In planning your new traditional house we recommend:
Respect unique character of site
Always consider your house within its larger setting—a street scene, neighborhood, land form, region—and its orientation to sun and prevailing weather. Make a good fit. Enhance the natural setting, and respect local character. This might mean adapting your house to existing land contours or a distinctive pattern of local development. If your new house is respectful and supports regional character, it will not be seen as an intrusion.
Invent within the rules
Historic building traditions provide practical guidance, and embody the wisdom of generations. Each tradition has an implicit set of rules and practices, a kind of DNA to generate form. These rules define appropriate building types, scale, features, materials, construction methods and details, and give the tradition its distinctive character. Use these rules to create project, and invent your own variations. Develop your "new old house" from basic ingredients, instead of applying a style like frosting to a cake.
Stay true to type
Recognize historical patterns within a specific house type—its layout, massing, roof forms, doors, windows, and details—and use these to develop an authentic character for your project. Respect the scale and proportions of traditional models. If your design is well integrated and appropriately scaled, it will be convincing. Historic houses were usually much smaller than most houses built today. If your program is too large for historic type select a different model, or scale-down your project. Another strategy is to design your house to appear as if it had been enlarged in increments over time—which was common of early houses.
Strive to do the most with the least
Avoid redundant or underutilized space. Develop multi-use spaces that can do double duty rather than separate rooms for each use. A smaller house rich in spatial variation and detail satisfies more directly what many people seek in a big house. Go for the clearest, most direct solutions to design problems—ones that demonstrate resourcefulness and ingenuity, and avoid unnecessary expense. Insist that every design feature accomplish multiple objectives, and all details support overall vision for the house.
Design for the future
Perhaps the best way to care for the future is to be mindful of the past. Cultivate a wider perspective on architectural history, and deepen your understanding of continuities and connections. Select long-lasting materials and construction methods that have withstood the test of time. Authentic building materials and components are initially more expensive than simulated, but they will last longer and ultimately be more cost-effective. Consider using materials that develop a patina, like stone, copper and handmade brick, and become more beautiful with age. Consider using salvaged material, like old growth lumber remilled for flooring, when it is of higher quality than what is available today.
Avoid over-embellishing your house at the outset, because this could restrict its potential growth. Identify places you could add a room or wing later while maintaining coherence of design. Build a simple house, one that can be adapted as your circumstances change and life unfolds.
Use craftsmanship as a bridge
Fine craft and skilled workmanship are qualities appreciated in almost all cultures. The shared value can bridge language, class and other barriers, because we all experience the "thinking hand of craft" as a gift. Find builders who recognize this, and know there is more to work than a paycheck. They will be more engaged in your project and do their best work if they can effectively demonstrate their skills.
Include latest technologies and creature comforts
Most structural and mechanical systems, including latest communication technologies, can be unobtrusively fit into a traditional building design. Changed patterns of use and creature comforts that did not exist in some historical models, like indoor bathrooms(!), laundry and master suite, can obviously be integrated into your new traditional house.
Thanks to Russell Versaci for his insights into traditional design.