Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Our Design

We always wanted to design our own dream home from the bottom up. The house we lived in for the past 25 years was retrofitted to fit our needs, however never quite perfect. There was a great southern exposure that we were not able to fully take advantage of. The best views to the backyard were only seen standing at the kitchen sink or from a corner of the dining area. My office had two windows: one facing west and the other south which made the room warmer in the spring and summer and Florida’s afternoon sun can be quite brutal. The best room was Edrianna’s healing room for view and exposure, but had its limits because of the French doors not being shaded some of the day unless the blinds were redirected. Let’s face it, most traditionally designed homes have certain limitations, especially if you want to incorporate green design elements.

One of the biggest problems in any building is wasted space. It is dead unusable area that has to be cooled or heated, robbing you of money and hurting the environment by using valuable resources. Frank Lloyd Wright was a pioneer in effective space saving design. He believed in shared spaces that could be used for two or more uses as well as being just big enough for that intended use. His Usonion home designs going back to 1934 were models of efficient living. Interior rooms were referred to as “spaces” with some of the furniture built in to take advantage of the smaller floor area. Bedrooms were isolated and smaller to encourage family to gather in the living areas. This was “organic living” that had innovations such as passive solar, utilizing thermal mass (more on this later). The next thing I intended to write was going to put me on that darn soapbox about our super-sized ‘McMansion” lifestyles – decided not go there. Anyway our design intention is to get back to Wright’s concepts.

I have used Usonion design concepts in our old house in Florida. This is a built-in desk that I built for Edrianna's healing room. This helped maximize the utility space.

Our front entry had dead space I utilized for video/book shelves

I utilized this niche in our bedroom for books

We both sat down and figured out or needs and space requirements, a good place to start. There’s only two us so the overall house square footage can be smaller than average. We need:
  1. A kitchen large enough to fit two or three people. Efficient storage and counter areas and some counter seating. Also central and open to the main living space.
  2. A family room/dining area with focus on outside view and fireplace. This room would have furniture that could be easily moved to convert into a space for workshops for Edrianna’s work. This will also be our media room.
  3. Edrianna’s healing room/office. Large enough for seating for therapy sessions and space for a healing table. This room has to be private and be able to convert to a guest room. Future use could be a spare bedroom for live-in care when we are really, really old, or just when friends and family visit.
  4. Jim’s office/music room. Large enough for computer equipment, drawing table, music equipment and storage.
  5. Utility room for washer, dryer, laundry tub, space for mechanical systems, recycle/trash and storage.
  6. Two bathrooms
There will be built-in desks, cabinets, bookcases etc. where possible to utilize dead space areas and minimum hall space as well. This is a tall order.

Putting a square peg into a round hole
Engaging our space planning skills and our limited knowledge of green design, we attempted to assemble this puzzle. I took a crash course in sustainable living by doing research on the internet and reading several books: my favorite being “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Renewable Energy for Your Home.” We went thru numerous variations, while trying to get smaller with each go round. No one plan was quite working 100 percent. In the mean time Edrianna reached out to her community of friends from BBSH and asked for assistance. We received many great responses and advice and one friend directed us two a unique company called Deltec Homes. (Thanks Jan!) This company builds round homes which intrigued us. The best thing is most of the construction is done in a factory using green manufacturing methods and being a round designed home all the supporting walls are on the outside allowing you free reign for interior space. You can use their floor plans or design your own and do as much of the assembly and finish work on your own. To top it off, Deltec is based in Asheville – exactly where we want to live. There are loads of other advantages of round design and I encourage you visit their website: . We will address many of these in future blogs.

Ok, now the design process takes on a whole new dimension. I enlarged a plan drawing from their web site of a 1200 sq.ft. model called the Monterey on my copy machine, creating a usable ¼” scale plan.

Round is more in tune with nature.
We did our best to incorporate Wright’s Usonion design concept as we worked out our needed spaces. The green concepts were equally important such as grouping the bathrooms, utility and kitchen in close proximity so as to use less plumbing material which uses less energy and water. It is important to orient your main living spaces south (which means we need to pick a site with a southern exposure) for utilizing passive solar and natural lighting.
The process of space planning in the round really flowed better for us and after just a few revisions came up with a great plan that we believed would fit our needs. I drafted up a detailed preliminary floor plan to show the Deltec project coordinator and Green Team.

Here is the Plan we came up!

This is a rough sketch of our family room concept. I will be producing more detailed illustrations as we proceed further in our process.


  1. How do you support the roof.
    Or is this a geodesic dome?
    Still made from wood???

  2. The wood roof trusses meet in the middle and bear into each other. I will be posting a photo soon that shows what the skeleton looks like.