Finally, the structure, materials and finishes were selected to emphasize the function and experience of each space. The construction of the cabin and its location far from big urban resources encouraged a simple foundation and the need to build it over several summers suggested a “kit-of-parts” approach and smaller joined structural members. The house was near the flood level of the Wenatchee River so we built it on piers and made the underside impervious to water and water creatures.
Operable windows are oriented to encourage natural ventilation by the wind with larger openings toward the predominate wind direction. Wing walls and roof overhangs block sunlight in hot summers and to allow the sun to heat the interior in the winter. Hardy materials are used for the exterior and for interior wall finishes (rough plywood, not gypsum board). Soft built-ins (restaurant-like benches with cushions and built-in tables) cluster seating to encourage group meals and conversation in the public spaces. The main living spaces were designed to be heated primarily by a wood stove.
Cabinetry was built in to accommodate storage and to accommodate gatherings to make meals. Sleeping bags accommodated on comfortable loft floors and tough tile finishes planned for shared bathroom spaces. The small size of the cabin allows (given a fixed construction budget) more investment per square foot and therefor higher level, lower maintenance, more natural (warmer) and longer-lasting materials.
1027 square feet is an ambitious goal for multiple families; his was a vacation home. Yet the comfortable and long-lasting use of this space (as little as 60 square feet per person) and the surrounding materials is the best example of the benefits of careful investment in design.
As our homes have grown larger many have also jettisoned the architect and traded good design for large spaces that are extraneous, do not function well, and, worst of all, are too large and too disconnected from the activities of our lives to feel comfortable. The result is wasted space, materials, and energy, the reduction of land and surrounding green space, poor or no connections between spaces and between human scale and the volume of space. Well-trained architects understand these principles and the deep human need for well-scaled comfortable human space.
This process and the care and time that insures better smaller homes is not only worth the investment, it pays you back with reduced square footage and materials, reduced construction costs, reduced energy use and better, more comfortable living.
Tim James Rhodes RA. AIA.
Rhodes Architecture + Light