Friday, January 18, 2013

Remodels, Additions, and Timbers

Several years ago, I worked on a project that was both quite challenging and had remarkable potential. It was a remodel of a house here in Colorado on a very pretty perch in rocks surrounded by ponderosa pines. The property sloped to the northeast with a view of Mount Evans and the front range foothills. The house remodel turned out as nice as a new house with modern upgrades, trapezoid windows and opening up new spaces and views.

When I first came over to look at the job, I parked, walked along the garage wall to a little wood stair taking me up to a small landing to face the front door half a floor up. If I looked right, I saw the magnificent mountain view. If I looked left, I came face to face with a I looked right. Upon meeting my client and entering the house, my first thought was...where did the view go?... Everywhere I looked, I saw a tract house from the seventies, cut up, no view, totally out of place with the character of the land, but the first order of business was to improve the walk to the entry, so we built a new catwalk to the front door, meandering through the trees. 
We ultimately remodeled the entire house, adding a dining room, moving the kitchen entirely, and cutting the best view corner to a forty five degree angle to get the best view.
 Adding timber framing to the great room area and a giant log to hold the roof up gave the "new" house a mountain look. A new roof and a stucco exterior gave the house a modern, clean look. The loft above is the office, open to the great room.

I like to do remodels. They tend to be very challenging. Whole house remodels, including some landscape is as rewarding as it is difficult. The reason is that you take something totally wrong....and make it right. Below is the new dining room, meant to hold a very big table and be surrounded by glass. The new kitchen location is the heart of the house.

Getting a non-timber framed house to look like a timbered house is a matter of understanding the structure of the house and wood engineering in general. Beams and trusses should look as though they are necessary for holding up the house, rather than just decorative trim.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Small Houses

It's a new year, welcome. The last one had it's ups and downs. For those of us in the house designing business it was quite slow, due to the seemingly endless recession which hit construction and related fields very hard.  We all hope that things turn for the better, and that folks are able to think about building their long-waited timber frame home instead of merely surviving.

That being the case, there are very important things to consider when contemplating diving into a project like a custom house, especially and custom timber frame house. Costs for construction have not gone down much, even though demand and credit availability sunk. Go figure. As the economy deflates, you have to consider getting more gratification and usability out of a smaller package.

The world of huge trophy houses, big second homes, and extravagant spending has geatly diminished, and in its place is a serious movement toward justifiable costs, environmental responsibility, and trimming down in general.

Smaller structures with greater usability is a focus for young couples with kids as well as empty-nesters who want less to maintain while still accomodating occasional visits from family and friends.  A smaller structure means less outside surface area to lose in money, and is less to pay for originally. Multi-use spaces should be created when possible.

The key to making a smaller structures livable is to design it free of clutter that impedes movement, and to open it up to the outside with proper window and doors that not only make the space visually bigger, but allow for stepping out to a deck or patio. Note: a house can be too small also. It should be sized for the people it is to accomodate, and of course, always have good resale value.