Thursday, December 27, 2007

A new drawing...

Here's a Christmas present that I did for my sister. I used this image, which I found on the internet, as inspiration...
And here's my drawing...

Untitled, by Brendan Koop, vine charcoal on off-white paper, approx. 5x7"

I used an enlarged print of the image at top to draw from sight comparison. The main artistic ideas I wanted to impart to the drawing were to remove the figures from the background and set them on a white page so that as the eye moves from left to right you have two totally different edges on each side of the figures. The left-hand edge is obscured by the light source, making it a soft transition and an uneven, jagged edge. The right-hand edge is in the shadow, but set on a white background it's a hard edge transition from dark to light, which balances the left-hand soft transition. Overall, the figures on a white background provide good contrast, which adds a modern artistic element.

Here's the drawing in it's frame...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Busy, busy...


Just a quick note to say blogging will be (and has been already) sparse in December and early January. Obviously during the Advent season there is lots of other things going on that make the computer roughly #23 in priority, but also I am already off of work (from Dec. 18-Jan. 6!) and so we'll be doing lots of family stuff during this time (including celebrating the birth of our Lord -- for the full 12 days! -- and also going to Florida with my parents and siblings... 4 kids ages 5 and under on a plane to Florida... everyone on the plane better be prepared). I'm sure I'll get a couple of random posts in here and there. Thanks to all those who have kept commenting on our previous posts, we read all our comments!

God bless you during these seasons of Advent and Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Slowly starting to make some decisions about the house...


Our goals are to keep things as low-cost as possible, while strategically spending more for quality and finish on items that we will never be able to change after home construction (i.e. we'll really try to have a basement, even if we have to wait on other things like the patios, because you can never go back on choosing to not have a basement for storage). There are lots of exterior things we can wait on if we have to (patios, landscaping, etc.), and there are other things we can be economical about with the knowledge that we can improve or upgrade at some point in the future.

One of those things is the kitchen, and I believe we have decided, after a trip to our local store in Bloomington, MN, to go with an IKEA kitchen. At first, I had thought we'd never go with IKEA, simply due to my perception that it wouldn't be durable enough. We love IKEA furniture, and we have a bunch in our current home (painstakingly assembled by me). But a whole kitchen?

The more we thought about it and investigated, the more we thought we should give it a look at the store. From my own research, a whole IKEA kitchen (including appliances) would cost 30-50% less than if we were to, say, have a Home Depot kitchen with Home Depot appliances. That's some serious savings. And, once we saw the kitchens at the store, it seems a no-brainer. The design is certainly vintage IKEA; easy to use, well thought-out, lots of options, simple process (can't necessarily say all of these things about Home Depot or other standard retailers, especially in regard to design). What I show below is basically the process of kitchen design with IKEA, and some of our own preferences, using the IKEA kitchen brochure for 2008.

First, there's arrangements to consider for optimal work flow and usability, along with organization (click any to enlarge):

With the design of Scheme D, we would have the "L" shaped layout above (with an island), which is probably the best arrangement.

One thing that is awesome about IKEA is the thought that they put into organization, with tons of options for storage (click either to enlarge):
And how can any large family go wrong when they can supply everything we need for childproofing! (click to enlarge)
As far as style, most of what they display is too Scandinavian for our tastes, with really modern looking finishes and light woods. But, they have so many options that we can certainly design to our tastes. Er... or should I say, we can certainly design to MOLLY'S tastes. She has complete veto power when it comes to the kitchen, that's like her office. So, when we visited the store, out of the cabinet styles we saw, Molly (and me too, actually) liked the style and color I marked below (click to enlarge):
And with the different options one can select, it could look something like this:
Or this...
But, Molly has said she's always liked white kitchen cabinets as well, especially since they really brighten the room, so we can't rule out something like this yet...
Stress wise, what I really love is that IKEA is a one stop shop. You can literally get everything you need there (appliances, fixtures, you name it). Here's some examples of faucets (below). I'm partial to the industrial, "take-no-prisoners," "we-have-a-huge-family" faucet on the far left (seriously), but Molly doesn't like it. There's still time.
And as far as appliances go... alright, so I will divulge one splurge (albeit, a nice-to-have for a large family type splurge). Molly would LOVE the little number below:
The one thing we probably won't get through IKEA is countertops; though we will still go the inexpensive route, we're not sure IKEA really has what we would want.

As for my quality concerns, there's a 25 year warranty, and lots of other info (click to enlarge):
I think the need to upgrade any of this stuff in the future is going to be minimal, if not zero.

To top it all off, they have kitchen planning software that you can download to arrange things yourself (see here). And they can do installation.

I think at least we know what we're doing for one room of the house!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! (Dec. 6th)

Though as of this posting we are only at the eve of the feast of St. Nicholas, commemorated on Dec. 6, I thought I'd do a post wishing everyone a happy feast! We attended a St. Nicholas party with two families from our parish yesterday for the kids to learn about St. Nicholas and celebrate his holy example in following Christ. And our kids will be setting out their shoes this evening, hoping for a visit from St. Nicholas with traditional gifts left inside!

Here's a brief summary of the life of St. Nicholas:
This glorious saint, celebrated even today throughout the entire world, was the only son of his eminent and wealthy parents, Theophanes and Nona, citizens of the city of Patara in Lycia. Since he was the only son bestowed on them by God, the parents returned the gift to God by dedicating their son to Him. St. Nicholas learned of the spiritual life from his uncle Nicholas, Bishop of Patara, and was tonsured a monk in the Monastery of New Zion, founded by his uncle.

Following the death of his parents, Nicholas distributed all his inherited goods to the poor, not keeping anything for himself. As a priest in Patara, he was known for his charity, even though he carefully concealed his charitable works, fulfilling the words of the Lord: Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth (Matthew 6:3).

When he gave himself over to solitude and silence, thinking to live that way until his death, a voice from on high came to him: "Nicholas, for your ascetic labor, work among the people, if thou desirest to be crowned by Me." Immediately after that, by God's wondrous providence, he was chosen archbishop of the city of Myra in Lycia. Merciful, wise and fearless, Nicholas was a true shepherd to his flock. During the persecution of Christians under Diocletian and Maximian, he was cast into prison, but even there he instructed the people in the Law of God.

He was present at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea [AD 325] and, out of great zeal for the truth, struck the heretic Arius with his hand. For this act he was removed from the Council and from his archiepiscopal duties, until the Lord Jesus Himself and the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to several of the chief hierarchs and revealed their approval of Nicholas.

A defender of God's truth, this wonderful saint was ever bold as a defender of justice among the people. On two occasions, he saved three men from an undeserved sentence of death. Merciful, truthful, and a lover of justice, he walked among the people as an angel of God.

Even during his lifetime, the people considered him a saint and invoked his aid in difficulties and in distress. He appeared both in dreams and in person to those who called upon him, and he helped them easily and speedily, whether close at hand or far away. A light shone from his face as it did from the face of Moses, and he, by his presence alone, brought comfort, peace and good will among men. In old age he became ill for a short time and entered into the rest of the Lord, after a life full of labor and very fruitful toil, to rejoice eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven, continuing to help the faithful on earth by his miracles and to glorify his God. He entered into rest on December 6, AD 343.
Easily my favorite part is imagining Bishop Nicholas of Myra giving the heretic Arius the proverbial back of his hand during the council of Nicaea! Somehow I don't think Old St. Nick was too "jolly" right then.

Part of the origin of "Santa Claus" is the fact that Nicholas secretly gave money and other items to families in need by dropping them through chimneys or through the windows of homes.

For more information on St. Nicholas, definitely go to this site. It's one of the best web sites I've ever seen on any topic; extremely well done.

And check this out. A feature film is coming Christmas 2008.

St. Nicholas, pray for us!

St. Nicholas of Myra, preventing the falsely accused from being executed, by Ilya Repin, 1889.

Monday, December 3, 2007

A coveted book has finally arrived at my doorstep...


I've previously posted on my love of art, and my own desire to learn drawing and painting in the classical tradition, with the hope of one day being proficient enough to create custom sacred art for our chapel and the rest of our new home. I've read many books this past year, and done many drawings (each one a little better than the previous) and so, despite time constraints and needing to take long breaks to deal with other things, I am making good progress toward my goal. However, one very large omission to this point in my self-education, both in terms of reading and drawing, has been the fabled "Drawing Course" (or "Cours de Dessin" in its original French) by Charles Bargue and Jean-Leon Gerome, originally published as a set of lithographs in the 1860's and 70's. This was THE drawing course in France and many other parts of Europe during the period in the 19th century just before the onset of modernism, and it was used to train expert realist artists in the truthful rendering of nature. The course is a set of lithograph master drawings of steadily increasing difficulty that a student is to copy, by sight and using the "sight-size" method, informing their mind's eye of the nuances of the human form. Most students had to reproduce all 197 lithographs, in the process becoming a master draftsman, before moving on to painting. The formation in drawing alone could take over two years before painting, and only afterward was a student allowed to transition into putting their own spin and expression in their artistic composition (having now had the foundation from which to make those expressions coherent).

Of course, "copying" has an awful connotation for us moderns. How can one "express themselves" and be "creative" if you have to copy something? This is the mindset of modern education, and it's no surprise that the Bargue Drawing Course was quickly discarded as a method of education in the early 20th century. Great artists were no longer made; each person was expected to show some sort of innate creativity to be a good artist and thus one need not go through formalized training in accurate representation. In fact, "great art" itself became subjective, and any art based in the classical tradition was labeled as "pandering to the viewer," or "rigidly dogmatic," "stifling," or a "relic of the past." (See any connections to the mass rejection of Church teaching in the 20th century?) Thus we have almost an entire century devoid of objective beauty in art, and a whole legion of artists that were never given the chance to have the training that those in the past received.

But, through that whole upheaval of the 20th century, small artistic workshops called "ateliers" quietly kept the classical traditions alive, and these ateliers survive today and in fact are now flourishing with a renewed interest in classical training and art. It was mainly for ateliers, and for art historians, that Gerald Ackerman painstakingly researched and gathered images of all 197 lithographs of Charles Bargue's original Drawing Course and published them in 2003 in a massive, extremely well-done volume, along with the history of the course and the method of how to move through it as was done in the 19th century.
Here's some examples of the plates that make up Bargue's course:

For the first time in decades the Bargue drawing course was now available for use as a teaching tool, and, seemingly to the surprise of those at the Dahesh Museum of Art in New York (who published the book in the United States) and even the author, the book sold out within a year or two. Now I come along, in 2007, voraciously learning anything I can about classical drawing, and upon learning that this book was by far the most recommended book on classical drawing and one that is used widely in ateliers around the world, I immediately wanted to get a copy (even at its $95 price). Being out of print, the only way to get a copy was through small book stores that were selling it at a price of anywhere between $300-$1,000! So, I've been on the waiting list at the Dahesh Museum of Art for a new printing for months (probably with every atelier in the country).

Finally this Fall a second printing was completed, and I received my own copy at the end of November! The book is fantastically done, with excellent graphic design and heavy, quality paper. It's an awesome read in itself, but its use as a training method will be even more valuable in the coming years. Anyone interested in drawing, or anyone interested in art, should definitely buy a copy while they are still in print now (here or here). It's still $95, and it's worth every penny!

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Domestic Church: To "Santa" or not to "Santa"...


...that is the question. In fact, it's a question Molly and I have been wrestling with for the last 5 years, ever since our Clara came into the world. It's an interesting question, should Santa have a big place in our Christmas celebrations? Is there "magic" in Christmas for children without Santa? Is Christmas properly focused on it's subject (Christ) with Santa? I grew up with Santa, and so did Molly, and we turned out alright (I think?), so is it a big deal either way? What to do...

For the last 5 years, we've kind of done a "focus on Christ in Christmas, but still do Santa for some fun" strategy. It hasn't worked that well. We have been very successful in getting the kids to focus on Christ, even to the point that when Santa gets mentioned (usually by an extended family member) the kids kind of give a "Oh yeah, I forgot about that guy" type of reaction. We have Santa fill their Christmas stockings, but the presents under the tree are from us and not Santa. The kids don't really watch Santa Christmas cartoons either (they do have a cartoon on the life of St. Nicholas). We have celebrated the feast of St. Nicolas on the 6th of December as well, and we've sort of half-heartedly tried to claim that the Santa who comes on Christmas is really St. Nicholas (which of course is the person on which the idea of Santa is based). Santa has seemed almost a useless appendage recently, not central to our celebration of Christmas, and sort of a confusing figure for the kids. It's even more confusing when you factor in that the kids received a 5-foot tall animatronic Santa from their Grandpa one year, complete with robotic swaying and hand motions as he sings, "Oh the weather outside is frightful..." and belly laughs "Ho ho ho!" :-) Kids get really confused when you say Santa filled their stocking, and they're trying to figure out how a robot ambled off his pedestal and accomplished that feat.

This year, we've finally had some clarity and certainty in what we will do going forward. We're not doing Santa.

Before I explain this decision, I would just note that I do think this is a family by family decision. There's no one way of doing things that would fit every family. I certainly would never, never judge another family for doing Santa (again, I grew up with Santa). I do think that if a family does Santa, great care should be taken that he is not the focus of Christmas. For us, the inordinate focus on Santa that has developed in our culture is one of the main reasons we aren't doing Santa. When I'm at work, and an engineer I work with who is from India and is Hindu tells me that his family celebrates "Christmas" by putting up a "holiday tree" and exchanging gifts and having Santa Claus come, it's very clear that a separate, parallel, secular holiday has been set up in direct competition with the real Christmas (in effect, in competition with Christ). The secular assault on Christmas, such as banning the phrase "merry Christmas" and calling Christmas trees "holiday trees" is readily apparent, and we won't allow that tide to play any influence in our family. Santa himself has been a part of that separate secular holiday for a long time, and we really don't want to celebrate two parallel holidays (we have found that it doesn't work to celebrate both). The secular holiday of "Christmas" takes attention away from Christ, and the excessive materialism that goes with it is a whole other issue.

So, Christmas will be truly that in our family. As far as maintaining the "magic" of Christmas for children, the other day Clara said to me, "I'm so excited for Christmas to come because it's Jesus' birthday!" Christmas is very magical for our kids, and it's this type of magic that should be maintained. We will still have all of the garland and Christmas decorations, an advent wreath, and a Christmas tree, and some modest gifts, because these are all Christian symbols of Christ's birth. And when we move into our new home, we'll be able to have a manger scene in our chapel and decorate the chapel with the liturgical symbols of advent. And, lest I forget, we celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas on the 6th of December as we always have, giving us a chance to explain his holy life and fill the kids' shoes with candy for them to find in the morning (which is the tradition of the feast of St. Nicholas).

We hope going forward that our kids will always know that Christ is the center of Christmas, and will look forward to Christmas specifically for that reason.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Just for the record, a couple things we'll change...


Partly just to let you know, and partly just to document these so that we don't forget, here are some small items that we'd like to change about the final design.

First, we're going to have to have a way to get out the lawn mower, snow blower, and other outdoor implements of human torture... I mean labor... out of the garage. We specifically wanted only a two car garage door, because we hate large facades of nothing but garage doors. We have a three-car garage now, with double-car garage door and a single-car garage door, and the only reason we open the single door is just to get out the mower and other stuff. So why have that huge door? You could do the same thing with a much smaller roll-up door that was off to the side. So, we asked my brother for a garage that had a double-car door, and then some extra space on the side for the outdoor implements. But the small door isn't in the design yet, and I think it would go best on the North side of the garage:
My brother had originally shown the garage above with two single-car garage doors, but this would actually be a double-car garage door with both car spots toward the South of the garage, and the space shown above between the car spots would be on the North with access from that smaller door.

A second modification is the addition of a boys bathroom upstairs. The way it was depicted, there was a bathroom adjacent to the girls' room, but this is going to get pretty crowded. We would leave that bathroom as is, and add another that is smaller and just has a toilet and a stand-up shower. Probably some room would be sacrificed from the girls' room, or some combination of both the boys' and girls' rooms. My brother though this wouldn't be a problem.

One thing I think will need to change about the chapel (though I'm unsure until we get into the specific design) is the layout of the windows. I love the verticality the shape of the windows will add to the chapel, I'm just wondering about wallspace for art and other devotionals. Right now the windows seem to take up almost all of both walls. And I'm not sure if they'd need to be laid out like they are since we wouldn't want a clear glass outlook onto the surroundings anyway. Filtered light is much preferred in the chapel, or standard glass light that comes from above where the most you would see is sky but wouldn't be looking out on the surroundings. They'll be enough places to look on the surroundings elsewhere in the home, and the chapel is meant to be more interior and reflective.

Lastly, Molly would like a walk-in pantry, or at least a bigger pantry near the kitchen for food storage and easy access. Currently, there is only a smaller pantry in the kitchen, but some small space could be sacrificed from the mud room to provide extra area for a pantry. Again, my brother thought this wouldn't be a problem.

There is still a small question in our mind about whether the stairway, as it sits all the way on the South end of the home, will be easy enough access for all the traffic going up and down. For example, when kids are playing in their rooms, and Molly is in the kitchen, she'd have to walk quite a distance to monitor them. Potentially another stairway to the upper floor could be added in the basement stairwell by the garage. But, the more I think about it, I'm not sure I'd want to do this, because it wold take even more room away from the bedrooms upstairs, and having the stairway go directly into a bedroom seems odd. Still, something to look into.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Alternate floor plans...


As promised in my presentation of Scheme D, I'm including some pics of alternate ground floor and upper floor plans that my brother created for discussion. Here's an alternate ground floor plan that we didn't end up going with (and my brother didn't like it either, click to enlarge):
If you compare to the preferred ground floor plan option in the previous post on Scheme D, this one is different in that the dining area is actually contained in the kitchen, the "sitting room" is placed next to the entry and would be a guest sitting area, and the school room is over by the chapel. For starters, the school room really can't be that far away from the kitchen or it will not be used as intended. The kitchen is where most things happen for Molly and the kids on any given day, and so the school room needs to have some proximity to the kitchen or it won't be used. Secondly, since we wouldn't have a formal dining area, having the only dining area directly in the kitchen isn't great for the times when we would like to have a more formal family gathering. There's some interesting seating added to the kitchen on the East side in this scheme, but in the end the arrangement previously presented just works and flows much better.

Here's another alternate ground floor plan, which is identical to the original, preferred plan presented with Scheme D except with the addition of basement space under part of the footprint of the home (click to enlarge):
This is actually what we are going to try to go with, pending on cost and an analysis on whether the basement would be prudent given the adjacent wetland. We'd really like to have the accessible storage of an unfinished basement, and that would also provide a good spot for the home's mechanical equipment to go, and a place for the family to go in severe weather. In fact, since this is a permanent choice (i.e. there's no going back after the home is built, you don't "add" a basement later) we'll really try to make sure this happens, even if it means we have to wait on finishing the outer patio areas or covered walkway.

Here are the alternate upper floor layouts that my brother put together (click to enlarge):
And here was the original layout from last post, for comparison (click to enlarge):
The differences in the alternate layouts regard the master bedroom and the guest bedroom/nursery. In the alternate layout on the left, connection between the master bedroom and the nursery is moved to the South wall of the home and is a more defined hallway, while sacrificing closet space in the master bedroom. We didn't like this since the connection to the nursery was fine in the original layout (through the bathroom) and we really wanted the closet space). In the alternate layout on the right, the closets in the master bedroom are moved to the East wall of the home, creating two separate closets and even more closet space. We also didn't like this because it eliminated windows on the East side where the sunrise would light the room in the morning.

As always, any other ideas or feedback are welcome!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

At last... the final conceptual scheme!

This will be the mother of all posts, definitely the longest I'll ever do on this blog. It's finally here! Hot off the presses as of two days ago (Sunday), the final conceptual scheme (Scheme D) of the future home of the Koop family has arrived, and it's definitely worth the wait. I say that this is the "final" scheme because it really is just that. My brother delivered on a design that basically resolves any main issues we had with previous schemes (e.g. kitchen located far from the garage, bedroom and laundry arrangements), adds orthogonality to the design to reduce cost, and combines the best elements of Scheme C (our previously chosen favorite) with those of Scheme A and even some of Scheme B. Even better, I think there are some striking new conceptual additions that make Scheme D a slam dunk for us. So, where to begin? I'll probably just go through my brother's presentation to us, as it makes the most sense in that order.

Just as a pictorial reminder, here are the previous three conceptual schemes overlaid on to the elevation of our land (click to enlarge):
Just for reference, upward is East in the pic above. Most times upward is North when I show the site plans.

Here are a comparison of Scheme A and C in regard to their overall concept and how the main views to the wetlands, depicted by the blue triangles, were integrated (click to enlarge):

Using the image below, my brother noted that though he spent a lot of time integrating views of the wetland into the schemes, upon reflection he felt there was some views of the wooded areas that were being ignored, and these views are also valuable. His new direction was to integrate views of both the wetlands and the wooded areas, and to lay out the home to follow the red line denoting the separation between wooded area (on the left) and wetland (on the right). Essentially, the home would follow this natural boundary. (click to enlarge)

So, my brother spent some time generating a new concept sketch for Scheme D that encompasses the overall idea of the home as it follows this natural boundary:
So there you have it, that's Scheme D, hope you like it! Okay, if the above pic is not self-explanatory enough, I suppose we can get into the details.

Here's the site plan of Scheme D from above, with upwards being North (click to enlarge):
One detail in regard to the site plan that I'd like to point out is that there is a boardwalk leading out to the small grove of trees to the East, where we'd like to put a playset for the kids. It would be a cool play area and the trees would hide the playset. We also have a covenant in our neighborhood that states that any playset must be located behind the home to be hidden from the street view, and so this design accomplishes that and allows the home to still be located all the up against the wetland without having to make room for a back yard area.
An example of how a boardwalk might look...
Ours would actually traverse a narrow strip of buildable (i.e. not wetland) out to the grove of trees, which is also solid land, so we wouldn't need to get permission from the city to build the boardwalk. Still, it would likely be surrounded by tall grasses in the Summer like the above pic. I was toying with the idea of a boardwalk since far before my brother proposed it in this design, and was thinking that it would go into the wetland (needing permission from the city) and would potentially also have the stations of the cross. But I like this plan to start out and we can evaluate if we would like to extend the boardwalk into the wetland at a later date.

Alright, now for more important details, the actual ground floor plan (click to enlarge):
This is where this scheme really presents itself as a great design for our family. The kitchen is right by the garage, and a large mud room is now a piece of the design. Another development, which was actually a point of feedback from some of our readers with our previous schemes, is that we no longer have separate informal and formal dining areas. There is only one dining area, but separated from the kitchen by a partial wall so that it can be used for formal dining when necessary. This definitely saves some space, and is definitely a better solution. There's also still going to be a breakfast-type barstool area in the island in the kitchen, so this can still be used for dining in the kitchen.

Also, one can see some of the best elements of schemes A and C in this design. For instance, there is a view straight through the home and out to the wetland as one approaches the front entrance, like in Scheme C. The chapel requires a journey through the home to get to and is in a secluded area, which I liked best about Scheme A. The orthogonality of Scheme A is also evident here, which will definitely save us some money. And I love the extensive outer patio areas!

But, certainly the aspect of the ground floor plan that I like the most is the theology of the home layout. As I already noted, the chapel requires a defined movement through the home to get to, and is secluded to promote a sense of prayer. But, that movement through the home is very specifically thought out in the following way (click to enlarge)...

So the sitting room/library serves an important theological purpose in leading to the chapel.

Okay, now for the upper floor layout (click to enlarge)...
Here again, all of our feedback was taken into account brilliantly. First, there's a laundry room upstairs and all of the bedrooms are on the same level, which we desired to be close to the kids. But, our bedroom is still secluded somewhat by using a small hallway to lead to the bedroom, and by placing it on a separate "wing". This design also promotes the sacramentality of the master bedroom, as Sara Freund spoke of in her thesis, and gives the feeling that the master bedroom is a special and sacred place in the home. Another point of feedback that was implemented is that the boys' and girls' bedrooms are now laid out in a more reconfigurable manner. There are no small walls separating beds, which would prevent configuring the room as needed for the number of boys and girls we have. And check out the exterior walkway, definitely a new addition to the concept of the home. It's hard to picture how this is integrated into the home, so I'll leave that discussion to the exterior of the home. Suffice it to say, we have some new lines of attack available when checking up on kids when they are supposed to be asleep (but aren't).

There are also alternate ground floor and upper floor plans that my brother also presented, which I think I'll leave for another post. The one's I have presented above are my brother's primary choices and the one's we liked the best as well.

So let's get into the exterior of the home, starting with sketches that my brother did, developing the materiality on the exterior. This is looking Northwest from the street (click to enlarge):
It's hard to see, but the front face of the garage area is brick, connecting through to the lower part of the front of the home via the small wall containing the landscaping area in the front. So the lower half of the front of the home is brick, which then continues to cover the South face of the main volume. The exterior of the Southern "wing" of the home would be all wood. One thing to note here is that the upper floor completely overlaps the ground floor, as with Scheme B, which should save money in roof costs and exterior surface area.

Here's a sketch of the back of the home, looking Southeast (click to enlarge):
Here you can see the exterior of the chapel, as well as some of the windows on the home. Most notably, my floor-to-ceiling windows are still in there (!), though in a more limited fashion (hopefully making it possible for us to include those, as they are certainly expensive). Notably missing from the sketch is the exterior covered walkway that I've been alluding to. My brother did some renderings which represent a more finished view of the home, which is next.

Here's some exterior renderings that my brother did, starting with a top view of the site (click to enlarge):
You can already see how the home follows the natural boundary between the woods and wetlands and how it will take advantage of this aspect of the site. The windows on the South of the home (family room) will offer a view of the woods, which is a new addition to the concept. Also, I believe the home position itself is further back from the street (further East, to the right) than any of the other schemes, and I like that because it means more privacy from the street.

Here's a diagonal view looking Southeast (click to enlarge):
This is the first view of what I think is the most major addition to this scheme as compared to schemes A-C, the exterior covered walkway (which also serves as the upper floor exterior walkway on top). Here's some more renderings for better views, and note that one items not yet depicted is a hand-rail on the upper floor exterior walkway (click to enlarge)...
I can't tell you how excited I am about this addition to the concept, as it adds a distinctive feature of the home while also adding yet another very Catholic aspect to the design. This exterior covered walkway echoes what I posted about some weeks ago, the monastic cloister.
I love this echo in design. Family life truly can be monastic, both in terms of a regular order of our days, regular times of prayer, moderation in all things, etc., and this will be a cool design aspect that will be a physical sign of this reality. And we may be able to incorporate a cloister garden next to this covered walkway, or at least flowers that are typical of those gardens.

So that's it (for now). We do have a few minor tweaks we discussed with my brother that he will add in any future revision, but we can discuss those in another post. I was shocked at the lack of changes that will be needed, the design is really a home run for us. It's all a little overwhelming for Molly and I, as previously we reviewed concepts with my brother not really knowing what our final home design would look like, and in that sense the home still seemed a figment of our imagination and not something tangible. Now, we have that final picture, and it's certainly been a realization for both of us that this is basically what our home will look like. In the same breath I think we can say "yikes!" and "praise the Lord!" We have a lot of work ahead of us.