Friday, February 26, 2010

Modern vs Traditional style house

Because we really like to make things difficult for ourselves, we asked our architect to do a concept drawing of the house in a more modern style so we could compare it to the more traditional, Arts and Crafts/Prairie style.

The only problem is that we like the new concept as much as the first.

Tell us what you think.

Below is the more traditional look, with the first picture the front of the house and the second of the rear of the house. (the picture of the front of the house was provided in black and white, so I had to colour it myself, which is why the colours don't exactly match)

and below is the more modern look. First, the front of the house. We both really like the asymetrical porch that she has designed. It's a bit difficult to tell on this picture, but the porch would be covered by a flat roof with wood sticking out the front so it looks sort of like a pergola. There is a wall at the front of the porch, about 3 feet wide or so, that screens the front door from the road. This provides a place to put things like strollers, snow shoves, etc. so that they are in front of the house, but not in sight from the road. The porch would be open at the side behind the wall. The cladding is a combination of stucco and wood siding. The siding would be by a company called Maibec, and they have a 25 year warranty of their siding (which means I don't have to paint it every five years).

and here is the rear of the house. The same basic design, but different windows from the more traditional look. This more modern look would allow us to have large corner windows in the bedroom and the living room.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Wright Stuff

One of the styles of architecture that we like, and which we think our new house lends itself to, is the Prairie style. This style is usually marked by horizontal lines, flat or hipped roofs with broad overhanging eaves, windows grouped in horizontal bands, integration with the landscape, solid construction, craftsmanship, and discipline in the use of ornament. One of the most celebrated architects associated with this style is Frank Lloyd Wright, and Robie House, the house he designed in 1910 for the Robie family in Chicago, is often considered to be the greatest example of this work. / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

In designing this house, and others like it, Wright emphasized an open plan for the interior. He took the kitchen, sewing rooms and reading rooms, which were typically the domain of women in the house and hidden away at the rear of the house behind closed doors, and integrated them into the family space. The focus in the interior of the house is on the function of the family. Form then followed function. From this idea came today's open concept houses with the kitchen at the heart of the home.

Unfortunately, Wright's ideas had not been widely embraced in 1950s Ottawa, and as a result, the kitchen in our bungalow is securely ensconced at the rear of the house, through a door and down a passageway, thereby ensuring that whoever is working in the kitchen is separated from the rest of the family.

From the outset, we emphasized Wright's principles of interior design to our architect. Everyone knows that if you have a party, everyone ends up in the kitchen, so the kitchen must be at the heart of our renovated bungalow. You can see from our architects plans that she has done that, placing the new kitchen right smack in the middle of the house with excellent sight lines to all of the public spaces in the house.

On the exterior, I like Wright's emphasis on strong horizontal lines and the use of natural materials like wood and stone. As I mentioned, we already have a hipped roof with no gables, so the house already lends itself to the Prairie style. I also like Wright's idea of concealing the front door so that it cannot be easily seen when looking at the front of the house. This gives a sense of privacy and security, which is important when the interior plan is so open.

We have not yet seen our architects concept drawings for the front or sides of the house, but she knows our influences, so I am looking forward to seeing what she comes up with. In fact, today our architect, Linda Chapman, was featured in an article about the Prairie style in the Ottawa Citizen. The house shown below, which she designed, is showcased in the article. With its deep roof overhang, natural stone exterior and square columns, the house pays homage to Frank Lloyd Wright.

Interestingly, today's Citizen also ran a story about how major subdivision developers are starting to pick up on the Prairie style. Urbandale, for example, is marketing its new Horizon Collection of townhomes to be built in Kanata. Urbandale says that they are modeled on Wright's timeless classic, Robie House, although I would say its a fairly conservative take on Wright's house. Still, Urbandale says they have not revamped the exteriors of their townhouses since the '80s, and it was time for a new, fresh look. I find it interesting that they went with Prairie style. I am wondering if this will be the next trendy style in Ottawa as people start to feel that Modern is overdone? We'll see. Maybe we will be trend-setters with our house.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Five more examples of Modern Architecture in Ottawa

If you read my previous post on 10 examples of Modern Architecture in Hintonburg and Westboro, or the latest edition of Ottawa Magazine, you will know that the Modern style is seeing a resurgence in new residential infill developments in Ottawa.

In this post, I provide five more examples of Modern Architecture, mostly from in and around the Glebe, including two houses that show that this style has been around for a long time.

First is this house at 716 Golden Avenue, near Westboro. Built in 1975, the entire house is clad in brick, rather than the corrugated galvanized steel seen on so many Modern houses built today. If your interested, this house is currently up for sale by the original owner for a cool $1.1 million. For a short time, at least until it sells, you can check out the real estate brochure to see pictures of the inside.

Now over to the Glebe.

Freen House at 5 Clemow Avenue is not only one of the best examples of Modern Architecture in the city, it is also testament to the fact the despite its name, Modern Architecture dates back to the first half of the 1900s. Originally built in 1958 in the Modern style, architect John Donkin went to work on it in 2006 re-cladding the exterior and adding tons of new windows to vastly improve the connection to the outside. He also gutted the 2200 square foot interior to create what the owners describe as fluid spaces that are open to interpretation. Below you can see pictures from both before and after the renovation. The total budget for this renovation in 2006 was $435,000 - under $200 per square foot. If you would like to see more pictures of the inside of Freen House or read about this project read Capitalizing on the basics on the Canadian Architect website, or visit John Donkin's website.

Further south in the Glebe, there are a number of newer houses in the Modern style. Close to Freen House are these newly built semi-detached houses 171 First Avenue.

This house at 135 Glen Avenue was built in 2009.

And here is another at 341 Sunnyside Avenue.

I have updated my map of the locations of these Modern style houses in Ottawa. It's a bit too far on foot to visit all these houses in one day, but it might make for a great Sunday afternoon bike tour once summer arrives.

Designing a mud room

Here are some ideas for what our mudroom off the front foyer could look like. I like the hooks and bench, but another idea is to have a set of four cubbies (just like they have at daycare for the kids). That way, each member of the family gets his or her own cubbie in which to store their coats, mitts, gloves and boots. Whatever we do, it will be essential to have draws down near the floor so that the kids can put away and retrieve their mitts and hats. The high cupboards that you see in these pictures are not much use to 3-year olds.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Putting a wall on the kitchen island

Here are a couple of model pictures to show what the kitchen island would look like with a 12 inch high wall on the dining room side.

3D view of the main living areas

Once again, with Google Sketchup (man I love that program) I was able to quickly put together this 3D rendering of the main living areas of the house.

3D model of our latest house design

Thanks to the magic of Google Sketchup, I was able to create this rather rough 3D image of the most recent house design.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Designing our new kitchen

So as we go about designing our new kitchen, we have one small but nagging question yet to resolve.

As you will have seen from the plans, we have an island in the kitchen. The question is, do we put a raised shelf on the side of the island facing the dining room or not (see examples below)? If we do, then cooking clutter in the kitchen could be hidden from view during dinner, but if we don't, we get the widest possible work surface, which could be great for tasks such as rolling out dough.

What do you think?

Monday, February 15, 2010

Inspiration for the exterior cladding for our bungalow

Some of the inspiration for the exterior cladding of our renovated bungalow in Ottawa comes from homes like these below. The styles and colours of these homes are quite different, but they are characterized by a mix of stone and either stucco, siding or brick cladding.

This first house is considered by some to be a characteristic example of the Prairie Style of architecture with a hipped roof that juts out far over the walls and no gables. Clean, horizontal lines are the dominant architectural feature with a pronounced use of natural materials.

The house below was designed by our architect. She used a brown stone at the base with a dark green/brown stucco and an accent of red along the top of the wall. She then brought this inside this house using the same stone for the fireplace and for the base of support beams, which themselves were made of the same wood as the beams on the porch.

This prairie style house uses a grey-coloured stone on the front. They have also used a more modern style window, unlike the Arts & Crafts style window proposed by our architect for our bungalow.

This house designed by another Ottawa architect uses a light-coloured rough stone cladding on the front of the house and stucco on the sides and rear of the house in the same colour. The wood of the porch and soffits provides contrast.

Here is an Arts and Crafts style house with a large grey coloured stone that goes quite high up the wall combined with a beige/light yellow stucco and greenish trim.

And here are a few more colour combinations:

Finally, here are some combinations that use a smooth stone on the bottom. Some of these homes use brick on the top, but I think it is unlikely that we would do the same.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The inspiration for our terraced patios

Our architect immediately envisioned terraced patios leading down into the back garden when she first saw our bungalow. Inspired by her vision, I started to look for examples of her ideas and found this great home.

The house shown below has a walk-out basement into a large back garden. On the far side, above the retaining walls, are a series of terraced patios.

In the two photos below you can see the patios in more detail with different furniture arrangements. The patio under the pergola with the fireplace comes off the kitchen. The closer patio, which is a couple of steps down, comes off the living room (to the left through the french doors)

The picture below is taken from the reverse angle, with the camera positioned on the patio coming off the kitchen and looking down toward the patio coming off the living room.

The picture below shows the view to the garden from the patio off the living room:

And this picture shows the patio outside the living room as seen from the garden:

As you can see, these are not huge patios, but by changing the level, they created two very nice areas that can function as outdoor rooms in summer.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Revised concept drawings for our renovated bungalow

Woohoo! Today we met with our architect and she showed us the revised concept drawings for our renovated bungalow in Ottawa.

We'd like to thank everyone who commented on the earlier draft drawings for their great suggestions. You helped reaffirm many of our thoughts about the drawings and offered some great new ideas. We think you will find many of your suggestions incorporated into this latest set of drawings.

Quickly, here is what we told our architect about the previous options she proposed. We said we liked the main floor of Option 1 with the lower level of Option 2. However, on the main floor, we wanted to have a mud room off the foyer, expand the kitchen to significantly increase the counter space, and make the kids' bedrooms bigger. We also heard what many of you said about having a powder room on the main floor right next to the kids' bathroom. So, we gave that up in favour of having a larger kids' bathroom. We also asked her to add what we call a "communications centre" by the foyer. This is a space with a small counter for an iMac computer, plus a bulletin board, cubbyholes for mail, hooks for keys, a calendar, etc. We also liked the suggestion to put the laundry room on the main floor, but there was just no room to do so without sacrificing something else, so it is staying in the basement.

On the lower level, the play room has expanded because the bedroom above has been bumped out a couple of feet and the area under the terrace outside the kitchen will be excavated to create an office. In theory, this could also become a media room or even another spare bedroom.

When we looked at these new plans, we really couldn't think of too many changes that we would want to make. There are a couple of things, like making the island in the kitchen a bit bigger and putting a wine fridge underneath it, as well as moving the door for the master bedroom ensuite bathroom to the little hallway rather than leading directly from the bedroom. On the lower level, we have asked for double doors leading into the office and to increase slightly the size of the laundry room so that there is more room for drying racks.

Our Architect also provided us with a proposal for the look of the rear of the house. There is a terrace leading off the kitchen with a pergola over it. If we grow grapevines on the pergola in summer, it will keep the terrace and the house cool and remind us of the farm in Chile, while in winter the leaves will fall off the vines, allowing sunlight to stream into the master bedroom and kitchen/dining room. This terrace leads to another terrace, set down a few steps behind the family room creating a quiet, partially enclosed space with great views to the back garden. From here, steps lead down into the back garden.

For the style of the house, she has gone with a modern take on the Arts & Crafts style. The lines are more simplified than Arts & Crafts, more similar to Prairie style, which is what we originally suggested. We may ask to see a conceptual drawing of a more modern style of exterior, just to compare. We are hoping to partially clad the house in stone with stucco on the rest, but it will depend on the budget. We may have to go with stucco only. Either way, a new layer of blue foam insulation will be added to the outside of the home all the way around and the stucco or rock cladding put on top of that, which will significantly increase the insulation value of the home.

We told our architect that we will send her any additional comments that we may have by the end of this week. If you have any comments or suggestions we'd love to hear them. Feel free to leave a comment.

For comparison, here is what the rear of the house currently looks like: