Saturday, October 30, 2010

McMansion Report

McMansion Report

House 1

The first house I visited was part of the Tour of Remodeled Homes. A 25-year-old home, Leon Wood General Contractors worked with the homeowner to add a game room above the garage and to update the kitchen and bathrooms.

Materiality: The playroom utilized mostly plywood and paint and left room for the homeowner to add his own storage (which he requested). The kitchen used granite countertops and dark wood for the cabinetry. The bathrooms were fairly simple with large tile floors and dark cabinetry.
Flow: The flow of this space was fairly choppy. The playroom was located above the garage which is detached from the house, yet connected by a porch/deck in the middle of the house that wraps around to the back of the house. The layout of the main house is not very open and incorporates a lot of hallways that separate each space.
Innovation: Something interesting for this house was the fact that the homeowner wanted to be able to finish the playroom himself and add whatever storage or furniture he saw fit. He created inlayed shelves and put cabinetry on himself for extra storage.
Trends: In the main house, the kitchens and bathrooms were the only remodeled spaces and were very modern and up to date. The rest of the house, however, was not as modern and incorporated dark greens and reds in the carpeting and furniture. Although the bathrooms and kitchen are nice, there was somewhat of a disconnect in the design trends between those spaces and the rest of the house
Surroundings: Socially, this house is meant for a single family. Due to the choppy layout, however, the house separates the activities in the family rather than bringing them all together. Culturally, I noticed modern and traditional designs, which shows the character of the homeowners, but does not create a unified space. Physically, the house is set back in its landscape and is in a neighborhood which keeps it quiet.
Ergonomics: The main house, as well as the garage and playroom space, speak to the needs of human life, but do so at a bare minimum. Yes, there needs to be a space for a kitchen and a living room, but humans also need interaction, Having the rooms closed off from each other does not assess those needs.
Connections: Bachelard’s idea of “nesting” presents itself in this home. Because the spaces are so closed off from each other, the person using the space is nested and only focused on the few feet around them rather than being subjected to a more open space.
Observations: To me, the layout of this house was not designed in a way that allows the owners to use it to its full potential. The spaces that they have redone are nice but do not connect to the rest of the house. This along with the layout make for a very segmented space that will not encourage a good family dynamic

House 2

Also part of the Tour of Remodeled Homes, this next house is located in a quiet suburban neighborhood and fits the description of a “McMansion” to a tee. The first thing I noticed about this house was the scale of the house and how much land it sat on.

Materiality: The laundry room used mostly laminate materials while the playroom and theatre area consisted of surface materials such as warm colors paints and fabrics on the walls and upholstery. The outdoor space utilized wood and stone.
Flow: The navigation of space throughout the entire house is very nice. The work done was an addition onto the main house, consisting of an upstairs playroom and theatre, a laundry room area, and an outside patio. The space is very open and the patio area spans almost the entire backside of the house and steps down to the yard, which has a big stone fireplace. The open flow and floor plan encourages the family to do activities together.
Innovation: Something interesting in this space was that the playroom and theatre area were in an upstairs space and seemed to be “lofted” which gave it an interesting feel.
Trends: The style of the house is a mix between modern and traditional with some traditional materials (like wood and stone) being used in a more modern way (like a large outdoor fireplace and patio). The additions reflect the style of the existing portion of the house almost exactly so there is a seamless connection between the two.
Surroundings: Socially, the house is meant for a single family. Because of the amount of land, neighbors are somewhat of a distance from the house, but are still very close. Culturally, the house is modern yet traditional and up to date and fits nicely within the rest of the community. Physically, the house is set in a suburban neighborhood, and is surrounded by a quiet environment. The amount of land ads to this and creates a sense of security and ownership.
Ergonomics: Because the navigation of space is very well thought out, the house very easily addresses the basic needs of human life. It is easy to get from one space to another and most of the spaces are connected. Also, there are certain spots in the house (i.e. the laundry rooms) that are ADA compliant which ads another level of efficiency to the house.
Connections: Bringing up Bachelard’s idea of nesting again, the playroom and theatre space have a sense of being lofted, which makes you feel as if you are in a tree house and are nested up high and away from everything else.
Observations: All in all, this house is very well layed out and the additions were made in a cohesive way that is a simple extension to what already existed. Although it is a mostly modern and traditional design, there are some aspects that give it a Ranch type feel. The ADA compliant laundry room was something that I noticed and asked the builder about and she said that she “never thought about it being ADA, it just ended up that way without trying.” This was interesting because it informs me that good design is useable design.

House 3

Part of the Greensboro Builder’s Association New Homes Tour, this house is a stereotypical cookie cutter home. It has a very open plan and is big, but not overly proportioned. The fact that the master bedroom is on the first floor is something unique that makes it more appealing to people wanting to stay there for a long time.

Materiality: The materials used throughout the home are wood, laminate, and various fabrics. There is not much variety in the materials used throughout the house.
Flow: The layout of the home is very open and encourages togetherness. The kitchen is open to the living room, which has high ceilings and opens to the upstairs. Each space is clearly defined, but the entire downstairs is viewed more as one continuous space rather than a bunch of individual rooms.
Innovation: Something interesting in this house is the fact that the master bedroom is on the first floor. From an ADA perspective, this is very convenient and will allow the family to stay in the house for a long time.
Trends: The design of the house is very simple and modern and allows the homeowners to decorate based on their own style. Because the house is so open, there are less interior walls to enclose the space and so, to me, the overall “trend” of the house is based on its open floor plan.
Surroundings: This home is located in a suburban neighborhood and has less land per house than House #2. It is located on a corner so there is some quiet but it is still a friendly neighborhood with neighbors close by.
Ergonomics: The fact that the master bedroom is on the first floor makes it easier for the homeowners to get around and stay mostly on one floor. This will make it easier in the future when they might be unable to walk up the stairs. The layout of the space in general, however, is very easy to navigate and get from one place to another; thus, it addresses the basic needs of human life
Connections: Alexander’s idea of a strong center is very pertinent in this space. Because the plan is very open, the first floor turns into one open space and creates a center. Further, the two-story ceilings in the living area allow you to see the upstairs and thus create an even stronger center.
Observations: Walking into this house, I immediately noticed how open the home was and how the entirety of the downstairs felt like one open room.

House 4

Set back into its landscape, this house (also part of the Greensboro Builder’s Association New Homes Tour) is quaint and well planned. Smaller than some of the other homes in the tour, this floor plan is simple and can comfortably fit a single family.

Materiality: The material used in this house is mostly wood and laminate with granite countertops in the kitchen.
Flow: The navigation of space is very easy. Walking in the front door, the dining room is on the right and then the living room and kitchen is straight ahead. To the left is a hallway that leads to the two guest bedrooms and to the right is a hallway that leads to the master bedroom and laundry area. It is a fairly small house (compared to the others) but is definitely open and very pleasing.
Innovation: The interesting thing about this house is that it is all one story. Instead of stacking the private spaces on top of the public spaces, you have the public space in the center of the house and the private spaces off to the sides.
Trends: The style of this home reminds me of the bungalow house in the sense that it is all on one floor and has a sense of simplicity.
Surroundings: This house is in a neighborhood but is layed back into the forest area. It is very quiet and quaint and allows for privacy and the ability to visit the neighbors nearby.
Ergonomics: Because the space is all on one level, it is very easy to move around. From an ADA standpoint, the ergonomics of the space make it easy for anyone to move around.
Connections: Like House #3, Alexander talks about the idea of centers, which definitely pertains to this house. Because the main focal point of this house is in the center (with the living area and kitchen), people are drawn to that area and that is the only public space in the house for people to interact.
Observations: The first thing I noticed about this house was its scale compared to the other houses I visited on the tours. The fact that it is set so far back into the woods gives it more of a private feel. I liked how there was one big communal space in the middle (with the kitchen and living room) and then the private bedrooms off to the side.

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