Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wrap-Up of Conceptual Schemes

If you haven't voted in the poll, here's the posts on Scheme A, Scheme B, and Scheme C. It will be interesting for us to see the results!

They'll be just a couple goals of this post: first, to briefly summarize some notes on the schemes (which will probably include a few we haven't mentioned yet), and second, to show a few more images that my brother presented with the schemes that give a preview of the direction of the materiality of the outside of the home.

When we were finished going through all three of the schemes, Molly and I sat down and typed up a list of general notes for my brother (applying to any of the schemes) and a list of likes and dislikes for each scheme. Molly and I have already gone over most of the likes/dislikes of each scheme in the posts. As far as general notes, some that we came up with (which aren't in any order) are:
  • There needs to be a pantry of some sort in the kitchen area
  • We're unsure of how a play area for the kids will fit in (where will their playthings go?)
  • Needs to be more thought about where a TV would go - not in the Family Room, not in a high traffic area, not near the entry... there should be an "act of the will" necessary to watch TV for a specific reason
  • Kids' rooms design is too rigid currently, we'd like to have the ability to move things around and rearrange
  • Upper space of garage would be good for storage if designed properly
  • Kitchen must be nearer to the garage, and near to dining areas
  • The laundry area needs to be a room, and it needs to be on the upper floor by all of the bedrooms
  • Would prefer Master Bedroom in proximity to the kids' bedrooms
  • The nursery should always be adjacent to the Master Bedroom, with a door in between (in this case, the "nursery" is where the youngest child sleeps)
My brother has been working with these notes and suggestions for a few weeks now, along with getting some idea of the relative expense of each of the schemes, in order to refine the design.

As far as design directions for the materials on the outside of the home, my brother presented a few images that scoped out some directions in that regard. First. you may have noticed a few things from the side elevations of the schemes, such as that there may be some use of vertically oriented wood. I like this idea because it's different from the norm, it recalls some native Minnesotan architecture (that I'll blog about soon), and I think it can assist with "verticality" in critical structures like the chapel. An example of this type of exterior is shown below:
This also a good example of melding a timeless design with a clean and uncluttered look, which is what I'm sure my brother gravitates towards and we like as well. I'm not saying this is the way our home will look, but its a design direction. This doesn't scream "modernism," but it's refined and simple. The pitch of the roof is also similar to many of the side elevations in the schemes. One way of having an uncluttered design is to get rid of gutters. My brother brought this up, and commented that "If a house has gutters, that's a sign that the architect didn't do his or her job," at least regarding the details (it also assumes an architect designed the home at all, which is a big assumption). A skilled architect can design in water drainage to specific areas, where water can be captured by landscaped features or routed away from the home (or dispersed). And the end result is a much less cluttered exterior.

One item you may remember me mentioning in the original post on Scheme A, is that we have to adhere to certain architectural covenants of the neighborhood, one specifically being that at least 30% of the front facade of the home must be made up of materials such as brick or stone. You can see some of the influence of this next picture on the integration of the brick wall in Scheme A, and as an example of how this material covenant might be gracefully accomplished:
Here again you can see the vertically oriented wood, now melded with a brick exterior. And also again you see a more timeless design that still incorporated an uncluttered, clean, and simple feel. And also, no gutters :-) The snow is totally Minnesota in this picture, the mountains... not so much (we can't have it all here in God's country!).

One final note, not related to exterior design, is a pic that my brother showed us as providing him inspiration for the doors for our chapel:
I remember Molly and I were both.... perplexed. After which he quickly clarified that he wasn't referring to the height of the doors, just that he thought they should be different from all of the other doors of the home, perhaps heavier and more substantial, to assist in the feeling that the chapel was a different space. This of course made lots of sense; at least we wouldn't need to work in 30-foot ceilings to accommodate these specific doors, along with a winch and steel cables to open them.


John #2 said...

Your recent posting addressed some concerns I've had about the plans.

Placing the laundry room near the bedrooms is definitely a good idea.

And a connecting door between the master suite and the nursery seems vital.

The television might be placed in the schoolroom, with some idea of it being used for education. Plan B would provide a nice niche in which to hide the TV.

The kids' rooms concern me somewhat in that you are building a very expensive home, but the dormitory style might not suit potential buyers in the future. I imagine this is not too much of a consideration, as the house is being planned for an indefinite time period to remain in the family. However, perhaps future conversions could be considered...

Your decision to not provide individual rooms seems firm, although I would always prefer my own room!

The garage placement in Plan A seems as if much backing up of cars over a long distance would be required. The drive-through idea mentioned elsewhere by you would solve that issue, perhaps. I really like entry courtyards...

Finally, the chapel: I do like the idea of important- and double- doors. I like the important "isolated" but connected chapel in Plan A. I'm thinking about having it physically seperate from the home, yet attached by a glass-hall. You'll know what I mean.

One last thought on the chapel. I am a bit dissatisfied with the height (verticality) of the chapel as it appears in the renderings of the home. I'd like something just a little more extreme, nearly a tower. And perhaps, somehow, the "natural material" covenant could be met or augmented by the stone or brickwork being used on the chapel exterior.

This is great fun, and I thank you for welcoming feedback.

John #2, will be John Curran on future postings.

Brendan Koop said...


Wow, thank you for your detailed comments. I love thinking about this stuff.

A couple things. I having quite figured out how to broach the topic of cost on the blog, and there may be no good way to do that without getting unnecessarily into that information, but I would posit that this home is probably not going to be as expensive as you think. Certainly it depends on what one's definition of expensive is, and we don't want to spend any money frivolously (for we are only its stewards). It might help to know too that though the plans are complete designs, we are talking with my brother about how we can build over time, because we might not be able to afford to do everything right away. Rest assured, though I make a decent living, I support my whole family on only my income (and we wouldn't have it any other way) and we aren't financially secure by any stretch of the imagination. (Actually, I don't think you had any of these comments in mind when you commented that the home will be expensive, so I'm mostly just documenting this for other readers, as FYI info :-)

Ah, at any rate, you are correct in that we have absolutely zero care regarding re-sale value. This is THE house for us, God willing, and barring unforseen circumstances. And even in the unfortunate circumstance that we would have to sell the home, the fact that it is designed by an actual architect and that so many features will be appealing (Catholic or not), I think it wouldn't be an issue.

And on the chapel, WOW a tower! I don't think that will work in terms of keeping the cost down. But, as far as the verticality, as of now, in the current Schemes, the chapel is the tallest room (floor to ceiling) of any room in the house in all three schemes, though it may be hard to see that this is the case (Scheme A offers the best look in the renderings). There are other parts of the house that are taller, but those are two floors high. So this does I think address verticality, not to mention that the interior of the chapel has not been designed yet. Another essential element of timeless architectural design (whether it's classical or contemporary) is proportion. We can't have a small chapel (in terms of footprint) that extends out of proportion vertically, because once you get in there it's going to seem weird. I think it needs to feel more vertical than the rest of the house to accomplish the verticality we're looking for, while still being in proportion.

As for your glass hall idea, I like it! I thought of something similar (not to take anything away from you... great minds think alike!) in regard to Scheme C, because we would like the chapel facing directly East (I'll post on that in a few days) and as it stands the chapel in Scheme C would need to be rotated slightly to accomplish this (perhaps with a little hallway separating it from the rest of the home).

Thank you!

Kate said...

Just a quick comment on the tv thing (not being very qualified to comment on the architecture, I'll leave that to my husband!).

As a general rule, I think media should always stay *in* high traffic areas, to make it easier to monitor. A good hidey-hole niche, and a non-central position (something where all the chairs would have to be moved around in order to face it) would serve the purpose of reducing the temptation to use it a lot. But putting it away in a little-used space has the unintended side effect of giving the kids somewhere to hide while watching it, which makes it hard to monitor their tv use.

Better yet is making sure the tv gets *no* reception, owning a vcr/dvd player for family night movies and educational stuff, and leaving everything unplugged/unassembled. That'll work for a few years until the kids are old enough to find all the pieces and plug everything in right - and even then they would only be able to watch the media you have available to them.

Brendan Koop said...


Yes, the only thing our kids watch are programs we own on DVD. They don't watch any broadcast TV, and we don't plan on starting that anytime soon (and we don't have cable or satellite TV). I would say that I think you can have a concealed TV AND have it be easily monitorable. The cabinets idea that Brian posted about I think is good. And our schemes, as we had asked for, are very open in floor plan, so that one can monitor lots of things from far away. I don't think we would put a TV in a nook or cranny for the reasons you mentioned. Same with a computer.


Sara Freund said...

One thought about the re-sale idea: This is a good, practical way to think; but I want to argue on the "art" end of things, which is that if this home does its job, it will A) last for the family that occupies it, perhaps through generations; B) be worth preserving for others who look at it. I think of historic Summit Avenue in St. Paul, and the uniqueness of each home--not all of which are enviable, by the way! Still, despite their having been designed perhaps with particular families in mind, the city and locals themselves consider the whole area worth preserving somehow. Lots of money has been dumped into refurbishing homes there lately as well! So, more unique is not necessarily NOT a selling point for future buyers. I like how practically you are thinking, though, John.