Friday, February 26, 2016

Outdoor Living Spaces: Part 2

Site-built King Trusses create a large, open outdoor room off a small ranch house

 So, in celebration of the end of winter, we are looking at those wonderfully special living spaces some of us are lucky enough to have attached to our houses - decks, porches, patios and screened porches. We may not be able to use them right now, but once it warms up again outside, the sun shines during the longer days, and there's no more snow and ice, we will be using our outdoor rooms and loving them!

Adding a glass door and private outdoor balcony space off a bedroom
This is the second part of a series about outdoor living spaces. Click here to see the first post that talked about decks and balconies- and the photo above is another master bedroom balcony view that I should have included in the Outdoor Living Spaces: Part 1 post.

A screened porch tucked away for privacy in a village- Bonus Points for any locals who can tell me where this is!
Screened-in porches are special. They tend to be on the private side of the house, accessed by glass doors from a family room, hall, or kitchen/eating area. They have "walls" (or at least posts and screening) and a roof/ceiling to protect the space from sun and rain- but they are so different than sitting in your living room. They are truly rooms that allow one to feel protected in and yet feel like you are outside breathing the fresh air, hearing the birds or the frogs...  Different treatments can give different effects: flat ceilings vs. vaulted ceiling following bottom of roof rafters; painted wood vs. stained wood; various guard rail designs- wood/cables/low walls- or no guard rail; landscaping and stairs and doors and how it is connected to the yard...

Natural finishes, soaring ceiling, and a "repeated squares" motif for the guard rail
 Screens can also be designed to be removable, and swapped with glass panels, to extend the months one can use the space into cooler times of the year. One must be careful though, when designing a flexible space such as a sun/screen porch that the sense of being outdoors isn't taken away by too much solid wall and too little glass or screen. (There is this propensity that if something is good, it would be even better to do more of it. But lots of times a screen porch should just be left a screen porch, once you change it into a 3-season room or such, it loses all it's special outdoors-y charm and it can begin to feel just like any other room in the house.)

A screened porch with change-able screen/glass panels so it can become a sun porch
One of the cool extra benefits of a sun porch - besides being able to sit in the warm, sunshine on an early spring or late fall day- is that that sun can give the house some free solar heat gain. This is the simplest of passive solar spaces: just allowing the sun to enter through south-facing glass (yes, it is important which direction your sun porch faces!) will passively warm the space. With some designs I place this screen porch/ sun porch off a large interior space, like a living room, so that when the (french) doors are open between the house and the porch, the sun room actually adds heat to the house. This flexibility is especially wonderful in a small house- it's a free extra room for most of the year, at a much lower cost. (because remember, it's not heated or insulated - and sometimes folks think you should add those things and make it usable year-round - but then you are losing the special outdoor room! (see side note above regarding more of a good thing)

Enjoy the rest of winter! (and dreaming about the coming spring)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Outdoor Living Spaces: Part 1

Outdoor living spaces are very important to many homes in any climate. Now that it's getting toward the end of winter, and we've been stuck inside, I thought it would be fun to dare to dream about going outside to sit, read, gaze, eat, drink, and socialize again once the weather turns warm.

Pergola over Western facing deck provides some much needed afternoon shade

Outdoor spaces can allow the finished square-footage of a home to be smaller, by giving additional "rooms" - outdoor living spaces- to be used when the weather allows. Let's look at a few decks on project's I've done. Decks are the simplest outdoor space- usually made of wood (or some high-tech/ synthetic material that requires less maintenance than wood) and usually accessed by glass doors from inside, it's basically a floor for outdoor furniture and an extension of the rooms inside.

Low Deck faces west/river view and connects kitchen to yard
 Decks can have a less-confined feel when they are able to be low enough to the ground that they don't require a guard rail to meet the building code. (sometimes in this case, I advocate a stone or paved patio instead of a wood framed deck...) But even when the floor is raised high above the ground, or the exterior deck or balcony is for a second floor space, and a railing is required, decks can offer views, light, and the ability to get outside from inside - even if there is a flight of steps to reach the grass below.
Raised Deck w/ guardrail offers a view, but not an easy connection to the ground
Doors to kitchen open onto a deck for easy meals outside
A cable system guard rail can be used instead of a solid wood balusters to meet the code for a guard rail without obscuring the view. And a patio can be added at the bottom of the deck steps to continue the layers of spaces between inside and out.

Second floor balconies have a special charm, because we usually can't get outside from the upper level. Off a master bedroom, it can be really unique and luxurious to add a private outdoor space; with the side affect that adding a glass door to a bedroom (larger than a window, typically) brings in more sunlight and views for that bedroom.
Balcony for Master Bedroom above existing porch

Friday, February 12, 2016

NHND to the Mountains

The New House Next Door to the Catskill Mountains is coming along nicely. Framing is mostly complete, including lots of complicated roof lines, dormers, and one porch roof. (there will be two more porches, plus a screened porch!)

Front - south/west view faces the mountain view and sunshine

Back- north/west view shows the side porch entry and the more simple dormer across the back

 This design has the second floor located within the roof, with dormers popping up in order to have enough head room and light/windows for comfortable living space. The front dormers are the more interesting "dog house" gable dormers, or what I've called a "Nantucket" dormer, which is two dog-house dormers with a shed dormer connected between them. This Nantucket dormer is quite long, and required a steel flitch beam in order to keep the interior open space.

The kitchen and mud room are located in the single-floor area you see on the west side with the small porch. This area has what is called a hip roof, keeping it low as it wraps around the corner, allowing for second floor windows above it. The master bedroom is located on the main level in this house, which is one of the reasons the second floor could be smaller and accomplished with dormers. There is a double-height family room space (where you see the fireplace chimney, and no dormer on the back view) on the east side stretching all the way from the front to the back of the house. In the last photo, you can see right through that Family Room (and it will stay that way) on the left. (the middle windows that seem like you can see straight through, will have interior partitions and will not stay that way)

Dark photo of back/north, but included so you can see some a peek at the spectacular mountain views

Friday, February 5, 2016

Upscale Farmhouse Transformation Complete

New Family Room looking toward existing house/kitchen
Addition- New Family Room

From a blue-vinyl sided two-story, we now have a unique and beautiful custom home with soaring, sunny spaces, large interior & exterior living rooms connecting to views indoors & out, new radiant flooring, wood paneled ceilings, built-in shelving, arches, columns, & window seat, open wood stairway, all new kitchen and bathrooms, and 2 gas fireplaces.

Living Room- Before


Entry- Before
Entry- After
New Master Bedroom
New Master Bath
We didn't just tack on an addition; the look of the existing home was completely transformed inside and out. See the before and after pictures of some of the spaces that weren't in the addition. With additional roofs and over hangs, new window patterns, classy materials, and modern colors and lighting, the entire place has been given an upgrade inside and out. The functionality of the home was changed to be bright, gracious and comfortable- with a cook's kitchen, formal dining room, window seat, butler's pantry, walk-in closets, soaring first floor master suite, warm family room with fireplace, and outdoors-y screened porch and near-the-pool recreation room with bar. 

Butler's Pantry off Kitchen

New Sunny Dining Room
Lower Level Addition - Recreation Room
New Screened Porch
Now it is all done and ready for move-in day. And needless to say, we didn't completely rework the building envelope just for looks- this home is going to be efficient to power and maintain - we added continuous insulation and did a lot of air sealing under that maintenance-free Hardi siding. We also added insulation board in the basement and spray foam in the attic, ensuring all duct-work for the new high efficiency HVAC system is located in conditioned space. Energy Star windows by Marvin Integrity, and a radiant floor heat system contribute to the comfort inside. Maintenance-free synthetic decking,railing, and trim material were used. All in all, the up-keep and resource used to heat and cool this new, larger structure may not even be as much as the original house used in utilities for it's smaller area, while being more comfortable and cozy year round.

New Front (west) view
Front - Before

New Side/Partial Back (southeast) view

Side - Before