Primer: New regional vernacular (in Fine Homebuilding HOUSES 2014)

image courtesy of Fine Homebuilding magazineI first learned of a design approach that's come to be known as "new regional vernacular" when I was working for Mark Hutker on Martha's Vineyard some seventeen years ago. Then, this past January, I found myself back on Island touring one of Hutker Architects' stellar examples of new regional vernacular for a story Fine Homebuilding asked me to write for their HOUSES 2014 Awards Issue. The house, called The Nest, won their Editor's Choice award. The story brought me full circle: from my own introduction to new regional vernacular to an opportunity to introduce it to (and/or share it with) the readers of Fine Homebuilding and, now, you. 

To learn more about it, pick up the issue on newsstands now and/or peruse a PDF of the story from this link

Issue #243, Spring/Summer 2014. Reprinted with permission copyright 2014, The Taunton Press, Inc.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Posted on Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 12:06PM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off

My new book: Call for submissions

Happily, today, I begin a new endeavor, and I need your help. I'm looking to collect submissions for a book I'm writing for The Taunton Press about today's small houses. The book will feature houses that are 1500 square feet or less and serve as primary residences for their homeowners. (Plus, there will be a few bonus small retreats that are 800 square feet or less!)

I'm hoping to find creatively designed small houses in a variety of locations in North America: on the beach, in a rural setting, within a village, in town, and downtown in a city. Featured houses will primarily be newly constructed, but a few might be fresh renovation/additions to older houses. With the aid of the featured houses, the book will illuminate approximately ten fundamental design strategies for today's small houses. 

If you know of a new (or newly renovated) small house that you think I should consider including in the book, please let me know. For now, simply email me Katie@katiehutchison.com some low-resolution jpegs of the exterior, interior, and context, along with some background information about the size of the house, where it's located, who owns it, who designed it, if it has been professionally photographed, and if it has been featured in another publication. Also, please let me know if you're aware of any architectural drawings that depict it and its site.

I'll be collecting houses to consider for publication in the next few weeks and look forward to reviewing those that you may recommend. Together we can create a book that informs and inspires readers who may be embarking on their own small-house designs. Please join me.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast
Posted on Friday, April 18, 2014 at 10:26AM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off

Book recommendation: At Home in New England: Royal Barry Wills Architects 1925 to Present

cover image courtesy of amazon.comI think I should probably change the name of this category to "Reading wish list", since, once again, I'm going to comment on a book I haven't yet held or read.

I was late to learn of Royal Barry Wills, a New England architect who launched his practice in 1925 and went on to win the National Gold Medal for a small-house design in Herbert Hoover's 1932 National Better Homes Competition. In his heyday, Wills penned several well-received books including Houses for Good Living, Better Houses for Budgeteers, and Living on the Level: One-Story Houses, among others. He was perhaps best known for his Cape-style house designs which were 1920's, 30's, and 40's interpretations of the traditional Cape Cod cottage. As architecture approached the mid-century modernist era, Royal Barry Wills's modest, straightforward, highly livable, traditionally-inspired residential designs were not in vogue with the architectural establishment but were beloved by the middle and upper-middle class homeowners who commissioned them or dreamed of commissioning them. 

While reading up on Royal Barry Wills, I was delighted to discover that Wills was a friend of Samuel Chamberlain (previously mentioned in House Enthusiast here), another champion of the Cape Cod cottage. Chamberlain is quoted on the Royal Barry Wills Associates, Inc. website as writing in 1937, "'No sham or pretense gives a false note to the true Cape Cod cottage. They are genuine, honest and sedate. They have no need to assert themselves like newcomers anxious to im­press, for they have been a part of the American scene for centuries. Decidedly, they are not a pass­ing mood of the moment, despite their current popularity.'"

The same could perhaps be said of the Cape-style house in the 21st century. And, indeed, the firm, now helmed by sole principal Richard Wills (son of Royal Barry Wills), appears to continue reinterpreting the Cape Cod cottage, as well as other traditional house forms, for contemporary living. I understand that it's these newer homes, from the past decade, which mostly populate At Home in New England: Royal Barry Wills Architects 1925 to Present. But, admittedly, my interest will turn more to the homes designed by the firm's founder. Nonetheless, it sounds like a monograph sure to capture the interest of New England house enthusiasts. It's certainly on my wish list.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Posted on Sunday, March 30, 2014 at 10:51AM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off

Design snapshot: Tale of two garage doors

Rarely will you find a better side-by-side garage-door comparison than the one contained on this simple two-stall garage.

The left-hand door befits a typical suburban home, and the right-hand door a more rural outbuilding. Hard to know how these two doors came to be side by side, but I suspect that both openings once sported doors like those in the right-hand opening, but that the door in the left-hand opening was ultimately replaced with an updated overhead door for ease of use. 

It will come as no surprise to fellow House Enthusiasts, that in the case of informal, more rural, or more traditional outbuildings serving as garages, I'm partial to the door style -- which I would describe as carriage-style doors -- in the right-hand opening. Such doors often swing open, or in this case, slide open. Both types of operation are seen as somewhat laborious today, so many current manufacturers, such as Designer Doors, create carriage-style doors that are built in sections (like the more suburban-style door in the left-hand opening), so they, too, can open overhead for convenience.

I'd love to see a new overhead door in the left-hand opening designed to match the carriage-style doors in the right-hand opening. It would be win-win in terms of the look and function. Now if only one would materialize.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Posted on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 4:42PM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off

Design snapshot: Grounding exterior stairs

At first, I was a bit surprised to discover this image from my Houzz page finding its way into Houzzers ideabooks with great frequency. Then I began to see that perhaps the very feature we had considered a design liability was actually a design asset.

We originally designed this studio over a garage to have a single entrance via the French door in the shed dormer at the top of the rear stairs that climb from the deck. In an effort to make the stairs more integral to the building, we specified that the stair stringer walls be clad in cedar shingles to match the building's exterior walls. 

Then, the local building inspector required a second egress stair. At the time, we felt this was redundant since both egress doors would be opening into the same studio space about fourteen feet from each other.

Nonetheless, we complied and designed the second stair that climbs from the deck and travels up across the end gable to a second French door. We took a similar design approach with the second stair and specified that its stair stringer walls be clad primarily with cedar shingles and, near the base, vertical cedar skirt boards like the sides of the deck. We designed both stair guard rails to have narrow wooden balusters to prevent the stairs from feeling too enclosing and appearing too overwhelming for such a small building.

Interestingly, the two exterior stairs which had struck me as somewhat cumbersome, seem to actually help ground the building. They bring the building down to an easily relatable scale and soften or mitigate what might otherwise have been a fairly harsh transition from a tall sidewall to a sloping grade. They also help visually tie this building to this specific place, as if the building and its stairs grew directly out of this incline. Sometimes a building regulation really can be a design asset.

by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast

Posted on Monday, February 24, 2014 at 3:44PM by Registered CommenterKatie Hutchison in | Comments Off