Today's Home of the Month is reviewed by Georgia Bizios, a professor at the School of Architecture at N.C. State University. Home of the Month, a collaboration with the school's College of Design, shows possibilities in constructing a living space that's well thought-out and built with the homeowners' living patterns and preferences in mind. Each month we'll profile a new home, selected by an expert panel, from designs by area architects. The goal: to offer inspiration and knowledge that can be applied to any living space.
Architect Tina Govan and Matt Goodall started their married life in a modest 990-square-foot bungalow in Raleigh's Oakwood neighborhood.
"We had served in the Peace Corps and worked in Japan, so we were used to living in small places," Govan reflects.
But when the family grew by two boys and a dog, it was time to add on -- a living room, dining room, office and spaces for laundry, bathing, sleeping and storage. The only place to expand the house, though, was into the backyard of their 50 feet by 130 feet city lot. It would be a tight fit, but the idea appealed to the family because they were committed to being ecologically responsible. Renovating the existing house and keeping it small appealed to them.
After identifying some main goals -- creating a feeling of spaciousness and honoring the integrity of the original bungalow and the memory of the family's much loved and used backyard patio -- Govan decided on a modest renovation to the existing house and an addition of only 650 square feet. The family ended up with two small houses in one, connected by a versatile interior patio that became the new "heart" of the home.
In her design, Govan relied on many ideas she had admired while working in Japan. She reinterpreted them while inventing some new. One of those ideas is found in the backyard addition, a second small "house," referred to by the family as the "Tatami House." Tatami is the traditional Japanese floor mat made of woven straw. The flooring covers the master bedroom in this space, where there's also a bath.
In contemporary American culture, most bedrooms are designed for maximum privacy, but Govan's design uses the Japanese concept of creating spaces that can be private or public. A window seat cabinet provides easy storage of the futon bed, and sliding shoji screens give privacy.
"The ability to open this private bedroom up to multiple uses -- yoga or a stage for kids -- is the key to making this small house feel spacious," Govan said.
The same approach is applied to the bathroom, which doubles as a hallway. Sliding glass doors in the shower allow views to the backyard and access to the sauna and hot tub.
The "heart of the house," the interior patio, is also a space of versatility. It has areas for seating and eating, a small office and space for storage and laundry. Each function has its corner, but is open to and overlaps with the other areas. A small loft overlooking the patio provides attic access, but is also a retreat and a play area.
"From up there my sons love to test out paper airplanes, shoot Nerf guns, hang stuffed animals and throw down baskets tied on ropes, pulling objects up and down as they saw a shop owner do in Turkey," the architect said.
Govan's design concept is built around flexible or "soft" boundaries between spaces. The approach allows rooms to expand and contract, and accommodates a variety of uses. Such homes, she explained, "allow a family to be together yet separate. They can be part of the same space, but be engaged in very different activities. This makes the space feel bigger, is more efficient, and makes people feel less isolated."
Flexible or "soft" boundaries can be achieved with various touches -- varied ceiling heights, alcoves and window seats, partial walls or storage walls, low and high windows, as well as sliding panels and pocket doors. Other architectural strategies, such as views through other rooms and "borrowed views" to places beyond the house lot, can expand spaces. Floor level changes and high places overlooking other spaces create a separate yet integrated feeling.
Sitting in Govan's cozy, yet spacious living room, you can see many of the above mentioned strategies at work. The ceiling is high, following the gable roof. The loft places you above the main room, while it creates a lower ceiling for the office and storage wall area. The Tatami House, raised a couple of feet from the main floor, feels like an alcove to the living area, and its window seat is an alcove within an alcove. Windows, including a clerestory, bring light into the space from many directions. Wood slats over the laundry area filter the light from the bathroom skylight into the living room. The space spills onto the exterior patio through large glass doors. The concrete floor does the same, lending to the seamlessness of indoors and outdoors.
The architect, noted the Home of the Month selection panel, "took a bungalow and stepped it into this century."