The final design is extremely similar in concept to the plans produced at the end of my collaboration with John Gower but unsurprisingly a lot of details changed as the structural engineering and timber frame construction requirements were worked out. I spent untold hours working on the SketchUp model - including a lot of work with Google debugging some nasty issues to do with some of the tools - and learning to use LayOut to produce printable scaled plans and detail drawings from the model. You can download a copy of the PDF plans I generated from the SketchUp model and Layout. I’ll just proudly mention that the SketchUp guys liked these so much that they featured a copy on their trade show stand at the AIA conference.
Overall the house is intended to appear as a converted hill-barn, nestled into a hill and serenely looking out through the woodland and across the Georgia Strait towards the mainland. It’s completely timber framed, clad in SIP walls and roof panels and the foundation walls are ICF blocks.
You approach from the road below, up a rather steep curving driveway and park in front of the garage.
The entrance steps lead to a sheltered timbered porch and into a tiled foyer. If you’ve been out in the rain you need only step left into the mudroom to be able to get rid of wet boots and coats.
Heading right leads into the main body of the house and the first thing you see is the Cook’s Living Room. This is a small annexe to the kitchen proper that provides a social space centred around the process of cooking and sharing the pleasures of food. A double sided fireplace and a window seat next to bookshelves make for a cosy spot to read recipes, chat and plan menus. A combination desk and crockery hutch (or welsh dresser if you’re a Brit) provides a place for the phone and laptop to live. All the wiring is hidden in the desk along with speakers to allow the cook to listen to the BBC internet service.
The kitchen itself is not huge, since that would entail far too much distance between the main work areas. There are no upper cabinets to block the windows and a large pantry provides more and better storage space. The refrigerator is also in the pantry, which removes the need to spend money on a stainless steel unit and masks the inevitable noise they make. A small sink under the pantry window provides place to wash off fresh veggies before putting them in the fridge. There is a Double oven next to the pantry - they are often convenient when preparing meals since you can use two different temperatures. Almost all the cabinets are drawer units; how often are the spaces behind cupboard doors a nasty dark inaccessible hole? Large drawers with suitable dividers can much more conveniently store pots & pans, crockery, tools and what have you. The large bowed apron-front sink is a modern take on the traditional country earthenware sink, providing plenty of space. In the middle lives a substantial kitchen table, providing a somewhat lower working surface.
On the other side of the fireplace is the main living room, with views out across the woods and strait. You really get a lot of timber frame experience in this space, with posts and beams and rafters galore.
Behind the living room is the more formal eating space that looks out to the porch and the rear garden. Large 13ft terrace doors let the view in and let you out to sit under the shelter of the porch.
The porch is shown here with a wooden deck but will probably be built with a flagstone patio, funds and time permitting.
Next to the living spaces is the master bedroom suite, with a large walk-in closet, a bathroom and obviously sleeping space. Large windows front and rear should make the most of the views in both directions. The bathroom has a big bath under the window for lounging and a large shower at the other end.
The lower floor is a walkout basement with two guest bedrooms, a bathroom, a good size lounge/playroom, a mechanical room and a large storage area at the back. The slope allows for large windows to illuminate the lower rooms and let us put in a terrace door of similar, albeit smaller, type to the upstairs set. Even in the basement the main structure is timber framed.
I hate the idea of plumbers and electricians and heating installers cutting large holes in the structure, so the upper floor is supported on 16” open web trusses. These are stiffer, lighter and cheaper than solid dimensional lumber would be, requiring no support from the internal walls downstairs. They also have very substantial open spaces for all that wiring and piping to pass unhindered from tap to outlet.
Wiring a house can be a messy job and altering the wiring can be a nightmare. If the electrician forgets a traveller line then your 3-way switching is dead. And where do you want multi-way switching? What happens if you change your mind after living in the house for a while? Rather than fix the functionality I decided to use Insteon electronic controls; that way I can decide later to have switch in the master bedroom that turns on the ceiling fan, turns down the bedroom lights, makes sure the tv and DVR are off, locks the doors, turns down the heating level and sets an alarm for the morning.