Archive for December, 2010
Rootedness, simplicity, coziness, tradition, home. All these words describe the fascination for European cottage home plans in this glitzy, alienated, modern age. For people who don’t like the idea of living in a cold, inhuman, ranch-style box, the romance of country living in a simpler age has infinite appeal. Originally, during the Middle Ages, cottages were the typical dwellings of farm workers and their families. The word “cottage” meant the home of a cotter, or tenant farmer, who worked on a large manor for a lord. Early cottages were not just small, stand-alone houses but also complete farmhouses with a small yard and a barn for animals. Later on, during the industrial revolution (from the eighteenth century onwards), workers would be housed in miners’ cottages or weavers’ cottages. Cottages were often built of stone with thatched roofs.
Nowadays cottages are often used as summer or weekend getaways – often by lakes or the seaside – by urban dwellers seeking to escape the noise and rat race. They are often built as rental properties in popular tourist areas. But usually when people think of a cottage they mean a rural dwelling in the traditional English country cottage house plans style with stone or stucco siding, asymmetrical lines, one-and-a-half stories high, and with hip roof and steep gables – the overall impression being a cozy, storybook appearance. This style of architecture became quite popular in the United States between the 1890′s and 1940′s. Interiors, because they are small, can give a cluttered but utterly functional appearance, with artistic niches and nooks, and knick-knick decor. Cottages are designed for a relaxed, simple lifestyle – places to come home to, kick off your shoes, and flop on the furniture. They are not designed to impress other people, but to make their owners feel good. Cottage living often involves gardening, and most cottage owners spend their weekends and vacations outside in their backyards, digging in the dirt and growing flowers and vegetables.
Although the traditional English style of cottage is most typical in America, cottages can be built in a variety of styles depending upon location and the builder’s tastes, ranging from Spanish house floor plan designs of the Southwest, which typically have single stories, stucco exteriors, and tile roofs; to Cape Cod cottages which are usually box-like, timber-framed structures two-stories high, with steep roofs to shed rain and snow. In fact, cottages – by which is meant small, asymmetrical, (usually) rural dwellings of one or two stories and stone, brick, or stucco exteriors, come in a large variety of architectural styles. European-type cottages can incorporate design traits from Tudor, Georgian, French, and Italian architectural styles, with open rooms and high ceilings, fireplaces, and even luxurious elements such as gourmet kitchens, formal dining rooms, private master bedrooms, and French doors. What all cottage styles have in common is their livability – their human scale and design for relaxing, unstressful enjoyment of life.
If your renovating your home or perhaps building a new one, you should strongly consider placing your laundry room adjacent to the bedrooms on the same floor. It seems that approximately 90% of the laundry is generated on that level. Bed linens and dirty clothes are the most commonly washed items and an occasional throw rug can always be carried upstairs if need be from time to time.
In a two story house, it is especially desirable as many housewives can truly attest too. Climbing up and down stairs carrying heavy clothes baskets can be murder on the back and legs. Placing a laundry room in the basement which builders did for years, is out of the question today.
A five foot by seven foot room is just a large closet but can accommodate both a washer and dryer either side by side or stacked units. This leaves plenty of space for a nice set of wall hung cabinets and a folding table. If you iron clothes, the room can be slightly larger or use a wall mounted ironing board that folds up when not in use. There are also wall mounted irons available today that save space and can be left in a wall holder when not in use.
Although not critical, a window is always desirable but with or without a window an exhaust fan is a must. Excess moisture can cause mildew to form on the walls, causing both a health hazard and mold stains on the painted walls. I use smooth faced mylar paneling which is easy to clean and takes a great deal of abuse over time. The floor needs to something easy to clean as well. Using either twelve inch or twenty-four vinyl tiles makes installing the flooring easy to do and the care of the floor quick and easy as well.
Any laundry installed today should have a plastic drain pan placed under the washing machine. These pans come with a drain outlet that can be connected to a sewer line. In the event of an accidental overflow of the washer, the water is safely sent down the sewer line and not onto the floor surfaces. A sewer trap must be installed as well to prevent any sewer gases from backing into the house. The pans are inexpensive and can save thousand of dollars in water damages.
Another must is the use of metal clad burst proof hoses. Old rubber hoses can break and will usually do so when your not home of course. Burst proof hoses are a bit more but the extra peace of mind they provide are well worth it.
Cabinets-You may get as fancy or as plain as you wish. Open shelving is also a possibility but clutter quickly becomes unsightly. Good solid cabinets with a melamine finish offer good long life and a very easy to clean surfaces as well. A simple wipe down keeps them like new. I suggest using as light a color as possible to keep the room light and airy. Soap, softener, lint removers and so on can ll be stored out of sight and if you can afford a larger cabinet, toilet paper rolls, tissue boxes and towels and so on can all be stored there as well.
Lighting-People often skimp with the lighting as it is “only” a laundry room. A good quality double tube four foot fluorescent fixture provides lost cost lighting that will light up a five by seven room quite well. Incandescent or recessed lighting can be used but the added cost is really not necessary. Florescent lamps last a good long time and running cost are lower than incandescent bulbs. Make sure the fixtures in any case are placed so they do not cast or create a shadow when you are working in the room. The is often overlooked but will be quite evident if your trying to iron or sort clothes in a dark shadow. There also many many CFL fixtures available now that are small (less then 3 inches in diameter) and cost very little to operate. A sixty watt CFL provides sixty watts of light but consumes only 12 watts of power for example. Many are directional as well for task lighting. Take a good look before you buy and think about long term savings.
Outlets-All outlets in your laundry should be Ground Fault Interrupter type. You will need one behind the washer and dryer units, one by the ironing board and at least one additional convenience outlet at the standard eighteen inches above the floor for vacuuming or other cleaning chores. With a little care in planing you should be able to cross between the cabinets, washer/dryer and the ironing board without crossing a power cord. Accidentally pulling a hot iron off the ironing board and on the floor or your foot is no fun.
If you have a large family and a good deal of laundry and ironing, installing a cable TV outlet can also provide some added down time while you work. Standing in a laundry room for an hour with no TV or radio can be a drag to say the least. You also may want to consider purchasing a rubber mat to stand on while you work. There are many specialty mats available and may save a great deal of stress on your legs and feet.
Laundry baskets-Keeping open top laundry baskets within sight of the door helps train kids (and hubby) to toss dirty clothes into a hamper and not on the bedroom floor. This of course helps Mom or whomever is in charge of the laundry chores, perform the task quicker and easier. You may hope for a color clothes and a white clothes basket but that may be far beyond the kids (or again the hubby’s) abilities. At least all the dirty clothes will be in one place.
Keep your paint colors bright and cheery for walls and ceilings. A good quality washable paint with mold preventer added can again help provide a good long life of your new laundry room.
Log cabin living is a part of the western American lifestyle, and belongs to the local scenery as much as the high, snow-covered peaks and wandering rivers of the Rocky Mountains. Rustic log home plans are made from that most natural of all building materials – logs – and so they accent the surrounding environment instead of sticking out from it. It is surprising how many other parts of the country find this style of construction attractive, and it is not just the United States which has a love affair with them. Actually, the world leader in innovative design techniques is Finland, and they are quite popular in Japan, South Korea, and Holland. One of the great advantages is flexibility of construction possibilities. People often think only of stacked log walls, but there are many other cuts, styles, and variations possible. There are two basic kinds of log homes – handcrafted and milled (manufactured).
The most common style of logs are D-logs, in which they are uniformly milled down their length with one flattened side, which leaves the cross-section in a D-shape. The flat side is turned towards the interior of the home, which creates a flat surface for the interior walls. Another common style of affordable log home plans employ round-on-round, or double-D logs, in which both sides are left rounded. This style is often used for Swedish Cope-type stacked logs, and for the double tongue-and-groove stack. Another popular choice is square logs, such as are found in New England-style with their square logs chinked between each other. Nowadays square ones don’t have to have a weather-beaten look, as their predecessors did; square ones can be treated with high-quality sealants which sustain their original color. Handcrafted log homes are also very popular, with the handcrafted logs ranging between 12″ and 15″ in diameter. The varying widths and rounded profiles give these homes uniqueness and character, with rustic features such as knots and scarring which linger from the time when it was still a living tree. Hand-hewn log homes, or Appalachian-style square beam homes, are another type of handcrafted home. One defining feature of handcrafted homes is the absence of machine cuts. Instead, all of the logs are shaped by hand. They can be squared with ban saws, and antique tools – such as mattocks – can be used to leave ridges uneven. There are free log cabin house plans available which highlight this style, which commonly use dovetail corners and chinking to seal the house.
The green-house effect is everywhere these days. You just can’t escape the news about how important it is to save energy with efficient appliances and a house that is well insulated-and that’s a good thing. But the simplest and most effective way to reduce a home’s energy usage in the long run is to reduce its size from the outset. A shrinking energy bill is just for starters: The need for fewer building materials, less land, and less maintenance is a significant by-product of building smaller houses.
More and more of my clients ask whether a small house can work for them. They’re concerned that it won’t have enough room for family and friends on holiday visits or that it will just seem cramped. The reality is that a small house doesn’t have to appear nor feel small. By using thoughtful and innovative design techniques, a small house can be made to seem larger and more gracious than its actual dimensions.
On these pages are ten guidelines that can be used to expand the perceived size of a small house. They comprise an overall approach that will yield a house that is both practical and excellent. To be successful, a small house also should be straightforward, with simple architectural forms and construction techniques, quality materials, and careful detailing. Quality feels better than quantity, while spirit and personality bring a house alive.
1. Design an outdoor room
What you build outside the house can have a major impact on the way your home feels inside, especially if you make a roomlike space and connect it properly to the house. This outdoor space should have a definite boundary such as a stone wall, a fence, shrubs, a deck railing, or adjacent structures. It needs to be easily accessible from inside the house and to be linked to the interior by consistent materials, floor patterns, overhangs, plantings, and large doors and/or windows. An element such as an outdoor fireplace or an arrangement of table and chairs also can give this space an interior connection.
The outdoor room should be a bit bigger than the largest room in the house. I typically like to use spaces that are about 11⁄4 to 11⁄2 times as big as the largest room. Ideally, the outdoor room should have an area that is hidden from view, creating a bit of mystery and tempting a visitor to explore. Leave guests with a sense that there is something more to discover.
2. Invest some space in transitions
By using transitions, you can emphasize distinct realms in a house. Transitions range from portions of the floor plan such as stairs, hallways, and balconies, to details such as thick thresholds, substantial columns, overhead beams, and lowered ceilings. You can use these architectural elements to create a sense of mystery and a process of controlled discovery, enhancing the sense that there is more to the house than immediately meets the eye.
Although it might be tempting to remove square footage from entry and circulation spaces, it is more important to be generous with these areas. Doing so will create the sense that you are living in a bigger house.
3. Use contrasts in light and color
Natural light is a wonderful way to enhance a sense of spaciousness. Bring light into the house by using large windows, skylights, and clerestories. Interior spaces without exterior walls can borrow light from other areas via transoms, French doors, or interior windows. I try to design every habitable room in a house to have enough natural light so that artificial light is unnecessary during the day.
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