Design of the Prairie Home

The owners of this home purchased a sloping pie shaped lot with access from above. There are nice views of downtown Great Falls and the Missouri river to the East. Capturing these views was a priority.  Also, this open hillside lot is exposed to the prairie wind which can make decks and outdoor spaces uninviting.  Creating some protected outdoor space for the family became an added goal for the design.

The lot is wide enough to exploration layout options.  One option is to build a simple square in the center of the lot.  Another is to build a longer L shape.  Most of the homes in the area follow these models.   But they do not help create compelling or well protected outdoor spaces.  The option chosen and shown below was to split the house into a bedroom wing and living wing creating a central protected outdoor space between them.  An outdoor deck, lower level terrace and a grove of Aspen trees now occupy this protected spot.  The Aspen grove softens the deck areas and mimics the sheltered canyons in eastern Montana. 

The overall layout plan shows the entry drive from the West, the garage and bedroom wing to the North and living wing to the South with deck and lawn to the East   

The overall layout plan shows the entry drive from the West, the garage and bedroom wing to the North and living wing to the South with deck and lawn to the East   

The southern portion of the home includes a TV area, kitchen dining and living.  The northern portion the garage laundry and master suite.   A narrow circulation hall with stair connect the two wings.  The central deck is accessed from the Master bedroom, Living room, and hallway.

The southern portion of the home includes a TV area, kitchen dining and living.  The northern portion the garage laundry and master suite.   A narrow circulation hall with stair connect the two wings.  The central deck is accessed from the Master bedroom, Living room, and hallway.

The main level deck is a central shaded and wind protected outdoor spot for the home.  The Aspen trees help provide some greenery and a bit of shade.  

The main level deck is a central shaded and wind protected outdoor spot for the home.  The Aspen trees help provide some greenery and a bit of shade.  

The deck comes to a sharp point making fun place to stand and view the river.  A lower retaining wall helps creates a manicured lawn area for play.

The deck comes to a sharp point making fun place to stand and view the river.  A lower retaining wall helps creates a manicured lawn area for play.

The lower level opens out to a terrace.  Aspen trees are planted in the beds either side of the house staircase.   A adjacent small manicured lawn extends out toward the view.  Rainwater is collected by two large cisterns.

The lower level opens out to a terrace.  Aspen trees are planted in the beds either side of the house staircase.   A adjacent small manicured lawn extends out toward the view.  Rainwater is collected by two large cisterns.

A section between the two building forms shows the connecting hallways and planting areas.  The deck and terrace are to the right.

A section between the two building forms shows the connecting hallways and planting areas.  The deck and terrace are to the right.

Low slope metal clad roofs sit atop long glulam beams.  Large gutters at the low end catch water and drop it into cisterns below.  

Low slope metal clad roofs sit atop long glulam beams.  Large gutters at the low end catch water and drop it into cisterns below.  

Large windows face the view downslope.   Large beams and dramatic roofs give the home some design power.

Large windows face the view downslope.   Large beams and dramatic roofs give the home some design power.

Colors of the home are intended to blend with the dry prairie grasslands while the forms provide a powerful presence.

Colors of the home are intended to blend with the dry prairie grasslands while the forms provide a powerful presence.

Projecting roofs, deck and beams are dramatic.  The sharp point of the deck is always a topic of conversation.  

Projecting roofs, deck and beams are dramatic.  The sharp point of the deck is always a topic of conversation.  

The home works well with the site, provides wonderful views to the river, and fits nicely with the local environment.  At the same time it has a strong presence. The central outdoor space becomes the heart of the home during the spring summer and fall with barbecue, chairs, table and benches.  The coppery color of the exterior blends well with the dry summer grasses.

Architect goes camping

When you are pushed into camping it becomes natural to want to make it, well at my age, a softer more plush experience.  The tent on the ground with a thermarest pad are ok, but a bit of indulgence comes to mind.  So, while sitting in the tent on the thermarest pad my backside starts to dream a bit...... and so the custom trailer!   

Rat rod maybe.

Rat rod maybe.

Or bigger!  A true land yacht...

Or bigger!  A true land yacht...

Yacht with a grand bedroom salon.  

Yacht with a grand bedroom salon.  

Detailed with operable windows and screens, a cool looking land yacht.

Detailed with operable windows and screens, a cool looking land yacht.

Oh well, back to camping...

Oh well, back to camping...

Foundation for a Flood Plain

The design for this new beach home on a low-lying Puget Sound lot needed to handle a predicted flooding on the lot.  We explored commercially available flood vents for the home but were dissatisfied with both their look and function. Instead we decided to design the whole foundation as an integral part of the home to handle predicted flood waters.  A foundation with ample screened openings will allow flood waters to wash in under the building and then back out.  This rare occurrence would cause no damage to the home and dry out quickly.  Commercial flood vents would not work as well and would not allow the crawl space to dry out quickly.

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Framing over the flood plane foundation is proceeding here.

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By lining up the flood openings with the windows above the façade of the home became more unified and finished.  

A broad set of stairs and large entry porch help make a pleasing entry.  The heat pump unit is set on a concrete pedestal and screened with a slatted fence to protect it from flood waters.  The electrical box will be painted also to have it blend with the home.

The final design of the vacation home has a quiet presence on the beach front. 

the main living area with large windows facing the view.

the main living area with large windows facing the view.

The quiet exterior is a counterpoint to a dramatic wood lined interior of the beach home.

The stair climbs to the second floor loft and bedrooms.

The stair climbs to the second floor loft and bedrooms.

A central skylight helps illuminate the whole interior.  A motorized operator within the skylight exhosts built up heat.

A central skylight helps illuminate the whole interior.  A motorized operator within the skylight exhosts built up heat.

The Shed Roof - SLA's version of the Linear Shed Roof

Linear shed roof for Vashon Island home

Linear shed roof for Vashon Island home

Over the last decade we have had the challenge to design modern yet modest, cost-effective homes for our clients.  This led us to explore in more detail the various shapes and construction techniques to reduce cost and at the same time retain design delight and a Pacific Northwest modern style.  What came of that research was a linear shed roof typology.
Some examples of this construction method is shown in the following images.

Combination of linear sheds to form a courtyard

Combination of linear sheds to form a courtyard

Linear shed roof on house and adjacent garage

Linear shed roof on house and adjacent garage

SLA image
Beams supporting standard rafter framing

Beams supporting standard rafter framing

Refined over several iterations, it was most recently used on our Anacortes Project .  We stick to standard carpentry and a simple framing layouts to keep it cost effective while still providing a modern element. The roof needed to work with standard insulation and roofing materials, but at the same time have some delight and that PNW feel.

By laying out the homes in a linear fashion, we could bring in more light to the individual rooms.  The floor and roof framing are simple single span affairs with repeated layout.  Setting glulam beams along the parallel walls allowed for an expression of the structure and carried out the overhangs we needed.  We are able to single span the building with standard framing, then roof and insulate.  With a shallow pitch we could use standard shingles.  The higher sidewall allowed for accessory building spaces to be attached and still have light penetrating.  The high side of the roof opened up to capture uphill light for the home, while the low side frames the views.

Shed Roof set on Glulam Beams

Shed Roof set on Glulam Beams

Beams are set on top of the walls, sheathing keeps the beams in place.

Beams are set on top of the walls, sheathing keeps the beams in place.

Upper windows bring in light.
The simple roof still conveys a nice sense of drama with its overhangs.

The simple roof still conveys a nice sense of drama with its overhangs.

Taller walls allow for more light to enter the building on the uphill side

Taller walls allow for more light to enter the building on the uphill side

In the end, the modest budget buildings of the last decade have created for us and our clients an aesthetic that we have used successfully to produce dynamic, modern homes at a modest cost.

New Tile Patterns and Sizes!

We have been looking for new tile selections for various projects.  These from Surface Art in Seattle and Pental caught our eye.  The tile manufacturers are creating some wonderful new products.  The patterns are great, the colors are sophisticated and they come in very large format. 

Seattle Surface Art tile: New Zealand Plank.  We will try using this for our entry hall at the North Idaho cabin project.

Seattle Surface Art tile: New Zealand Plank.  We will try using this for our entry hall at the North Idaho cabin project.

This Surface Art tile, Sediments will be used at our Anacortes project.  It will look great!

This Surface Art tile, Sediments will be used at our Anacortes project.  It will look great!

A darker version of the Sediments tile.  This one is great.  We are surrounding a fireplace with this tile. 

A darker version of the Sediments tile.  This one is great.  We are surrounding a fireplace with this tile. 

Some, like the WOW tile from Pental are show stoppers.  We are excited to be using these in our projects.

This is a wonderful Pental accent tile called WOW.  No location yet on a project but we are excited for the possibilities.

This is a wonderful Pental accent tile called WOW.  No location yet on a project but we are excited for the possibilities.

We will post photos of the finished installations when they are done!