Even though it’s been several years since I lived in my childhood home, the image of it came back to me easily as I built it on SketchUp. Going from a gray rectangle to this familiar building was very satisfying, and I was tempted to keep going and going, adding small details and surrounding structures. But that led me to ask the question that wound up guiding my building process: what exactly makes the house identifiable?
For example, one detail I remember clearly about my house was an alternating pattern of small rectangles along the edge of each wall, but in addition to being a long and tedious endeavor, I realized that adding that pattern wouldn’t contribute much to the recreation of the house in comparison with larger, structural aspects. So instead, I set about making the main features of the house, such as windows and extensions, as accurate as possible. The effect of this was especially noticeable in the back, where simply adding the back porch and steps made the structure look far more familiar.
The other factor that contributed most to making the house recognizable was colors and textures. My childhood home was white brick, but the brick textures available on SketchUp only come in dark tones. After searching a while for other options, I found a plain, geometric brick pattern. The more artistically rendered brick textures made the structure look much more lifelike, but only the less natural-looking plain pattern could make the house look like my house.
This got me thinking about the limits of using SketchUp’s textures for reproduction– clearly, accuracy in color and patterns is as essential as structure in making something recognizable. In many cases, then, it’d be necessary to create and import your own textures, or team up with someone with the skills to do that… another opportunity for building and collaboration.
For all those wanting to try SketchUp now, let me tell you that you should make copy/paste your friend. Copying an item isn’t intuitive on SketchUp, but when I figured it out it made a world of difference. First, make sure you’re using the select tool. Then select all the parts of what you want to copy by holding down shift as you click. The program won’t know something is a window or door; you have to select all the lines or shapes used to create it. Then you can copy/paste as you normally would! Until I discovered this strategy, replicating the windows all around the house was a nightmare.