January 25, 2011

Design Considerations

With this renovation, we have to constantly balance these considerations:
  • Livability
  • Allergy-Friendliness
  • Preservation of Historical Characteristics
  • Within Budget (Yeah, right!)

Each of these objectives, if carry out to the extreme, is going to encroach on other goals.  Additionally, we did not know the full extent of the project until we are half-way through the process.  We wanted to change as little as possible, but toward the end, we removed all original "additions", replaced half of the 1840 walls, and rebuilt the entire roof.  Because of the changing nature of this project, we had to constantly re-evaluate the balancing of these objectives all the time. (See our earlier posts on "before" and "after" floor plans.)

1. Livability

Livability is our prime design consideration. We tried our best to make this house functional, comfortable, healthy, and pleasant (within the constraints of other design considerations).  Here is a list of ideas we tried to implement:

- Efficient kitchen - optimize the work-flow from refrigerator to sink to cooking surface to dining table back to the sink, ideally counterclockwise (it ends up to be clockwise)
- Capture the view of the backyard (the 2F east bedroom is my favorite)
- Spacious, yet cozy
- Interesting in colors and form, yet not too loud
- Larger bedrooms
- A bonus room for storage
- A functional office
- A first floor bedroom
- A room for our grand piano
- Wrap-around porch

Wrap-around porch provide a buffer zone between indoor and outdoor.  We will not feel as "trapped" in diverse weathers because of this transition zone.  It fits well for a historical house. and also makes the house more visually "stable".  The 24" eaves also serve as a buffer zone in a similar way.

Wrap-Around Porch

2. Allergy-Friendliness

This should have been part of the "livability" design consideration.  But, since it means so much to our family, this became a design consideration as important as the rest of the livability factors.  In the past, we have seen reasonable results in allergy-relief by making some adjustments in our living, such as:

   - Reducing carpets
   - Regular housecleaning, keeping bedding very clean
   - Avoiding air ducts (we used direct-vent fireplace and room heaters)
   - Running air purifiers (we like Surround Air's Multi-Tech),
   - Central vacuum
   - Proper diet, and a lot of vitamin B and C
   - Exercise

With this house we will keep doing these. No carpet will be installed, only area rugs.  We will also have central vacuum, and good ventilation (more details in future postings).  Additionally, we also made it a truly "ductless" home.

A Ductless Home - Without air ducts, heating can be done with radiant in-floor heating (running water under the floor) It is more efficient and more comfortable than traditional heating, but cooling can be challenging without air ducts.  It turns out that, with the large trees around this house, cooling without air duct is feasible.  Throughout the summer working on this house, there are only a few days when the heat (mainly humility) is noticeably uncomfortable.  In addition to utilizing the shade of the trees, we also added additional layer of ventilation space beneath the roof and behind the exterior walls (more details in future posting).  Additionally, closed cell spray foam insulation was used throughout the house, and we also added a layer of decking in the attic, creating yet another layer of ventilation. So this house is practically under two layers of ventilated roofs which are under the shade of trees.  I think, other than heat generated within the house by human and appliances, indoor should be as cool as the shaded outdoor in the summer, although there may be a couple days a year when a de-humidifier will help.

Houses with radiant in-floor heating tend to have less air movement, and are more likely to be moldy.  With that in mind, ventilation is especially important for this house (more details later).

Also, all walls and ceilings are plastered, not sheet-rocked because ... (you might have guessed) plaster is much more hypoallergenic.

3. Historical Characteristics
The house had been added and modified during the last 170 years.  We do not hesitate in removing the additions, but we tried everything we can to preserve the original portion of the house.  The original house was a rectangular hand-hewn post-and-beam structure (built like a barn).  Some of the posts and beams will be revealed.  Walls was sheathed by huge planks of wood, some out of oak and some out of softwood.  We kept the original staircase, but replaced the stair treads.  We kept the original floor joist beams, but added additional support to them.  We preserved some newspaper wall coverings and other artifacts.
Revealing the Original Posts and Beams

1 comment:

Regan Family Farm said...

Hey Ben,
I didn't know this blog existed. Josh and I had fun helping your mom paint (not as much help as we would have liked). Our favorite room was the 2f east room also. LOVE that tree. Hope you are well, and coming back "home" soon.
Mrs. Regan