Before Kindle: Buildings as Books
The built environment is actually part of a vast architectural textbook waiting to be read — some structures are more biographical, some more novelistic, and some even approach the poetic. Buildings express the aspirations of individuals and communities as well as social and economic realities. By reading buildings you begin to see how a setting evolved and what it says about the culture that produced it. That’s what a new pocket paperback, Cityscapes by S. F. Chronicle urban design writer John King (Heyday Books 2011) demonstrates. It’s a compendium of quick “readings” of a wide range of old and new buildings in San Francisco, from Frank Lloyd Wright’s mini-Guggenheim on Maiden Lane to the vernacular houseboats on Mission Creek, all part of what he calls “shared touchstones of reference and recall, shaping our sense of place.” I recommend it.
House Plan Sales Trends
The way to read a house plan is to study it as closely as possible, from how it looks to how it lives. To that end I thought I would review what plans have been selling lately and do a little “reading” of my own. Naturally, I think the best houses give their occupants a sense of individuality as well as comfort while maximizing the potential of the lot — and many of our most recently sold plans do this. And I’m beginning to see a trend or two…like greater privacy for master suites and stronger indoor-outdoor connections.
Modern Plan 484-3 was sold to a customer in Atlanta. It’s designed to take advantage of a narrow sloping lot. It’s a row house with a garage at the bottom level, living-dining area in the middle, and bedrooms at the top. Strong outdoor connections make the home seem larger than it is. See how the great room opens to the barbecue/pool patio.
The main living spaces are compact but because they overlap and can borrow light from each other on three sides they have a feeling of spaciousness. The island helps separate the kitchen from the rest of the main space without visually cutting it off.
Generous balconies off the master and secondary bedrooms on the top floor add to the airiness.
Plan 477-4, a stately classical design, sold to a customer in Alberta, Canada. It would fit an infill site in an urban neighborhood — though it could also work on larger lots as a kind of villa. The porch arcade shelters the front door while providing a welcoming face to the street. Inside, the layout is
not large but has an air of elegance and formality thanks to the small vestibule and stairhall between living room and dining room. A pocket door allows the vestibule to open directly to the kitchen when needed, adding to the plan’s flexibility. Upstairs, the master suite is somewhat removed from the other bedrooms for greater privacy.
Modern barn-inspired Plan 450-2 sold to a homeowner moving from Oklahoma to Kansas. It would work as a vacation cabin on a rural site, as a starter home, or artist’s studio. It could also be a guest house or the first stage of a larger compound. The plan is small but very efficient– with back-to-back kitchen and bathroom set between living area and bedroom. And yet thanks to the openings on three sides of the two main rooms — including the large glass garage door used as a moving window wall in the living space – this little house feels bright and spacious. Read-on, MacDuff!