Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Is Bigger really Better?

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Everyone has watched in wonder as our young children spend more time playing in the big box that came on Christmas instead of the new toy that was inside.  We all need to have quite cozy spaces where we can feel safe, or relax or just pretend or dream. 

Even with our projects that have really large rooms, we are always cognisant of the importance of small cosy spaces.  In addition, just big is usually not very comfortable, large spaces as well as more intimate spaces need to be proportioned properly to be effective.  We often love to have little tight spaces that are adjacent to our bigger spaces.  This offers a great cozy space to curl up with a good book on a rainy day or a quite place to relax. 

More often than not, our clients come to us looking for spaces that are designed to be used for large gatherings and parties.  These events may only occur once or twice a year so it is important that we can make good use of the room or area for the rest of the year.  This points out the importance of planning for a versatile floor plan that can change with us as we  and our needs change.  I often hear "we need our kids bedroom rooms to be near us because they are young..."  Well it is important to remember that your young kids will grow older and you will both need more privacy in the future.  As some point the birds will leave the nest too, so it is  important to plan for a use for these rooms when they are left empty.  A "spare" bedroom often will make a great home office or workout room.

With all the recent interest in energy efficiency and "green" architecture, it is hard to admit but the easiest way to achieve energy reductions is to simply have a smaller home to heat and cool.  This concept is so eloquently championed by Sarah Susanka in her "The Not So Big House" series of books.  She is not proposing that we all build tiny homes, just that we build our homes carefully crafted and designed for the way we live and entertain.  It seems like such a simple concept but a quick walk through the newest home on your block will illustrate just how few people realize this.  These homes often have rooms that we will never use (or even furnish) We then demand a "bonus" room that is located so far away from the core of the house that no child would ever play in it.  It is really important to have a mix of large and small spaces that flow one into another.   Isn't it ironic to have a huge room for entertaining and yet everyone squeezes into the kitchen for a party.  How often have you put the party snacks in the living room just to entice your guests to gather there?

For many of our clients, the best solution is to have a great room area adjacent to the kitchen that is surrounded with small intimate spaces.  (sounds complicated, but it isn't!)

This room has a great inglenook built around the fireplace.  It is easy to see from most of the room and it offers an inviting small space that is connected to the larger more public area.

This is a neat way to have your cake and eat it too. As a small space this inglenook is really too small to work by itself but it offers a great little corner to roast marshmallows or enjoy a glass of wine with the company of your family or friends. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Porch roof that dosen't make the house dark

OK, this is a really common question and the solution is really easy.  Lots of people want a covered outdoor area but they are worried that this great area will then make their adjoining room too dark.  While this is a real worry, we need to take into account the direction that the covered porch faces, the window location and how high the roof is on the new covered porch.  What we are doing here is determining the relative sun angle and how the new porch roof will block the light entering the windows.  Sometimes, the easiest way to achieve this is to locate the new covered outdoor space away from the primary building.

Another method for assuring that the sun will still shine into your home is to place the new covered area in a location that won't block the windows. This can be achieved by placing the roof beside a window or even pulling the covered area away from the home to allow light to flow into the adjoining room.

Often, the covered space can be used  as a means to create a courtyard or a sense of enclosure within an outdoor space that is open yet still intimate in scale. This provides an inviting area to look at from inside the home as well as designing gathering space outdoors.

Each and every project and building site can lend new opportunities for creating a special gathering space without impacting the quality of light or view from the main home.

It is critical to have your architect "walk the site" to be sure that opportunities are not missed.  The layperson often sees what is there now, while a trained architect can see how to best utilize what the site has to offer.  Do we have a view we are trying to capture, frame, block or enhance?  How can we enjoy this beautiful property each and every day? what is the optimum location on the site to best capture the hidden treasure that the property has to offer?  you and your architect should be having these conversations.