Part 1 – Swanson Residence, Calgary

Part 1 – Swanson Residence, Calgary (PDF) | Part 1 – Swanson Residence, Calgary (JPEG)

  • ersie

    Hi John,

    It’s nice that the Swanson have already spent some time in the house, so that they know by now exactly what doesn’t work for them and so on. Anyway, I have some questions right now:

    - Is it possible to raise the ceiling in the northern half? Or are there rooms above that area?
    - Is there a garden? Where is it?
    - Apropos Calgary weather: Would it be more comfortable to have a vestibule of some sort at the entrance, to limit the cold air entering the house when the door is opened?
    - Is the flue for a furnace in the basement? I’m thinking a double sided fireplace in that area could be nice…

  • John Brown


    Very good questions.

    1. Although there is no second floor above the living spaces on the right side of the plan, raising the ceiling height would probably be prohibitively expensive.

    2. Yes. There is a nice garden in the back accessed off of the glass sliding doors in the family room.

    3. Technically speaking, a vestibule wouldn’t be amiss in Calgary but it is not typical. Older houses sometimes have a screened porch at the front that isn’t conditioned space but reduces drafts into the house. I would say that most households don’t open the front door often enough to make this a high priority.

    4. Yes. The flue is from the forced air furnace in the basement. You can certainly add a fireplace adjacent to it with its own flue. Building codes wouldn’t allow you to use the existing flue.

    I am looking forward to seeing your concept design.

  • Louis Pereira

    To start with, I love these split level houses. They were so flexible and still work really well with modern day families.

    Being that the demolition plan suggested that the central bearing wall be removed, then it leaves the main living wide open to many options. Since it was necessary to maintain the flue, i decided that rather than work against it – you could play it up. See precedents…

    Example 1: Brosmith House by SPFa Architects
    Example 2: Mosevich House by D’Arcy Jones Design Inc.

    I also felt we could reconfigure the stairs leading to the lower Family/Living Room by widening them and relocating the ‘utility’ closet near the side entrance by the garage entry door. Overall i like how the general circulation patterns throughout and how generous each room is in terms of size.


  • Paul

    Hi John,
    Some further clarification:
    Are the stairs to the lower/basement level under the closet beside the stairs leading from the “nook” to the sunken family room?
    Is it within the scope to consider upgrading the existing furnace to a high efficiency to eliminate the need for the typical b-vent type flue?
    I presume, given the homes vintage, that the existing fireplace is masonry?

    Thanks John.

  • John Brown

    Hi Paul,

    More good questions.

    1.Yes, the stairs to the lower level are underneath the set going upstairs.

    2.Eliminating the flue with a high efficiency furnace is certainly an option and it would reduce the environmental impact of the house. However the existing furnace is only a couple of years old.

    3.Yes, the existing fireplace is masonry with face brick.

    I look forward to seeing your concept design.

  • John Brown

    Nice plan. Were you looking over my shoulder??? I really like your suggestion to change the family room stair and incorporate the storage closets along the garage wall.

  • Paul

    I like your solutions and agree, the room sizes work well. Well suited for a family of 4. I also like in particular, the expansion of the front “step/porch”.

    In keeping with your description of how the homeowners wish to have a home that has an open, “loft” feel, I have included two images. The idea would be to work with the existing roof
    framing but raise the ceiling in between each truss/rafter. A little finicky to create, and therefore maybe it would only be considered for certain areas like the kitchen or dining area.

    (The finish in the images may not be applicable but they demonstrate the concept.)

    Images from

    I am sorry John, don’t want to beleaguer a point but, did you say the stairs which lead to the basement (under the kitchen)
    are under the stairs which lead up to the bedrooms? Would that not put them in the garage?


  • Louis Pereira

    ^Haha! I hacked into your laptop! Just kidding…

    i had clients with a very similar plan, though it was to add a second floor addition over the main living space. They kept the kitchen where it is (per the Swanson Existing Plan) and moved their Dining into the Living Rm. – while the Dining Room became a place for ‘reading’. It didn’t work very well in my opinion which is why i wanted to shift the Kitchen there.

    Anyhow, i spotted another image to support the exposed flue concept…(Ersi pointed us to this website earlier, so that’s where i found this at

    The second image, i’m not sure who the architect is…


  • John Brown

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you and not being clear about the stairs. I see that there was a mistake in the drawing. They are actually supposed to be right beside the stair to the family room(running along the inside of the garage wall under the closet).

    I like the images you sent for the ceiling detail. Two comments: If this was a new build roof then the finishes and construction would probably be high enough quality to expose the rafters. I would be a bit worried about leaving a fifty year roof structure open. Second, there would have to be a layer of insulation somewhere in the roof structure. This could be incorporated above the rafters in a new build. More difficult to do in an older house.

  • John Brown

    Thanks for the extra images. I think the exposed flue idea is a good one because it maintains the completeness of the whole space.

  • Paul

    No worries on the delay. I resent the same comments and smaller images this morning within part 2 due to cyber something’s. It appears to be hung up again.

    My apologzes for the duplicates folks. Maybe I will just read the post’s on this one…