-----In 2004 we bought a falling-down house and 30 acres. This blog documents our progress-----

Saturday, March 12, 2005

email conversations with Eric

Eric is our architect, from Greenpoint design. Over the past week we've had a couple of interesting email conversations that I thought I'd include them here for posterity! I can imagine it will be quite amusing to look back on how we arrived at certain ideas for the design once we're at the other side and the thing is built! Right now, we're just about at the point of getting to see the first iteration of Eric's design, I can't wait.

Here is Eric's email to us from March 8th - and I've interspersed my comments on each point from my email reply:

"I am well and truly back in my office. It's amazing how quickly a week goes. I mentioned that I worked on some concepts for you while in the US. I've continued to developed a couple of ideas since getting back. (It's all on the drawing board and stuck all over the walls of my office right now.) A few themes have emerged which I thought it worthwhile to suggest sooner rather than later.

1. After visiting the site, I feel that the general location of the existing house is a very good one for the rest of the buildings. It is elevated and well drained, has good access and good aspect to both sun and the views to the east.

Great. Totally sold on that. It felt good to me too instinctively, but I didn't want to insist on it in case there were better spots from an energy efficient point of view.

2. The existing house seems to be in workable condition. Relatively new roof. The framing will need some repair work, but it is all exposed and easy to get to. Need new linings and finishes both inside and out, but that would give us the opportunity to consider it's appearance in relation to other buildings.

Very glad to hear. Again, you would have had to work hard to convince me to knock it down, so I'm glad we can avoid that discussion! I'm afraid I get very sentimental about old houses, they have a soul to them far more than modern brick veneer boxes do, so I will always err on the side of saving them. I'm also happy to reconsider it's appearance, as I know it is in dire condition at the moment. But my only slight hesitation is that I do like its style and faded grace. Even though I guess it is a bit incongrous for that kind of house to be there, I like the fancy bits around the door and the lovely little mouldings and the fact that they have survived these past decades of neglect. I even like the fake brick moulded thing in wood at the front side. I suppose what I'm saying is that I'm happy to change but I want to be true to the spirit of the old house. e.g., if we are having a little collection of buildings, maybe that can be the old stately home of our mini-village. :-)

3. One scenario is too hard to pass up. It is: use the house as a storage shed for the first stage of building, then once you are comfortable in the main house, fix up the old house into the extra bedrooms and accommodation. Most of my ideas so far have assumed something similar to this. It seems a waste not to use the old house.

Happy with this too. I'm so glad you agree it's a waste not to use it! Most other people seem to think we should just raze it, I felt like I was being really stupid to insist on at least considering we keep it. However I must confess that my first reaction (given that I love old houses) was that the guests will get the best bit(!!), but I know that's just because I can't yet envisage what the new parts will look like. It is so annoying... I can envisage various rooms, even wander round them in my dreams sometimes, but I just cannot figure out how they're joined up.

4. The new buildings can be either physically connected to the old house or separate. I tend to favour separate buildings for a variety of reasons, but am still very open to options.

5. Siting generally. I'm looking at a matrix of options for how the main house, guest house and other misc outbuilding all relate. Will send some diagrams to help explain options.

I don't have firm opinions on this yet, I think I'll get a better feel for it when I see some possible layouts. If the old house were to be joined fully, the only place I can envisage it being (so as not to destroy the symmetry) is on the back where the current extension is. I like the concept of keeping it separate though in the sense that it lets it retain its history/sense of identity.

6. The English garden space. Just on sheer size of this area (10 x 6 or 9 x 5), it seems to be enclosed by several buildings (and/or garden walls) rather that simply enclosed by single U-shaped building. How this garden area relates to the cluster of buildings will, I'm sure, be the source of some good conversation.

Hmmm... I'm open to suggestions but my instinct is that this should be enclosed by buildings rather than walls (or, at least walls that look like they're part of a building). Because, it isn't just a walled English garden, I want it to feel "secret" too, ie: for you not to be able to tell its there until you come upon it. So, for instance, I don't want you to be able to stand at the front door and
look inside and the first thing you see is a big window onto the secret garden. If one side of the garden perhaps ran alongside a hallway, I wouldn't want huge windows looking onto it along the full length... If the house has a personality, the secret garden is the introvert, private escape bit... other parts like the verandahs are
more extravert, outward looking and social.

I have also grown quite attached to Dave's suggestion that the secret garden should not be rectangular but instead L or T shaped - ie: so you have bits that are secluded and you have to walk around in able to see. This might allow it to be smaller. Or, at least make it easier to have trellis across the roof to support mosquito netting, etc.

7. Upstairs / downstairs. Also looking at which rooms have ground
floor positions vs upper floor. Again, it should be the source of

I told you I sometimes dream about being in these rooms. Based on that, it feels like the bathroom should be on the ground floor, so it can open out onto the secret garden. Maybe even it could have a very large window that is almost the whole side of the bathroom wall looking onto it, but still private by being a mirror on the garden side?

The kitchen should also be on the ground floor because I envisage it opening onto a verandah.

That's all I know for sure.

If you forced me to say gut feel where the master bedroom should be, I'd say up the stairs above the bathroom, on the second floor, adjoining a little sleeping porch bit... in fact, if the second floor is not that big, maybe the large master bedroom is the only proper room up there? (I'm just musing here, I don't feel certain about

One of the main quests at this early stage is to determine general positions and orientations of various spaces, so that is very much what I am working on and will send to you. I'm hoping to have something to send very soon.

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