall spaces are uplifting due to the extra light, air and sense of three-dimensional freedom and drama that they deliver. Treat yourself and your house to some height.

3) A house addition built around a double-height Living Room

by eden muir NATURAL MATERIALS. There is daily joy in living with natural materials such as stone and wood. Cedar shingles, for example, are a beautiful and functional siding that can literally last a lifetime if they are without knots and imperfections and are installed correctly. The genius of shingles is that by following simple nailing and spacing rules, a surface of fascinating randomness can be achieved, that, at the same time, has an overall uniformity.

Shingles form a weatherproof "skin" that can adapt to any surface geometry whether it is a curving wall or an ornamental gable. With careful planning you can achieve the pinnacle of shingle beauty, the silvery-gray Nantucket sheen of cedar shingles weathering naturally.

4) On Nantucket, unstained cedar shingles turn a natural silver colour

by eden muir PORCHES. Covered porches have always been an essential component of country living. They provide a protected entry and a shaded seating area and they change the way you relate to hot or rainy weather. On a country porch you can wait out a summer shower or heat wave in complete comfort. If the porch is deep you can almost live outdoors, just a step away from the garden.

5) A Mystic porch gives shelter from the wind, rain and sun

Light, shade, height, natural materials, porches... These are just five of a multitude of architectural devices and design decisions that have a direct influence on our quality of life. Over many decades we will receive satisfaction and inspiration, as well as convenience, comfort, ambiance and visual stimulation from these architectural gifts that keep on giving. If Churchill was right, we take on the qualities of the dwellings we inhabit -- what better reason to pay attention to the spaces that we shape.


Text and photos by Architect Eden Greig Muir, Atelier Muir, 41 Principale, Frelighsburg, J0J 1C0, tel: 450-298-1212, web:

© Tous droits réservés Eden Greig Muir, architecte