Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Remodeling Our Hut Part 5: The ONE Thing(s)

As we continue to work on house plans for our modest remodeling project, I think we may be driving our plan designer just a tad insane.

  We bought our own design software and it has been a wonderful help for us, but the fact is, we're not architects or designers and we overlook the problems she can see.   We've been through at least four of the designer's revisions already and I'm sure there's more to come.  

In her last email, she urged me to actually decide on something, "So my advice, is to find the one thing in addition/remodel you can't live without...what's the one thing that we absolutely need to do and then let everything else fall in place around it."

Well, she's right, I have to concentrate on The One Thing.  Which would be?  Ummmmm.....the mudroom? 

But just as the thigh bone's connected to the knee bone and the knee bone's connected to the shin bone etc., so the mudroom is connected to the kitchen and the kitchen's connected to the dining room and, well, you get it.  It's all connected.  And six inches here or there makes a big difference in a small home.

In a way, this whole process is reminiscent of a poker game, only with higher stakes. 

Designer: 'I'll see you one closet in the mudroom but I'll raise you by losing your countertop space in the kitchen'.  

Us: 'I'll see your lost countertop space and raise you by moving the stove closer to the sink.'   

Everything is a trade off when square footage is at a premium.  We can't figure out how to put a nook in the tiny room that will look the way we'd like and still see the silly garden, so we've given up on playing nooky and are on the search for other options.  

After mulling the plans over endlessly with our friends (aren't you glad you don't have to listen to ALL of this?  Our poor friends......) I finally sent our last revision to the designer late last night.   Now we wait and see how this hand plays out.

None of the homes we've toured have been the size of ours.  I'm sure there are other new homes in the 1500 sq. ft. range still being built out there, but let's face it, they don't make it to the elite 'Showcase of New Homes'.  For the contractors, I suppose it would be like entering a Shetland pony into the Kentucky Derby; after all, you want to impress potential clients with your skills, not have them smirking. 
(By the way, what happened to the Tiny House Movement?  Apparently around here, it didn't catch on.)

The open concept is still the Thing to Have right now.  Almost every home is the same layout, the kitchen with an island and seating, a dining room table next to the island and the living room beyond.

 Though the beige couch above looks lovely, what happens when a toddler launches a spoonful of Spaghettios in that direction?

The picture below is sort of what our kitchen and casual dining area might look like, but again, this house is way bigger than ours.  I may have an island, but there won't be a sink on it because I will need the space.  

I guess what I'm struggling with here and with almost all of the open concept homes is the 'openness', for lack of a better word.
When I walk into any of these new homes, what do I see? 


The vast spaces are impressive, true, but boy, I'd better be able to keep everything neat and tidy at all times if I lived in a house like this.  There's something to be said for having a little mystery.  (And rooms with doors that can be closed.)

Oddly enough, the biggest home on the tour in my earlier post, came in at a whopping 6009 sq ft (don't forget about those nine feet!) and with all of that space, had dedicated rooms for dining and living room separated by walls.  Even though it was a mansion, the rooms felt cozier.

I have been a fan of Sarah Susanka for years.  She is the author of 'The Not So Big House' and many other excellent books on the same topic.  In one of her articles she described meeting with the owners of a large new home who were unhappy.  They had built a McMansion, I guess, and though the views and room sizes were impressive, living in it was definitely not as pleasant as they'd hoped.  It didn't feel homey.  She also observed a party she'd attended in another grandiose home and found that most of the people would congregate in the kitchen, which was coincidentally, the smallest room in the public area with the lowest ceilings.   

It's the way we humans are, we crave shelter.  Little children love tents or possibly best of all, the big cardboard boxes appliances come in.  There's something comforting about a sense of enclosure.

I liken architecture to garden design.  Though we're not award-winning garden architects by a long shot, we borrowed a lot of their philosophies when we built this random plant menagerie of ours.  Carl had the idea of garden rooms in his head when we first planted the evergreens in a series of circles in 1980.  (We always called it our very own Three Ring Circus.) 

I'm very glad he had the foresight and the vision, it is always good to have a sense of mystery of what will be found around the corner.   The picture below is a satellite view of our insanity, taken last spring, I guess, since the apple trees around the dome in the formal garden are in bloom on the left.

 When I weed around here, I simply follow the sun around, if it gets too hot in one place, just haul your weed bucket to the shade.  And when people come to visit, they can't see the whole shebang at once, there's always just a small vista to draw the eye.  (And a place for me to hide stuff we're working on.) 

Though the open concept is bright and airy, there's nowhere to hide in this floor plan.

In this article, Ms. Susanka shares everything I'm hoping for our remodel to accomplish as we both grow older here at the hut.  

I guess there's not really just One Thing after all, it's a whole bunch of things that all boil down to one Big Thing.

Aging in Place is Everything. 


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Great post Karen. We moved into this 'tiny' house, in 1973. It is 675 sq. ft. Bigger homes mean more to clean, heat and cool. I had a young lady over for a visit recently and she said my place is 'old-fashioned' but she loves it. I said, "it certainly isn't modern". I am the dishwasher and my wet laundry gets hung out on lines to dry. There is a nice Friedrichs window unit a.c. that works great in keeping this place cool. Living in s.e. FL, I haven't used my heater in two winters now.

The cottage sits on 1/4 of an acre with 3 outbuildings built to code and passed all inspections. It all seems a bit overwhelming to me without my dear Mark here with me, but I keep plugging away, doing the best I can.

I enjoy my flowering plants, shrubs and trees, lots of butterflies and birds. The scents are wonderful as are the colors.

I am thankful the cottage is small, at my age, 70 on the 20th, as I don't have the energy, or strength, or motivation for that matter, to handle what I have and to think of a larger place would be very daunting indeed. I pray for strength and all that I need to age gracefully and the ability to take care of this place.

May your plans come to fruition, and soon. You will be glad when it is all done and you can get back to living each day, creating and gardening together.

Love you sweet friend ~ FlowerLady

outlawgardener said...

Aging in place is a good thing. Your hut makeover will be fabulous once it's done.

Betsy said...

I thought I may like the open concept until I visited my friend who has one.
I am not a fan of it and need my space alone if need be. I like being able to close off doors.
Aging in place, I like the sound of that. We need to do some age friendly makeovers at our home.

chavliness said...

The large homes you visited look fabulous. Fit for a magazine, but not always fun to live in. Just like runway shows, the clothing they present are, for the most part, meant to inspire. I am not a fan of the open concept and I'm happy to see I'm not alone in this. There is a happy medium which I know you'll eventually reach, and come up with a design that works for you and Carl.
I like seeing the Google picture of you property. I never before had a sense of it, how everything is laid out. It's heart shaped and looks like an owl; how fun. Where is the chicken coop located?

Anonymous said...

Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear." She put the shell to
her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched
her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but
I had to tell someone!

Garden Fancy said...

Karen, seeing the overhead shot of your garden design is really interesting! I had no idea that your garden was designed in that way, with the concentric circles. You should show those shots more often (get drone shots if you can). I'm glad you aren't moving -- but getting a refresh is a wonderful. It's hard to go through the process (and live through the construction), but when it's done you'll be so happy with the results. Best of luck! -Beth

chavliness said...

The floods in your part of the country are devastating. I think of you often and hope you and your family are safe.