-> HousePlans

This is just a place to keep my thoughts about what we want when we build a custom home (or, perhaps, do some drastic remodeling), which is definitely somewhere in our (probably distant) future. I don't know that this is of any interest to anyone but me, but anyway...

Thursday, November 02, 2006
We saw a neat trick in a magazine: You paint the top 8" or so of the walls and the outer 8" of the ceiling the same color, contrasting with the wall and ceiling colors. This creates an inexpensive effect that vaguely looks like a tray ceiling. (Picture.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006
I got a flyer hung on my door the other day for an Owens-Corning prefab wall product intended for basements. They are some sort of wall panels that hang on a rail system, clearly intended for easier DIY than drywall. I'd be curious to know how much this stuff costs.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005
The March issue of Real Simple contained several clever ideas:
  • Use towel hooks instead of towel rods in the bathroom. There's room for more towels, and you don't have to worry about folding them to hang them back up.
  • Use hooks as cabinet-door knobs in the laundry room; this gives you another place to hang stuff.
  • Mount D-rings to the wall in a playroom. The kids can string bungee cords between them, and then hang art from the bungee cords, hang sheets from them to make forts, etc.
    I love that magazine. I plan on implementing (1) and (3) immediately. As an aside, I still think there is room in the world for a magazine very much like Real Simple, only aimed at men instead of women.

  • Saturday, January 31, 2004
    Whirlpool is selling an entire line of garage organization equipment. Most of it is similar (identical?) to the slatwall stuff mentioned earlier, with the addition of refrigerators and trash compactors specifically designed to go in the garage. Like the other slatwall equipment, it's all a little pricey. I'd love to deck out my garage like this, but it would cost thousands.

    Friday, November 08, 2002
    I just read Sarah Susanka's third book, Not So Big Solutions for Your Home. It contains some interesting material, but I didn't find it nearly as informative as the first two. Furthermore, I expected this book to be more about renovating an existing home (where the first two were about building from scratch); however, a big chunk of this book was also new-house-specific. If you're a fan of the Not So Big House movement, it's definitely worth a read, but if you haven't already, certainly you should read the first two instead.

    Thursday, October 03, 2002
    An article in today's Washington Post describes a new kitchen countertop material called Richlite that sounds interesting. It's made mostly of recycled paper and wood pulp, and has many of the good properties of solid-surface and granite but costs about half as much. The only big disadvantage I see is a lack of color selection -- light brown, dark brown, and black are the only choices.

    Tuesday, August 06, 2002
    In the latest issue of Home magazine, they showed a kitchen with mahogany counters! They're gorgeous! I wondered about durability, but the article said the counters were crafted by a boat builder, and I have to believe that kitchens don't take any more abuse than boats do. Also, I've realized that I really like farm sinks.

    Monday, July 22, 2002
    There was a very cool article in the Washington Post, which I can sadly no longer find (I think it was the Home section on July 11 or Real Estate on July 13), about an architect who built herself a house with an eye towards environmentalism, using lots of recycled and otherwise eco-friendly materials. It contained a bunch of cool ideas, but my favorite was using a composite decking like Trex for exterior window and door trim -- weatherproof, no paint needed, maintenance-free!

    Thursday, June 27, 2002
    I just love the cutout transom windows (pic one and pic two) at the Pope-Leighey House.

    Thursday, April 18, 2002
    An article in today's Washington Post about a professional cook remodeling her kitchen contained an excellent idea. She had a full-size, four-burner range in one of the main banks of cabinets, plus a two-burner ceramic cooktop in the center island. Add a vegetable sink, or at least a pot-filler, to that island and two people can prepare food without getting in each other's way at all.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2002
    There should be electrical outlets in the closets, for plugging in rechargable devices (cellphones, dustbusters, etc.) or for such things as leaving a vacuum cleaner plugged in all the time inside the closet where it is stored.

    Tuesday, February 05, 2002
    Some kitchen ideas we've seen, heard, or invented:
  • For storage of pots and pans, large drawers seem vastly superior to standard base cabinets.
  • There should be a tall, skinny, probably open space among the uppers for storage of cutting boards.
  • I like solid-surface countertops, except that you can't set a hot pan on them. I've seen installations in which they routed out a space in which a trivet fits, to provide a spot to set down hot stuff.

  • A couple of neat ideas from the book The Good Home by Wedlick and Langdon. First, on page 89, a wooden sliding door made with barn-style hardware (see photo at left). This seems especially well-suited for closet doors, which don't need to close tightly and often don't have clearance for a full swinging door. (Have I mentioned that I despise bifold doors?) Second, on page 193, a neat window arrangement (see drawing at right). Otherwise, I found the book pretty uninteresting; lots of pretty pictures, but nothing except these two details really caught my eye. I was similarly uninspired by The New Cottage Home by Jim Tolpin.

    Update: Some barn doors in situ, and some more details. The rest of her lodge remodel contains a lot of good ideas too.

    Friday, January 11, 2002
    From a book I was reading (either The Workshop Book or Setting Up Shop, I can't remember which), a good idea for a workshop or similar area: make the roof out of corrugated fiberglass (presumably polycarbonate would work too), which lets light through, so you get lots of natural light without the need for skylights and such. This is impractical for more finished spaces, since it's poorly insulated and there's no way to not let the light in, but it's great for a workshop-type area.

    A cool bathroom idea, again from Hometime. They built the platform surrounding a large bathtub out of solid-surface (e.g. Corian). Since this is bonded by solvent, rather than grout/caulk, there are essentially no seams when it's finished, so you get the same sort of effect as prefabricated ceramic bathroom fixtures, but in a customized layout. Plus, it's really tough - much moreso than tile, ceramic, or other common bathroom materials. I imagine you could make a shower stall out of the same stuff, with the same benefits.

    Friday, December 21, 2001
    From an episode of Hometime in which they did a garage, a couple of great workshop ideas: First, for the walls, some engineered wood siding. This is oriented-fiber board with a decorative facing; it's meant for exterior use, but they made great use of it for the interior garage walls. It's a great idea to have solid walls in a workshop (as opposed to drywall) because you can drive screws/nails into the wall to hang things without worrying about finding a stud. Secondly, the "slatwall" they used to hang tools in the home-workshop episode, which was made of particleboard, is apparently now available in a much easier-to-handle extruded-plastic variety. They advocate slatwall as an alternative to pegboard for hanging tools and such. (Update: storeWALL can be purchased from Storic Storage Systems.) (Another update: Extruded slatwall is also available from Productive Workspace, as are snap-together floor tiles that are good for garages.)

    Thursday, September 27, 2001
    The cover of The New Family Home features a gorgeous mission-style railing. This book, by the way, is nice to look at, but not nearly as interesting as some others (such as NSBH), as the homes within it are all very extravagant, and most of them are quite (over)large. Some pretty detail work, though.

    Sunday, September 23, 2001
    Unless something even better comes along, I plan to make extensive use of bamboo flooring. It is attractive, is similar in quality and price to good hardwood flooring, and is much more environmentally friendly. Bamboo grows about 20X faster than hardwood trees, and in a renewable fashion (you don't have to kill the plant to harvest it).

    Update Jan 2007: Now that this has been around a few years, people have discovered that it's not so good. It doesn't wear nearly as well as hardwood, and it colors differently where the sun shines - so you get color patterns where your furniture sits, obviously a bad thing if you want to rearrange or sell.

    Saturday, September 22, 2001
    One thing we want is lots of window seats. One typically makes the part under the seat into storage, but typically this is done by having the seat itself be a lift-up lid. NSBH points out that drawers are more practical, since with a lid you have to move whatever is on top (cushions, knick-knacks, etc.) to open the lid.

    Thursday, September 20, 2001
    I just read The Not So Big House and Creating the Not So Big House, both by Sarah Susanka. Many of the ideas contained there are cribbed from Frank Lloyd Wright, but nonetheless it's well-distilled and well-presented, with lots of pretty photos. And philosophically, we're very much aligned with the author. I highly recommend these, and will definitely revisit them when we actually start planning our home in earnest. See also the Not So Big House website.

    I'll start with a dump of some of my accumulated bookmarks on this subject:
  • One guy's log of building a house (local copy in case that one ever goes away).
  • An excellent reference on how to do phone wiring, and another that contains more information (e.g. wiring for more than two lines) but isn't as well-organized.
  • Buying or building a Frank Lloyd Wright house.
  • Classic Small Homes: A nice, very small house - plans for sale.

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    Recommended Books

    Design/architecture (whole house):
  • The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka.
  • Creating The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka.
  • The New Family Home by Jim Tolpin.
    Workshop design:
  • The Workshop Book by Scott Landis.
  • Setting Up Shop by Sandor Nagyszalanczy.
    The home-building process:
  • House by Tracy Kidder.