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Design snapshot: Norwegian wood

I'm part Norwegian. A distant part. I've never been to Norway, but I enjoy making krumkakes for Christmas as my great grandmother did. That's about the extent of my tenuous Norwegian connection. Yet I find myself unwittingly drawn toward structures bearing the slightest hint of Norwegian influence. So it is no surprise that when I was ambling about between design shops in Cambridge a few weekends ago, I stopped dead in my tracks when I came upon the Cambridge Skating Club. I had no idea it was the Cambridge Skating Club, at the time. In fact, from the gable end, I thought it was an impressive residence.

I quickly wielded my iPhone camera and began snapping shots, some up-close of the entrance gable end, hoping my proximity wouldn't elicit a less-than-charmed homeowner (as has happened before). I was in luck. I scurried around to the side and there discovered the identity of the structure. Later, I learned from the Club's website that the Club was constructed around 1930 in a "cheerful Norwegian style".

Vertical board and battens with picket tips in the upper gable-end teamed with horizontal clapboards punctuated with a pointed arch over the entry door, an open rake, and the dynamic color scheme all speak to its Norwegian inspiration. And that's a terra-cotta tile roof, too. Projecting out at the top of the gable trim, is, I believe, a carved red dragon head, which (from what I've just read online) was a Norse motif found in Dragestil (dragon-style) houses in Scandinavia in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Now, I think I want a carved dragon head on the front gable end of my place. Not sure what the neighbors would make of it.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Posted on Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 2:50PM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off

New Small-House book tidbits: Retreat inspiration

KHS small screen-house/sauna schematic elevationsThere are five small retreats featured in the small-houses book I'm writing. A small retreat is a getaway like a studio, an entertaining space, a napping spot, etc. in the backyard or off on its own plum parcel. Small retreats can explore -- in an even smaller package -- many of the same design strategies that help small houses to feel comfortable, airy, and spacious despite the size of their footprint.

When it came time for me to design the small retreat above, which is both a screened space and sauna, I took inspiration from not only the retreats in the book but a few of the houses. The resulting schematic design is a nod to some of the gently sloped roofs in the book, cathedral ceiling spaces, large apertures, long views, versatile layouts, ancillary niches, indoor/outdoor connections, succinct finish selections, and choice quality materials (which are noted on the sketches above). What you can't tell from these sketches is that the retreat's very existence will allow me to shape an engaged outdoor court between it and the ranch house renovation/addition it accompanies. All these features will enable a variety of experiences in both the small retreat and the outdoor rooms it fashions, adding much more to the property than the sum of its parts.

Like me, I'm hoping you'll take inspiration from the book. Look for it on bookstore shelves in mid-October 2015.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Posted on Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 6:56PM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off

New Small-House book tidbits: Transformation

KHS small-house renovation/addition project in processOne of the homeowners in the small-houses book I'm writing speaks about the power of architectural transformation and its capacity to transform the lives of a home's occupants, neighbors and community. The delight we often take in "before" and "after" renovation/addition photos taps into the delight we typically take in transformation, in general. There's something about imagining the possibilities and potential that are latent in our everyday environments that draw us in and compel us forward to realize those possibilities and potential.

The KHS small-house renovation/addition project pictured above is currently under construction. It's at the fun stage where the design we conceived months ago is taking physical shape as framing and window/door installation is nearing completion. The existing stair that once ran along the exterior wall, bordering the cottage's small living room, remains, but is now open to an adjacent enclosed porch-like addition. We are essentially adding not only the space of the addition but the spaciousness now perceived in the neighboring original living room. Those familiar with the house "before" have been walking through and almost giddily remarking on how expansive the small house now feels "after". The thrill of the transformation is nearly contagious.

This small house will remain small, but not quite as small, and will live larger, but not too large.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2015 at 3:19PM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off

New Small-House book tidbits: Wood stoves

Wood stove insert in our c. 1948 small houseWith a chill in the air and the cozy season upon us, I thought I'd share some thoughts about wood stoves, sparked by the small-houses book I'm writing.

Nowadays, a wood-stove insert -- like the one we had installed in our small-house fireplace (above) -- or a freestanding wood stove is a far more efficient way to enjoy the warmth and glow of a wood fire than a conventional wood-burning fireplace. Current EPA standards for wood stoves mean they deliver more heat to your home and yield less particulate emissions. So you don't need to acquire, store, haul and burn as much wood, and you don't need to remove as much ash, all while you enjoy greater heat output that is gentler on the environment.

An insert like ours or a free-standing wood stove can be a good fit for open or semi-open living spaces such as those in many of the small houses featured in the book I'm writing. A wood stove can readily benefit a shared kitchen/dining/living common space and an adjoining open loft where dividing walls or ceilings don't interfere with heat transmission or view of the fire. In a cathedral ceiling space, ceiling fans can help re-circulate heat rising from a wood stove. Several homes in the small-houses book I'm writing feature European free-standing wood stoves like the RAIS Gabo or Morso 8150 that don't occupy much space and offer a simple, contemporary aesthetic. I'm also a fan of the Wittus Shaker model and the Stûv 30-compact.

Naturally, you should select the model that's configured and sized appropriately to heat your space and to accommodate the size wood you expect to burn. (I recommend using a wood stove as a secondary or intermittent heat source rather than a primary heat source.) We selected a non-catalytic American-made insert that includes a fan, which can be turned on when the stove is up to temperature to further distribute the heat. If you're considering a steel freestanding model, soap stone accents can be attractive and help store and radiate heat for a period of time after the stove has slowed or stopped burning. Of course, enameled or unenameled cast-iron stoves that are more traditional in appearance may appeal to some. However, free-standing cast-iron models tend to be larger and boxier, often rendering them poorly suited to corner locations or in front of views. Of course, there are exceptions.

This season, we've already been enjoying our wood stove insert to heat the open dining/living space in our small house. Maybe the open kitchen/dining/living space in your small house would benefit from a wood stove, too.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Posted on Monday, December 8, 2014 at 3:11PM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off

New Small-House book tidbits: Translucent panels

Translucent plastic sheets (rather than polycarbonate panels) wrap this hoop houseTranslucent polycarbonate panels, like those you might find in a greenhouse, make an appearance in a few of the houses and retreats featured in my upcoming small-houses book. 

It's an affordable material and often easy to work with since some incarnations can be cut with a knife. But mostly, it admits dreamy, diffuse light and partially obscures views to provide a hint of privacy and a touch of mystery.

The opportunity to juxtapose translucency and transparency, as in the greenhouse photo above, allows for a focused framed view within a filtered daylight surround. When back lit, it softly extends hazy views. When front lit, it subtly masks views and piques curiosity. It's a popular choice for interior applications and on outbuildings. Plus, it's available in a variety of colors to cast a warm or cool glow. I'm considering translucent panels for our garage doors.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Posted on Friday, October 17, 2014 at 5:16PM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off
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