Square footage and magic

Window bench

Window bench

Apparently we've been misleading people when they ask us 'how many square feet' our house is. We've been guesstimating it at around 2,000 sq ft, when in actual fact, it's only 1,530. It just feels like a very generous 1,530, which, in my mind, so clearly establishes that good design can make a space feel larger.

Square footage is a funny thing. We understand it as a measure of how big a home is — how much usable floor space there is. Stairs and unfinished spaces are not included in its calculation. Neither are the open-to-below spaces, like we have in our house. So although the floor plate is around 900 square feet (30' x 30'), actual usable space is less than.

Square footage also comes in to play when you talk about costs. It's common to break down the cost of a build into a cost per square foot measure. This is an altogether different calculation, measured using outside dimensions. Maybe another discrepancy in our estimation has something to do with the fact that our walls are so thick. 

Those thick walls are one of the key design features that make our house feel so much larger. Each and every window takes advantage of them, which is where the intersection of passive house principles and good design principles align. For example, in our kitchen, the entire 20' length of the window will be fitted with butcher block in the sill to double as a counter and become any chef's dream prep space. With our sliding doors, the floor actually bleeds through the wall, until it meets the glass, effectively extending our floorspace by an extra two feet. And in our master suite, we have a picture window with a sill at bench-height, which we're building out further to become a comfortable, cushiony, window seat. So we're reclaiming square footage with these little tricks, even if they're not technically considered usable square feet. Magic!

Also, don't ask me about our build right now. I am sooooo ready to be done. Still so much to do. I'll talk about it when I'm in a better emotional state. 

Construction week 28 — kitchen design

 

We’ve been finalizing our kitchen design. Check it out! Mark had originally designed the kitchen to fit Ikea components, in case we decided to go that route (for economic reasons). But after meeting with a couple kitchen designers and weighing the pros and cons, I think we’re going to go custom. And we were casually browsing appliance stores this weekend when we stumbled upon a built-in refrigerator at an ultra discount floor model price. It’s the same price as the other non-built-in option we were contemplating and has all the nice design features and benefits that we were looking for. So, yay!

We approached several kitchen designers with our initial design. They were able to bring some outside perspective to our layout. Kitchen design is something that architects do as well, but kitchen designers really know their products and details like under sink garbage options and drawer vs. door that really help. I wouldn't say they 'designed' out kitchen, Mark did, but they helped work through the details with us.

Deciding on our appliances also weighed in on our decision making. I’ll write a separate post about the appliances, because it requires one (Passive House limits our options in this area). We went back and forth on a few items. Wall ovens vs. island oven and pantry space. Pantry space was important to me. Even though I like the idea of a wall oven, pantry has a higher priority for me in terms of chest-height accessibility. We have ideas for finishes, but that will all be worked out once we design which company we’re going to go with. Both are great options, it will likely come down to cost and who we like working with.

As an aside, we aren’t basing all of our decisions on cost alone. It definitely weighs heavily, but we also want to work with people with whom we actually like. Mark wants to build long term relationships and find people he would feel comfortable referring his future clients to as well.

And on to week 28...

Our crew started on interior wall framing and have been going around the outside of the house on scaffolding sealing and taping the wood fibreboard spots they missed when they had to stand up the walls. Mark also did some more interior air barrier sealing with that Siga tape.

We’ve also been busy pulling quotes together and meeting various sub-contractors on site for things like siding and ceiling insulation. Starting to make some headway…
Our roof is getting insulation this week. Walls continue to go up. Hopefully Mark will be able to perform our first blower-door test and we’ll begin the service cavity walls as well.

 

Construction week 20: 3rd floor framing

There's snow in the house. We always liked the idea of bringing the outside - in. But this is taking it too far. Wah-wah.

There's snow in the house. We always liked the idea of bringing the outside - in. But this is taking it too far. Wah-wah.

Our second floor (third if you include the walk-out basement) has been framed in. The cold temps have definitely come with challenges. We're using an adhesive on the edges of the wood fibre board that needs to be warm to be malleable. So we've rented space heaters to keep a small section of the basement warm for the adhesives. And there's snow on everything.

It's so bloody cold. Went out there for half an hour last week and my toes almost fell off. Props to construction workers in this city. It's unreal. And then I go sit in my cushy, warm office job, feeling slightly unworthy. Respect.

We took some friends on a tour of the house this past weekend. They had their children with them. The five year old said, "Mina's house looks like Elsa's* castle because it's tall and there was snow inside".

* For those of you who don't have a child, Elsa is a snow queen from Disney's film Frozen.

The third floor joists should be going in this week. In the meantime, Mark and I are trying to work out some design details for the inside, of which there are many. He's working on our kitchen & bath layouts so we can get them priced out to make decisions. We're agreeing on all the big picture items, so hopefully that bodes well for when we have to start selecting finishes.

He's also working on our HRV design. Where the fresh air and exhaust vents will be located. It's fascinating stuff. I'm working on a post with fancy visuals to help illustrate the concepts. I'm also doing a bit of research in to automated home technologies – ways to make the house smart. If anyone has any knowledge in this, please share! Just because the house is low-tech (crudely-speaking), doesn't mean other areas of the house have to be. Lights that learn? Maybe.

Dwindling winter daylight. Pano of the second floor.

Dwindling winter daylight. Pano of the second floor.

Rear elevation.

Rear elevation.

Views of the city beyond the tree and rooftops.

Views of the city beyond the tree and rooftops.