Thursday, March 30, 2006

Project Update: Architect Site Visit II

MJ Neal and his partner in crime Viviane visited the house today.

After introducing ourselves, we launched right into it.

MJ is a little more "Zen" in his approach to a project. He talks about volumes and spaces more than cost per square foot. He talks about light more than layout. He listens hard, and seems fairly methodical in his approach to a project...but not in a bad way.

He presented what seemed like a hundred directions in one hour. And maybe what contributed to that sensation is that SO and I are feeling a little overwhelmed with the speed of this decision. But the meeting felt like a whirlwind nonetheless. Lots of ideas and information shared between the four.

We're expecting a site analysis from both of them in the next few days, and I'll post a report of how they pan out and how we react to them.

If for whatever reason we decide against this property, we will still hopefully be able to narrow our architects down to one firm. How about that?

We're on pins and needles.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Project Update: Architect Site Visit

Rick and Cindy Black visited the property and spent about an hour and a half talking amongst themselves, talking with us, and getting the lay of the land.

The Sig Other really liked them. He liked that they "banter" back and forth about possibilities openly. And they do....we certainly witnessed an open exchange of ideas.

Because this property is a bit more than we planned to spend on the raw ingredients and will require a total rewire and install of a H/AC system, our project budget would be more limited than we originally communicated to Rick and Cindy a few months ago.

Surprise, surprise, right?

We don't know yet whether our budget will allow for what we ultimately want out of the finished product.

However, they left with some guidelines and will come back to us with a very rough sketch and some project ideas to look at by the weekend, which is exciting....even if it doesn't work out. They will likely come back to us with a "now" plan and a 5-year plan.

Still, the property is ideal for what we want...if we just had double the money and were not concerned with the resulting price per square foot.

A simple (and not to scale) sketch of the lot, and what might become of it. Granted, I'm no architect. This is an exceedingly simple way of approaching it:

We'll see how it all plays out in the next few days.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Project Update: A Real Possibility

Getting settled in Austin has taken longer than expected. Add to that the fact that we experienced some internet connection challenges at home at the start, and I'm way behind on updates.

It looks like we may have found a property.

I've spent a lot of my rare spare time on the internets and researching neighborhoods. This past Sunday, we set out to drive the city, walk through some open houses, and see a few things that were on the market.

We ended up in Pemberton, an idiotic choice considering our wants and budget. It was a fun distraction nonetheless and we toured some cool open houses. One 2200 sq ft + house we really liked, but of course it was out of our budget. While walking through, my first reaction was "what would we do with all this space?".

I've never lived (as a grown up) in more than 1800 square feet. Even then, I've usually ended up living in just a couple of rooms in the end. The Sig Other has a similar experience. So, the more we think about it, the more we acknowledge that not only do we not need a whole lot of space, we aren't necessarily comfortable with 2000 square feet. A key learning.

We also know that outdoor space and the feel/shape/location of the lot is just as important, considering our ultimate plan.

I had pulled a certain property

We did a couple of drive by's. It was unoccupied, but someone was having a look with their realtor, so we didn't stop and roam around the outside.

However, after spending hours upon hours looking at what's on the market, we came back and realized it was the 'raw ingredients' we're looking for. In our price range, of course.

We called our

There was already an offer about to be put on the table, so we had to act quite fast. We saw the place the following morning at 8 AM. Did a quick walk-through and made an offer, which was accepted.

So, we're under contract.

The house is teeny tiny at 831 square feet.

But, it sits on a great lot, which is almost square and over 7000 square feet. The house also sits to one side of the lot, which allows lots of space for an addition or second structure. Lots of possibilities, design-wise.

And, it already lends itself to a courtyard type configuration, which is cool.

The interior is simple but in okay shape.

We had the inspection today, and while the house is in great structural shape for its age, there are serious electrical issues, serious HVAC issues, and some textbook issues with a house of this age. We'll work that out with the seller in allowances or we'll walk away.

Nonetheless, we're under contract and have just under 10 days to make a final decision on whether we want to move forward with the project. If we change our minds, we're out the option fee and inspection fee, which isn't a huge loss in the grand scheme.

Our approach (today, anyway) is to add onto the house, respecting the neighborhood and original style while injecting it with strong modernist strokes.

For example, we'd like the openness (added windows, doors, screen porch, etc) to face the courtyard area rather than the street. The house would be quite demure and unimposing.

We'll have our two possible architects (MJ Neal and Rick Black) visit in the next few days and I'll post updates on those visits and our decisions on this property.

The next week will be quite interesting, to say the least.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Inspiring Houses: Basis Design Build

This house has been featured in Metropolitan Home and Fine Homebuilding's Houses. I'd seen both articles and managed to hold onto the Houses issue in my pile of 'keepers'.

At 2000 square feet and designed by
Basis Design Build out of Toronto, this house lives large.

I could just about move right in. I like it a lot.

Great kitchen.

And a cool 3rd floor retreat and viewing deck.

From the street, the house maintains a very consistent scale and roofline as the neighbors, which is respectful.

Yet from the back, a modern home dramatically reveals itself.

It has a lovely small interior courtyard that allows natural light into the core of the house.

The floor plan is a thoughtful use of space. The front studio could be a flex space, a more formal living area or a library, and the office could easily be used as a guest room.

The house employs a good use of light, functions and materials.

This shower/bath combo, with a teak cover for the tub, is quite inventive.

A whole lot to appreciate.

I love this house.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Inspiring Houses: The Dwell Homes: Flatpak

The Dwell Homes, three modern prefab dwellings manufactured in Massachusetts, have created a lot of buzz.

And with good reason.

Flatpak house, designed by Charlie Lazor, a principal in Blu Dot (an award winning furniture design firm) offers an interesting mix of materials and comes in three different floorplans/sizes.

The larger model, shown above, has separate study and guestroom structures, connected by a second floor interior bridge, that creates a covered outdoor living area:

And the 500 square foot plan has a nice layout for the size. I like the middle room's flexibility. You could plunk a murphy bed in there and let it function in a hundred different ways:

But it is the 3000 square foot plan that has gotten the most attention:

For me, though, there is something about the exterior of the larger model that comes across as static and austere. Maybe it is the fact that the structure itself is basically one big square with a flat shed roof. There isn't much to lead the eye.

Yet the interior spaces seem very livable.

While I think this design is ambitious and exciting simply because it is readily available for purchase and installation, it isn't the one that floats my boat. Maybe it is just me.

More to come.

Monday, March 06, 2006

We're Home.

The last 7 days have been spent packing, talking to utilities people, interacting with burly moving folk, unpacking, arranging, shopping and cleaning. We're beat.

We love our house. Granted, the location has a whole lot to do with it. But the livability of the place is also already evident. I like this kitchen better than the one in the house we're about to sell, even though it is smaller.

The whole place is very hospitable.

The landscape, which is a bit "cottagey", is lush and well done. The interior spaces, while traditional and snug, are scaled to the overall size of the place and very livable.

And then there's that 3 minute commute to work.

We like.