Designing a cozy abode for oneself is something people dreamed of. The view towards self-designed homes changes from region to region. The economic and political condition plays a vital role in it. 


Typically people design their own home for three reasons. 

Traditional practice – 

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Leshten,Bulgaria_©Svetoslav Markov

In many rural areas around the world, people traditionally design their own homes. It is a part of a culture or simply a traditional practice that plays a crucial role in the community. 

Economic status

There are people with less income who cannot afford the privilege to hire an architect or builder. Nor can they afford the houses in the open market. Such structures are usually made out of primary material and built for temporary use. The increasing group of such houses later turn into slums.

In such cases, they are sometimes supported by government initiatives or NGOs to build their own homes. 


people with knowledge and the ability to design their own homes usually do so to ensure that their needs and wants are fulfilled. It is a popular trend in the architecture community to design their own home as an example of their work. 

For example – Dodge house by Daniel Zamarbide and Leopold Banchini. 

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Dodge House ©
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Dodge House ©

Initial practice – 

The history of self-designed homes evolved with the history of houses. It was quite common in the initial centuries of history of mankind. The changing needs of humans and changing ways of community shaped the abode in every era. 

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Dodge House ©
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Traditional house in korea_ ©dae jeung kim

Like many small villages and tribal areas in India, Africa, Southern and Eastern parts of Asia, as well as the Middle East, people still design their own homes in traditional ways. Such self-designed homes are not too complicated a construct. They are made by using easily available natural materials. 


After European countries started to colonize the areas around the world. People began to build entirely new colonies and villages in places like the American continent, Australia, Africa.

The structures designed in this era were a combination of native architecture and architecture from the home region of the settled community. This is due to the use of native material and to respond to the climate. 

The initial houses in the USA build by the migrated people, were self-designed traditional farmhouses made of wood. As the town started to grow in cities the design of houses also changes. the key element of those houses were wooden frames and hardwood floors, mouldings, high ceilings, fireplaces, etc.

Post world war – 

During and After world war II there was a lack of proper houses in almost every involved country. Many people needed to rebuild their homes after they returned from war. But due to a lack of resources and money, it was difficult to hire someone to build their homes.

The alternative of low-cost building in the high rises was available. But the repetition of the cell-like unit, the result of rapid construction and small spaces weren’t to everyone’s liking. Some people who still own land choose the option of self-design homes. 

The material and design choices changed from region to region, as a response to the local climate, terrain, as well as political and economic conditions. The self-design homes in this era were in the favor of function rather than aesthetics. Due to lack of money and material. Most of the houses were designed to suffice the basic needs. 

Some new materials and techniques like metal frame and concrete were popular but in rapid-low-cost structures and high rise structures. But for individuals trying to construct self-designed homes, the material salvaged from debris and readily available natural materials were popular while designing the homes.

In Italy practice of self-designed and self-built homes was common till two decades after the world war. As for the post-war USA, single-family homes became popular. Small living space, kitchen facing backyard, a garage was common. The elements like pitch roof and picture window facing veining the front street were popular. 

The current condition of self-build houses

In today’s era, there are types of people who construct self-design homes.

The first one is those who are knowledgeable and proficient enough to design and build their own homes. 

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house by founders of Scenario Architecture, london
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house by founders of Scenario Architecture, london

In UK and Ireland self-designed and self build homes are not uncommon. Although it doesn’t mean that 100% of work is completed by the owner. Over the years many changes have been seen in the self-designed houses. The use of eco-features and smart-home technology is a popular trend in the current self-designed homes.

house in

The second type of people, those who come from a less privileged background, design and build their own homes out of necessity. They either create temporary homes from the local and salvage material or build a house with the help of NGO or government initiatives. 

The developing countries usually have self-design and self-building practices. For example – In Ghana self-designing and self-building is also practice by middle-income citizens along with lesser income households. The view towards self-provide housing kept changing with policies and agenda of the government in the post-colonial era. Today it is recognized as important practice and, also non-conventional approaches are encouraged. 

Reference –

Websites –

Dezeen. (2017). 10 homes architects and designers have created for themselves. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 1 Aug. 2021].

RTF | Rethinking The Future. (2021). 10 Self-designed homes of unique designers. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 1 Aug. 2021]. (n.d.). Housing, Self-Built. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 1 Aug. 2021].

Dezeen. (2020). Ten self-designed homes that reflect the unique styles of their owner. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 1 Aug. 2021].

Stanton, B.L.-J. (2020). Self-build housing: some legal issues to consider. [online] Lexology. Available at:  [Accessed 31 July. 2021]. (n.d.). The world’s most incredible self build homes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 July. 2021]. 

HGTV. (n.d.). All About Post-War Architecture. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 July. 2021].


Gargi is an Architect by degree and a tinker by heart. As a recent graduate, she is yet to find out what alley of architecture she would like to explore further in her life. Writing is a tool for her to analyze and discuss her exploration.