Sunday, March 30, 2008

What I do when I am not consumed with work on the Tiny Bungalow

When I am not working on my own home (which is most weekdays and nights), I am usually working on other people's homes. I am an architect and during the day I oversee design and construction of developer-driven condo buildings. It's not romantic and I would never find myself living in one of these things but it pays the bills. Every now and then, I'll get the opportunity tp work on a house design for a friend or acquaintance. Last year I helped some friends out in designing an addition to their lakeside summer home.

The original home, built just over 20 years ago is a suburban ranch style home with a kind of rustic twist. With it's massive stonework inside and out, interesting spiral staircase, and unique roof line, unlike many homes of this type, it impressed me and has a lot of character. The homeowners are fans of mid-century modern design and their tastes seem to fit the home well. Except for a wide deck, the home had little relation to the lake and looked like the other homes on the street.

The intent of the design was to maintain this look on the front of the house while creating great views to the lake and adding on enough space for family, friends, and eventual retirement. Construction began last fall and the home is completely enclosed and the interior walls framed. I got the chance to visit the home this weekend to check out the progress.
Work on this is very different from what you might typically see on this blog. It is a fairly new home by my standards and it is a bit larger than my house. I enjoyed working in a very different style than I am used to and in the process became fascinated with Wright's Usonian Homes as well as mid-century design. One of the challenges of the project was breaking down the scale of the building so that it was a "cottagy" as possible. The building steps as it approaches the lake so, unlike most of its neighbors, a relatively small portion takes up the back of the lot. We also used a variety of materials and shingle types to break down the overall elevation.

The project was modeled by my friend and co-worker Steve. He has helped out on the Tinybungalow, is great to collaborate with, and very good at Sketch-up. Steve drew some models so the owner got a pretty good idea of what the home would look like well before construction began.
There have been a few modifications during construction. The roof line was raised a bit and some of the exterior materials have changed. I don't think that anything has been compromised in the design and the owners seem very happy. It seems to fit the site well and hopefully, when all is said and done, the house appears as if it has always been there.
It looks like the views from the bedroom and lower family room are going to be great. Unfortunately the windows are all covered with plastic right now so it is tough to see. Another things that is hard to picture is the entry, kitchen, hall space. This area is the most important in the home and is two-stories tall. It is capped with a clerestory and is very light and airy. This space is very un-like the original home which was characteristically low slung and dim.
A prominent feature within this space is a wall that runs from the outside of the home, through the screen porch and into the kitchen. The intent was to bring some of the exterior materials inside, creating a kind of lodge-like appearance. The wall is perforated with several large openings that allow the light to filter through and provide an openness that would have been lacking otherwise.
The house will look even better once it is finished. The owner hired two talented interior designers. They have developed a really nice look that compliments the overall architecture and takes advantage of some great pieces of mid-century furniture that the owner has collected over the years.

For a home this size, it is surprisingly intimate. I feared that some of the spaces would be "too big" and that the home would appear bulky from the lake. Instead, it seems very comfortable and the views to and from the lake are great. If it's neighbors are any comparison, this home seems a welcomed relief to the vinyl-clad "tan boxes" (the owner's description, not mine) that seem to be taking over the lakefront.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I do think the renovations are an improvement... good job on the plans! The old small deck just looked so tacked on... this new one looks like more a part of the landscape.