08 December 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Last night forecast low was 17F/-8C, but when I went to bed the thermometer read 12.4F/-10.9C, and the power had gone out twice from the high winds. The second time it was out for about a half hour, which was a bit disconcerting. Although we have an oil furnace, the thermostat and ignition are electric. It will be a happy day when we have a masonry heater (Finnish style, rather than one of those Baroque ceramic numbers) and rely primarily on wood.

Today, the National Weather Service was calling for a high of 28F/-2C, but it barely managed to squeeze up to 18F/-8C before I left the house. And I set my mittens down to get something and then walked out of the house without them. Tonight, we're getting single digits. All of it is good incentive to work on the Japanese sweater, which I did for a while last night by candlelight.

Meantime, I am continuing to play around with SketchUp. Look what I've done with the upstairs!

Upstairs Plan 02

Currently, the rooms on either side are divided up into two smaller rooms, so this plan will necessitate taking out a couple of walls which, IMO, have no good reason to be anymore. I suppose when the Tobey family were raising their eight kids (yes, eight kids, in a 1500 sq. ft. house), it gave them more of a sense of privacy, but for us, it just doesn't work so well. This also moves the east bathroom wall (this is standard N-is-up view) a further foot and a half eastward to allow some rearrangement there. And what is now our TV room/stash storage/retiring room, will, at least theoretically, become a combined office/crafting/retiring room. And the wall dividing off what we're currently using as a giant walk-in closet disappears for a more open bedroom floor plan.

Of course, the plan also requires raising the roofline to create a shed dormer, since the south face currently has only a half-wall and no windows. I hate this for several reasons, but the biggest are that it means we get less light in the winter time and we have poor airflow upstairs in the summer. Also, raising the roofline a bit on that side should open up a bit more attic space, and I really, really think we need to finish the attic to use it for storage. And insulate it a lot better.

Of course, it's much easier to sort it out in a freeware computer program than to come up with the money to execute the plans, but I figure it'll be another 25 years or so before we retire, so there's time. In the meantime, it's a fun exercise to think about how to make the best use of the space we have. David and I are fans of Sarah Susanka and her Not So Big series, and my ideas are largely informed by her ideas, though I'd say that, on some level, it's an aesthetic principle that I already understood intuitively.

In a nutshell, it's about using smaller spaces smartly (intelligent design?) - open floor plans, multi-use spaces, creating spatial divisions with fewer walls, creative approaches to storage, etc. Right now, as I've mentioned, our house suffers from some serious flow issues. Our nominal guest room is cramped and only accessible by navigating through David's very cluttered studio; the studio has no built-in storage; the kitchen is cold, poorly laid out, and only accessible through a very narrow doorway; and because the washer and dryer take up much of our side mud room, which is the main entry we use, the mud room has been essentially shifted into David's studio, which makes it even more cramped. Among other things.

So what I've tried to do is identify changes that will, again theoretically, rectify those problems and leave us with spaces that we actually use, instead of a lot of cluttered, cramped areas that aren't so fun to spend time in. Since it's a very old house that's had a lot done to it over the last 300 years, I'm sure we'll run up against all sorts of unexpected issues, and I'm anticipating needing to consult an engineer at some point to discuss the feasibility of some of our ideas. Still, it's a very intriguing project and one I'm enjoying the hell out of.

8 comments:

Danielle said...

I love Sarah Susanka's books. My dad (who built my parents' house) turned me on to them. Now, if only I could create more spaces like that in my own home...

Margene said...

How nice you can make the changes to be more efficient and usable. I've always wanted to build a small house with big open spaces and Sarah's book is the reason. Stay warm!

JoVE said...

I might have to check out that book. Your plans sound great. But you probably also need to consider some less glamourous things like insulation, especially if your kitchen is cold. While you are doing things to walls and roofs there is no harm is stuffing them full of fiberglass :-) Though starting with a caulking gun and going after all the leaky door and window frames would make a huge difference. You can get some insulation stuff that goes in your sockets and switches (the ones on outside walls), too.

Kyle Kunnecke said...

looks good - just be sure you have 36" (3 feet) for the toilet - minimum is 30" but U.S. code (I think) is 36"... you'll want this much room, trust me :)

maybe you can put the sink across from the toilet instead of the little dresser you have next to what looks like an armoire? (just a thought)

Lisa said...

So we learned the hard way (via the roof that baked off on the south side and was beginning to rot on the north... it came this way, we didn't do this) that insulation goes between heated and unheated spaces (meaning between the attic floor and second floor ceiling not at the attic roofline). But then that means that now we only have 6 inches insulation under the attic floor... way NOT enough for our climate!

My friend teaches art history and design type classes and she had her students design a house that has only as much room as they need. Some of them insisted that they NEED a 5000 square foot house, and others were insistent that if they could afford the house, then why not... not taking into consideration the hidden costs of all that go into building a house.

Sheepish Annie said...

I live in a very small space and use it all quite poorly. However, I like to think that all the crap I have in here is insulation against the winter chill.

It's a working theory. It probably needs some tweaking...

Alwen said...

Radiant heat is awesome. We don't have a masonry stove, we have a soapstone woodstove. It heats our entire small one-story house, including the geodesic dome room we added on.

This fall we scrapped our old LP gas furnace.

Norma said...

it looks fantastic! Being the owner of a too-large house and also the owner of that book, I have a dream of downsizing, but the irony is it will cost so much that it's put us off. But it will happen someday, I hope.

It was ONE DEGREE F yesterday morning and for much of the day here. I couldn't believe it. So cold that the salt would not work on the roads, and it was treacherous out there.