Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cost-saving "cool"...


In the course of my expansive travels on the internet looking for insightful home design ideas, coupled with my recent homebuilding reading (see sidebar near the bottom for good books), I came across one design idea which my brother has already incorporated in the design. It's a fireplace with an exposed flue. My original thought was that brick would encase the fireplace flue on the roof of the home, and that this would be carried down through the interior. However, brick is expensive, and it would have been expensive to surround the fireplace and flue with brick. A few of the books I read recently cited an exposed flue as a cost-saving measure, and I really liked the look from the pictures I saw. Luckily, Molly really liked it too! (I wasn't too sure she would, so I was pleasantly surprised). Here's a few example pics:
An exposed flue does a few things in terms of design, in my opinion. It adds metal to the design "palette" of the interior, it's unexpected so it adds interest, it's a contemporary look that won't go out of style due to it's simplicity, and... well, it's cool. AND it's less expensive. You can't go wrong there. We'd really like to do something like the last pic above, by having a concrete fireplace surround. Decorative concrete is definitely one of the coolest materials now being used in home construction (and retail construction), though it can get a little expensive. We'd like to use it for kitchen countertops as well, but again the expense will have to be checked.

I modeled my own vision of our fireplace in the family room in a pic I posted previously:
The fireplace is a "see-thru" model, so that it is usable on the other side of the wall in the small library. The flue would be exposed only on the family room side, but the fire can be seen on either side of the wall. I was just playing around with the model, but my brother will integrate this more formally in our home plans soon.

Another idea I came across was an incredibly cheap way to do a cool wood floor. It sounds cringe-worthy at first, but it actually is being used in a few architecturally designed homes (for clients who are penny pinching). It's a plywood floor. Typically this takes the form of plywood squares pieced together via tongue-and-groove joints (milled in), where the plywood consists of sandwiched layers of wood (with grain, not little wood chips). It can be done for somewhere around $2 per square foot, and the look, again, is unexpected and interesting. A few examples:
We're considering it, especially since one of the general contractors we are interested in actually installed the floor in the bottom pic. In any case, it's definitely a low-cost option for anyone considering wood flooring.


John Curran said...

Love the exposed flue.

The plywood flooring just screams 'subfloor' to me though. The first photo of it has a better finish, perhaps? The second photo looks just awful.

I suppose like anything else it can be done well! Perhaps if the squares are not too large the look would be less like half sheets of plywood.

Brendan Koop said...

I don't know, I kind of like the plywood floor with the "square" look. Once it's polyurethaned and finished, I think it probably looks pretty good. We may be able to see this floor (bottom pic) sometime in the future before we make any final decisions. We definitely are still considering standard wood plank floors, it's just a matter of cost.

Molly Koop said...

I think the key for me with the "square look" is that the two tones of wood would have to be closer together in color. I really don't like the stark contrast pictured here. And again, with a nice finish it could look much different (right now the picture looks dusty, etc). I think we'll be going with darker wood tones anyway.

Therese Z said...

I only cringe at the thought of a child throwing a ball or a frisbee at that exposed flue. One dent and you're sunk.....even the nicest child can lose his or her head and throw a ball in the house!

Molly Koop said...

Ummmm. We just had such an incident. No matter how many times I say "No golf" or "no football in the house" Brendan still thinks it's a fun evening activity. I'm not kidding.

Brendan Koop said...

An exposed flue like those pictured would be stronger than you might think. Simply as a mechanical engineer, it would take some significant force to dent a cylindrical tube like that (and flues are usually fairly thick metal). A ball or frisbee wouldn't do it. If you hit it with a bat, maybe. So I think it would be fine to continue playing football and golf in the house :-) Maybe we'll have to ensure a nerf ball is used in every case!

Anonymous said...

Brendan and Molly, are you installing a wood burning or gas fireplace? Dave and I have had woodburning for 9 years and love it.

I was browsing once and found a fireplace site that is interesting. First I will list a sub site which talks about fireplace placement. http://www.woodheat.org/chimneys/evilchim.htm
Kristi Landis

PS Thank you very, very much for judging at our State Debate Tournament. It takes many volunteers to put a tournament together and we are grateful for your generosity!

Brendan Koop said...

Hi Kristi! We are planning on a woodburning fireplace. We have one now and use it often, and there's something about the "reality" of wood that beats gas hands down. I do sometimes get drawn to the ease of gas, but the types of fireplaces with the fake logs are what really turn me off.

Thanks for inviting me to be a debate tournament judge, it was a great experience and I'd love to do it again. The kids were amazing!