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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

cottage: bedroom and verandah

Here's the email conversation with Dad about the bedroom and verandah areas of the cottage plans.

Dad's commentary (Feb 26):

Go now to the left thru the doorway into the master bedroom and you see a door to the veranda and the second old Healesville window. Look towards the front of the house and through the magnificent old windows, with curtains either side.

The all around veranda was Alan's idea to balance the overall appearance. We can stop the veranda as you wished, and can also leave in the plan, but not do this portion yet. I like the all around veranda and it will be of some help with the 5-star rating. I think all else is clear enough. Had to tweek the bath 300 ml into the masterbedroom to accomodate walkway around the stairs.

The rest is pretty clear. The two windows obtained from the guy in Collingwood that got me the glass will be used as a pair in the study. The laundry will be enclosed and soundproofed as to begin with the generator will be there. Or I may make a soundproof room under this laundry and put it there. I haven't worked the details of this yet. There are probably building regulations that will place firewall and sprinkler restriction on me so I will simply put the generator in a small building detached and about 50 feet from the house. We will see. But the battery storage area could be here. Or you may just go on the grid and to hang these other inconveniences.

My reply (Feb 26):

We both really like the wrap around verandah extending and I especially think it adds to the charm of it, so let's do that as it's drawn. And now we have verandah there it is doubly nice to have the doorway.

In the bedroom, as already discussed, let's bring the closet forward a little so that it is in line with the bathroom wall. Then there can be extra space - not in the bedroom closet, but in the linen press adjoining it. That way I can stack things in it two deep in the linen press if I need. It's wasted space having it in the bedroom.

This will be a lovely bedroom I think. Not a lot of storage as only the one wardrobe, but we can get creative, eg: maybe built a platform for the bed that has big drawers built in underneath, etc. Not that that matters for the house design stage.

The generator would only ever be a temporary solution, until we go on the grid. We will be doing this for the new house (as well as supplementing it by solar/wind power etc)... but probably won't invest in putting electricity on until near tail end as no point paying monthly rental costs for line if no-one is living there. So, probably better to plan the house as if it has power (solar system 100% definite; 90% electricity as depends on how much they quote to connect...this price varies all the time)

cottage: bathroom

Here's the email conversation with Dad about the bathroom area of the cottage plans.

Dad's commentary (Feb 26):

Alan has shown a bifold door to the bathroom, but I ruled it out of hand and want a door opening to the wall opposite the linen press or a cavity slider going into the space of linen press. I much prefer the leaf opening door for regular use and display of leadlights at this very busy area: With the light of the baywindow behind it and the relative gloom of the linen press passage (if the light is not turned on) the door will be glorious. Especially if it is one with a high and low leadlight like the one between Dawn's kitchen and lounge.

Open this door and look towards the bathroom. You will see steps leading upstairs. These are apx 700 mm wide, and there are 3 steps before the winders start. You then wind up to 6 steps, encircling a central pole so you are now facing the opposit direction and take 3 steps further up and arrive on the leve where a bath awaits you (providing Dave has heated the water overnight by stoking the old stove to keep it ticking over during the night.)

Alan has casually drawn in a handbasin in the loft. This is a good idea, but not where he drew it, but on your left as you stand at the top of the stairs. Or just a series of shelves could be put here or a small piece of furniture. Someplace to keep towels etc. And a radio!!

In front of you is the old clawfoot bath rescued from oblivion and given the prospects of many years of comfort-giving. Turn to the right and go to the towards the big windows in the gable, trailing your hand along the 1 m high balustrade and handrail that prevents you falling when sleepy into the stairwell below. As you approach the end of the loft you will come to a wall only 1100 mm high and peering over this little wall you can look at the shower below and the handbasin. This open area can be populated with ferns and potted plants of various descriptions. Air rising as it will naturally from the cool areas below will come upstairs with warmth and moisture (if shower is used). This air will be able to be left to circulate upstairs or vented by a ridge vent. This vent will be operated simply by a screwing mechanism and can be left open to varying degrees, of closed in winter when warmth is needed for comfortable bathing.

Going back downstairs turn to your right and stand beside the stairs facing the baywindow. To your left there is a short section of wall which encloses the toilet area. This toilet area has a wc which faces towards the baywindow. No door on it, but it could have a door, or concertina wooden door set. I actually have salvaged from the roadside such a set of doors.

There is a handbasin, or vanity or whatever comes to hand for washing hands, that is under the bay window to the left, and a showering area to the right. This area will be open, not enclosed. One can have a rice paper blind standing for some added privacy, or not as one likes on the day.

My reply (Feb 26):

I most definitely do not want a sliding door on the bathroom, I'm guessing this is what you mean by cavity slider? I don't know what a bi-fold door is, but it sounds like something equally flimsy, with hinges in it. I am really fussy, I want it to be a solid proper door, opening inward perhaps so that if someone is on the toilet having entered from the bedroom it provides a big of a privacy shield if someone accidentally starts to barge in from the hallway. (nb: I'm not fussed about whether it opens inward or outward though... I just realised further down you had a reason for it to open into linen press space)

I love your idea of having the stained glass window in the door to catch the light. I already have one that could work; I was going to use this in the new house but can always keep an eye out for another.

In terms of the bathroom layout itself, I am OK with it as you have it drawn provided that there is enough space to walk to the toilet without having to squeeze past stairs. I guess this is why you were suggesting the door open into the linen press area rather than into the bathroom. I like the shape of the steps, part straight, part winding, they are lovely.

My only slight worry with this layout is that entering the room from the hallway near linen press might feel like quite a zigzaggy path to get to the toilet? But I can't think of an alternative. I was thinking about it being maybe with the stairs to loft starting running along the loft wall side (ie: rotated 90 degrees), but then realised that would mess up the shape of the loft. Unless the loft had a kind of U shape, with sticking out bits at either end? Hmmm.

I don't think the toilet needs a door on it. What are concertina wooden doors? Are they like the door between Gran's kitchen and lounge, except in wood not plastic? If so, they sound really nice, but not for the toilet... would be better suited I tink to the door between the kitchen and pantry in the new house?

I love the idea of the showering area being open. We stayed in a hotel in Sri Lanka that had an area like this, it was wonderful.

And thank you, you've also just given me an excuse to think about planning a screen!... one of those lovely ones that is 3 panels and hinges. I wouldn't have it being rice paper as that would not do well in the wet, but I could get some lovely fabric that wouldn't get wrecked by water splashes, and use that instead of the rice paper. It's the kind of thing that is a lovely ornament too, and you can always fold it up flat and stand against a wall when not needed.

I don't think I need a handbasin in the loft. I can just use the tap on the bath if I need to get water. I'm not going to be brushing my teeth up there. I love the idea of having shelves, space for music, candles, plants... This will become a real sanctuary, I can see it now.

It is good that there is the balustrade. We will have to think carefully about what we make it out of. Perhaps that is the place where we should use the antique copper/iron bits we bought last year? This link has pictures and measurements. I don't think we should use the oak railings there, as want to keep them for the new house and they'd get damaged by water, but there isn't really a place in the new house for the metalparts, and they seem like they'd be well suited to a bathroom, similar vintage to the clawfoot bath too. What do you think? These are already in Australia, they're packed in those old luggage trunks that were in the first batch of stuff we sent back.

I love the idea of having ferns etc in the open area. Basically I love how spacious this area feels, it will be wonderful. If we make sure there is a powerplug up here (need it for radio/CD player anyway) but also near this open area, then in winter we could also have a small fan heater standing there if it was cold... it'll be well out of the way of wetness if we put it way back against the edge. You can get some lovely ones here, like the one we have in our conservatory, that look like they are real fires (I mean really they do... ours has fooled several people!). We could even have a comfy chair up there, like one of the Lloyd Loom nursing chairs I've got. It's small, low, and surprisingly comfortable.

Having some kind of vent / opening window / way to keep heat from blasting in during summer will be very important. Also, I think it needs careful venting somewhere so that we don't end up with a mildew problem from the shower, up high on walls like in Gran's kitchen. I don't want to block it off at loft level though (as Mum suggested), that would spoil the view and the whole feeling of the place. We can always invest in proper fitted conservatory blinds for it if it was a real problem, or rig up some kind of sail effect, but hopefully if heat rises and we can open the windows then it should still be OK at ground floor level even on the hottest days, so you can just avoid having a bath then if needs be! Most often I have baths in winter rather than summer anyway.

Dad's reply (Feb 27):

We agree on the door opening into the passage for the linen press onto the wall opposite. And stained glass!!!!

The wall portion beside the toilet will be left without a door, but will be the storage place for the free-standing blinds you are going to have to shield from the shower when you need them. This wall will keep barging eyes from surprising the toilet user, and the master bedroom door will serve from the other direction.

There will not be any sense of zig zag in entering the bathroom as there is plenty of walkway. The stairs are going to be built by a loving father as a present for a loving daughter and son-in-law, and no cost for labour will be recorded. I will scan some spiral stairs I built for Ailsa years ago. But also I will do some sketches of my ideas for these stairs. Talk more about this when you have the sketches. But the stairs will be open backed, that is will have only the tread to walk upon in the right place as all stairs. But you can see through them to the bay window. This is to achieve a sense of openspace. The ceiling, over the passage of the linen press and toilet is only 7 ft high, and the stairwell and baywindow area ceiling is the roof over the loft.

I will be making the treads out of half a log, flat up to make the stepping surface. All polished and attached to steel support by straps and screws painted black. All will be seen and as a feature. The handrails will be of whole saplings with the same style of support. The lining of the walls in the stairwell will have palings to dado height and then plaster. In the wet areas of the shower will have miniorb colourbond, and tiles over the handbasin. The wall above the window and up to the hand rail will be miniorb, and the top of this wall will have a large shelf for placing potplants.

Your balustrade bits will be perfect. I will add extra steel or wooden balustrades to make it legal as the spacing is regulated.

There will be plenty of power whereever. I think a computer up in the loft would be a nice effect, as you can listen on line, or work there if you want. It will not be a hot area when finished. The side walls are 1700mm high and the height to the peak of the ceiling will be over 8 ft I think, without taking out the scale rule.

I even toyed with the idea of having an outside deck to retreat to which could be access easily from the portion of loft floor that goes towards the gable end window. I would just have to cut into the roof about 1 metre, and provide a small deck and doorway to get to it and presto we have a little fresh air outlook. This can be done anytime, and need not involve the council now if you like. But it is not an expensive idea to implement. It could be the way to gain an easy access to a platform atop the house that would be priceless as a lookout over the valley below, but all unnecessary as the veranda will be quite high enough until trees grow up around the house. I do get carried away with my ideas and forget there are 30 acres to buffer you from someone building up and blocking your view from the veranda.

My reply (Feb 27):

Thank you so much Dad, it sounds fantastic...the bits I understand anyway, I don't know what miniorb is! I especially love the idea of the handrails being made of saplings, and the steps themselves being parts of logs.

Not sure about having a permanent computer up in the loft area, but certainly power will let us take up a laptop for playing music etc. We could also have it propped on a table playing TV or something if you wanted to watch (I can see Dave in there having his long soaks, watching Collingwood!)

I love your idea of the little roof-deck, just as a little private tucked away area. Yes it is a luxury but if it doesn't cost too much then why not. I would have more plants up here, of course, and the telescope could be there too sometimes. It'd also be a good place for hanging out wet towels from the bath to let them air. Most important though, I don't want it to ruin the line of the roof.

cottage: kitchen and hall

Here's the email conversation with Dad about the kitchen and hall areas of the cottage plans.

Dad's commentary (Feb 26):

Stand where Alan has printed the word Meals and look towards the kitchen. To the right are the two patio doors opening out and folding out of the way to sit flat against the wall either side to not obstruct the veranda. To the left is the combustion stove, with a wall beside it to enclose it and give hiding place for the water pipes. This wall is not shown, but Alan will draw it in. I mentioned it to him when he pointed out his reasons for arranging the kitchen as he has. I think we ought to move it to the corner on the left, and create some visual separation with a short wall with a wide shelf at about mid chest height the width of the room, leaving only the opening for entry that will be over near the right wall where the fridge will be. Or the stove can be place in this corner, but there could be conflict with overhead framing members. Your input as to this kitchen design is needed here.

Turn left and pass thru the space between the stove as figured, but which will probably not be there. ( It is a good place for it if we have the divider just beyond the edge of the patio doorway and stretching uninterrupted the width of the room until stopping to leave a gap to access the kitchen just in front of the stove. I perhaps like this best as it give the old stove a more central place, and is therefore more effective for heating the room. A hob beside the stove, with the pipes exposed is an option too. Pardon this aside.) Now for the confusing bits: You see the opening that leads to the linen press. The linen press will be huge, as we have given it the 300 mm that is now shown on the master bedroom side, as you have already suggested. This can have a door on it if you wish, opening into the old passage to either side, but probably best hinged on the side of the linen press so coming out of the bedroom door you see on your left you have only to grab the door handle and push.

My reply (Feb 26):

I like the patio doors. I like the idea of having a wall, or at least partial enclosure, to cover the water pipes from stove.

I don't mind your idea to move the stove to the corner on the left (ie: with its back to the verandah wall) rather than the L shape it is now, because that way the entrance to the kitchen area is not quite so opposite the mini-hallway to the bathroom, so bathroom will feel a bit more private. Then again, toilet is well tucked away and actually if the door to bathroom has stained glass in it as you suggest it will be lovely to look at, so maybe you do want to be able to see it! I think I just talked myself into leaving the stove where it is in the drawing!

I like your idea of having a short wall with wide shelf the width of the room. Especially if we left it open above for a bit, it would be useful extra bench space if we needed for cooking. I'm interpreting this as being joined on the hallway wall side and running say about 2/3 of the way across towards patio door side. ie: the walkway between lounge and kitchen is on the side near patio doors.

Are you suggesting here that we instead have the divider between lounge/kitchen joining the wall on the verandah side and then stopping short and not joining onto the hallway wall? If so, then I don't want that. I'd rather have it so that the opening is on the patio door side. That way it'll feel more like the patio doors are part of the lounge too, almost. But the stove could still stay where it is, couldn't it?

I don't want to have a door on the opening leading to the linen press, I think it will help to make the passage way feel more interesting but having it this slightly different shape to usual.

I'd like to have the option of hot water that is heated by other means too (solar, electric powered, whatever) - not sure if they can share the same tank? Because in the summer, I most definitely do not want to have to be lighting woodfires to get hot water.

I'd like space in the kitchen for a small normal hob (can be electric powered) and a microwave (built into a cupboard higher up maybe so it doesn't use up benchspace ... or maybe even it could be built into the short wall area?).

In the kitchen there needs to be room for a table with chairs without it feeling too cramped. I'm envisaging this as being a table about the size of the old formica table in Gran's kitchen, ie: comfortable for 2 people, but can fit 4 at a squish.

Dad's reply (Feb 27):

I much prefer the wall dividing the kitchen from the rest of this large room to originate from the passage side, so it will effectively be the wall that hides the pipes of the stove. But will bring it only part way, to the line of the window over the sink. We put a lovely door that can be closed when hiding the kitchen, and opened onto the short wall beside the stove on the meals side. We then proceed with the divider as I proposed, with a bulkhead overhead for pictures. You will see parts of the kitchen, but a closing arrangement might be worked if needed, or you may simply have a wall here as you can have a pantry on the otherside like I built for Dawn. Remember that the goal is to minimize the kitchen in favor of the other living spaces.

You must have an alternative cooking arrangement. I bought for Peter a ministove/oven for use in flats, and we will use this in the hobbithole. You can have the old gas cooker I sent (oops, still need to send) pics of. This is like the old Kooka stoves, and has a lovely oven. It stands as a freestanding unit and would fit well beside the fridge. It is in immaculate condition. I will send the pic asap.

When I say hob you thought I meant a cooking plate arrangement. I merely meant a wall area that doesn't go to the ceiling, but is built as a blind for the end of things like baths and stoves, etc which are not finished properly. Or a little space is needed, as beside mum's bakers oven where it was necessary to have a place to put hot pan, and to cover over the unfinished sides of the other stove that was there. That is the term for a structural entity, nothing to do with cooking appliance, although I know this term is used overseas as I have read it in books.

The patio doors will be to the meals side of the divider or wall. Agree to not place a door on passage of linen press. Makes it unnecessarily stuffy and dark.

My reply (Feb 27):

I am a bit confused. Do you mean that the wall that hides the stove is not in line with the divider between lounge and kitchen on the other side? I'm not sure about having a door there but perhaps it's just that I am not envisioning it properly. A problem with it opening out onto the wall might be that it would stop us from having shelves on that wall?

Look forward to seeing pictures of the old Kooka stove thing, but we don't need it to be something this big so maybe that could be saved for the new house. I was just thinking of having a hob (ie: cooking plates that you put saucepans on), no need for a separate oven area. This way we would have storage space underneath the hob area. We can always use the BBQ if we want to roast things in summer, and most of the time Dave cooks pasta and things anyway so can get by without an oven.

Dad's reply (Feb 27):

I have sketched a plan for the kitchen with the door and divider and pantry on the kitchen side as envisioned. The little gas stove is cute, and as I said needs only to be converted by changing the jets.

proposed kitchen update

My reply (Feb 27):

Thanks a lot for drawing this up, but in short, we don't like it.

I'm not sure about the microwave position. Maybe we will put that where you show it except up high in a cupboard, as there is very little benchspace and that would give us extra space (as we will have to put things like kettle, toaster, etc somewhere and corner is usually good for them. Or, Dave suggests it might be even better to have it on a shelf over the fridge (assuming the fridge is about the size of our fridge here in London rather than a giant one like Mum's).

But the worst thing is, there's no space for a table!!!

There must be space for a table in the kitchen. I don't want it to be the other side of the divider as then it can't serve as overflow benchspace and is encroaching on the loungeroom. You think we want to minimise the space in the kitchen, but only within reason, it still needs to be functional and this wouldn't be. There is so little storage.

Maybe should revert back to having two sections of divider roughly where the wall is at the moment?... One starting on the hallside going to about 1/3 of the way across. One starting on the verandah side, directly opposite, also going to about 1/3 of the way across, with a gap in the middle for walking through. This gap can be an open entrance just like on the entrance to the lounge from the hall. It does not need a door.

Each of these dividers might need to be fatter than you have drawn as they need to have more space for storing things. I don't think you should call them a pantry. They are not a pantry, they are for storing dinner sets and crockery, not food. Think of it as being like the bottom part of a kitchen dresser. I don't want them narrow only for storing cans, I want them deep enough to easily store a full size dinner plate. We will have extra storage for cans, etc on the hallway walls eg: on the wall adjoining the study, and on the little wall (or hob or whatever you want to call it) that is next to the woodstove, hidden by little doors, but that doesn't necessarily need to be drawn in on the plan, we'll just get them from Ikea or something later.

The sink is way too big. We have such a teensy kitchen, we don't need a double sink. I would rather have a single sink, like our butlers sink we have here, and we'll just stand the dishes to drain on a teatowel on the bench, no need for it to be a stainless steel bit necessarily.

I don't think we can afford to have so much window in the kitchen above the sink area as having window means we can't have cupboards on the wall. I think that by moving the divider back so the patio doors are back to being part of the kitchen area (with table near them but still so you can move around) there will be enough light, so we should just have an opening window over the (smaller) sink area, about the size of the window you have drawn as being fixed in this current plan, and that is all... I would rather have a solid wall in the other places so we can have cupboards.

I am also wondering, considering how teensy this kitchen is, maybe we are better off not attempting to squeeze the Rayburn into it as it seems to be taking up a huge amount of space. Instead we could keep it for the new house and just put the little Kooka stove in and save the space... we could use a solar system for water heating.

Dad's reply (Feb 28):

OK, I'll assume you do not want a galley kitchen such as was originally suggested, and go with no divider behind the bench, including the meals area on the plan as part of the kitchen and the patio doors as part of the kitchen. That leaves the other dividers to create the separation you were asking for last night, and so can create these another time, or draw them into the present plan. If you are using portable furniture to create this sense of separateness of kitchen and lounge, ikea stuff, there is no reason to worry about it now. I will put the windows along the side as planned, and a small window over the sink. You only need a little sink, the drawn one was merely a suggestion. You don't need the Rayburn if you don't want it. Since we are planning to have solar and electric and gas there is no need to fill the space with something that may not be needed by yourselves or guests.

My reply (Feb 28):

No, we don't want a galley kitchen. Sorry, I thought that the divider thing you'd drawn in on the plan WAS the divider I was talking about. I think otherwise we will have so many dividers that it will become cluttered, as the rooms aren't that big. I would like to draw the dividers into the plan as I am not planning to use furniture to get that sense of separateness. They are what separates the lounge from the kitchen. The Ikea stuff, if used at all, would be only for the shelves in the hall, possibly, depending on what else we can get (ie: nothing to do with the dividers). I just know they often do very clever things for storing kitchen stuff away, that sometimes is amazingly cheap (at least here). But for the dividers between lounge and kitchen it will be better to build to our own specifications.

OK about the sink too, sorry I was misunderstanding. Yes, lets have the smaller sink. I'll talk to Dave about the Rayburn, don't want to dismiss it out of hand so quickly, but just as we play around with placements of things in the kitchen which is very small, it seems to take up a giant amount of space... which we have the luxury of in the new house, but not this one.

I had a play around with floorplans in lounge/kitchen, this time overlaying furniture, and came up with a version that I like a lot better. See what you think.

new idea for dividers and layout

In terms of kitchen layout, the microwave would be on a shelf above the fridge (assuming fridge is approx shoulder height like the one we have here). The sink is as we discussed (ie: single sink) with bench to either side with cupboards below. Perhaps the rubbish bin lives hidden behind the cupboard door on one side of the sink. In the corner (where you originally drew the microwave) perhaps we could even have a teensy full height pantry, with opening door on the diagonal? Just thinking of how to avoid a situation like we have in London with a corner cupboard that is hard to get into the back of" Next to this is another bit of bench (with cupboard underneath) and then the stove... whatever type it may be, slow combustion or normal, still need to talk to Dave about it. Beside the stove there is a short wall with a narrow shelves for storage on the outer side. For consistency, I think this should be the same height as the room dividers (ie: halfway between hip and shoulder height) and if it is the combustion stove and pipes need hiding then part of it would continue up to the ceiling.

cottage: lounge & entry

Here's the email conversation with Dad about the entry and lounge areas of the cottage plans.

Dad's commentary (Feb 26):

Look at proposed extension plan. Enter house at front door. Door to lounge has been replaced with a wall and you enter the open plan of kitchen, passage, lounge area by just going forward and turning right and go past the open bookshelves that are part of the stud network supporting the roof.

Stand beside these shelves and look towards the dam. You will look through the "new" old window which I bought at Healesville. To the right of this window you see an offset portion like a box. This is actually the floor to ceiling housing for the little stove, with the mantlepiece in front.This offset from the wall allows the distance from wooden burnable objects which are needed by the stove and flue. The flue exits the house thru the roof and can be seen in elevation on the plan just above this plan. The idea of the lounge is to allow a twoseater against the wall where the old entry door was and the telly in the corner opposite. The large front window that exist there now remains proudly in place, but restored to its former grandueur. Curtains to draw to either side.

My reply (Feb 26):

I ummed and ahhed about moving the doorway as you propose, started out saying leave it where it was, but then talked myself around to your version! I like how there is a feeling of a mini-hallway when you enter the house before you reach the open entrance to lounge.

As we're moving the door, if there is room I would err on the side of allowing space for a 2.5 seater sofa, just so that there is no risk of it being crammed.

I still think I'd like to have some kind of thing to divide the space between lounge and kitchen, with the bottom part (eg to hip height) as an enclosed cupboard with doors opening onto the kitchen side to provide space for putting the dinner set, etc. Maybe this could also have shallow shelves for CD's / DVD's etc too on the lounge side From hip height up to door height it could just be open (useful extra benchspace for the kitchen if cooking a big meal), or tall spaced shelves without back, so we could display ornaments, etc. And maybe also there could be a divide up high, eg: solid wall from say 20cm above door height up to the tall roof so that we have place to hang pictures and also to reinforce the sense of divide. I really dislike open plan living arrangements, I hate the idea of sitting on the sofa trying to relax and still seeing dishes in the sink!

What if instead of using up extra space in the lounge to make the housing for the woodstove, it instead jutted out onto the verandah, kind of like an old fashioned chimney? This would give us a little extra space inside and it's not like there won't be plenty of verandah... Or, would this mean we lost some heat? I'm not convinced whether I would want this even if it was a possibility, it might ruin the look, and there's something appealing about it jutting out, gives a different shape to the room. But curious to know what you think about it.

Dad's reply (Feb 27):

Will move the door to allow a large lounge to fit on that wall. This wall is supporting the hot water storage tank above it so I will be having larger beams above the present ceiling. I must buy a new tank as the plumber was not happy to use the old one. This tank will also be for the solar heater.( and the gas heater as well if you get one.) The other place where you bought the stove from had LP gas heater outside on the wall to be used when the hot weather precluded the use of the wood stove.

Love your idea of the divide. Will have as you described it. Why not put the divider for the lounge where the old wall was and so avoid the flooring repairs that are needed otherwise? I will be planning to have the lovely baltic pine floors polished (by myself or both of us if it is done when you are here) Obviously I cannot have the divider where the new window goes,but that place is also flexible at present. So get out the scale ruler and make some pieces of paper to represent some furniture you want in the two spaces on each side of the divider and get back to me when you have decided where the divider must go to accommodate your furniture ideas.

I had originally drawn the stove to have the little box outside on the veranda, but the reason you suggested is precisely why I brought in back inside. With the box inside, and no ceiling on the box and it going only about 7 ft high, the air around the flue will be naturally convected up to the ceiling and around the room. Since the woodfire is small, and designed to go into a brick fireplace, it has convection pipes for this very purpose, but which have a little vent above the stove under the mantle to direct heat back into the room. Some of these pipes need replacing, but that is not a huge job. But we can eliminate the little vent, and let the air just go up the box and out the top to the ceiling. As you will have the TV in the corner there shouldn't be a loss of efficiency. You can still arrange the lounge chairs and couchs to back on the divider and face the large front window, and consequently the TV and firestove. The bulkhead over may not be a good idea as it will close the space even more. But that is up to you.

My reply (Feb 27):

I'm not sure what you mean by "open fabric stud walls" We're not planning to have totally open walls between the passage and the lounge, it will still be divided. Remember, the plan is to have something like this:
Existing house plan - shelving unit

ie: cupboards down below to say about hip height, then shelves above. So it won't feel totally open-plan but you will be able to see through into the hallway, in the gaps in the shelves. This is partly for light purposes, and partly so the hallway itself can become more of a usable place, not only a passing through area. eg: I would envisage that the phone would live on one of those shelves, with a little chair in the hallway. So you could answer it on the lounge side, or the hallway side depending on where you were when it rang. I don't like totally open-plan, but that doesn't mean it has to be entirely closed up.

In principle, I'm happy to have the divider where the old wall was. But it's hard for me to say for certain because I don't know what the measurements are for those rooms, and I've never been able to stand inside them and get a sense of the space as every time I've visited they've been full of stuff and dark! That is why I'm so sad I never got to see it properly when it was first bought.

What I want is for there to be enough space in the lounge area for there to be an armchair next to the fire, forming a kind of circle with the sofa, and for you to be able to walk BEHIND the armchair comfortably to get to the opening to the kitchen.

I'm happy to leave the fireplace bulkhead as you envisaged, ie: with it being open above. I would like to be able to have a mantlepiece though, so can this be strong enough to support eg: hanging a mirror above it and a small shelf?

I like the idea of the polished floors too.

Dad's reply (Feb 27):

Of course you will have the mantle and shelf and mirror. Why else to use this little stove? And absolutely must have chair to form cosy circle about the fire.
When bought the place the lounge area was 6ft high with lathe debris. You would never have stood anywhere in the room. The room will have the fabric studs as always planned, and there was never a problem with this idea. Alan has drawn as faithfully as he could to your intentions, and my explanations.

My reply (Feb 28):

I had a play around with floorplans in lounge/kitchen, this time overlaying furniture, and came up with an alternative that I like a lot better. See what you think.

new idea for dividers and layout

I've still got the same kind of wall in the hallways, just playing around with where the openings in it are. Now it is two symmetrical halves, either side of an open area that leads to either the kitchen, if you turn diagonally left, or the lounge, if you turn diagonally right. This seems to work to me as it is similar to our London house in allowing for diagonal entrances to lounge / kitchen areas which thus take up less room. It also might make that little central part, sort of like a hub, into a more usable space as a bit more open.

The window in lounge on fireplace wall has moved up closer to the fireplace. The patio doors have moved down closer to the fridge. (We are not going to be able to put anything in front of fridge area where door needs to open, so may as well have them for the patio door area. That way the patio doors are not obstructed by the table.

The divider between lounge and kitchen is a little higher perhaps than I envisaged before.. maybe it can be inbetween hip and shoulder height, so that it hides the sink a little better from view. I'm seeing it as having shallow shelves for CDs/DVDs etc on the lounge side, and shelves with doors (or rolling covers kind of like rollerblinds but more solid?) deep enough to comfortably fit a dinner plate on the kitchen side. After talking to some friends at work, I'm seriously considering that this could be a freestanding unit, on lockable low castor wheels, so we could shunt it around on the odd occasion we needed (eg: to move big furniture in and out). If that's the case then obviously it doesn't need to go in the plan to council as it'll be a piece of furniture EXCEPT it is important to mark where it will live so as to get the positions of the windows and door openings right.

I am thinking that it might be OK, now the room divider is slightly higher, to forget the idea of a ceiling divider strip (ie; the bit I talked about that would give me places to hang pictures). It would also give us more flexibility in terms of positioning the rolling divider, as it would look odd for that to be out of line with the ceiling divider strip.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Cottage plans have arrived

We're still working on restoring the old cottage, in parallel with developing plans for the "dream house". Last mention of this was in December, when Dad came up with the idea of a 2 storey bathroom.

Now we have some more floorplans for the cottage to comment on, drawn up by Dad's local draftsman.

This is the full A3 page view (click to make it bigger):
A3 version of sketchplans

This is a close-up of the new floorplan section:
sketch plans for old house amherst

There's been much conversation around the plans; too much to include in one post. Here's links to discussion of various elements:
Lounge and entry
Kitchen and hall
Bedroom and verandah

Friday, February 17, 2006

apply patterns (3): Garden

These patterns are my favourites from the book "Pattern Language", as described in my previous post. In this post I look at the ones relating to garden layout and those spaces which are bridges between house and garden.

#105: South facing outdoors
People use open space if it is sunny, and don't use it if it isn't, in all but desert climes. Therefore:
Always place buildings to the north of the
outdoor spaces that go with them, and keep the
outdoor spaces to the south. Never leave a deep
band of shade between the building and the sunny
part of the outdoors.

As Pattern Language was written in the US, I presume in Australia we'd need to reverse 'north' and 'south', but the basic principles still apply. I guess we will find out when Eric does the "sun test" whether this will be an issue, but I can't see how it will be. There may be some areas of deep shade in the vicinity of the house in the secret garden area, especially when trees grow, but in the height of an Australian summer frankly you need shade.

#106: Positive outdoor space
Outdoor spaces which are merely leftover between buildings will, in general, not be used. Therefore:
Make all the outdoor spaces which surround and
lie between your buildings positive. (which seems
to mean: give it a distinct shape, as definitely
as a room, and make its shape as important as the
shapes of the buildings that surround it, but don't
make it too enclosed). Give each one some degree
of enclosure; surround each space with wings of
buildings, trees, hedges, fences, arcades, and
trellised walks, until it becomes an entity with
a positive quality and does not spill out
indefinitely around corners.

#114: Hierarchy of Open Space
Outdoors, people always try to find a spot where they can have their backs protected, looking out torward some larger opening, beyond the space immediately in front of them. Therefore:
Whatever space you are shaping, make sure of
two things. First, make at least one smaller space,
which looks into it and forms a natural back for it.
Second, place it, and its openings, so that it
looks into at least one larger space. When you
have done this, every outdoor space will have a
natural back; and every person who takes up the
natural position, with his back to this back ,
will be looking out toward some larger distant view

comfortable courtyards

#115: Courtyards which live
Courtyards intended to be private open spaces often end up unused, full of gravel and abstract sculptures. Most common reasons courtyards fail are because there is too little ambiguity between indoors & outdoors, so the transition is too abrupt; because there are not enough doors into the courtyard, so no-one ever passes through; or simply becuase they are TOO enclosed. Therefore:
Place every courtyard in such a way that there is
a view out of it to some larger open space; place it
so that at least 2 or 3 doors open from the building
into it and so that the natural paths which connect
these doors pass across the courtyard. And, at one
edge, beside a door, make a roofed verandah or a
porch, which it continuous with both the inside
and the courtyard.

#120: Paths and Goals
The layout of paths will seem right and comfortable only when it is compatible with the process of walking. And the process of walking is far more subtle than one might imagine. As you walk along you scan the landscape for intermediate destinations and try (more or less) to walk in a straight line toward these points, wiht the effect that you often 'cut corners'. These intermediate destinations, however, keep changing becuase the further you walk the different your vantage point, the more you can see round a corner. Therefore:
To lay out paths, first place goals at natural
points of interest. Then connect the goals to one
another to form the paths. The paths may be straight
or gently curving between goals; their paving should
swell around the goal. The goals should never be
more than a few hundred feet apart.

paths that meander to goals

#163: Outdoor room
A garden is the place for lying in the grass, swinging croquet, growing flowers, throwing a ball for the door. But there is another way of being outdoors: and its needs are not met by the garden at all. For some moods, some times of day, some kinds of friendship, people need a place to eat, to sit in formal clothes, to drink to take together, to be still, and yet outdoors. They need an outdoor room, literally - a partly enclosed space, outdoors, but enough like a rooms that people behave in it as they do in rooms, but with the added beauties of the sun, wind, smells, rustling leaves. Therefore:
Build a place outdoors which has so much enclosure
around it that it it takes on the feeling of a room,
even though it is open to the sky. To do this,
define it at the corners with columns, perhaps roof
it partially with a trellis or a sliding canvas roof,
and create 'walls' around it with fences, sitting
walls, screens, hedges or the exterior walls of
the building itself.

#167: Six foot balcony
Balconies and porches which are less than six feet deep are hardly ever used. Therefore:
Whenever you build a balcony or porch, always make
it at least 6 feet deep. If possible, to give it an
added feeling of security, recess at least a part of
it into the building so that it is not cantilevered
out and separated from the building by a simple line,
and enclose it partially - eg: with a low wall or
heavy columns. In terms of space, treat it as an
outdoor room

#168: Connection to the earth
A house feels isolated from the nature around it unless its floors are interleaved directly with the earth that is around the house. You want a house to feel rooted as if it belongs where it is placed. Therefore:
Build a series of paths and terraces and steps
around the edge of the building. Place them deliberately
to make the boundary ambiguous, so that it is impossible
to say exactly where the building stops.

gentle hazy boundaries

#174: Trellised walk
Trellised walks have their own special beauty. They are so unique, so different from other ways of shapng a path, that they are almost archetypal. Therefore:
Where paths need special protection or where they
need some intimacy, build a trellis over the path and
plant it with climbing flowers. Use the trellis to
help shape the outdoor spaces on either side of it.

#238: Filtered light
Light filtered through leaves or tracery, is wonderful. This is because direct light casts strong shadows resulting in harsh images, and also because filtering reduces glare. Therefore:
Where the edge of a window or the overhanging eave
of a roof is silhouetted against the sky, make a rich,
detailed tapestry of light and dark to break up the
light and soften it. You can do this, most easily,
with climbing plants trained to climb around the
outside of the window. If there are no plants you
can also do it beautifully with simple canvas awnings.

#243: Sitting wall
In many places walls and fences between outdoor spaces are too high; but no boundary at all does injustice to the subtlety of the divisions between the spaces. Therefore:
Surround any natural outdoor area, and make minor
boundaries between outdoor areas with low walls, about
16 inches high, and wide enough to sit on, at least 12
inches wide. Place the walls to coincide with natural
seat spots, so that extra benches are not necessary.

applying patterns (2): Interior

These patterns are my favourites from the book "Pattern Language", as described in my previous post. In this post I look at the ones relating to the details of the interior, such as how furniture is laid out, window heights, etc.

#134: Zen View
There is a problem with any beautiful view. You want to enjoy it every day, but the more open and obvious it is, the more it shouts, the sooner it will fade. Gradually it will become part of the building, like the wallpaper, and the intensity of its beauty will no longer be accessible to the people who live there. Therefore:
If there is a beautiful view, don't spoil it by building huge
windows that gape incessantly at it. Instead, put the windows which
look onto the view at places of transition - along paths, in hallways,
in entry ways, on stairs, between rooms. If the view window is
correctly placed, people will see a glimpse of the distant view as
they come up to the window or pass it, but the view is never visible
from the places where people stay.

I'm not sure I fully subscribe to this theory, because it presumes that the view is never changing, whereas in fact it differs all the time with the variation in weather, plants, etc. But, I think a view is a bit like chocolate... if you have too much you start to take it for granted and not enjoy it like you would if you kept it as a treat. I don't want to have floor to ceiling huge expanses of glass everywhere to 'bring in the view' like so many modern houses seem to, and our plans for Amherst don't.

#135: Tapestry of light and dark
In a building with uniform light level, there are few places which function as effective settings for human events. This happens because, to a large extent, the places which make effective settings are defined by light. Therefore:
Create alternating areas of light and dark throughout the
building, in such a way that people naturally walk toward the
light, whenever they are going to important places: seats,
entrances, stairs, passages, places of special beauty, and
make other areas darker to increase the contrast.

Hmmm... I think this will happen naturally, especially if we use a variety of lights, wall lights, table lamps etc, and of course have dimmer switches everywhere. (That was the best thing I did here in London was to put dimmer switches in almost every room, it made such a difference to the atmosphere). I guess that when we eventually get to the stage of designing in for lighting, wall colours, etc we'll have to think more carefully about this.

#139: Farmhouse kitchen
The isolated kitchen, separate from the family and considered as a factory for food is a hangover from the days of servants. A much better model for modern living is the farmhouse kitchen. Therefore:
Make the kitchen big enough to include the 'family room' space,
and place it near the center of the commons, not so far back in the
house as an ordinary kitchen. Make it large enough to hold a good
big table and chairs, some soft and some hard, wth counters and stove
and sink around the edge of the room; and make it a bright and
comfortable space.

Yes, this is what we aspire to have in our kitchen area, although it will still be a separate area so that you can shut off the mess if you want.

#179: Alcoves
To give a group of people a chance to be together, as a group, a room must also give them the chance to be alone, in one's and two's in the same place. This is particular true for places like the kitchen and the living room, where if there are not these areas then people who are doing one thing (eg: reading) will be disturbed by people doing something else, and thus be less likely to spend time together. Therefore:
Make small places at the edge of any common room, usually
no more than 6 feet wide and 3 to 6 feet deep and possible
much smaller. These alcoves should be large enough for 2
people to sit, chat or play, and sometimes large enough to
contain a desk or a table. Give the alcove a ceiling which
is markedly lower in height than the main room, and consider
making a partial boundary using low walls and thick columns.

I really like the idea of having alcoves. This is going to be the biggest challenge to design in I suspect. I especially like the idea of varying the ceiling height... perhaps we could even have drawers high up in the extra ceiling space that's been enclosed for storage?

#180: Window place
Everybody loves window seats, bay windows and big windows with low sills and comfortable chairs drawn up to them. These kinds of windows create 'places', and a room which does not have such places seldom allows you to feel fully at ease because you will always remain slightly torn between being drawn to the light and drawn to sit down. Therefore:
In every room where you spend any length of time during
the day, make at least one window into a window place.
Make it low and self-contained if there is room for it
(eg: alcove); under sloping roofs use dormer windows.
Window seats built into niches are a good way to execute
this in a small space. Low sills should be very low -
12 to 14 inches - and the armchair nearby should give
a sense of enclosure, eg with tall back and sides.

Yes, window seats are a definite must. I like the idea of having low sills too.

#182: Eating atmosphere
Some rooms invite people to eat leisurely and comfortably and feel together, while others force people to eat as quickly as possible so they can go somewhere else to relax. Therefore:
Put a heavy table in the centre of the eating space -
large enough for the group of people using it. Put a
light over the tapbel to create a pool of light over
the group, and enclose the space with walls or with
contrasting darkness. Make the space large enough so
the chairs can be pulled back comfortably, and provide
shelves and counters close at hand for things related
to the meal.

#184: Cooking layout
Cooking is uncomfortable if the kitchen counter is too short and also if it is too long. Therefore:
To strick the balance between the kitchen being too
small and too spread out, place the stove, sink and food
storage and counter in such a way that 1) No two of the
four are more than 10 feet apart. 2) the total length
of the counter - excluding sink, stove and refrigerator -
is at least 12 feet. 3) No one section of the counter
is less than 4 feet long.

#185: Sitting circle
A group of chairs, a sofa and a chair, a pile of cushions - these are the most obvious things - and yet to make them work, so people become animated and alive in them is a very subtle business. Most seating arrangements are sterile, people avoid them, nothing ever happens there. Others seem somehow to gather life aroudn them to concentrate and liberate energy. The most important difference between them is their position, shape and informality. To get the best arrangement:
Place each sitting space in a position which is protected,
not cut by paths or movement, roughly circular, made so that
the room itself helps to suggest the circle - not too strongly
- with paths and activities around it so that people naturally
gravitate toward the chairs when they get into the mood to
sit. Place the chairs and cushions loosely in the circule
and have a few too many.

arrange seats informally

#188: Bed alcove
Bedrooms make no sense because the valuable space around the bed is used for nothing except access to the bed. Therefore:
Don't put single beds in empty rooms called bedrooms.
Instead put individual bed alcoves off rooms with other
nonsleeping functions, so the bed itself becomes a tiny
private haven. This is a particular useful way to get
extra sleeping spaces without making the house grow
much larger.

#189: Dressing rooms
Dressing and undressing, storing clothes, having clothes lying around, have no reason to be part of any larger complex of activities. Indeed they disturb other activities: they are so self contained that they themselves need concentrated space which has no other function. Therefore:
Give everyone a dressing room between their bed and
the bathing room. Make it big enough so there is an
open area in it at least 6 feet in diameter; a mixture
of hanging space, open shelves and drawers, and a mirror.
Place it so it gets plenty of natural light, ideally
light on two sides.

#190: Ceiling height variety
A building in which the ceiling heights are all the same is virtually incapable of making people comfortable. Therefore:
Vary the ceiling heights continuously thorugh the
building, especially between rooms which open into
each other, so that the relative intimacy of different
spaces can be felt. In particular, make ceilings high
in rooms which are public or meant for large gatherings
(10 to 12 feet), lower in rooms for smaller gatherings
(7 to 9 feet) and very low in rooms or alcoves for one
to two people (6 to 7 feet). Where ceiling height varies
within one storey, put storage in the spaces between the
different heights, and vary ceiling heights from storey
to storey, with the highest ceilings on the ground floor.

#193: Half open wall
Rooms which are too closed prevent thenatural flow of social occasions, and thenatural process of transition from one social moment to another. And rooms which are too open will not support the differentiation of events which social life requires. Therefore:
Adjust the walls, opening and windows in each indoor
space until you reach the right balance between open,
flowing space and closed cell-like space. Do not take
it or granted that each space is a room; nor, on the
other hand, that all spaces must flow into each other.
The right balance will always lie between these extremes:
no one room entirely enclosed; and no space totally
connected to another. Use combinations of columns,
half-open walls, porches, indoor windows, sliding
doors, low sills, frenchdoors, sitting walls, and so
on, to hit the right balance.

#194: Interior windows
Windows are most often used to create connections between the indoor and the outdoors. But there are many cases when an indoor space needs a connecting window to another indoor space besides the obvious (corridors, small rooms that would otherwise feel like prisons). In particular:
Put in fully glazed fixed windonws betwen rooms which
tend to be dead because they have too little action in
them or where inside rooms are unusually dark.

#196: Corner doors
The success of a room depends to a great extent on the position of the doors. If the doors create a pattern of movement which destroys the places in the room, the room will never allow people to be comfortable. Therefore:
Except in very large rooms, a door only rarely makes
sense in the middle of a wall. It does in an entrance
room,for instance, because this room gets its character
essentially from the door. But inmost rooms, especially
small ones, put the doors as near the corners of the
room as possible. If the room has two doors, and people
move through it, keep both doors at one end of the room.

#199: Sunny counter
Dark gloomy kitchens are depressing. The kitchen needs the sun more than the other rooms, not less. Therefore:
Place the main part of the kitchen counter on the
south and southeast side of the kitchen, with big windows
around it, so that sun can flood in and fill the kitchen
with yellow light both morning and afternoon.

#200: Open shelves
Cupboards that are too deep waste valuable space, and it always seems that what you want is behind something else. Therefore:
Cover the walls with narrow shelves of varying depth
but always shallow enough so that things can be placed
on them one deep - nothing hiding behind anything else.

#210: Waist-high shelf
In every house and every workplace there is a daily 'traffic' of the objects which are handled most. Unless such things are immediately at hant, the flow of life is awkward, full of mistakes, things are forgotten, misplaced. Therefore:
Build waist-high shelves around at least a part of
the main rooms hwere people live and work. make them
long,9 to 15 inches deep, with shelves or cupbard
underneath. Interrupt the shelf for seats, windows
and doors.

#202: Built-in seats
Built-in seats are great. Everybody loves them. They make a building feel comfortable and luxurious. But most often they do not actually work. They are placed wrong, or too narrow, or the back does not slope, or the view is wrong, or the seat is too hard. To make a built-in seat that really works:
Before you build the seat, get hold of an old armchair
or a sofa and put it into the pusotion where you intend
to build a seat. Move it until you really like it.
Leave it there for a few days. See if you enjoy sitting
in it. Move it if you don't. When you have got it into
a position which you like, and where you often find
yourself sitting, you know it is a good position. Now
build a seat that is just as wide adn just as well
padded - and your built in seat will work

#221: Natural doors and windows
Finding the right position for a window or a door is a subtle matter. But there are very few ways of building which take this into consideration. The delicacy of placing a window or a door has nearly vanished, but it is just this refinement, sometimes down to the last inch or two, which makes an immense difference. Therefore:
On no account use standard doors or windows. Make
each window a differen size, according to its place.
Do not fix the exact position or size of the door and
window frames until the rough framing of the room has
actually been built, and you can really stand inside
the room and judge, by eye, exactly where you want to
put them , and how big you want them. Make the windows
smaller and smaller, as you go higher in the building.

#222: Low sill
One of a window's most important functions is to put you in touch with the outdoors. If the sill is too high, it cuts you off. Therefore:
When determing exact location of windows also decide
which windows should have low sills. On the first floor,
make the sills of windows which you plan to sit by
between 12 and 14 inches high. ON the upper stories
make them higher, around 20 inches.

low sills

#223: Deep reveals
Windows with a sharp edge where the frame meeting the wall create harch, blinding glar, and make the rooms they serve uncomfortable. They have the same effect as the bright headlines of an oncoming car: the glare prevents fyou from seeing anything else on the road. To solve this:
Make the window frame a deep, splayed edge: about a foot
wide and splayed at about 50 to 60 degrees to the plane of
the window, so that the gentle gradient of daylight gives
a smooth transition between the light of the window and
the dark of the inner wall.

#235: Soft inside walls
A wall which is too hard or too cold or too solid is unpleasant to touch; it makes decoration impossible and creates hollow echoes. Therefore:
Make every inside surface warm to the touch, soft enough
to take small nails and tacks, and with a certain slight
"give" to the touch. A very good material is soft white
gypsum plaster, it is warm in colour, warm to the touch,
soft enough to take tacks, easy to repair and makes a
mellow sound. Whereas cement plaster, though only slightly
different in makeup is opposite in all of these respects.
Wood is also good (if you can afford it!)

#236: Windows which open wide
Many building nowadays have no opening windows at all, and manyof the opening windows that people do build don't do the job that opnening windows ought to do - ie: fully open! Therefore:
Decide which of the windows will be opening windows.
Pick those which are easy to get to, and choose the
ones which open onto flowers wyou want to smell, paths
where you might want to talk, and natural breezes.
Then put in side-hung casements that open outward.
Here and there, go all the way and build full French

#237: Solid doors with glass
An opaque door makes sense in a vast house or palace, where every room is large enough to be a world unto itself; but in a small building, with small rooms, the opaque door is only very rarely useful. Therefore:
As often as possible, build doors with glazing in
them so that the upper half at least allows you to see
through them. At the same time, build the doors solid
enough, so that they give acoustic isolation and make
a comfortable 'thunk' when they are closed.

#251: Different chairs
People are different sizes, they sit in different ways. And yet there is a tendency in modern times to make all chairs alike. A better approach is:
Never furnish any place with chairs that are
identically the same. Choose a variety of different
chairs, some big, some small, some softerthan others,
some rockers, some very old, some new, with arms,
without arms, some wicker, some wood, some cloth.

#252: Pools of light
Uniform illumination serves nouseful purpose whatsoever. In fact, it destroys the social nature of space and makes people feel disoriented and unbounded. Instead:
Place the lights low, and apart, to form individual
pools of light which encompass chairs and table like
bubble to reinforce the social character of the spaces
which they form. Remember that you can't have pools
of light without the darker places in between.

applying patterns (1): House shape

These patterns are my favourites from the book "Pattern Language", as described in my previous post. In this post I look at the ones relating to the overall shape of a house, and check out how our current plans for the new house measure up.

#107: Wings of Light
Buildings which displace natural light as the major source of illumination are not fit places to spend the day. Therefore:
Arrange each building into wings... make each wing long and
as narrow as you can, never more than 25 ft wide. Use the wings
to form "positive outdoor spaces"

After some measuring up on the latest set of plans, I think we fall within this limit pretty much if you count it as having 3 wings - two either side of building and one jutting out for the library. The library and also the screened porch that sticks out from the main building also help to frame the 'secret garden' area behind the house so that's good too.

#127: Intimacy gradient
Unless the spaces in a building are arranged in a sequence which corresponds to their degrees of privateness, the visits made by strangers, friends, guests will always be a little awkward. Therefore:
Lay out the spaces of a building so that they create a sequence
which begins with the entrance and the most public parts of the
building, then leads into the slightly more private areas, and
finally to the most private domains.

If you start at the main entrance, then it works OK. The only thing that potentially jars is having the downstairs toilet in the mudroom area. We're still working on the precise layout for this, the latest is here. I think provided we can get it so that the mudroom part can be closed off without making the toilet feel stingy and cramped, it'll work. I like how the library is off in it's own area. This will let it be both a place for quietness (reading, sleeping) and for partying, around the mid-sized billiards table, which Dave is eying up putting here ... I think this could be cool provided that it has a cover so can be a normal table at other times.

#128: Indoor sunlight
Very few things have as great an effect on the feeling of a home as the sun shining into it. If the right rooms are facing south, a hosue is bright and sunny and cheerful; if the wrong rooms are facing south, the house is dark and gloomy. Therefore:
Place the most important rooms along the south edge of the
building and spread the building out along the east-west axis.
Fine tune the arrangement so that the proper rooms are exposed
to the south-east and the south-west sun. E.g., give the
common area a full southern exposure, bedrooms south east,
porch south-west.

follow the sun

As this was written for the US I presume in Australia we'd need to reverse 'north' and 'south', but the concept is still relevant and our plan works. We have the breakfast area, kitchen, and main bedroom where the morning sun comes, and the lounge and library at the evening side.

#130: Entrance room
Arriving in a building, or leaving it, you need a room to pass through, both inside the building and outside it. This is the entrance room. Not only is this for practicalities such as providing a place to put things while you fumble with keys, or to shelter from the weather, it's also for psychological reasons - eg: to provide a symbolic marker for saying final goodbyes when guests are leaving. Therefore:
At the main entrance to the building, make a light-filled
room which marks the entrance and straddles the boundary
between indoors and outdoors. The outside part may be like
an old fashioned porch; the inside like a hall or sitting room.
Provide seating areas either side, with the indoor seating
part of a sequence of sitting spaces.

Yes yes yes! This puts into words why I like entrance rooms, and generous ones at that, not just at one end of a passage. With the addition of the seating nook, I think ours will feel nice. I'm rethinking though using that lovely door that Dad found as the front door, because it doesn't have any glass in it. I know we could cut out some of the panels and insert it, but that'd be such a shame. Maybe instead this chould be a door to the Library or something, hmmm. Alternatively, perhaps we use the solid door still, but have glass panes either side in the wall? That might work really well, although obviously it means the entrance area has to be wide enough to fit it (but that's no bad thing)

#131: The flow through rooms
The movement between rooms is as important as the rooms themselves; and its arrangement has as much effect on social interaction in the rooms, as the interiors of the rooms. Therefore:
As far as possible, avoid the use of corridors and passages.
Instead use public rooms as rooms for movement and for gathering.
To do this, place the common rooms to form a chain, so it becomes
possible to walk from room to room, and so that private rooms
open directly off these public rooms. In every case, give this
indoor circulation from room to room a feeling of great
generosity, passing in a wide and ample loop around the
house, with views of fires and great windows.

We're on the way to accomplishing this I think, at least in terms of flow. The exception is the library area, but that's deliberately meant to feel separate. Ditto the screened porch area as that's a kind of outdoor garden room as much as an inside space. We even have a loop if you consider throwing open the porch doors between kitchen & lounge.

#132: Short passages
Long sterile corridors set the scene for everything bad about modern architecture. Therefore:
Keep passages short. Make them as much like rooms as
possible, with carpets or wood on the floor, furniture (eg:
seats in alcoves), bookshelves, beautiful windows. Make
them generous in shape and always give them plenty of light.
The best corridors of all are those which have windows
along an entire wall.

Yes. The only corridor we have, really, is the small one going to the library. I'm seeing that this will definitely have windows all the way along looking onto the secret garden and probably waist high shelves too below it. (No point having full length windows as there'll be stuff on the verandah and who wants to look at the back of chairs?)

#133: Staircase as a stage
A staircase is not just a way of getting from one floor to another. The stair is itself a space, a volume, a part of the building; and unless this space is made to live, it will be a dead spot, and work to disconnect the building and to tear its processes apart. Therefore:
Place the main stair in a key position, central and visible.
Treat the whole staircase as a room (or if it is outside, as a
courtyard). Arrange it so that the stair and the room are one,
with the stair coming down around one or two walls of the room.
Flare out the bottom of the stair with open windows or
balustrades and with wide steps so that the people coming
down the stair become part of the action in the room while
they are on the stair, and so that people below will naturally
use the stair for seats.

stairs can make good seats

I really like this concept and I think we could definitely achieve it in the "living hall" area, we just need to carefully design the bottom part of the stairs. Maybe the first few steps has a kind of arc'ed area like in this picture? I like the feel of it. It can get a bit more formal further up when the bannister starts. Also, I think we should give careful thought about having shelving as you go up the stairs for books, ornaments, etc, as well as space for hanging pictures. Perhaps the area midway up, where you turn, is quite wide, almost like a teensy room, with space for a chair, some book shelves, and of course the windows looking out over the view? This would also let us have more 'under stair storage' which is always a great thing to have... and perhaps help the "living hall" feel not quite so cavernous?

#138: Sleeping to the East
As humans, we are sensitive to natural rhythyms and cycles. The best time to wake up after sleeping is at the end of REM sleep (ie: just after a dream), as you'll feel much more energetic than if you awaken at other times. But, the only way to make sure you wake up at this best time is to be woken by the sun. The sun warms and nudges you awake so gently that you will wake at the best point, unlike an alarm that jerks you awake no matter what your dreamstate. Therefore:
Give those parts of the house where people sleep an eastern
orientation, so that they wake up with the sun and light. This
means typically that the sleeping area nees to be on the eastern
side of the house, although it can also be on the western side
provided there is a courtyard or a terrace to the east of it.
Position the bed so that you can see the sunlight from it,
but it isn't shining directly onto the bed itself or else
you'll get too hot.

I think we're OK on this, as the master bedroom is at the right side of the house to allow this.

#145: Bulk storage
There is always some need for bulk storage space; a place for things like suitcases, old furniture, old files, boxes - all those things which you are not ready to throw away, and yet not using everyday. Very often the need for this kind of storage space is neglected, meaning that some other part of the house is sacrificed to this function. Therefore:
Do not leave bulk storage till last or forget it. Include
a volume for bulk storage in the building - its floor area at
least 15-20% of the whole building area, not less. Place this
storage somewhere in the building that costs less because it
doesn't need a finish. It could be in the roof, if you have a
steep roof, or in the basement if building on a sloping site;
it could even be in a separate shed.

Inside the house we are definitely lacking in this at the moment. I think making the stair landing area wider (and thus allowing more under stairs storage) will be a big help. In fact, this would probably be plenty when you consider there will also be sheds and things. But some things are too important to entrust to external sheds.

Also, this reminded me about the wine cellar. Where or where shall we put that? It doesn't have to be a huge place you actually sit in, but we do need space to store it. Hmmm.

#159: Light on two sides of every room
When they have a choice, people will always gravitate to those rooms which have light on two sides, and leave the rooms which are lit only from one side unused and empty. Therefore:
Locate each room so that it has outdoor space outside it on
at least two sides, and then place windows in these outdoor
walls so that natural light falls into every room from more
than one direction. Don't let this make your plans too wild
however; you can stick to the essense of the pattern with
windows on one side only if the room is unusual high, if it
is shallow compared with the length of the window wall, the
windows large, the walls of the room white, and massive deep
reveals on the windows to make certain that big windows bright
against the sky do not create glare.

This is another one that is obvious when you see it written but I'd not thought about before. With the exception of the pantry, WC and walk-in closet, I think we're OK on this front. I guess in most of those places we could solve it through judicious use of skylights.

#191: The shape of indoor space
Every space which is recognisable and walled enough to be distinct, must have walls which are roughly straight, except when the walls are thick enough to be concave in both directions. Acute angles where walls join are hardly every appropriate. Ceiling shape matters too - there are some kinds of shape which tend to make people feel uncomfortable:

some roofs don't work

With occasional exceptions, make each indoor space a
rough rectangle, with roughly straight walls, near right
angles in the corners, and a roughly symmetrical vault
over each room.

Now this is interesting. I disagree with it partly, after the experience of visiting Casa Battlo, one of Gaudi's amazing houses in Barcelona. This was very curvy and organic... it looked odd in pictures but standing in it felt very very comfortable. But, that is at an extreme, and we are not going to be able to do that. So, generally I agree.

Also, I like the point about roofs. In our travels we've stayed in lots of B&Bs, several of which were renovated barns. Everyone has always raved about them, big ceilings, etc. But I've never found one that I've liked being in, not to sit and watch TV or sleep, anyway. They are just too cavernous. I always thought I just had odd taste, but now I understand why... it's the ceiling shape!

I think we will be OK on this front with our current plans... The upstairs rooms have interesting ceilings that I can't quite imagine yet but I think they will feel more like dormers? Perhaps I shall ask Dave to do a sketch, he is good at envisaging stuff like that.

#193: Half open wall
Rooms which are too closed prevent the natural flow of social occasions, and thenatural process of transition from one social moment to another. And rooms which are too open will not support the differentiation of events which social life requires. Therefore:
Adjust the walls, opening and windows in each indoor space
until you reach the right balance between open,`flowing space
and closed cell-like space. Do not take it or granted that
each space is a room; nor, on the other hand, that all spaces
must flow into each other. The right balance will always lie
between these extremes: no one room entirely enclosed; and no
space totally connected to another. Use combinations of
columns, half-open walls, porches, indoor windows, sliding
doors, low sills, frenchdoors, sitting walls, and so on, to
hit the right balance.

I like this. I think we will achieve it inside mostly through the use of indoor windows. It gives me a place to display my stained glass collection as well.

#209: Roof layout
It helps to bring the patterns to life it the roof plan is organically related to the nature of your building. To do this:
Arrange the roofs so that each distinct roof
corresponds to an identifable social entity in the building.
Place the largest roofs - those which are highest and have
the largest span - over the largest and most important and
most communal spaces; build the lesser roofs off these
largest and highestroof; and build the smallest roofs of
all off these lesser roofs, in the form of half-vaults
and sheds over alcoves and thick walls. When a wing
ends in the open, leave the gable end at full height;
when a wing ends ina coyuryard, hip the gable so that
the horizontal roof edge makes the courtyard like a room.

This I'm leaving to Eric, but it'll be fine. It's OK in the plans so far, and also on his website he says part of his design philosophy is that buildings "can be 'read' - the internal layout is visible in external form"

Speaking of Eric's website, it's been updated, there seem to be lots of new pictures compared to the last time I looked. And they're just lovely. I feel very confident that together we'll come up with an incredible house because everything I've seen that Eric's done just feels right - even the stuff he does in a more modern style I like, it feels warm and inviting. Having also just visited Oak Park, I am noticing details more and some things, like the curved finish on the top edge of the stone chimney feel similarly nice (sorry can't link directly to it so this is the picture)
chimney designed by Eric
How lovely is this?! Not only is the use of the stone gorgeous and helps roots it to the ground, but the shape gives it a character all it's own. It's worth a browse in his project gallery if you're interested in this kind of thing... it'll also give you a flavour of Australia too. :-)

#232: Roof caps
There are few cases in traditional architecture where buildiners have not used some roof detail to cap the building with ornament. The roof cap helps to finish the building, it gives it a human touch. The power of the cap is of much greater than its proportions would lead you to expect - consider how dramatically different these two buildings appear:

why roof caps matter

Choose a natural way to cap the roof - some way which is
in keeping with the kind of construction, and the meaning of
the building. The caps may be structural; but their main
function is decorative - they mark the top - they mark the
place where the roof penetrates the sky.

The picture says it all really. I totally agree. I even have just acquired via Ebay an old factory vent that might be useful for this, even if it's just on the shed... (I'll post up a picture separately).

Saturday, February 11, 2006

a wacky rethink of downstairs

We are struggling to get the placement of the downstairs bathroom right.

It started out opening off the central hall, but that was too prominent and we didn't want it opening directly from a place that would be doubling as a dining room. Dave also suggested it should be near a side of the house so it's easy to access from the garden.

So then it moved to take up some of the space in the mudroom. Except that there isn't enough space there so every iteration we've tried so far just makes it feel awfully cramped.

An idea just occurred to me, sparked by discussing the Pattern Language insights with Dave, which might help - except it requires rather greater rearrangement of the downstairs.

What if we put the mudroom back the way it was to begin with, that we all loved.

What if we made the stair landing, midway up, wider ... space for an armchair in the corner, some books, if you ever had a party with musicians you could even stick them up there like an mini stage! OK, I'm getting carried away, but if the landing had a larger floor area it'd give us much more flexibility.

Then, what if we moved the pantry, so that instead of it being on the side of the kitchen facing the secret garden, it was behind the front porch in the room 'under the stairs'... which is now much more spacious than a hallway sized cupboard because the landing is wider. We'd still have our "living hall" downstairs, it's just not quite so ginormous...but still plenty enough space for Xmas trees and dinner parties.

(We'd have to move the chimney I guess? And if so, the upstairs bedroom would need tweaking because of the new chimney location, but other than that hopefully it wouldn't mess up the structural stuff too much).

Then, that gives us space at the back of the house that was formerly the pantry to play with and squeeze the bathroom. I don't know what this looks like exactly, but maybe something like this:

moving the pantry

Although not exactly this, because Dave doesn't like it. He likes the new position of the pantry, but he doesn't like something to do with the verandah and sunroom. I can't work out what exactly though. Something about not being able to walk to the breakfast area to the sunroom, except that you can - although maybe it's because he wants it to be under a verandah? I'm not sure. If that's the case then all we have to do is extend the sunroom & breakfast room verandah areas out a bit more and voila the undercover walkway is back again. But I suggested that and he just frowned. So I don't know *sigh*

It's an idea anyway.

Ebay: Factory vent

We won this on ebay a few weeks ago, but Mum only picked it up last week as they've had bushfires up in Kinglake where it was. Luckily it's already in Australia... would have been a real pain getting this back! I haven't decided yet whether to keep it as a garden ornament or put it back into it's proper use. It might make a nice roof cap. But I bought it mostly just 'cos I like the look of it.

old factory vent

applying "pattern language"

Pattern Language is a seminal book in architecture that I first stumbled across referenced in one of my all-time favourite books "A Place of My Own" by Michael Pollan. It was written back in 1977. I decided, somewhat naively perhaps, to go back to the original source to see what I could learn for Amherst.

The book arrived about 18 months ago and, like the textbook that it is, was initially daunting. It has very small type and 1171 pages! I started thumbing through it but found myself overwhelmed by the sheer scale at which it began.

Pattern #1 for instance states "Where ever possible, work toward the evolution of interdependent regions in the world each with a population of between 2 and 10 million". Now, whether this is right or wrong is irrelevant for my purposes, this is far far beyond my scale of thinking or power of influence! It reminded me in fact of a wonderful geography project I had to do back in high school to "design a town". My town was lovely, radiating out from a central square, and I had great fun designing in lots of parks for my imaginary population straight out of the Brady Bunch. But the exercise was utterly meaningless. So I feared would be this book.

But last weekend I picked it up again. This time I let myself skip forward to the patterns on a scale that were relevant to building a house.

I now understand why it is a seminal book. Where else could you find a book that ranges from the extremes of planning on a regional economy level right down to how you should arrange your kitchen cupboards? (I kid you not, seriously, pattern #200 is all about having open shallow shelves so that you can place things one deep and they don't get hidden). It is much a psychology book as an architecture book, in terms of dissecting why some spaces 'feel right' and others don't.

In the next few posts, I will introduce you to my favourite patterns. By which I mean the patterns that either I instantly thought "yes, of course, that makes sense"... or I was converted by the arguments in the book. They are the patterns which most resonated with me and thus I believe are most relevant for Amherst.