Friday, March 29, 2013

A Tiny Resort Apartment

I don't know why this wasn't one of my first thoughts in posting about small spaces.  I suppose it was because this was a semi tropical location with a killer view.  This is an absolutely tiny space.  It was probably a silly use of space in some ways, the enclosed space at the back of the apartment was 1/3 hallway.  There is my prejudice against hallways cropping up again.  The kitchen was tiny and had an eating area in it.  I would likely just omit the eating area and make it all prep space.  The bath was off the kitchen with a sliding stained glass door, and was quite spacious. 
The apartment was in Taormina Sicily.  It was located on a cliff edge and God help them if they have an earthquake of any size..
 Above the town was(or is) a smaller hilltop village, a fortress really.  As you can see, this was only about 12 feet wide(the metric version of course) and was all glass until you got to the kitchen wall.
There was a terrace on one long side and at the front, that went out to the edge of the cliff with low walls,  It was perhaps 18 feet wide and 25 feet long beyond the front of the apartment.

The front at night.  The two center panels are sliding doors. 
 Personally I like French doors better
The low wall with all the potted plants that are everywhere in Sicilian town homes. There are usually a lot of succulents and cactus plants in infinite variety.  Doing greenhouse like additions, sun rooms, conservatory rooms are quite common in Italy, especially when the apartment is on the small side. 

This was the more logical place to have an eating place.  Also, the bed was very large.  We were there in the late winter(an admittedly warm winter in Sicily) and with the curtains drawn, it was perfectly comfortable without putting the heat on.

The kitchen was sooo small, but it did function.
It was completely impractical for long term, but without the table and chairs, it would have been perfectly useful. I think that with the terrace, and with the elimination of the hall and strange kitchen layout, this would be a perfectly acceptable retirement home.
The bath was to the left and back around the blue tile corner. Pictures below...

You can see the width of the kitchen and bath.  They were behind the wall at the head of the bed.  The hall at the right would have added a lot of square footage to the kitchen and bath.  Notice the heat and air-conditioner above left.

The bath from the kitchen.  The only real kitchen storage was on the right in the cabinet...
Lots of wasted space.  Notice the wonderful swing out round window on the left.  It was painted bright, primary blue and was made of cast iron.

Well, what can I say...the shower.  I love the blue, but so hard to keep the water stains and soap off them.

I also did not think to take a good picture of the view from the terrace, but it was virtually identical to this one.  In the distance is Messina, and just out of view to the right is Reggio Di Calabria.(the mainland of Italy)  The apartment is actually to the left and below from this photo location.

Unfortunately the terrace did not have a view of Mount Etna, but I could not leave this out of the post.  See the little puff of smoke?
The settee was also impractical and ended up as a luggage rack at best.  It is, however, fairly traditional.
I will post a plan of the apartment as soon as I have a minute.
If I remember correctly, there was a trellis like overhang at the front of the apartment that would shade the glass in the hot weather, when vines are trained over it.  A Wisteria, Trumpet Vine, Akebia, Virginia Creeper, Grapes, Clematis(One of the big plants like Montana or Sweet Autumn) or annuals like Scarlet Runner Bean vines or Morning Glory. 
Looking out from the bedroom.

Here is a part of the view to the north.
We went to Taormina in the spring of 2008.  It was part of a trip around Sicily, including Palermo, Cefalu, Taormina and Siracusa.  This apartment was on a cliff and on the third floor of a guest house.  The entire third floor was just a tiny 12x12 space, as much as 1/3 of which was taken up with the top of a staircase and hall.  The rest of the floor was really just a roof terrace.  They added on a metal framed conservatory with sliding doors everywhere.  Then they added a solid roof, flat except for a slight tilt for water runoff.  In snowy climates, it would be necessary to do a more extreme angle or a conventional roof.   This could easily house a sleeping loft and/or storage.  Of course in a summer house you need little storage except a place to hang your bathing suits and a single set of regular clothes and a bunch of sandals, sneakers, T shirts and shorts. 
They placed the private bath and the kitchen in the actual masonry part of the apartment, and added the rest in front, extending toward the walled edge of the terrace.  The entire conservatory houses the bedroom area and a dining area.  If they had been a little less generous with the bed size, this could have also had a couch and a couple of chairs in addition to the little dining table and chairs they had in the corner.  Of course, most of the year one would be dining on the terrace in the bright blue wrought iron dining set.  They also make beautiful ceramic table tops for indoors or out, locally, in Caltagirone as well as in Deruta in Umbria. Vibrant blue edges with swags or bunches of olives,lemons, grapes or oranges on a white ground.  Marble is also common for dining tables, often including a "Baluster" or "vase" base and even Roman style chairs in marble.  The floor better be well braced for that though.  You can go to a counter top manufacturer in the US and have a table top cut from granite.and placed on an iron frame made locally by a welder.
The entire conservatory had heavy drapes hanging on rings from rods, covering the glass. 
The side wall of the apartment was the masonry wall of the neighboring house.   

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My Retirement Cottage Plan

I have been thinking about this for some time now.  Those few of you who wanted more posts...Sorry about that....

I have been measuring rooms here and, houses, my own house.  I have been trying to determine just what my absolute minimum requirements would be if I was building today.
I have assumed that a single bedroom would be good for most people, with the addition of a sleeper sofa in the living room.  Storage would come from free standing or self built bookshelves, multi purpose furniture, Armoires, built in bins and chests in the bottom of the one big closet and tons of storage in the attic, that should have good sized windows in either dormers or in the gable ends.  Also, if you need to house a lot of guests, a hatch should be built into the center of the house or in the center of the living room.  It should be beautifully finished to look like a ceiling coffer, that would allow temporary access to the attic, with beds.  One could also build a bath in the attic with plumbing going down through one of the walls flanking the archway of the kitchen into the basement.  Kids would love a beautifully crafted, drop down ladder/staircase but it might not be so good for your 90 year old mother.  Notice too, that there are no halls except the two feet leading into the bath from the bedroom..  Putting a hallway in any house is lunatic...a total waste of space unless you are an art collector and need wall space.  You can build houses of all sorts, that have either no halls or halls that do double duty...good planning and creativity will replace halls in almost all circumstances  I would leave the hall wall that forms the wall of the closet, unsheathed, and install shelves for extra bath storage, decorative bath salt jars, robe hangers etc..

I have left the doors and windows up to the builder.  I think that one should decide what furniture and art will be used.  You should decide on furniture placement, then arrange the doors and windows to fit.  If you are really concerned with the exterior symmetry in placement of doors and windows, try to make nice arrangements, symmetries, then fill in any blank spaces with an odd shaped window, like a round or oval in the wall space that does not fit in.

Use all the glass you can on the south side and on the living room and kitchen end walls.  No openings at all on the north side.(you might even consider exterior Styrofoam insulation between the sheathing and the shingles on the north side.)  Use dark tile or matte stone on all the floors in the living room, kitchen and bay.  This will help to heat the space a bit with sunshine. 

Personally I would fill the south side with french doors all the way over to the kitchen wall, then put in a nice Palladian, round or oval window above the counters in the kitchen wall(south side).  A good place for doing dishes at the sink, though the plumbing run might be a bit long from the bathroom.  Also, if you use European casement or double hung windows over the kitchen counter, you could pass through from the kitchen to a dining area on the patio.

I have this photo in another post in the blog, but it would also be a good choice for the separation between the kitchen and the living/dining room

Put a patio on the south side, and run a vine covered pergola in timber or welded iron the full length of the house.  Cover it with trained Laburnum, Wisteria, grapes etc. to block the summer sun.  The bump out could easily be a manufactured greenhouse with a glass roof as well.

The small walls either side of the kitchen opening, could easily terminate with engaged or free standing columns in your favorite style.

Measurements are approximate.  They are very close, but depend on the use of 2x4 or 2x6 exterior wall construction.  In any event, the idea is to make for easy and less wasteful construction in multiples of 4 feet.  So, it is 24"x24" foundation size.

Notice the south southwest orientation.  This is ideal for solar gain.

In this house, you are looking at a 24 foot span for the roof, ceiling and floors.  There are solutions for each of these.
You must have a truss system for this length of roof studs.  You will have to put in vertical posts a few feet from the tails of the rafters to support the length of them and snow load.  I will try to post some optional designs for this in the very near future.  You may also beef up the rafters by using larger dimension boards.

This should not change too much as there is an almost unbroken wall the full length of the house along or near the center.  If you feel it may be too springy to use as an upper floor, beef up the joists by using a larger dimension of board.  However, do not try to move the wall in redesigning the plan too far to one side or the other, as it is just too much of a span without doing something for support. Remember that this is a load bearing wall, and the door cut into it must have a heavy beam on top of the frame to support the ceiling(upper floor)

Floors.(assuming this cottage has a basement or crawl space below)
This plan requires a beam running the entire length of the house, directly under the wall above.  This beam is supported by masonry posts, sonotube and concrete, steel columns(not lolly columns for permanent use) or good heavy rot resistant wooden posts of a good size.  Put them in every ten feet to be safe.  The beam can be a single beam of laminated material.  You may make your own beam out of 2x10 boards glued and nailed(or screwed) together to make one very thick beam,  Do not try to make this out of 24 foot stock.  Hard if not impossible to get, and hard to transport etc.  Make it out of 12s , 8s  and 10s  and make sure  the butted seams fall on top of columns.
You may wish to use a steel "I" beam.  Make sure that the ends of the beams are sitting securely on the foundation or on columns incorporated into the walls of the foundation.  You can also cut a notch into one layer of the sills to slide the end of the beam in.

This house should easily heat with a fireplace in a mild climate, and a good wood stove on the small side would be a good choice.  It would require a vent from the kitchen to the bath and from living room to the bedroom.  A supplemental heater of some sort would also heat the bath easily.