Design

Possible Layout Changes – Sketchup Model

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You can download a copy of my model from the Sketchup 3D warehouse if you would like to look at it yourself. Please see my previous post for a useful tip regarding navigation and to compare this to the current, original layout of the house.

I feel it is important to retain the original facade of the house with the attractive stone detailing (with other more important damp management characteristics) and bay window which lets lots of warm natural light into the front room. The main alteration visible from the front would be the addition of rooflights (please see the reasons for these below) and possibly solar panels in future since this is a south facing roof. The visual impact of these could be minimised with low profile, flush fitting designs in a grey colour.

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Having lived in several similar victorian terraces previously; I have experience of both living in and visiting many hundreds of similar properties. Operating my pet care company and photographing for estate agents allowed me to spend a lot of time observing and analysing how the ergonomics of these houses work, either with their original layout or with the many different types of alterations that can be made, both with multiple adult occupants and in more family-oriented situations.

I enjoy studying spatial relationships, how spaces make one feel, how light travels around these buildings, the ‘flow’ of spaces, how design affects behavior and usage of space; impacting things such as damp issues and the psychology of how people interact with their environment

I feel it is important not only to think about how a space operates for yourself, but also how it will suit the needs of potential future occupants and to balance those things into an ergonomically harmonious design that maximises versatility for as many different types of people as possible.

Functionality and how a space feels are key concerns for me. Aesthetics does come into this, but more so from a perspective of psychological impact on inhabitants rather than architectural fashions or aspirational notions of keeping up with the joneses!

Understanding of space and how buildings operate is also informed by my aptitude for physics and a love of observation, systems thinking, identifying cause/effects and looking holistically at how humans act upon the world around them either consciously or subconsciously.

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The Victorians had some fantastic knowledge and understanding of proportion, detailing and materials that goes far beyond the aesthetics into the realms of physics. Much of this information was no doubt intuitive, learned through observation, experimentation, real world science and passed down between the generations.

However, they also lived very different lives to us in terms of how people occupied their homes, how they heated them, the size of their families, the activities they conducted, how they moved through the space, the amount of ‘stuff’ they had and the technology available to them.

I would like to understand and retain or reinstate what still works from the past, and integrate it with more modern needs and desires. I have never been someone who automatically assumes that newer equals better, but I am not sentimentally attached to tradition for the sake of it either.

At the time that this house was built (around 1890), people had a certain approach to privacy that informed things such as the direction that doors opened. You will find that doors generally open into the room, blocking the view where occupants are most likely to be – so in a bedroom, the most likely location of the bed will be obscured from view. To my mind, this reflects the morals of the times rather than inherent practicality.

Messy, water-based activities were relegated to small, functional rooms at the rear of the house. It is only recently that washing machines and tumble driers have done away with the many hours spent operating dollys and mangles in the scullery on wash day, with the soaking wet floor that my mother recalls from her time as a child during the 50s.

The demographic of the people living in these houses has changed dramatically, with many more people now not married or with children, and many people renting rooms within these houses as multiple unrelated adults sharing a space.

Traditionally, these homes were built for workers, probably family men with a wife who stayed at home with children. Nowadays, there is a more even division of the types of labour between genders and more people work from home than ever before.I suspect that this informs the desire for a more connected, versatile living space, one that is more open and less oppressive.

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This house would originally have had three bedrooms. In the past, each bedroom may have housed several children, yet modern living standards mean it is much more common for only one or maybe two children of the same gender to share a room. I feel that three or four bedrooms is a good size for either a family or a group of adults sharing a space.

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With the modernisation of installing an upstairs bathroom in the back bedroom, a bedroom was lost and an awkwardly arranged, overly large family bathroom was created for a house that only has enough bedrooms for a couple and most likely a single child.

I feel that moving the bathroom to the front of the property to re-instate the back room as a bedroom would mean a couple could have two children with their own rooms, or a spare room, or a study, whilst a group of sharers would have more even sized rooms, each of which could fit a double bed if needed. For myself, it would mean I could have a lodger and retain a spare bedroom for visiting family/freinds.

The back bedroom could have a rooflight installed when repairing the roof, to bring in warm westerly sun to the back of the property.

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The bathroom, whilst compact – would have a beautiful light, airy feeling due to the installation of a rooflight ‘punched’ through the loft eves space to the roof above which would retain privacy whilst providing an easily operated ventilation to encourage behavior that mitigates moisture generation, reducing moisture vapour traveling to colder areas of the property and condensing. Boxed in pipes and well designed storage would help reduce clutter and a wall-hung toilet/sink would make cleaning easy and improve floor space to make the room feel bigger.

The shower would be installed over a deep japanese style tub retaining the ability to have a bath (important for families with children) despite the compact space. The soil pipe from the toilet would be boxed in under a step up to ease access into the bath, and drop down through a ‘storage wall’ below.

Although the large ‘master bedroom’ would be diminished substantially in size, it would still be functional and no smaller than many modern homes that are being built with much more poky dimensions! Bedrooms are mainly for sleeping, time for reflection & escape from family life, storing clothes and getting dressed. I don’t feel that large bedrooms are essential – particularly if spacious, open, interactive living spaces are created downstairs, there is decent built-in storage and bathrooms are well designed.

Whilst we all have more ‘stuff’ than the victorians, maybe this requires more introspection as to the cause – for example, filling a void caused by dissatisfaction in other areas of our lives, insecurities being played upon and being convinced we are lacking something by marketing companies etc… because it is unlikely we need it all!

Additionally – there would always be the option of creating a loft room or dormer conversion if a larger fourth bedroom was required.

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Whilst I have considered a dormer conversion or a loft room to building regulations standards, the cost seemed a lot more than  moving the bathroom and would result in a more boxy appearance to the rear. I did rather like the idea of having a green roof on top of the back room with access from a master suite in the dormer however. (I might consider keeping bees up & out of the way of the neighbours!) I feel that the cost of this might be prohibitive and the money might be better spent creating a more spacious layout downstairs, whilst creating a three bed house by moving the bathroom.

To the rear having a glazed ‘porch’ area that spans across the back of the house would be great for putting out clothes on an airer without worrying about rain showers, would allow working on messy projects outside without filling half the garden with a shed and could also serve to protect visiting smokers from the elements.

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The extension I have modeled at the back was just a ‘placeholder’ to give an idea of what I was trying to describe to people & could definitely do with being redesigned by someone better versed in structural elements and construction techniques. It doesn’t reflect my personal aesthetic desires, simply the idea of the space itself and a guess at how the upstairs room might be supported.

The idea was to create modular spaces that could be re-purposed as the needs of occupants changes. The kitchen remained as a galley kitchen since this is a very practical layout for cooking, but with more storage in the darker section against the party wall. The work areas would be well lit by the westerly sun that would come through the rooflights in the side-return section.

A view of the garden and the living spaces (potentially right through to the lounge at the front of the house) ensures that anyone doing household chores doesn’t feel left out or disconnected from the rest of the occupants. It would also allow more multi-tasking and moving from one activity to another with ease.

The side return is currently dark and damp – previously used for a coal bunker, it is now something of a ‘dead space’ for modern occupants. Changing this to being an indoor space might make more sense.

The dimensions chosen allow sofas, dining tables, work areas, etc to be placed in many different locations depending on the current requirements of the occupants.

For myself, I know that I would like to be able to see the garden from as many viewpoints as possible. Victorian houses were designed for privacy and a more inward looking approach. I feel it is important to have some connection with the natural world in everyday activities, as well as the psychological impact of the feeling of possibility and open-ness that a view to the outside and open sky can give. Privacy can be created with light canopied trees such as rowan & birch blocking direct view into/from neighbours windows, allowing light through, whilst providing habitat and food for birds, improving air quality, reducing sound transmission from the traffic, whilst breaking up the monotony of the rooflines beyond.

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Large bifold doors were initially considered since it would allow me to have internal hand-tool woodworking bench or studio area, with the ability to open it up to the outside and quickly move the workpiece outside to sand or paint. For other people it would allow more alfresco dinners on a summer night etc or the ability to have a sofa to relax upon where the garden could be contemplated from the inside.

Whilst it would provide an amazing panoramic view of the garden and bring plenty of wonderful diffuse northern light into the living space reducing the need for artificial lighting – it has been pointed out that the ability to have a window open without having doors open is an important requirement to manage moisture in a kitchen area. I had wondered whether a decent extraction fan might mitigate this, but I can see that a more prudent approach may be to have double french doors with a separate window that can be opened.

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Victorian houses tend to have long, dark narrow hallways with nowhere to store shoes, coats, bikes etc. I have come up with a solution for this house which requires ‘borrowing’ space from the lounge – probably around 20cm or so – to create a thick timber partition stud wall with integrated storage. This would need to be wide enough to fit a bike with folding pedals & handlebars that rotate 90 degrees.

The storage wall would also act as a great way to re-route and hide the soil pipe from the newly located upstairs bathroom. Additionally electric/gas meters and consumer unit, along with other utilities (eg. potential underfloor heating manifold, internet router/switch etc) could be tucked away here.

The lobby door is currently only around 1.23m long – not enough to wheel a bike fully into the house before opening the lobby door. This could be moved further along to retain the warmth retention & children/pet control aspect of a lobby area whilst improving access with bikes or other large items.

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Knocking through to the front room would achieve several things. Most importantly it would bring the lovely bright south-facing light into the middle of the house which is currently very dark, which would help create light uniformity due the dual aspect of light sources. It would extend the length of the storage wall & also allow a more substantial sofa to be against that wall (currently could only fit a 160cm sofa maximum). Occupants could remain connected across the different spaces, whilst installation of sliding (pocket?) doors would allow the room to be separate when needed – for example as a guest room or just as a cosy TV room or reading space. The entire space could be used as a long photography studio when needed and it would enable a free flow of movement between areas with no awkward corners or angles, whilst retaining privacy and a sense of separate areas.

It would probably make more sense to have a dividing wall between this open plan area and the hallway/stairs to control moisture movement, noise, and smells from the kitchen. The original wall between the middle reception room and the hallway makes this reception room very narrow and not terribly functional, whilst making the hallway a series of right angles which means it is extremely difficult to bring any furniture or long items through the house.

I will be creating an updated model in future to reflect some of these aspects.

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