House Diary #5 – The 3-D Model

The Northeast Side or 'Back' Side of the HouseLast week we met with John, our architect. After some initial paper sketches, he renders his house plans in Google SketchUp, so that his clients can experience the project in three dimensions.

We spent a couple of hours with John walking through the house, discussing various room arrangements, orientations and finishes. Because SketchUp is free, we were able to also spend time at our leisure, mulling over options. Still, we’re probably 85% there. There’s a few changes we’d like made–the removal of a balcony, the re-arranging of a room–but the house’s essence is there. Of course, the practical realities of spiraling costs will no doubt change what gets built. For now, though, we’re pretty happy with John’s work.

We wanted to solicit feedback and suggestions from far and wide, so we made this little 8-minute video walkthrough of the 3-D model. We’re not very good at video editing, narrating or Google SketchUp, so please tolerate the rough edges. I meant to mention in the video that the property is 3.5 acres, and the 3-D model only renders the building site itself.

Here’s the video. You can see a slightly bigger version on Vimeo:

Pender House Plan Walkthrough from Darren Barefoot on Vimeo.

For those non-gamers who get motion sickness from my dodgy SketchUp work, here are some screen captures that show a few views of the house. They’re quite larger, but you can see smaller versions in this Flickr photo set.


  1. that’s pretty damn cool. but just one question: no bathtub? 😀

    I really, really like how the offices are practically in a separate building. Very nifty, and wow, what a view!

  2. Whoa. I’m downloading Sketchup as we speak. Very, very cool guys. Can’t wait to come a visit! On a side note, is that David Byrne (with Brian Eno) in the background? 🙂

  3. Donna: Yeah, we thought about the bathtub question. However, the only reason we take a bath is to relax, and we’re going to have a hot tub for that. So we figured we didn’t need a separate bathtub. It’s more Julie’s call than mine, as I probably take 1.5 baths a year.

    Lee: If you want me to send you the SketchUp file for this project, let me know. Just David Byrne in the background. The song is “Glass, Concrete and Stone” from the terrific album Grown Backwards.

  4. Hmm, I suppose that’s a valid excuse. I do really like large walk in showers… especially if you can get multiple jets…

    *considers where a hot tub would fit in her apartment*

  5. Such a cool video, I’ve watched it twice already. You have lovely ocean views and the giant cedars will make your place very special. I love the fact the site is not flat. All the dips and turns and hills make it so much more exciting. It will be a fabulous escape once it is finished.

    One thing, you’ve neglected to say is how long the walkway is between the house and garage.

  6. Melanie: It’s about 100 feet from the back of the garage to the front door.

    The walkway may end up just being dirt, gravel or some kind of intermittent paving stone (particularly when it comes time to cut stuff out of the budget).

  7. How exciting! I wish I could start from scratch but alas I have many renos to look forward to instead 😛

    You might consider whether your guest accommodations will be adequate for your new island life. We’ve had far more guests since moving to paradise than we ever had before.

    …will the powder room have a basic shower? Will the entertainment room or the living room furniture easily sleep guests? I think that was a murphy bed I saw in there… Or maybe you’ll have a Yurt in the woods, or a summer tent suite on the deck…

  8. Hey Darren – kind of a naughty question, but will you be sharing with everyone the cost of the whole process?

    I’d certainly be interested in how much it all ends up costing compared to just going the traditional route of buying an existing property..


  9. Tzaddi: We plan to build a small guest house eventually. In terms of resale, we imagine that one or both of the offices could be converted into additional bedrooms, and there’s space for an additional bathroom on the second floor (well-positioned above the current powder room).

    Dunk: Sorry, but to quote Radiohead, that’s dirty laundry I’m disinclined to air.

  10. Any “sustainable” options?
    Solar on that long sloping roof?
    Low flush toilets?
    What kind of insulation?

  11. Ensure that in your home theatre room, the ratio of distance to the TV and the size of the TV is reasonable. You don’t want to have to strain your eyes just because your TV is too big and your room is too small. A comfort issue to consider.

    Also, consider how you enter the home once you’re dripping wet from the hot tub. Will you drip wet feet all over your bedroom? I think an entrance directly to a lovely warm bathroom would be a nice luxury.

  12. The place is looking great Darren. Have you considered wrapping the large deck off the living room around the corner on the kitchen side?

    Doing so might allow you to install folding patio doors ( so you can maximize the indoor/outdoor living (assuming you’re into that sort of thing).

  13. Eva: We’re going ‘as green as we can afford’. That includes things like robust insulation and windows. We also have plans for rain water collection. I’m not sure about solar, because of the orientation of the house and part of the world we live in. That and/or wind power are possible post-construction projects. Both our architect and likely builder are keen on green building, so that will help.

    Gillian: Indeed. “Home Theatre for Dummies” is already ordered and in the mail. There is an entrance from the hallway to the bathroom–it’s just hard to see in this view.

    Jason: We did consider a wrapping deck around the front or ‘view’ side. However, it’ll be in the shade in the afternoons and evenings, so that will be a real disincentive to using it.

  14. I hope you carefully consider ‘as green as we can afford’ vs home theatre/hot tub and othr luxury items.

    I realize that that these are all individual choices and balances. It’s just that I’ve heard so many people say we couldn’t afford green… and then fill large home with luxury consumer items.

    Good luck with your project – it must be exciting!

  15. Great idea to post a video and commentary of the model, kudos.

    The path through the house is a great idea. It separates the office and also draws people into your house but without entering it.

    One part of the design that doesn’t sit well with me is the continuous sloping roof. It just seems very very long. This might not be the case if I saw it with the trees.

    Have you tried to break the roof up between the office and the house? That juliet balcony could then become a glass sided bridge/deck? Of course that depends on the amount of light it would get. If it was continually in shade it would be a cold unwelcoming place.

    I must install SketchUp again (last time I installed it was before Google bought them).

    With regards to greenness, the top two priorities are aspect and insulation. As you say other technology can be added later when required.

  16. John: On the roof, is that an aesthetic consideration, or something more practical? I dig the clean lines of the roof. Plus, all the rain water runs down to the drain pipes at one end. I thought about having two entirely separate structures, but I gather that would cost considerably more.

  17. Yeah Darren purely aesthetic, I see the straight line of the roof, and the jagged stepped line at ground level.

    But as I said, when in place with the vertical lines of the trees to break it I probably wouldn’t have any issue at all. Just my wonky eyes probably 🙂

    It’s looking great man, your architect seems spot on, the dialog between you must be enjoyable.

  18. The mini-fireplace on the upper floor really breaks up the wall that opens up to the large balcony. It’s competing with the view as a focal point for the room.
    It also looks like you were going for a fire pit idea that is accessible from the outside as well as the inside.
    My fave outdoor/indoor fire-pit designs are ones that are incorporated into an outdoor garden, but it doesn’t look like you’re planning to have any kind of structured garden.
    If you want a fireplace to “warm up” the room a little, you may be able to achieve the same effect with lighting and less windows, IMHO.

  19. We chatted on Twitter about this, but I was just puzzled by the two buildings (home and office).

    I particularly enjoyed the narrative and the music. If you don’t mind, I’ll give it another look and then offer specific suggestions if any come to mind.

    As an environmental specialist, I am too concerned about sustainable/eco-friendly materials and options.

    Hmmmm… this is perhaps a dumb question, but have you guys considered a meeting room (e.g. in the remote case you would like to hold a retreat at your Pender Island house for clients for a specific project?)… I have thought about this possibility myself (building a home office in a new home and have a meeting/seminar room).


  20. Hi Guys, I’m curious about some of the green features…

    Did you consider a geothermal exchange system for heating/cooling/hot water? There are some affordable options from BC-based companies that you may want to consider.

    The wood-burning fireplace sounds cool, especially if it’s a high efficiency one. Is wood-burning a choice mainly for economic or aesthetic reasons?

    Are you planning a well and septic field or connecting into the local water/sewage service?

    Non-green related question: Will Julie have to pass through Darren’s office on the way in/out? Will that be disruptive/distracting?

  21. Looks gorgeous! I do hope that you’ll send invitations to all posters to this blog entry when you actually make the move. That way, we can save you from all the heavy labour and get a quick gander around the inside. In advance, my regrets — I’ve helped a fair number of people move and, as much as I’d like to help, I’ll have to sit this one out.

    On a somewhat related topic, you might find the architecture for this place to be somewhat unconventional!

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