Wednesday, December 31, 2008

window locations - XHouse1

I mentioned this week on the Twitter feed that I was working on the window locations for this new house design. Without an actual site putting pressures on the house from the outside, or an owner's desire for furnishing of the inside to work from the only thing leading the window placement is composition. The windows in question are for the rear corner of the house where the master bathroom resides above the home office/studio space.

This is an image from the very early sketch model shown on the earliest posting of this design. At this point I had not located any windows for the studio, and had anticipated one high horizontal window in the master bathroom. As the planning of the interior progressed we ended up with the sinks on the rear wall where the high window was shown. I would rather not place a window above the sinks and mirror so that became a strike against this high window. Also I was coming to the conclusion that the massing of the house should reflect the large open space of the living/dining/kitchen that runs front to back, and the more cellular division of the bedrooms, bathrooms and smaller spaces. I think that the two end facades consisting of a contrast of big windows and solid walls worked to reinforce that. But that would mean that the high window in the bathroom worked against this. Strike two for the original bathroom window. Continues after the link below.

Now this is where it is right now. The master bedroom window wants to be on the side of the house, and it spans over the tub and into the toilet room. Now below in the home office/studio there are two things going on. Number one the space is tall, a story and half because it is under the master bedroom, the highest level of the house. To emphasize the height I really wanted to have a window high on the wall of this room. I also want a window in this room down at eye height, and I want it to conform to the code requirements for a sleeping room so that this can be used as a guest room if desired. In the sketch above I've taken a first shot at placing these windows, the high one corresponding to the master bathroom above and a smaller one below. My problem is that I don't think these are keeping with the DOT-DASH-DOT rhythm of the other windows on this side of the house. The horizontal window at the master bedroom I think is fine, but the two in the studio are making too much "noise".

So there are a few options. I can replace the two windows with a single larger window similar to the two upstairs bedrooms. This will forgo the high window for this space. Or alternatively I can move the high window for the studio around the corner to the back wall to get it off the side facade, but this will violate the solid/void relationship of the end walls that I want to maintain, similar to the earlier sketch. That's what I'm working with right now.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

working on new design - XHouse1

I want to show the arrangement of this house now that I'm working on it a little bit more. It will be the first design in our new XHouse collection, so for now its just XHouse1, until a better naming rationale emerges. I have this feeling that the house is hard to understand from a floor plan, so lets look at the floor plan in a 3d view instead. I think it will be easier to understand how the levels change and the spaces are interconnected.

The entry of the house is the small square space at the center top of this birds eye view sketch. At the right is the garage which holds two cars. The back of the garage tucks under the floor above so the garage looks a bit short in this view. Between the garage and the entry is a passage with a few steps which take you up to the entry. There is also a powder room off the entry here that is also in this space between the entry and garage. To the left of the entry is the home office space. This could also be a guest room, or an art studio. I like this location because for business use you can have visitors and meetings without taking somebody all the way through your house to reach the office.

Proceeding into the house from the entry you come up a short run of steps to the living room. This is a high space that shares the high ceiling with the kitchen and dining area on the level above. A portion of the living room to the left is under a lower ceiling which makes two distinct places within the living room, one more intimate. One can be focused on the fireplace, the other on media. The living room opens to a terrace/deck at the far left. Up another short run of steps is the kitchen and dining area. The kitchen cabinets are not in the model yet, but there will be a work surface the width of the room at the right side, and a large island dividing the work space from the dining area in the middle. There is a walk in pantry at the top right of the kitchen space, and just to the left of that is the steps up to the bedroom level.

At the bedroom level there is a small alcove with the doors to the two bedrooms and the bathroom. There are a few linen closets here but I've not yet modeled the closets in the bedrooms, but they will indeed have closets. From here there are a few more steps up to the master bedroom level. Upon entering the master bathroom is to the top. It has a large space with two sinks and a tub. Then to left is a small alcove with a shower, and just above the shower is a small toilet room. Below the shower is a laundry room. First design where I've located laundry in the master bath. I've encountered this in my custom work occasionally, but its no by no means the most popular. My thinking was that it could become more closet space if an owner wished the laundry elsewhere. The extra linen storage space at the bathroom could become a stack laundry, or someplace elsewhere in the house found. The master bedroom is to the lower left, and will have closets at either side of the bed.

The house is multi leveled and the space really wraps around the central living core. If you deplore stairs you will not enjoy this as going from one room to another involves one or more short stair runs. But if you don't mind steps, and you like interesting spaces then this house will please. Its at once intimate and circuitous. Each room feels far away, yet is close by.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

3030 House - site visit

I visited the construction site of the EcoSteel 3030 House in Cabin John Maryland this weekend.

There had not been a tremendous amount of progress since the last photos received from the owner, so instead I concentrated on taking some pictures inside the house since we have not seen much of that to date. The Owner is also the Builder, and other project commitments have been keeping him from beginning the wall panel installation. The house looks good and the owner is being exceedingly careful with their work, very nice to see. Click through to the extended post for more photos, and a short video from the site.

It was a windy day, and I'm afraid the mic on my camera is not really cut out for adverse conditions. The audio clears up into the video.

As always be sure to visit the 3030 House flickr group to see the entire construction process to date.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

3030 House - framing complete, windows in

The light framing was completed since our last post, and the window units were installed.

There appear to be a few windows that have not been installed yet, but the bulk of them are in place. The siding panels will follow next in the EcoSteel construction sequence.

Make sure to visit the 3030 House flickr group to see all of the photos of this project.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fleshing out a new design

This is one of the designs that originated from the design phase of the suburban house project. I have to confess that I find the space really interesting, but no doubt it won't be for everybody.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

The Florida Homebuyer Home Design Challenge

Here is a link to a recently held design competition for Florida home designers. Its very developer oriented, and the house designs reflect that, but what is remarkable is that many of the designs shown as the "best of the rest" are overtly modern. The Florida Homebuyer Home Design Challenge On one level I'm very gratified to see modern shouldering its way into this mainstream platform. At the same time I'm discouraged because the homes, while modern, seem to have the same issues as typical developer homes. They are dressed modern, and some I think look nice, but they are bloated and pseudo luxurious in a way that makes my skin crawl. Its not just look and feel, its statistical as well - there is an alarming bedroom count to square footage ratio in most of these homes. 3 bedrooms in 3,500 sqft? The discussion of "modern" on LiveModern all the way back to the Dwell messageboards always involved doing more with less, as a lifestyle, as a design dictum, not even driven by sustainability, but as a personal value and as an aesthetic. This stuff is really stepping on that for me. What do you think? Please check out the link and comment.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Nov+Dec 2008 Promotion - Kick the Crisis! Save on Prints!

We are pleased to announce a new promotion for November and December of 2008 - Order Design Prints in Nov or Dec 08 and receive double your Design Prints back on your qualifying Construction Print Order in 2009. Its our Kick the Crisis promotion and this is how it works: Anybody who buys Design Prints in November or December 2008 will be eligible for a rebate equal to twice the value of the Design Prints if they order the corresponding Construction Prints before the end of 2009. So if you purchase a set of Small Design Prints in November for $100, and purchase Construction Prints in 2009 your prints will come with a rebate of $200. If you buy regular Design Prints for $200 and follow up with a Construction Print purchase in 09 they will come with a rebate for $400. Its double your design prints back! I hope that's not too confusing, its really quite simple. If you are kicking around the idea of building in 2009 or even 2010 or 11 then make sure you order Design Prints for the house you want in November or December 08 and purchase your Construction Prints by the end of 2009 to earn the rebate. Jump over to our site to read the details. Well, actually we just copied all the details from our site and posted them here, but you should go and read the fine print on the offer. Kick the Crisis Promotion

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Hus1 goes live - Design Prints available now.

After a few weeks of preliminary images the work is finally done and the 0860 Hus1 design is now live on the catalog site. Design Prints are done and available via the ordering buttons on the catalog page. The Hus1 is also the first design of our new collection, called the Blueprints Collection which will focus on mid-century inspired home designs. You can read a little bit more about the new collection on the Plans page of our site, and on the new Blueprints Collection page.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

More drawing trials

Still playing around with trying to make the drawings for the Hus1 appear like they came out of a magazine from 1957. which is a halftone filter run over a black and white image of the model. More variations below the fold. maybe sunset yellow? or working with an image that approximates an old blueprint

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

3030 House - light framing has begun

The light gage framing for the exterior walls has begun, and a fresh coat of primer is going on the steel, good progress on the 3030 EcoSteel House. Just a quick update with new photos in a browser after the link below. Visit the 3030 House flickr group to see all of the photos forwarded by the owner.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Yet another Plat House surfaces - Serenbe, GA

We received an envelope over the weekend with photos from one of our customers, somebody who had purchased plans but never corresponded about their progress. Much to our surprise their Plat House was complete and on the market as it was built as speculative project. The house has been significantly modified for its site. The window arrangement has been altered and the floor plans also appears to have been changed, with the bay areas joined and some additional space added to the master bedroom. The clerestory windows have been changed from a uniform window band into smaller windows at private spaces and larger windows at common areas of the house. The views from the living/dining/kitchen area show how nice this has turned out. They have a very cool italian kitchen, and some very nice light fixtures in the room which really looks like it has turned out well. Click through for more photos in a photo browser. Serenbe Redbone Construction

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

3030 House - steel framing goes up

The steel framing for the 3030 EcoSteel House has been set up and we have a few photos back from the owner/builder showing the progress. Here we see the frame set up to the second floor, and first and second floor joists in place. The roof framing has just begun. Here it appears the entire main framing system is in place, including the roof purlins. Next will be the light gage wall framing to infill the exterior walls and frame out the window and door openings. Here we see the recycled barn siding that we saw in an earlier post being installed as the first floor ceiling. The bar joists will be exposed, painted, but more or less as we see them here. The barn planks are going directly over the joists, and plywood floor deck will go down over the planks, and then finish flooring. I love the way this looks. The contrast between the industrial truss joists and the rustic planks is just great. Tune into the 3030 House flickr group to see all of the photos forwarded by the owner.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Letters from Sweden - the foundation

One issue we have not examined as we looked at the fabrication of houses in the factory is the foundation work that goes on in advance of the arrival of the house. The Swedes are using some innovative products for foundations as well, products that make their status quo houses much more energy efficient than ours here in the States.

New houses in Sweden are primarily built on slabs, partly because its expedient, but also because its naturally the best way to have in floor radiant heating. In a cold climate this is the only way to use a slab otherwise your slab will feel cold and uncomfortable. But a slab in a cold climate must be insulated from the elements or it will throw heat out its edges. There are typically two strategies to isolate your slab from the cold.

The first strategy is to make an insulation break between the slab and the foundation wall. This is typically done with a narrow insulation layer. In order to place this between the slab and wall the two structures have to be built in separate operations. First the wall, insulation break, and then the slab is poured inside the walls. Two steps.
The second strategy is to insulate the outside edge of the slab. This allows you to pour the slab and foundation wall in a single step, but you have to return and install insulation around the perimeter. Thats not the end of it though. This insulation is of course very vulnerable to damage. Its a soft material and it is right at grade, so it must be protected by something tough, usually the best choice is a cement board product. The insulation and protection board creates at best a second step.
Ok, what are the Swedes doing. First of all they are not building deep foundations. They are building on Frost Protected Shallow Foundations. All buildings in cold climates traditionally are founded on soils below the frost line. How do the Swedes avoid this then. They highly insulate the slab to isolate the underlying earth from freezing air, and in colder climates supplement that with a skirt of insulation around the house perimeter. Furthermore their slabs are insulated at the perimeter which allows the radiant slab heating system to remain in the house. Collectively these elements function to prevent soils below the foundation from freezing and heaving. So suddenly they have eliminated the foundation wall and only need to build the slab on grade. A great savings in time, effort, and expense. Ok, but they still end up with the slab insulation issues described above. No, they do not. They use a foam formwork that forms the perimeter of the slab, and insulates it at the same time. And this foam formwork is coated with a tough cement finish that protects the foam and prevents it from being damaged. And most important of all, it takes just one step.

Laying out the slab - corner pieces are place first.

Ready for the pour, edge forms, wire mesh, plumbing, and heating loops all in place.

The slab poured. Once cured its ready to receive the prefab house.
Here is an example of a Swedish manufacturer of these foam forms:
Jakon Isolering

And now available state side: WarmFörm
Letters from Sweden - deliver and set
Letters from Sweden - plumbing the prefab
Letters from Sweden - wiring zen
Letters from Sweden - a windows tale
Letters from Sweden - panel building in Sweden vs the USA
Letters from Sweden - Europe is different, Sweden is not, sort of..
Letters from Sweden - land of modern, land of prefab
Letters from Sweden - conversations with an expatriate builder

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

A coherent account of the Financial Crisis

Another excellent program on This American Life today all about the financial crisis. If you remember back in May I recommended their program called The Giant Pool of Money which explained in easy to understand terms how the sub-prime lending debacle happened. Similarly today's program titled Another Frightening Show About the Economy explains in easy to understand terms how this all happened. The financial players on Wall Street had essentially placed "bets" in the form of complex financial constructs called Credit Default Swaps. These were placed by the banks against one another making them all interdependent and likely to topple if one fell. These were first conceived as a form of insurance, later used as more or less a bet. There is no regulation of these financial devices, and hence no overall picture of how over leveraged the industry was. Incredibly irresponsible. I highly recommend getting the podcast from their site if you have any interest at all in understanding what just happened to you and me - it is a free download for the first week following the show. Here is a link to their site: Or if you are an iTunes user you can subscribe and get the show from there. Continue reading "A coherent account of the Financial Crisis"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Mexico EcoSteel House - ready to move in

This is it! There are only a few items left to complete and correct in the New Mexico EcoSteel House. The owner has their CO and is moving in. They sent along one last round of photos of the empty house taken with a very wide angle fish-eye lens. More of the photos in a photo browser after the click-through. So this is it. Perhaps we will see some photos of the place with furniture, but this project is coming to a close. Its been very exciting to see it come together, and the owner has been very generous with their photos. Our thanks to them for sharing their house with us, and you our readers.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

LamiDesign office featured on Unplggd!

This is just too fun not to share even though its not about houses or house plans. The Unplggd blog from the Apartment Therapy family of blogs posted a piece about our office in connection to our work on the workalicious blog about office spaces. Unplggd has a series where they show the workplace of a blogger that they like or follow. We are very pleased that they follow our blog workalcious and asked us to share our workplace with their readers. The workalicious blog is about, you guessed it, the workplace! We write about office design, office furniture, accessories, about office culture, and we also like to share examples of interesting workplaces. So check out our office: Behind the Blog: Workalicious and check out workalicious

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sage Modular House - 2 years in, revisiting a ground breaking house

A real treat today. I just received an email from Sara and David Sage, the owners of a modular house I helped them design back in 2004. They have been in the house for about 2 years now, and they are well moved in and at home. They shared many pictures of the house which I'm posting here. A panoramic view of the Sage home interior. Sara and David's big goal for this house was to bring it in for $100 a square foot, no small task in the expensive Los Angeles county construction market. But they had a plan, to do copious research on their own, to get the most value out of every consultant they used, and every vendor and contractor they engaged, they resolved to build the house modular, to source their modules from a market with much lower labor cost in Utah, and to complete a good deal of the work themselves as sweat equity. It was their dream to have a modern house and I must say they succeeded on every count. From finding the best materials and vendors, to researching planting material and submitting their own landscape plan for permitting, Sara and David did it all and tracked it in detail in their blog on It was a tremendous inspiration and people cheered for them every step of the way. Its hard to know how many other people they inspired to dig their heels in and pursue their own dream of a modern house. When the work was done, well, almost done, and the smoke had cleared I believe Sara calculated that their cost worked out to about 114$/sqft. This was pretty remarkable at a time when there were literally dozens of prefab house start-ups trying to get traction. The lament was how everything was costing much more than expected, and much more than hoped. In that milieu of dashed hopes Sara and David fought and struggled to make their house happen at a cost that was a pipe dream for the rest of the market. The house is a reasonable 1400 sqft, 3 bedrooms, with an open kitchen, living/dining, family room space, it really is a wonderful plan that lives much larger than it appears on paper. The modular units in different colors tell the prefab story. You should be able to orient yourself to the photos using the plan. The house site is unusual in that the back yard of the house is really at the side, so the front porch wraps around to the side, and that is the main back yard like space. The rear and other side have proximity to neighbors, more like a house typically has at the sides. My favorite thing about the design is the three spaces you see in the photos - the kitchen, living/dining, and family room are each small square rooms that overlap at their corners, each space well defined, and very open to one another. It really walks the tightrope between open plan and discrete rooms. David and Sara brought a rough version of this floor plan to the table when they hired me, so they deserve the credit for its design, my role being more to refine, and adapt it to division into modules, and to resolve the plan into the 3d massing and window placement. It was truly a collaboration of the best kind. More photos in the browser below.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

3030 House - waiting for the steel erector

The next step for the 3030 EcoSteel House is to assemble the steel framework, but the owner is waiting in line right now. Plenty of other tasks to do in the meantime however. And us, we've had a request to see what the front of the house looks like, so a new image of the model is posted as well. This illustration shows a different color scheme than the previous images. On site they applied a void filling top coating to the foundation wall and ground it smooth. This creates a mottled patina on the concrete surface which looks pretty cool. The rest of the crew is sanding reclaimed oak barn boards which will become the ceiling of the ground floor. Tune into the 3030 House flickr group to see all of the photos forwarded by the owner.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Arkansas Plat House to be on HGTV

The Arkansas Plat House will be making an appearance on HGTV's program Beyond the Box. The episode covers several different house projects, but the Plat House no doubt is the segment described as "a couple who found almost everything used to build their home through Internet shopping." The first airing of the show will be September 17, 2008 9:00 PM ET/PT with several other airings to follow. See the entire scheudle at the HGTV site. And for anybody who did not see the link to the Plat House catalog page in the first line of this entry I'll give you another link right here: CLICK HERE to go to the PLAT HOUSE catalog page! In case you missed the sentence before this one, that link goes directly to the catalog page for the PLAT HOUSE, the one from TV!

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

New Mexico EcoSteel House - railings installed

The handrails on the stair and all around the second floor of the New Mexico EcoSteel House are installed and they look great. I had gotten very used to lookng at the stair without a rail, and I was afraid that the rail would somehow complicate or spoil the spare look of the stair. Well it did not turn out that way and I think this is why. The rail that was picked is a stainless tube rail with cables so its very light and transparent. Also the brightness of the stainless really separates it from the grey vertebrae and ribs appearance of the stair. If the rail had been painted steel work that matched the stair I believe it would have compromised the lines of the stair. More photos below the fold.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Metropolitan Home article by Karrie Jacobs

Karrie Jacobs has been writing a series of articles for Metropolitan Home magazine, all under the theme of "How We Live". In the October 08 issue she wrote about our house plans. We've not seen the issue yet, only this scan from friend Jeff "jake" Jacobs. Karrie is a thoughtful observer and commenter on design and one of my favorite design writers. It was the questions that she posed as founding editor of Dwell, about why it was not possible to go out and buy a modern home that inspired me to create this collection of house plans way back at the start. Its really an honor to have it come full circle, to be interviewed by her about the house plans and the whole journey.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Ok Tray House - sneak peak inside

A shot of the corner of the living room today from the owners of the OK Tray House. They are moved in, but not unpacked, and they promise more photos to come once they are settled. So what do we have here. Well open up the catalog page so you can look at the floor plan. This photo is taken from the living room, looking into the study. We can see a stone wall which is flanking the fireplace, and above it we can see the gridded window wall which sits above the fireplace. I'm real excited about that since it looks like they did a really great job with that. Out the window we can see more of that nicely stained siding. To the left we can see the front door and the entry vestibule. In the study we see the side windows, and a couple of modern chairs? Man after my own heart! And upstairs some cable rail, and a glimpse of the bedroom ceiling. It looks awesome - can't wait to see the rest of the house! And don't forget the flickr set of photos of this project from start to finish.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

3030 House - construction begins

Construction has begun on the new EcoSteel 3030 House model in Maryland. We have recieved the first progress photos back from the Owner, and we have them online to share with you. But first its time to share a little bit more information about the house. As we described it before, the 3030 House sits on a 30ft x 30ft plus porch footprint, just under 2000 sqft, 3 bedrooms, and a nice open plan living space. It includes a generous kitchen work space and upstairs a large master bathroom, and in the case of this first one a full basement as well. It will fit on narrow in-fill lots or in new compact communities, but its size also makes it a good candidate for a weekend home as well. The foundation is already in and steel will being rising this week. Lets look at the plans, beneath the fold. On the ground floor you enter very near to grade level. Here you have a short stair up to the ground floor, and the stair to the basement. To the side is a coat closet and a powder room. Up the short run of steps you land in the middle of the ground floor. To one side is the kitchen island, and the workspace which continues around the corner. To the other side is the dining area. The living room sits towards the front of the house. The open plan allows you to alter the proportion, or location of these rooms. For instance the dining area can be moved closer to the kitchen island and a second seating group added to the living area. If it was me, I'd get a Wilkhahn Confair table and move the dining area on a daily basis! A sheltered terrace is beyond with doors from both the dining side and the kitchen side. In the Maryland house since grade is sloping away this will have a set of steps to grade. Up the stairs we come to a large landing. On this landing level is a small laundry area and the shared bathroom for bedrooms 2 & 3, At the top of the stairs there is a linen closet between the two bedrooms, and a wide set of doors to the master bedroom. The master has a walk-in closet and a large bathroom with shower and tub. Doors lead out to a balcony that extends the width of the house. Here is a section view where you can see the relationship of these landing levels. The compact cubic proportion of the house is efficient with materials, and the floor plan is also efficient with space. The open plan makes it flexible, and gives the impression of being larger than its 1800 sqft would suggest. Into that space we have 3 bedrooms - enough for a family, but not too much to bite off for a first home. See the construction progress in the photo browser below. It starts with the demolition of the existing run-down house and shows excavation, and concrete work for the foundations and basement walls.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mass. EcoSteel Plat House - steel rising

The assembly of the frame has begun in earnest at the Massachusetts EcoSteel Plat House. More photos of the frame going up after the fold. With good access all around the house the work can be done with the all terrain fork lift, saving the expense of a crane.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

New Mexico EcoSteel House - more done than not

It finally feels like the New Mexico EcoSteel House has crossed the line to being more finished than not. The latest round of photos show the painting almost done, finishing touches going in, light fixtures too. Look below the fold for a photo browser with more interior shots.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Mass. EcoSteel Plat House - steel on site

Its time to build the house. All the steel pieces for the Massachusetts EcoSteel House arrived on site this week. We've watched these go up here before and they generally happen very fast. I'll be posting progress photos in the coming weeks as fast as I receive new photos so stay tuned! Here is the slab layout ready to receive the steel framing. The garage is in the foreground and the house beyond with the home office at the far end of the photo. More pictures in a photo browser below the link.

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New Mexico EcoSteel House - interior finishes coming together

The work on the interior of the New Mexico EcoSteel House is progressing. Today we share more photos taken by the owner. Click through the link below to see a photo browser with more images of the interior and the site.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

introducing a new design: Hus1

The first of a new collection of house plans on the site. The new collection is to be modest in size, large on livability, family friendly, eminently build-able, with a contemporary modern presence and a bit of retro mid-century dash as well. The first in a series, introducing the Hus 1. The result of my year long study of the Swedish housing industry, and my love of mid-century modernism, the Hus1 puts these influences together with practicality and livability of the many small 50s and 60s homes in my own neighborhood. The basic two bedroom house will start out at modest 1,350 sqft, or the larger 1,750 sqft 3 bedroom plan shown below. Both have the option of an additional 500 sqft master bedroom upstairs which in the larger plan allows the downstairs master to serve as a family room. A very livable home, the L shape creates privacy for its rear terrace where family life can flow out from the living areas. Conventional construction makes this house easy to build, and the iconic traditional form won't scare the average home builder. Look for Design Prints to come available on the site soon. Well, you will hear about it here when it happens! And yes, this is the house for which we have been experimenting with new drawing styles. Not quite sorted out yet, but when its done the new collection will have a distinct graphic look apart from the original collection of designs.

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