Tag Archives: Santa Cruz Architect

Exceeding the WUI Code: Home Design in Wildfire-Prone Areas

Recent fire events in California have caused many homeowners to embark upon better understanding ways to defend their homes and property against the risks of wildfire. California’s building codes (CBC) currently prescribe certain requirements for homes built within the Wildland Urban Interface, or W.U.I. Yet in many instances homes, even new homes built to current CBC standards were destroyed, leading many constructing within the WUI to ask themselves if they should build in excess of current codes. Continue reading

Not So Big House: 5 Ways To Make Your Home Feel Bigger

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Alta House: view of Kitchen. Note windows and skylights for ample daylighting, variety of ceiling heights, and cozy inglenook space with windows on two sides.

Many homeowners are now gearing up to create that long-postponed new or remodeled home. Many of those homeowners are keen to attain more home at less expense, and so in our architectural practice we are seeing resurgent interest in the Not So Big House.

The Not So Big House movement was kicked off by the 1998 publication of The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live by Sarah Susanka. In it is spelled out a comprehensive strategy to build smaller, more cost effectively, and smarter by favoring quality over quantity. The book was an instant phenomenon, and the movement has understandably experienced resurgent, sustained immediacy over the past several years.

Here are five key ways to attain the benefits of the Not So Big House in your new home or remodel:

1. If You Use It, You Should See It
Rooms that are isolated from other spaces, hidden behind hallways or staircases first of all tend not to be used and secondly contribute to a house that feels kludgy, closed in, and claustrophobic. Certainly some rooms do need privacy, but if you can, opening up the view through and between the kitchen, family area, dining area, study, and other public spaces you will contribute to a feeling of lightness and spaciousness throughout the home. Doors between these areas can be dispensed with entirely, building instead a framed opening a foot or two wider than a regular doorway. And even if you can’t open an intervening wall completely, you can make an interior window instead. That little strategy by itself will make your home both feel and live bigger.

View from bedroom, through bathroom, to windows beyond. To create spaciousness the owners elected to dispense with any intervening wall.

View from bedroom, through bathroom, to windows beyond. To create spaciousness the owners elected to dispense with any intervening wall.

Doors between these areas can be dispensed with entirely, building instead a framed opening a foot or two wider than a regular doorway. And even if you can’t open an intervening wall completely, you can make an interior window instead. That little strategy by itself will make your home both feel and live bigger.

2. The Diagonal View
Another secret to making your house feel larger is opening up a diagonal view, a line-of-sight that extends from one corner of the house to another. To do this, in new construction we make sure there are no intervening walls. In remodels, consider removing all or part of a wall that’s blocking that line-of-sight. If that’s outside of your comfort zone, again you might consider installing a framed opening or interior window. The opening need not be inordinately large, but instead need only be strategically placed, to achieve the desired result.

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Alta House: note spiral stair featured as sculptural element highlighted by daylighting. Not hidden behind claustrophobic walls, instead it’s an architectural focal point on a diagonal line-of-sight.

3. Double Duty
The floor plans of many of today’s homes have failed to keep pace with the realities of actual lifestyle. For example, for many families today the formal living room is in reality just expensive, rarely-entered real estate used to showcase rarely-utilized furnishings. Instead, consider consolidating the living area with dining area resulting in a space that can serve both formal and informal functions. If a formal dining room is an essential commodity, consider lining it with bookshelves so it can double as a library. The result will be an elegant, lived-in sensibility which at the same time frees up space elsewhere that can be used for something else, such much-needed additional resources in your home office or media room.

4. Shelter Around Activity
Children instinctively understand the concept of creating shelter around a specific activity, for example creating cozy playhouses out of cardboard boxes. This is instinctual in adults, too, and an alcove or inglenook is the adult equivalent of the cardboard box, doing the double duty of providing an alternative space for dedicated activity within a larger space. The larger space feels larger by contrast with the smaller, while the nook provides semi-private comfort for dedicated activities.

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Alta House: diagonal line of sight from the kitchen reveals variety of ceiling heights, open upper landing, and window openings in interior walls used to create a feeling of spaciousness.

5. Vary Ceiling Heights
In order to establish variety and contrast, employ the strategy of adjusting and varying the height of the ceilings. For example, a lower ceiling over the kitchen, a medium-height ceiling over the dining area, and a tall ceiling over the entry will provide spatial contrast, a hierarchy of activity spaces, so that the entire house actually ends up living larger. This is a strategy readily employed in new construction. In the case of the remodel, raising a ceiling can be accomplished by raising the roof by means of a dormer. An even more affordable solution is to lower parts of the ceiling without changes to the support structure. When you lower a ceiling, you’re not affecting the structure, thus making it a relatively easy strategy to accomplish.

Construction Starts: Indications for 2019

A survey of various indicators – builder confidence, anticipate construction growth, the construction job market, home sales, and economic indicators – shows mixed but apparently favorable overall trends for our regional construction industry in 2019. In this article we compile recent reporting from five online sources to develop a an overview of what those in the construction industry can expect over the coming year. Continue reading

The Spanish Revival Style

Prindle House, George Washington Smith, architect

The Spanish Revival style (1915-1940) includes Spanish Colonial Revival and Spanish Eclectic. The Colonial style is based on Spanish architecture in the New World. The Eclectic style is based on Spanish architecture in Europe.

The Spanish Colonial Revival style immediately followed the Mission Revival style and shared many of the same architectural elements. Continue reading

Richard Neutra’s Connell House

The Connell House, located in Pebble Beach, CA is an intact and representative example of the Modernist architectural movement commonly called the “International Style” designed by internationally renowned Modernist architect Richard Neutra.

The house is characterized by strong horizontal lines juxtaposed against both projecting and receding planes and volumes. Continue reading

County of Santa Cruz Releases Interactive ADU Toolkit

The County of Santa Cruz has released an interactive toolkit making it easier for homeowners to design, permit and construct Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which can be a more affordable housing option for Santa Cruz County families. Continue reading

Choosing A General Contractor

Most medium and large construction jobs are handled by a general contractor or G.C. The general contractor may be called a builder, building contractor, remodeling contractor, etc. What makes him a “general” contractor is that he enters into a contract with the owner to complete a project and takes full responsibility to get the job done for the bid price. In general, he purchases the materials, hires the tradespeople, and brings in subcontractors to get the work done. The subcontractors are responsible to the general contractor, not to you, the owner. Continue reading

A Practical Guide to Fiber-Cement Siding

Picking the right siding for your house is a delicate balancing act between good looks, durability, maintenance, and affordability. With wood, vinyl, stone, brick, or stucco, you might get only two or three of these. But with fiber cement, a resilient mix of wood pulp and portland cement, you get all four. It’s the only siding that combines the performance of masonry—minimal upkeep; rot-, fire-, and termite-proof; unaffected by wind or cold—with the look of painted wood clapboards, shingles, even stone or brick. Yet fiber cement goes for just a fraction of the cost of these other materials. No wonder nearly 15 percent of new homes—and many TOH TV projects—are clad with the stuff.
All this has happened in just 25 years, since fiber cement was first introduced. Now architects regularly specify the siding because it holds down costs without compromising aesthetics. It’s even accepted for use in many historic districts. Continue reading

Is an Open Floor Plan for You?

Open-Floor-Plans-55f61afbe9506-kitchen-with-open-floor-plan-l-6d36bd632879cc35Every homeowner has their own design style, which makes choosing a floor plan that meets style preferences — and functional needs — essential. While there is no such thing as a universally “perfect” floor plan, there is, however, such a thing as the “perfect” floor plan for your household. There are pros and cons to the traditional floor plan and the modern floor plan alike. Only by weighing your priorities, can you figure out which floor plan is perfect. In this article we want to help you determine whether or not the open floor plan is compatible with your needs and stylistic preferences. Continue reading

How to Choose a Roof for Your Home

choosing-roofing-1From natural materials like slate and wood to manmade products such as asphalt, sheet metal, and plastic polymers; there are more types and styles of roofing to choose from today than ever before. While each has its advantages and shortcomings, they all can add a distinctive design element to your home. So which one is right for you? Continue reading