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Blog Cabin 2009: Q&A With Principal Architect Pat Kirkland, AIA

Learn more about the DIY Blog Cabin 2009 floor plan with this helpful architect Q&A.

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I think the floor plan is perfect, but the kitchen seems a tad closed in. If you are in the kitchen, would you be able to see into the living area?

-Belinda J

Belinda, the kitchen is in fact very open. There is not a wall or other obstruction between the kitchen and living area. There is a "lunch" bar that will have some stools for on-the-go families. Essentially two sides of the kitchen are wide open. From the kitchen you will be able to see the entire living and dining areas as well as through to the exterior. The other two walls provide the needed wall space for wall cabinets, vent hoods, refrigerators and ovens.

Could you please make sure the doorways, entrances and bathroom are handicapped-accessible?

-Helen Miko

Helen, my 89-year-old mother-in-law lives with me and she is in a wheelchair. Accessibility can mean different things to different people. I am assuming by your question that you mean wheelchair accessibility. The average wheelchair is just over 29 inches wide. I have 32-inch-wide doors and they provide adequate clearance. Thirty-six-inch-wide doors, though better, would sacrifice too much space in a compact room. In reviewing the floor plan, we need to adjust the door to the bathroom and closet to accommodate a 32-inch-wide door. Although not accessible by national standards, the design is accessible-friendly.

Can you build a staircase off the deck to the lower level? Maybe one that has one turn in it, so the steps are not too steep? Not a spiral staircase. Those are too difficult to navigate.

-Lillie 8

Lillie, a staircase off the deck is certainly a possibility. One thing to consider is convenience versus privacy. Some of my clients are concerned with stair access to the deck. Others consider it a vital circulation feature. The topography can sometimes be restrictive, too. On this lot it will be a matter of preference and budget. A friend of mine who owns a cabin in the north Georgia mountains delights in showing me pictures of the black bears that come up the stairs to his deck to "investigate," which is something else to consider in the mountains.

Will the house be green?

-Claudia NWIN

Claudia, Greenstone Builders is in charge of the purchasing for and construction of the home. They are working with numerous vendors. It is my understanding that material and system selections are all being reviewed for their "green" application. The term "green" covers a lot of aspects of a project. It is important to weigh many variables when reaching a decision.

Verify what is really the front versus the back of the house. Labeling that part of the veranda as "front porch" is leading people to believe that the laundry room is at the front of the house. Maybe the whole floor plan should be spun around so that the living room is at the front.

-Therese of So Cal

Therese, most people refer to the rear of a vacation home with a view as the front. For instance, a "lakefront" house. The front door that faces the street is the door adjacent to the laundry room. In a vacation home with views out the rear, the utility-type rooms such as the laundry and powder room are typically up front to preserve the rear of the house for the best views. This is not uncommon. Other options would be to locate the laundry room on another level.

Would you consider utilizing tubular skylights to brighten the structure’s interior spaces?

-Lesley

Lesley, I love natural daylighting. It is certainly an efficient way to light the interior. The better the natural light, the less the need for electrical lighting. Also, studies show us that natural daylight improves one’s health and outlook. With the compact design and the amount of windows, skylights are not likely to benefit this home but should always be considered when windows are not possible.

If there are only two buildings allowed on a lot and the treehouse is the second building and a carport is being built, could the owner take down the treehouse and turn the carport into a garage?

-Joan

Joan, this is one of those covenant-type questions. The intent of most covenants and guidelines is to preserve the overall concept and quality of life in a planned community. I am not the developer, but in this instance I don’t believe a treehouse would be considered a "building." So I would think that the carport could be enclosed as a garage, if desired.

Will the interior walls have the "feel" of cabin living? Such as a rustic-style interior design, with log walls throughout?

-K-

-K, there are lots of possibilities for the interior. There will not be any log walls but I expect we may see a lot of wood used on the interior walls and ceilings.

Where is that great bathtub going to be placed so that you have room to get around it?

-SandraP from LA

Good question, Sandra. There will need to be some design studies conducted to see how best to accommodate the tub and in which bathroom to locate it, as well.

What sort of driveway will lead to the cabin?

-Yani Qualls, Wilmington, NC

Yani, this is a developer question. I would hope that we will use a crushed-gravel drive. As long as it is not a steep drive this would work great and enhance the vacation-home feel.

Is there a heat source in addition to the fireplaces?

-Heather

Absolutely, Heather! It’s much too cold in the mountains not to have an HVAC system.

Are you considering a gray-water system, possibly together with a rainwater collection set-up (I see the cabin is well endowed with gutters and downpipes), to reduce the cabin demand for the main’s well water? Bearing in mind there are four bathrooms and two or three kitchens in this house the water usage may be high for a house this size even with low-flush volumes in the toilets and low-volume showerheads.

-Rob S

Rob, Greenstone Builders will be looking at these options and how to integrate them in the design. Interestingly, the septic system is designed based on bedroom load, not number of bathrooms and kitchens. The idea is that if a house will sleep 12, then the system has to handle the water volume created by 12 people, regardless of the number of fixtures.

Since the house is on a water well, does that mean the house also has a septic system? How big is the septic system and how far away from the basement is it buried?

-Cynthia L.

Cynthia, I addressed the septic system in the previous question. The clearances and other requirements are governed by the local codes and regulations. Slope of the land and soil classification are other factors to be considered. Some communities have systems that each house ties into. I am not certain if this is the type of system in place at Little Pines, but it should be easy enough to find out.

Will all the fireplaces be the gas type or will some of them be wood-burning?

-MJ

MJ, all of the fireplaces will have gas lighters and some will have gas log sets. We are reserving the outside fireplace and maybe one of the indoor fireplaces for wood burning. Keep in mind that wood-burning fireplaces are not very efficient and can affect outdoor air quality.

What is that area on the bottom floor next to the bathroom? I am referring to the very small area with doors on both sides. What would it be used for?

-Kelly

Kelly, you have spotted the audio/visual closet. If a home theater is installed we will need a closet to house the equipment. One side of the closet will be for the operational side. The other side will provide easy access to all of the wiring and power supplies.

Did you try to intentionally keep the footprint compact and vertical or was it a response to the topographical nature of the site?

-Greg in Alabama

Greg, it was our intent to keep the plan as compact as possible to make the design viable for as many lots as possible. As you have stated, the topography on some lots will greatly restrict the footprint. By keeping the footprint compact you increase the possible sites on which the design can be built.

The way the house is being built, would it be possible for a future owner to do away with the vaulted ceiling by building the third floor all the way across? Just curious if there is room for more bedrooms there in the future.

-Nancy, MA

Nancy, with a little planning and smart use of engineered lumber and other structural products, you could easily add a floor. Consideration will have to be given to egress windows in the bedrooms, so dormers may be a necessity. The room will be narrower due to the slope of the roof line, but this is definitely an option.

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