House Diary #3 – Sketches

This is a third in a series of posts about the process of building a house on Pender Island. If you’re just joining us, you may want to read the first and second entries before this one.

We recently got a series of sketches from John, our architect. These were the first drawings he’d done–really just starting points to foster further discussion and narrow our options. In theory, John has parsed and processed our site visit, conversations, questionnaire answers and his observations, and distilled it into an approximation of the house we might like.

John presented the sketches without a lot of interpretation or recommendations. He explained how they worked, and the general ideas, but left them with us to mull over. I appreciated this–it enabled me to turn my largely uninformed eye to them without a lot of preconceptions.

To begin, John proposed that we put a single-car garage (we really hope to stay a one-car family) a good distance–60 or 70 feet away from the main house. The two buildings would be connected by a walkway, built with a retaining wall into a slope of the land.

Top View

Southwest View

This appeals to me at some fundamental level. Our property is on Hoosen Road, a typical rural BC road. It’s densely lined with tall cedars, and the walls of green are only occasionally interrupted by narrow driveways. Our driveway is one of these. Turning into it, the trees close in as you mosey another eighty or a hundred yards to the proposed site of the garage. With this layout, you’d have a final green-walled leg to your journey as you walked up to the house.

In terms of the main house, our architect provided three options to work with–two narrow, two-floor designs and a squarer, three-floor floor plan. We immediately rejected the three-floor option. We want big, airy rooms, and splitting our limited square footage between three floors seemed counter-intuitive. Plus, our house in Malta had five floors (though it probably wasn’t 1500 square feet). Vertical distance feels different from horizontal distance, and I see no need for more than the minimum number of stairs. This is also a minor consideration for resale. We’d likely be selling to an older couple, and they’d probably want fewer stairs.

The ground plans that follow are from the two-floor design we prefer. We’ve got changes in mind, certainly, but our architect has done a great job of capturing and responding to our requirements.

Possible Profile

Main Floor

Lower Floor

Some notes on aspects of the design that appeal:

  • The pathway ends with a kind of tunnel that runs through the house to a terrace or deck on the far side. This invites visitors to meander through to check out our view before they even enter the house. This extends the gradations of public and private space that begins back on Hoosen Road. You’re on our property, ‘in’ our house, but not inside yet.
  • Whether joined by a roof or not, the office section has the feel of separate building. I’ve never needed to ‘shut the door on work’, but I do like the sense of a house composed of more than one ‘pod’ or structure.
  • Separate office spaces for Julie and I, stacked on top of one another. We have different lighting requirements for our work spaces (I want a cave, she doesn’t), and this solution satisfies those nicely. We could probably put a hole in the floor of some kind so that we could talk to each other without the phone or one of us moving.
  • A big, fluid kitchen, dining room and living room space and only one eating area. We both grew up in big houses where the dining room was, at best, used once a week. None of our houses since then have had breakfast nooks or other secondary eating locations, and we’ve never missed them. We really don’t want unused space in our home.
  • An indoor/outdoor fireplace. In temperate BC, this might extend the sitting-on-the-deck season a bit.

Next Tuesday, we’re going back the our property with our architect to have a look at it again. We plan to roughly figure out where the house would sit, and Julie and I will provide feedback on these initial ideas. Then, ominously, we talk about what we can and cannot afford.

8 comments

  1. Two things:

    You talk about resale, but I think with a property like that you might keep it indefinitely. In that case, a minimum of stairs might be something *you* will prefer, as you become the older couple you refer to. (It’s not so far away, you know.)

    I don’t know your plan for kids, or lack thereof, but I assume you have planned the house for one alternative or the other. (On the resale front, if you *do* resell, having a space that works for a family with kids might be helpful.)

    I love the West Coast feel of the designs, with the slopey overhanging roofs. I think you’ve found a good architect, and have made wise decisions yourselves about what home would suit the place.

  2. Secondarily, that’s quite the terrain you have to plan around. When I was a kid, I would have loved to know someone with a house like that on land like that.

  3. Darren, your diary is most interesting and I think you have found an excellent architect. The design seems in keeping with your lifestyle as well as taking advantage of the topography. I had a cabin on Pender so you are in a beautiful part of the world. Just wondering what is your total budget to build the home to a finished stage?

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