Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Home Design Ideas - 3 Tier Kitchen Island

A 3 Tier Kitchen Island is a simple Home Design Idea I have used many times over the years.  Most kitchen islands tend to be one tier or two.  On a single tier island one counter provides kitchen prep and eating / serving purposes.  On a two tier island one tier is the cooking counter and the second tier is the eating / serving counter.  I like to add a third tier because it adds another dimension and offers more storage possibilities.  See below for a few examples.

Three tiers - one for kitchen prep, one for eating and serving and one for storage.  Here we used glass doors for display.   I like the way the taller tier "anchors" the other two counters.  It also helps to define the edge of the kitchen from the hallway which is to the left.
Here (in our Excelsior Farmhouse) tiers on both ends "capture" the kitchen and eating counters.  The eating counter is highlighted with a natural walnut surface.  The taller end cabinets also provide another display surface.
Another simple example (from our Midwest Living Farmhouse) with a curved serving counter.  The taller end cabinets also help to conceal kitchen clutter from the living room beyond.  This is a good design strategy within an open floor plan.  

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Value of an Architect 2 - Architects have great Tools!

A recent project I am working on at Ron Brenner Architects gives me another example of how a good designer can add value to a project. The home is in the Design Development stage, so the basic form and plan have been finalized but the details are still being adjusted. The images below illustrate how Brenner utilizes 3d visualization tools (in this case Google Sketchup) to study variations in design to communication options to the client. With better visualization the client is able to make more informed decisions.

The image above depicts the completed Schematic Design - a classic midwestern farmhouse exterior. Narrow gable forms, 1 1/2 story height, shed porches and box out bays, white clapboard siding, black shingle primary roof and galvanized metal porch roof.

This image depicts a taller plate height and a modification of the roof eave detail to provide more of a midwestern greek revival aesthetic.

Image above represents mostly a color study variation of the original farmhouse vernacular design but also makes subtle adjustments to column sizes and porch beam detail.

This last image depicts the concept of an "original" brick farmhouse being added on to with subsequent white clapboard additions.

The Value of an Architect

While at my regular job - Ron Brenner Architects - I received a phone call a few days ago. It was from someone who had been designing their own cabin. Subsequently the design was given to a builder who's draftsman tried to complete the design and drawings. Well it turns out that he did not like the design. He was still enamored with the floor plans, but not the exterior appearance. The image below is of the original design.
I was asked to see if I could take a shot at improving the appearance of the home without significantly altering the floor plans. He also wanted to maintain the basic chalet style roof line that he had started with. I agreed to work on an hourly rate basis to provide the services. I modeled the plan quickly in Sketchup and did several minor alternatives. In the end we landed on the final solution as shown below.

Hopefully this is illustrative of a little bit of value an Architect can bring to a project. They can turn an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan. Good design is not easy. It takes training, creativity and experience. There are many aspects of design that need to be considered including:
  • form
  • scale
  • proportion
  • rhythm
  • pattern
  • texture
  • shade and shadow
  • color
  • spatial qualities
  • quality of light
  • function
  • circulation patterns
  • furniture placement
  • construction related issues
  • cost / budget
A good experienced Architect will be considering all of the above while creating beautiful design solutions for you. So next time you decide to build a new home, or remodel an existing one; you really ought to consider hiring a design professional. Your project will be better off for it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rockin on and falling apart.

So we got Steve all ready to go again and got on with rocking in along the western wall. Some errant project manager had forgotten (yet again) to pick up the electrical conduit and mount boxes for power and data points in my study and the lounge. Steve left gaps while I got my act together but mentioned something about poor workflow on the rocks. I could easily see what he meant. It's amazing how that (efficient work spaces) is something that I've long strived for in my various work environments over the years and here I was stymieing the building chi on my own place... Anyway, angst balloons released ("let it go, fella!"), we forged on.

note: holes in walls for eventual conduit etc :)

Had to head into the big smoke (Shepparton) next day to drop off template for roof flashings, so grabbed a couple of rolls of conduit, clips etc and also picked up a gas powered 12V camp shower. Washing in the dam while seizing up after a day of cement, lime and rock dust was getting ordinary and we looked forward to a hot wash. Got back to find the bloody box did NOT contain the required gas connection, even though I'd explicitly asked the salesman if it as all good to go...grrrrr... Lucky enough, Marijs turned up on the bike that night and offered to go get the hose for us next day. What a champ...

lounge walls have some nice rocks

looking sweet

lounge finished
end of lounge wall

Got a fair bit more done then poor old brickie broke again. Slipped on some rubble while hefting in a big rock and twanged a hammy. Bugger. I'd also been feeling the pinch a bit with some nasty sciatica kicking in so we slipped back a gear or two and hobbled on slowly like a couple of antiquarian invalids for a few days.
kitchen / bathroom plinth
keeping mud clear of steel pole


from outside

Heat and humidity were also taking their toll, so after work ginger beers at the Bogie shop sure went down well. Not going down well were sleepless nights for Steve - his new swag was turning out to be pretty crap. Various arrangements were tried but the final straw came when a storm hit and he awoke in 3" of water. R-n-r required for the rockie...

While Steve recuperated (and I took it slowly), I spent a day cleaning up around the work we'd done and then hired a 3000psi pressure washer for the next day to wash down the cement and rocks. 12 hours and 3 wire brushes later I was done. Hard work but F****N wow - these walls now look amazing. The colours in the various rocks vary far more greatly than I'd seen previously and all the little quartz chips sparkle like diamonds. Using a bright white light on them at night makes them come alive!

clean up before the wet mess

and how they do sparkle...

wet the poles down too to see how they might look

these photos really don't do justice - soooo impressive in the flesh


Dana suitably impressed... Not so impressed after several hours of screwing in internal diagonal bracing so that we could remove all of the external braces (workflow, remember!) but happy anyway. Weekend building relief after crappy workaday week sure seems sweet. I constantly appreciate the opportunity to hang out here. We can neither of us wait too long to get here together permanently.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Home Design Ideas - Cozy Fireplace

Here is a another post from our Home Design Ideas category.  Create a Cozy Fireplace with an Inglenook layout.

Below is an interior remodeling of a home I did a couple of years ago.  The house was a classic 1950's Ranch - enclosed spaces, dark, uninviting.  As part of the remodeling we opened things up, brought in more natural light, and added a few more traditional details to the living room and other spaces.

The Living Room was the one large space in the house.  It was actually uncomfortably long which made planning an intimate furniture arrangement difficult.   So on with the Inglenook idea.  Think of an inglenook as a cozy kind of alcove space; which is exactly what we created.  See the pictures below.

The Inglenook was created by adding the new formal opening with columns just a few feet in front of the fireplace.  This served to shorten the room while still maintaining an open view to the fireplace.  In fact it even strengthened the fireplace as the focal point in the room.  

On either side of the fireplace we crafted a bench with recessed bookshelves above.  Detailing of the fireplace surround, paneling and columns is a spare level of traditional.  Color tones are subtle allowing the natural wood floor and brick fireplace to stand out.
All in all we were successful in creating the type of space our client was looking for - Simple, Unique and Elegant.

Copyright 2011 Simply Elegant Home Designs

Monday, February 7, 2011

Home Design Ideas - Squatty Front Door!

Here is a Home Design Idea for you - Buy a Squatty Front Door!

I had someone call me yesterday looking for some advice (not one of my own clients).  She told me that her house is in construction, and she is very concerned about her front door.  "The framed opening for the front door looks out of proportion - it looks squatty".  The door was to be about 40" wide x 6'-8" high, but she is now uncomfortable with her decision.  I could actually feel her agonizing over it.

I told her that the proportion of the door may in fact look squatty now, but might not once the door is actually in place.  That's because the door has paneling, details and textures within it that begin to visually alter it's own proportions.  You also need to look at the door in context with it's surroundings because it needs to be in balance with the overall composition.  I have a feeling she is just staring at the door opening only, which is a common issue amongst homeowners during construction.  This is where a good design professional could help her gain confidence in her decisions.

Here is a Cape Cod style house plan I designed with a "squatty" front door.  3'-6" wide x 6'-8" tall.  Looking at the door in context with the surrounding composition, it feels about right.

The vertical paneling treatment, vertical wood grain pattern and the dentil detailing below the glass all conspire to break down the visual width of the door.  The result is a "squatty" door that does not feel so.
So the moral of this particular story is twofold:
  1. Always consider design issues in their full context.
  2. Hire a design professional.  He / she can save you much agony.

PS - The Cape Cod House Plan illustrated here is available for purchase at  Lakeland Cape Cod