Friday, June 1, 2012

Wisconsin: First Weeks

Its been a week and half of Wisconsin now, and the house is coming along well and we're all having a great time. We're staying in little cabins right near the building site: each one is a unique little character of its own. Its been a great week of BBQs, Fish-Frys, kayaking on the lake and getting ourselves acquainted with our summer diggs. Ohh . . . and some house building too in between all the eating.

We've got foundations all in, and this week we spent a few days framing up the nearby garage so we'll have a nice dry place to store materials and work in from now on. It was also real good to stretch our framing muscles after a whole winter of sitting around doing computer work.

The house foundation at the entry  - you can see some of the lake behind as well

But since there isn't very much dramatic to show on the house just yet, I thought I'd talk a little about the house design and show you what we'll be spending the summer building. 

Main Floor Plan showing Living, Kitchen, Entry and Bedroom

The plan of the house is pretty simple and includes about 1200sf of main floor space with another 600sf or so in loft above. The family uses the house as a winter gathering point during holidays and such, so lots of kitchen and ample living room was pretty much a given. This cabin is replacing a much older cabin which used to occupy the same site until it sadly burned down in a forest fire a short time ago. Like that original cabin, this one has a single bedroom and also lots of loft sleeping space for kids and guests. Unlike that original cabin - this one utilizes very sophisticated construction technology to create a warm, airtight interior environment. 

Interior View showing Kitchen Island and wood finishes

Here you can see a proposal for some of the interior finishes and organization. The kitchen is embedded in a thick 'core' which supports the loft above and contains a large bathroom inside. The Island spills out into the living space and will have (we hope) concrete countertops that we'll be making on-site, as well as Walnut cabinets to contrast with the White-Pine wall and ceiling cladding. We're trying to find something a little smoother and tighter than the traditional 'knotty-pine', but still playing with that aesthetic and material that the clients enjoy so much. Dark metal fixtures and railings will add some texture and a finner-grain than the thick wood walls and core.

The main house shape and organization is driven by many (sometimes competing) desires and ideas. First is the client's memories of the original cabin and their fondness for many of the lost elements; things like large gable windows, a high level of transparency from lots of windows, and a warm wood feeling throughout. 

This region features many log-homes built in a slightly different style than the traditional linkin-log we're familiar with. These vertical log cabins use logs held together standing up to form the main house envelope, with the logs often cut flat on one side to create the interior finish. The log-cabin is, of course, a very labor intensive building type, and simple forms lend themselves to this technique both because it saves labor, but also because in the cold winters a compact shape is much easier to heat than a large, rambling home. 

For this project, a simple gable form was oriented to maximize lake views to the north, while also providing views of a nearby bay to the south and east, and of course allowing for lots of passive solar heating.

Once the main house shape was established and the interior organization was mostly figured out, we slightly 'tweaked' it to better conform to the site and shield the interior spaces from a nearby neighbor to increase privacy. This also better oriented the 'face' of the house (the gable end) towards where you will drive onto the site, giving you a great view of the big windows and covered entry.

Finally, the 'mass' of the house was 'carved' into to create covered entry and porch spaces. This 'removal' of chunks of the house is expressed through material changes at these areas, the dark siding becoming a light yellow color and some of the columns bursting through the envelope to expose themselves. On the south side, a large deck was added which will get lots of use during the summer months. 

The coming week will see us starting on the main floor framing and then moving on upwards from there. So lots more pics to come soon.