July 17, 2020: Perhaps the most common question I get is about the loft. My daughter’s was the bluntest: “What’s it for?”.
I’ll admit it’s unusual. Lots of modern-style homes and rustic-log homes have lofts but they’re living space like bedrooms. Mine’s more like a catwalk or an attic. By Code, my loft doesn’t qualify as “habitable space” because the ceiling is under 7 feet. A stairway isn’t required and neither is a guardrail (for details on how we built the loft see my post “Building a Loft out of a Pine Tree”).
The idea for the loft evolved as my floor plan and 3D exterior model took shape. I began with 2 bedroom suites flanking a main living area, sloped ceilings to expand the feeling of spaciousness in relatively small rooms, and an uninterrupted expanse of roof to maximize PV capacity.
I ended up with a shed roof—south-facing of course—with the added benefit of draining rainwater to the garden. Shed roofs are simple, economical, and instantly modern. I kept the slope low—just 3:12—but that still left me with a too-tall 13 foot high wall on the north.
I like spaciousness but I like cozy even more. One of my favorite hobbies is to watch how people use space—where people sit and where they don’t sit, what they notice and say they like and try to connect that to architectural artifacts. As a young designer, I’d been invited to a lovely new home with a 2-story living room—a popular feature in the late 1980’s. My hosts complained that they couldn’t get anyone in there. Everyone gravitated to the kitchen and the little sun porch adjacent. They fretted over solutions and eventually painted the ceiling and 3 feet down dark brown, in hopes of scaling down and warming up the space. I never did hear how that worked out.
Of course, the master of space manipulation was Frank Lloyd Wright. His living room at Taliesin is a PhD level course in how to make a human habitation grand and expansive and uplifting yet intimate and deeply comforting at the same time.
My loft runs the length of the living room and brings the kitchen ceiling down to 7 feet with a rough-sawn pine trellis-like structure overhead. The loft softens the space, acts as a sound-deflector/absorber, and provides a walkway to each of two storage rooms situated above the bathrooms. The living room and bedrooms get vaulted ceilings, but not too high. The kitchen and bathrooms get intimate ceilings that bring the outdoors in. And a little bit of storage for a little bit of junk is allowed in this modest home meant for a down-sizer.
I never imagined it until the paint was dry but why not put my office into the east storage room? I can’t stand up and stretch, but it’s a good reminder to break from the computer every couple hours. For now, I’m using my aluminum construction ladder for access, but a cool design for a wood one is in the works. I’m happy and productive up there.To keep mechanicals accessible for future and to keep them out of outside walls, I built a chase along the backside of the loft. It’s not visible from the living room. Don’t you think a generously wide built-in bench running 26 feet long over the chase would be a lovely place for reading and afternoon naps?