When looking through most Architect’s websites, we see hundreds of beautiful portfolio photographs but little written context to go along with them. So, with this first post of 2017, we thought we would pull back the curtain on one of our portfolio images to give a deeper explanation of what is behind the image.
We put graphical keys on the image that correspond to the written bullet points below.
1. Timber Frame: This project began with the homeowners wanting to renovate an existing horse barn to become a new pool house. The central section of the original building was a timber framed structure that contained horse stables. Unfortunately, renovation was not possible to achieve the open space that the homeowner wanted. So, we decided to build a new timber frame structure on the existing footprint to capture the atmosphere of the original building, but allow for the program requirements of the new pool house.
For this timberframe, we worked with the crew at New England TimberWorks of Vermont. We started with the general design of the timber frame, and then our Structural Engineer and the timber frame company worked together to size the timbers, identify the necessary bracing members and work with us on the aesthetics of the traditional timber frame connections. For this timber frame we used new white oak timbers that were axed and hand-adzed. Adzing is a method where you take scoops out of the timber member while axing is where you strike the timber against the grain. The peg details were originally designed to be cut so that the peg only was 1/2” long, but once we saw the pegs in place we decided to keep them long as they were.
2. SIP Panels: Clad to the exterior of the timber frame walls and roof are Structurally Insulated Panels (SIP). Here the SIP panels are composed of a rigid insulating core sandwiched between two plywood panels. These high-performance panels were the perfect solution for us because we wanted to express the entire timber frame on the interior of the space (instead of building walls between the timber posts and beams) while maintaining an insulated envelope in excess of code requirements.
Again, coordination with the manufacturer is very important with SIP panels. Because these panels are fabricated in a warehouse off-site, exact window sizes and placement need to be designed into the panel fabrication so that the rough openings can be built and 2x4 wood studs can be incorporated into the insulation sandwich so that the window has some wood to securely screw into. Also, electrical conduits need to be run and switch / outlet boxes need to be located ahead of time, because it is not easy to dig out the rigid insulation to run wiring after the fact. To finish these panels, we specified thick cedar clapboard siding with a 9 inch exposure on the exterior. On the interior we clad the roof panels with tongue and groove white oak panels and on the walls we did a traditional 3 coat plaster.
3. Floor: Let’s start with what you can’t see in the image. This floor is a slab-on-grade construction. Therefore, the hvac ducts, electrical conduit and floor outlets needed to be located and installed prior to pouring the concrete. Since we like everything to line up, the hvac supply register locations needed to be coordinated with the timber frame fabricator and the SIP panel fabricator so that the supply registers are centered on the windows in the wall - after the concrete was poured there was not much ability to adjust the location. In addition to the forced air system for heating & cooling, we installed a radiant floor heat to take the chill out of the stone floor that would have come up through the slab-on-grade construction. The floor finish is a 20” x 30” bluestone paver with a natural cleft finish. For the stair treads (just outside this image) we used a thermal finish, which is a smoother finish and one that can treat the visible cut edge of the stone treads. This bluestone paving pattern is continuous with the pool terrace outside the pool house.
4. Fireplace: A very important part of this space is the large stone fireplace. We tend to make our firebox openings a little taller than convention and this 5 foot wide firebox lined in a dark red herringbone brick is no exception. We do not understand the squat,rectangular fireboxes we typically see, which cut off the view of the top of a roaring fire flame and tend to throw less heat into a space. The stonework is the result of multiple discussions with the stone mason. It is difficult to achieve, but we like stone to look natural and not overworked. Nothing is worse than stonework where stones are cut with a saw to fit into specific locations. While we like the stone to look natural, we also like tight, deep set joints so that the stone looks dry laid. The mix of stone color is important as well - when you have stone that is all the same color, it tends to look flat, like a wallpaper with a stone image. Finally, our preference is for stones to sit in a horizontal format, not on an angle or standing up vertically.
5. Mantle: For the fireplace mantle we used a white oak timber finished to match the timber frame. This timber is supported by custom iron brackets that we designed. For these brackets we worked with a local blacksmith in Norwalk, CT. Working with the blacksmith we discussed traditional blacksmithing techniques that add subtle details to our drawn bracket design such as lightly hammered edges that show the handmade quality of the iron. Also, the end of the bracket was fired and hammered out, a technique called “spreading” which thins out the end and creates a slight fish-tail shape. Finally, handmade square nail heads were fabricated and used to fix the wood timber in place.
6. Custom Furniture: Just peaking into the image on the side of the fireplace is a custom white oak furniture piece. This table is designed to hold the small amount of AV equipment in the space and is finished to match the white oak timbers, albeit in a more smooth finished piece. The table was designed to just fit into the exact space where it is located.
7. Iron Rail: In the far corner of this image, there is a small stair down to the adjacent kitchenette and bathroom space. The iron rail for this stair is a custom design where we re-purposed one of the existing horse stall rails. In addition to this re-used stable rail, we installed a new iron post for rigidity, and new iron handrail. The iron rail for the horse stall was not tall enough to meet code on it’s own, so we designed a white oak base panel to make the height appropriate for a guard rail.
8. Barn Doors: Finally, we come to the large custom barn doors. This pool house is organized based on an axis across the centerline of the existing swimming pool. There are two sets of large, double barn doors on each side of this space along the centerline of this axis. This axis is further reinforced in this pool house by the cupola above that provides the natural light you see at the top of this image. The barn’s heavy wood barn doors are hung by exposed iron tracks mounted on the exterior of the building and are stabilized by iron floor guides that keep the doors from banging against the exterior of the building. The door handles and slide bolts are by DC Mitchell and finished to match the iron work in the space.
So there it is, a little peak behind the curtain of one of our portfolio images. Although this post broke down the image into individual parts, the space really sings based on the composition of the elements, proportions of the space, and material relationships that were achieved through a design process of studied refinement.