Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Design Notes

Designing a home seems like a daunting task and I knew I wanted to hire an architect eventually, but prior to that we put a lot of time into thinking about what we wanted our home to be and getting our ideas down on paper.
(originally posted to LiveModern 1/4/2005)

This project was born out of our desire to have a home that functions the way we want it to instead of adapting our lives to work with the house. Living in the Beaver Cleaver world of dining rooms and formal living rooms and the gym-meets-family room concept just aren't us. We're too practical (and hopefully sensible) for that. If we're going to spend the money to get it, every inch had better be useable and used on a regular basis and it had better support all our activities of living with ease.

I've always been a collector of ideas, and I knew I had a really good handle on what we were looking for in a home. I've built it in my head a thousand times. Keeping a general idea in mind of the size of home we though we needed and could afford, I sat down and finally put all my ideas on paper. It was a scary step because I felt this was our first move based on the belief that we could actually DO this. My thinking out loud on paper went through several incarnations as Vern and I discussed what we thought we wanted and I started to get a better grasp of how different combinations of spaces added up to a total square foot number. I was also working off the premise that simpler equals more affordable. I wasn't interested in complicated angles, circular dining rooms or lots of little nooks and crannies and this wasn't what I envisioned for the house anyway. I started designing simply in terms of a square box with a general idea of the square foot requrements I though were appropriate for the major rooms.

Some of the basic elements we considered essential to our design:

*A bigger kitchen with maximum functionality...a chef's kitchen. Truthfully, the entire house design started with what I determined to be my ideal layout and size for a kitchen, how I wanted it to relate to the other spaces and what I wanted to see when I stood in the room and looked out. I wanted continuity with the living and public areas and support for things like social cooking, teaching, and large-scale food prep. I love to cook, promote and share cooking. We love to entertain and do so frequently and I'm at my limit of tolerance for our currently trial-size tract house kitchen. Another requirement was that the kitchen have convenient access to the outdoors, preferrably at ground level since we spend a lot of time doing food outdoors in the summer and I love to gather from the garden to make a meal. (I also have plans for a someday outdoor kitchen, but it's just not all that practical in Minnesota.)

*Similar to the above, I wanted there to be a sense of enticement and unity to the outdoors, or as much as is practical given our harsh climate. I've always been atttracted to places where inside and outside are not clearly defined and where large doors or walls dissapear to blur the line between interior and exterior. I love the idea of outdoor rooms. Unfortunately most of the really cool ideas are too impractical for Minnesota winters, and if it wasn't that, it would be our mosquito issue. I feel like this is the biggest design compromise we had to make, and I sure envy all you warmer climate folks with your potential for overhead doors and outdoor living rooms. I'm also fanatical about having great light, so lots of windows was a given, yet this is another point of compromise because of climate.

*A place for motorcycle maintenance that could also act as a showroom in the off season. Did I mention that Vern and I are both motorcycle fanatics? Our summertime hobby is roadracing motorcycles and it's something we're both passionate about. We spend a great deal of our free time either actively riding or maintaining as many as six street and track motorcycles, so a dedicated motorcycle garage was a must-have. Also, when you live in Minnesota you've got to do something with bikes in the winter. We think of them as functional art, so putting them in the middle of the living space seems perfectly reasonable to us :) Plus, this would be the ideal place to utilize a service station door inside the house, which is an idea I've been itching to copy for a long time.

*A more private master bedroom and bathroom. This is one of the other major shortcomings of our current home. I wasn't looking for a grand master suite with sitting room, palacial bath and apartment sized walk-in closet, just something with a little space to move around in and our very own bathroom. I also knew I wanted a Japanese soaking tub and a big, walk in shower.

*A guest bedroom and bathroom. As much as I dislike giving up space to something that will not be in daily use, I dislike hosting overnight guests without being able to grant them their own private space even more. My hope is to make this room as multi-purpose as possible while still maintaining it as hangout for visitors.

*A dedicated art space for me. My current studio is a spare bedroom and while close to adequate in size, it's not as functional I would like.

*A general focus on ease of entertaining. To us this means an open floor plan, a great kitchen and an exciting, interactive and welcoming environment that we and others want to spend time in. I'm all about the feeling you get from a place, and I find myself more and more aware of both what attracts and repels people within a space. I love be engaged by an interior or exterior environment and I love creating a comfortable place to “be”.

*Flexibility. As I said, our point is to create a home that is designed around how we live, which is never a static thing for anyone. My hope is that we'll have something flexible enough to adapt to us when we need it to and that has decent resale appeal should we ever decide to move.

So, with that I give you the lower level floor plan:

and the upper level floor plan:

Reviewing the drawing now, I realize we updated the guest bathroom layout to have a door that enters directly from the guest bedroom. I anticipate a few other minor alterations to interior walls as well once I finalize interior materials, but basically what you see is what we'll live with. Note that the main entrance to the house is on the upper level, while our main living space is on the lower level. Our driveway/garage are downhill from the shared drive and entering the garage will require a 90 degree turn.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, did you end up working with an architect after all? The drawings are not quite large enough to make out the type...what happens over the bike shop area, is it open?
Very cool house, btw. :)

12:02 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home