Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Inspiration house #2

Believe it or not, one of our inspiration houses was a beautiful Tuscan one-and-a-half-story in our hometown. The floor plan is amazing, and we were sad to discover it was not a spec home, but was being built by a family.

We learned a great deal from the layout of this home. 

    In order to arrange the interior spaces of the home, the front door wasn't centered on the front facade. Until touring this home, I hadn't realized that I had probably been tossing out floor plans simply because they didn't have a door at the center of the front facade. I like symmetry, but now realize the interior is much easier to plan if the placement of the front door can be adjusted to the needs of the interior room arrangement.

    Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia is a perfect example of the symmetry I admire. I grew up seeing photos of this house, admiring the beauty and "order" portrayed by the well-planned facade. Could I have equated "careful planning" and symmetry in my mind?

    Louisiana River Road's Oak Alley is a house my husband and I have visited multiple times.  We don't seem to be able to get enough of tours of this grand residence. It is probably our favorite plantation home. The oaks are beautiful, the size is striking, the rooms and the furniture are larger than life to most of us, but it is the symmetry that has always been my favorite part.

    Oak Alley
    Another favorite plantation home is Nottoway, also built close to Louisiana's River Road. We've visited this home multiple times as well, actually spending the night inside the house once. While I enjoy Nottoway, and admire it's beauty, I realized it's not as "pleasing" to my eye as Oak Alley ONLY because it is not symmetrical. That is just crazy since it is a stunning property.

    My three favorite houses on our current street have centered front doors. (None of them belong to me.) Each of these homes as a centered front door on a two story facade. All have additional one story wings, but it is the symmetry of the two-story front that I love.

    After visiting inspiration home #2, I instantly realized that not many of the homes in average neighborhoods actually have a front door centered on the front of the house. (light-bulb moment) I needed to realize that my "idea" was unrealistic.


    In order to maximize space in the primary family living area, the need for creativity is often necessary. That could even mean that rooms are not rectangular. House #2 had an angled kitchen in order to maximize the flow of traffic and allow for the well-designed kitchen cabinets.

    Our kitchen also has an angled wall to open up the space behind the range. Not only did the angle of the wall give us more space in the kitchen, it allows a better view FROM the kitchen. Working at a sink or stove, whoever is in the kitchen will still be part of the action in the great room and breakfast area. I did not want the kitchen space to feel isolated.

    The room arrangement in house #2 gave us some great ideas about how to move from one space to another without unnecessary hallways. A couple of tiny hallways are simply routes between indoors and outdoors. The one hallway we have is necessary because it leads to two bedrooms. 

    This house taught it that is is possible to put the bulk of the house on the ground floor if the lot allows. The inspiration house had two bedrooms and a small sitting/play area on the second floor. The stairs were off a back hallway and did not take space from the main living area with a grand stairway.

    The location of our stairs was not planned by us, but by the architect. It is off the mudroom, which is a side entrance from the garage where we can hang coats or sit on the bench to remove wet or dirty shoes. That mudroom is sure to see traffic because it takes you to the kitchen, utility room, secondary bedrooms, or up the stairs.

    Our one level has very little wasted space, as house #2 demonstrated could be done. The builder laughs about one such space he says I "rescued" from oblivion. During the framing of the house, I noticed a cavity between three spaces that was going to be covered with sheet-rock. One side of this space bordered a half bath. Instead of hiding this cavity, we now have a towel shelf in that half-bath. 

    Another larger cavity is now a closet for the electrical equipment in the house.

    I wanted more bookcases than were on the floor plan so Lauren and I found a corner in a hall that could hold a bookcase. It's not wide, but it will hold a great deal of books since it is rather tall. It is tucked out of the way where you wouldn't expect to find it.

    There are solutions to most problems if we are open to creativity instead of insisting on the original idea.  We will have a home that does not have a front door in the center of the front facade. Like our current neighbor's homes, the front door IS centered on the main part of the house. Our house has angled walls inside, although very straight outside. The room arrangement was well thought out for our needs and wishes. While building, we tried to keep in mind that others will live in the house after we leave. What might they use these spaces for? How will this arrangement affect their family? We made a few decisions based on those questions.
There are minor things that we realized after it was too late to change them, and we worked with the builder to come up with creative solutions. I will explain some of these in a later post.
Inspiration house #2 was the first home we saw that gave us hope that we could actually build the house that was still in our minds at that point. Our house was a fantasy that had yet to take shape, even if only on paper. This inspiration house showed us how to put it together and make it work. And notes from that house became part of the list of ideas we took with us to the first meeting with the architect.

No comments :