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

New-Small-House book tidbits: Metal roofing as siding

Corrugated metal, often used as roofing, serves as siding here.In my upcoming small-houses book, a few of the houses cleverly adapt materials for different uses. Metal roofing, for instance, on a house might appear as siding on an outbuilding, or vice versa. In both appliations, the metal is highly durable. Its use in different locations can help tie different buidlings or different elements of one building together. Since there's a huge range of metal products that are adaptable to both installation types, there's plenty of room to get creative, all while potentially unifying a collection of buildings or a collection of building elements. A multipurpose material can be a good fit for a house chock-full of multipurpose solutions.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Posted on Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 11:47AM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in , | Comments Off

New-Small-House book tidbits: Planted roofs

Drought-tolerant sedums are a popular choice for planted roofs.My new book for The Taunton Press, tentatively titled The New Small House, is well underway. We've been busy selecting houses to feature, scheduling photo shoots, and beginning to create the content that someday (hopefully) you will find on a shelf in a store near you. As the book takes shape, I aim to share here some tidbits of what I'm learning along the way. 

A few of the houses in the book feature planted roofs, which provide insulation and an effective away to mitigate storm-water run-off, all while beautifully complementing the landscape and the air we breathe. A New-England homeowner I interviewed mentioned that Motherplants was her source for planted-roof inspiration. One visit to the website, and you'll see why. I have to admit I pondered if someone like myself, who doesn't have a planted roof, might order a planted pre-grown mat to place in her garden/yard as a starter-garden of sorts. (Keep in mind, I'm a bit of an idjit gardener.) The planted mats are simply that lovely. Give it a look, and consider where you might incorporate a planted roof. I've already proposed one to a client for her backyard retreat...

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Posted on Wednesday, September 3, 2014 at 4:59PM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in , | Comments Off