For our final design meeting, Shaun came by our house with his laptop. He plugged it into our TV so that we could have a good view of what we were working with. He had the house design in a 3-D model that we could use to pivot the design in space and make tweaks.
Some of the changes took the form of minor window edits, since we hadn’t talked a lot about the windows up until that point. We added a pair under the kitchen cabinets at countertop-level to bring in some light to that side of the kitchen. We also raised the windows in the living room so they cleared some bookshelves we planned to buy. We tinkered with some windows in the office and downstairs as well.
We also played around with deck steps a little bit, looking to see whether there were any obvious places to put them to allow us to go up exterior steps to the main deck on the front of the house. After some discussion, we decided that we didn’t want the “main” entry to the house to be on the upstairs deck. We wanted to funnel that traffic through the mudroom. That took away most stair options over the front door or near the driveway. With that, we weren’t left with a lot of very workable options. Anything further along the front of the house would be blocked by the hot tub, which we wanted close to the second-story doors. Anything on the other end of the deck would be north-facing and would also block any decent access to the “client” entrance and deck near the office. We also reasoned that (1) the main entrance to the house would be oversized and easy to get stuff through, and (2) stairs would be something relatively easy to add in the future if we decided we needed them after living in the house for a while. So we left them off, opting for a cleaner look.
We also oriented the fireplace. In our earlier design meetings we had discussed wanting a fire of some sort in the main living space, but we didn’t want to block the views. Shaun’s first proposed solution was a free-standing stove. It would be placed along the big living room windows, but its small profile wouldn’t take up much visual space.
We spent some time looking at stoves, but we didn’t find much we liked. I didn’t mind some of the old-timey options, but my wife didn’t, and none of the hyper-modern options were real appealing either. Since our house design was modern, we felt like adding a modern fireplace design, like this, on top of it would make the place start to feel like the Jetson’s.
So we proposed a fireplace along the north wall, semi-dividing the kitchen and the backside of the living room, which we planned as a sort of library. We thought a three-sided, or island, fireplace might look nice in the space. We also wanted to raise it to table height, something like this (though not the same surround):
Then we could see the fire from more places within the room – another idea taken from A Pattern Language, which discusses the inviting nature of an open flame, particularly if you can see it from major paths of travel within a room.
Shaun liked the idea, and we talked about how we could use thin stone along the fireplace to bring in another organic element to the design, softening up the modernity somewhat. So we had a fire.
A couple of other minor things fell by the wayside for one reason or another. To take one minor example, when we were considering the master bedroom, I thought it would be fun to have a small window that would be at head-height in front of the toilet, so that, hypothetically, someone standing to pee could look out at the long vista we enjoyed to the south. Shaun pointed out that while a pee window was possible, it would mean routing the plumbing to an exterior wall, which would increase costs and would generally make the room quite a bit more complicated to build. So, while it would have been a nice thing if it were cost-neutral, it wasn’t the sort of thing we were willing to pay for. So we nixed it from the plans. Overall, the final design meeting involved some tweaks, but no major changes.
Once we had the windows place and we were generally happy with the design, it was time to confirm where it would live on the site.