The Small House Book

The Small House Book by Jay Shafer

Book: The Small House Book by Jay Shafer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jay Shafer
    40. A stove top.*
    41. An oven.
    42. A sink.***
    43. A work surface for food preparation with a light over it.**
    44. Shelves or cabinets near the work surface for food and cooking sup-
    45. A laundry bin.
    46. No less than 100 cubic feet of storage per occupant for clothes, books
    and personal items.****
    These items are not mutually exclusive. Where one can serve two or more
    purposes, so much the better. The dining table, for example, may double as a
    desk. This is especially true in a one-person household, where a single piece
    of furniture will rarely be used for more than one purpose at a time. Also,
    keep in mind that many of these things can be tucked away while not in use.
    This list is meant to be a starting place from which anyone can begin to de-
    cide what is necessary to their own home. Certainly, what I propose to be
    universal requirements will not be universally agreed upon. The only needs
    that really matter in the design of a home are those of its occupant(s). The
    important thing to keep in mind when creating one’s own list is that the less
    significant a part is to the whole and its function, the more it will diminish the
    quality of the overall design. Just remember when to say “when.”
    In the most beautiful houses, no attempt is made to conceal structural ele-
    ments or disguise materials. Because wooden collar beams are understood
    as necessary, they are also seen as beautiful. Whenever possible, features
    like these are left unpainted and exposed to view. Then there are those hous-
    es for which attempts are made to mimic the solid structure and materials of
    more substantial homes. These are easily recognized by their wood-grain
    textured, aluminum siding, hollow vinyl columns and false gables.
    Aluminum is a fine material so long as it is used as needed and allowed to
    look like aluminum. Artifice is artless. It does not merely violate nature’s law
    of necessity, but openly mocks it. If wood is required for a job, wood should
    be used and allowed to speak for itself. If aluminum is required, aluminum
    should be used and its beauty left ungilded whenever possible.
    Ornamental gables are to a house what the comb-over is to a head of hair.
    The vast disparity between the intention and result of these two contrivances
    is more than a little ironic. Both are intended to convince us that the home-
    owner (or hair owner, as the case may be) feels secure in his position, but as
    artifice, each only serves to reveal insecurity and dishonesty.
    False gables are tacked onto the front side of a property in a vain attempt
    to prove to us that the house is spectacular. While this effort is not fooling
    anybody, it is effectively serving to weaken the structural integrity of the roof.
    The more parts there are in a design, the more things can go wrong. Leaks
    almost never spring on a straight-gabled roof, but in the valleys between
    gables, they are relatively common. Unnecessary gables compromise sim-
    plicity for what is bound to be a very expensive spectacle.
    If these principles are starting to seem a lot like common sense, it is be-
    cause they are. It is in our nature to seek out the sort of order that they
    prescribe. Honest structure and simple forms strike a chord with us because
    they are true to nature’s law of necessity. Sound proportions strike a chord,
    too. Certain proportions seem to appear everywhere — in sea shells, trees,
    geodes, cell structure, and all of what is commonly called “the natural world.”
    That these same proportions continually turn up in our own creations should
    not seem too surprising or coincidental. We are nature, after all, and so our
    works are bound to contain these natural proportions.
    Proportioning is one of the primary means by which a building can be made
    readable. Repeated architectural forms and the spaces between them are
    like music, the pattern (or rhythm) of which

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