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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Do It Yourself Home Design

An architectural rendering in a highly realistic landscape, capable of being viewed from any angle, complete with furnishing, lighting, plumbing, cutaways views and no burdensome blueprints.
Have you ever wished you could design and build a dream home, limited only by your own creativity? That you might build it anywhere in the world, any terrain, and size, any style, money being absolutely no object? Better than that, you could virtually "live" in it? It's possible, you know. I've been doing it as a kind of creative outlet hobby for years now (below). No, it doesn't involve complicated 3-D house design software capable of producing detailed blueprints any builder would be delighted to utilize, although it does have some of the same 3-D features as such Computer Assisted Design (CAD) software (except only more realistic). I've tried such software and inevitably grown frustrated and or impatient with it. Each time I've gone scurrying back to Electronic Arts computer simulation "game" (if you stretch the definition of gaming a little)--The Sims 3.
I obviously have a yearning for Minimalist beach house.
Let me warn you in advance. If you're a frustrated would-be architect whose creative streak is much wider than any notable engineering streak, this game is terribly addictive. As with all computer games, especially simulation games, the learning curve is steep, though always lots of fun. Even if you use basically only one element of the game (the highly sophisticated home design features) it takes some time to work your way through all the intricacies. It works backward from most CAD software. CAD programs usually start with a floorplan which, eventually results in 3-D illustration. With the Sims, one begins by creating the 3-D rendering. Not only that, one also stops there too--no, floorplans to fool with, no structural engineering, in fact, no architectural drawings whatsoever. Actually, I utilize only a small segment of the game's capabilities. The Sims 3 (and now, Sims 4) is basically a self-directed soap opera complete with custom made Sims, wardrobe, makeup, relationships, emotions, careers, sex, life, death, weddings, funerals, ghosts, babies, and kids of all ages for kids of all ages. The architecture is merely the set design background element of this grown-up toy doll house.

Click above for a guided tour.

But, OH what a beautiful toy it is! It even lets you take photos of your architectural creation and has built into it's home design software capabilities allowing the user to conduct animated video tours of the house (above). Though large, contemporary designs are my favorites, even very modest suburban ranch style houses (below). offer the same design possibilities inside and out, right down to magazines on the coffee table and kitchen counter clutter. All of this and more are available as custom content (CC) mostly at no cost for downloading from and from various digital designers also addicted to the architecture/interior design features of this simulation.

A comfortable, lived-in look complete with shadows which change with the passing of time, reflections in mirrors, and the difference between night and day.
A Victorian dowager which, with
a little more color and closer
neighbors could be one of
San Francisco's "Painted Ladies."
Moreover, there is virtually no style or architectural era which Sims 3 or 4 software, with a few items of downloaded CC, can't handle (left). The other basic commodity needed to fully enjoy a free-for-all building spree is the Sims' legal tender known as "simoleons." Although there are numerous means for the Sims to earn cash in playing the game, the easiest way to bypass all that is through the use of numerous "cheats." (Alt-shift-C) brings up the cheat screen; typing in "motherlode" gives your Sim family one-million simoleons--more than enough to build (or buy) even your most outrageous abodes. Or, simpler still, using the "build" mode, there is no cost unless a Sim family wishes to buy the house, allowing you to watch them live in your creation. Don't worry about making a mistake in con-structing your house. If you do, your Sim family will indicate what you've done wrong and sometimes angrily berate you for screwing up their "lives."

Look familiar? It should if you're a horror movie fan. This replica
of the Amityville Horror house was created by a Sims 3 fan
named Celtic Guardian.
A Swiss Chalet in spring.
With a little research and some expertise in building, one can even recreate famous house from television or the movies, such as the "Amity-ville Horror" Dutch Colonial (above). Even A-frame houses (left) with complicated roofs are possible once the architect builder has obtained his or her degree and gained a license to practice Sim architecture. A devotee to architectural eras from the past can design in the Federal style (below) as easily as something Tudor, Georgian, Gothic or Gallic.

The Federal style, or perhaps English Edwardian. No, you can't design the cars out front, but virtually any make or model automobile that ever tooted its horn is available as free CC on the Internet.
Although its best to start small with a modest bungalow, it's much more fun to design wildly extravagant mansions (as seen below) complete with multiple-car garages, indoor swimming pools, grand staircases, video arcades, marble bathrooms, on a scale just short of Buckingham Palace. I've actually seen reasonably accurate furnished renditions of the White House. A personable young man named Curtis Paradis has actually carved out something of a career for himself creating how-to videos posted on YouTube featuring dozens of Sims houses he's designed.

Ridiculously large and ornate, complete with a small burial plot out back and what appears to be a chapel (upper-left). And that's just the ground floor.
For more experienced designers, the Sims 3 Island Paradise expansion pack (just one of many) allows the design and "construction" of resort hotels (below) with a variety of styles, sizes, and features. For those with a more aquatic bent, the designer can also create houseboats (bottom) which can be moved by their Sim owners from one "port" to another along the shoreline of island communities. Incidentally, all this does not come cheap. I believe the basic Sims 4 game sells for about $45 (the Sims 3 basic game is somewhat less). Sims 4 also invites the user to buy two optional expansion packs, two game packs, and six "stuff" packs (additional building items, furniture, and clothing).
Even Sims sometimes need a little time off.

They're big, and they're slow, but they're not too fast.

Perfect for your backyard. The maze pool is
nice too.


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