Part 2 – Ritter Lupita Residence, Massachusetts, Upper Floor

Part 2 – Ritter Lupita Residence, Massachusetts, Upper Floor (PDF)

  • John Brown


    This is the completed concept design for the upper floor of the Ritter Lupita residence.

  • BradW

    John – The challenge here was finding the best compromise between the study and the guest room. Your guest room is small but I think you have done a good job addressing the clients needs. I like your elongated master bath. Not my favourite design project but a realistic problem requiring a straightforward solution.

    You should consider a week where no client constraints must be met…

  • John Y

    “You should consider a week where no client constraints must be met…”

    Ah, but in the real world, there are *always* client constraints which must be met. You can sometimes present what you think might be a “better” solution than what the client is asking for, but at the end of the day, it’s really up to the client.

    Even when the “client” is yourself.

  • BradW

    John Y – This is not the real world. I am simply suggesting a week where the client says surprise me.

  • Jane

    From the number of responses, I would have to think that people had ‘issues’ with the client requests, like I did. I have a problem with a 1 bedroom house with 3 bathrooms. Also with the realistic issue of having a separate guest bedroom (I thought about a combined office/daybed situation. Office can be cleaned up if company is expected). And last, make the master bath larger, which would eliminate a need for the second bath, cause guests and clients dont stay forever. It would require that the bath is easy to clean and always presentable, but I like that requriement anyways…

  • John Brown

    Brad and John,

    I have an idea about how to do a project that frees things up while still keeping it real. I will incorporate it for next week’s project…. Stay tuned and thanks for the suggestion.

  • Terri

    On first glance at your solution, I thought we were losing our lovely southern light into the stairwell because the guest bath covered where that window was originally located. But you fixed that problem with the large sliding door across the guest room.

    I now wondering if that guest bath shouldn’t have the door and fixtures flipped to the other side of the room. That way the entrance to the bathroom is that much closer to the office and the guests don’t have to sleep right up against the plumbing stack’s wall (there could be a couple of people visiting together).

  • Terri

    Design for Real Life. That’s the Slow Home way, isn’t it? ;)

    Actually, I prefer having limited parameters. I like the challenge it presents. When there’s too much freedom, I feel less sure, though I realize that this is when the true artiste designers can strut their stuff!

    John Y,
    I concur with your analysis of clients’ wants being the final ones–as frustrating as that can be. Even more frustrating than clients with a definite want list are those who don’t know what they want!

  • John Brown

    you make a good point about the fixtures in the second bath. The rationale for my layout was to allow clearance for the sliding door to the guest room. The noise issue is less than ideal. Some insulation in that wall would help but…

  • John Y

    I think the thing I’d be most-likely to try to talk clients out of in this renovation is the second bath upstairs. Having a guest room that’s independent of your office is nice, and useful (I speak from experience here), but by having a family bath, they’d really free up a lot of space upstairs.

    To a certain extent, the lack of a master ensuite can hurt a home’s resale value, but in my experience it’s not necessarily a show-stopper, especially in a smaller home.

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    I’m with Jane and John Y on the bathroom front. As I was watching John’s walkthrough today it struck me how extreme it was to have two full bathrooms for a two bedroom house.

  • Louis Pereira

    Just a couple of things that i wanted to point out as well. Firstly, as i see it, the Design Projects are presented as ‘real life’ situations, hence the name. Although John does set some parameters, he isn’t necessarily placing any severe constraints and is always open to interesting and inventive solutions. So if any of us want to come up with a quirky or unconventional solution to some of the projects, then I don’t think you’ll find any restrictions in doing so; as I’m sure many Slow Home enthusiasts will know the difference between off-the-wall and practical.

    Speaking of practical, John has again evinced his skill by applying his knowledge to a practical and useful end – all while meeting every client request – and that is ‘real’.

  • BradW

    Louis, I agree we can submit whatever the heck we want – you and I often do – but I think it is reasonable to ask for one design project that is completely open. The principles of design as presented here would apply. One other thing, John doesn’t sign your paycheque by any chance? :)

    Terri, you should not shy away from an open design project. Your design are improving greatly. You should have the confidence to design something you like and be proud of it.

    The design projects are presented as a case study with some parameters but they are hardly real. First and foremost, there is no budget – enough said…

    Look at any architects web site and you will not doubt find many projects that are concepts, explorations of a design problem, creative expression for the sake of it or to convey the artists style. This is the essence and spirit of good design.

    The slogan “Design for real life” does not necessarily mean projects presented in the context of a client wishlist. It is about recognizing and designing well thought and proportioned space – spaces which are functional, beautiful and enhance your life.

    Rant out…

  • BradW

    PS. When a client asks for something that runs counter to the Slow Home design principles do you accommodate him/her or do you politely decline the work?

  • Draftech

    Generally speaking, would it be more desirable (cost effective and ease of construction) to have the plumbing fixtures back to back, sharing the same plumbing wall?

    Also, could office furniture be arranged so that desk users(while seated and working) can also b enjoy window view. That is, rather than having their back to it?

  • John Brown

    Good questions.
    There is some cost savings to having the plumbing fixtures back to back – but not much generally in wood frame residential construction.

    In terms of the office desk and the windows – I had originally drawn them as you suggested and then thought that it might be nicer to have the table in the window. The rooms works either way.

  • Terri

    I love it when you rant! No, really, you say a lot that is valid. I find your request for a more “open” design project interesting–not just because it’ll allow us to stretch a bit, but also because I’ve noticed that you’re often one of the designers who will opt to not cause major disruptions by keeping the plumbing in same location and so on, keeping a reasonable budget in mind. As you say, without a budget, we can’t really make the exercises all that real.
    As Louis says, we can be a little crazy if we wish.

    At the same time, I find it reassuring when John’s examples can satisfy the client’s needs plus follow a Slow Home rationale. In the real world, though, can this always be achieved, especially if, as you say, the client asks for something not Slow or doesn’t like a Slow result?
    What then, John?

  • James Scott

    Part of an interview on CBC radio this morning discussed crude oil and how the OPEC group has an internal agreement that they all agree to certain production limitations in order to create demand and slightly inflate prices. (The down side is that if one of the group over sells more than their quota to capitalize on the higher prices the process could falter.)

    That being said, the one issue I have with cookie cutter homes and Slow Homes as discussed here is the overshadowing effect of Resale Values. These people, hopefully, will be in this home living comfortably and healthy for 15 or 20 years, who knows. Is resale value really that important? If all of us built and lived in homes designed for our lifestyles and not the pending market than resale value shouldn’t be of issue. Is that reality, maybe not, but if enough families said enough is enough, then maybe this trend can be changed.

    Great plans and ideas the past two days, and really exciting discussion, as always!

  • James Scott

    On the other hand, maybe we can take the Frank Lloyd Wright approach.

    “Here’s my design, it will cost you $$$. Oh by the way don’t forget the furniture, the lighting, the windows, the paint colour…oh and don’t put that away. Yes, your wallet, get that back out, we’ll be needing that too.”

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    Certainly the goal is to approach FLW’s level of excellence without the big squeeze on the pocket book. I certainly feel this group gets close to that a lot more often than not.

  • John Brown

    You asked about my thoughts regarding the limits of satisfying a client’s needs. This is a difficult thing to condense down into a blog entry. However, in short, from my experience, there have only been a few times when we have declined to work with a project. They had to do with either projects that were only about flipping a property for a profit or because they were something we considered inappropriate (size, location, etc). We also don’t do any work in new subdivisions. These were decisions made on principle about what we believe is right. I think that as professionals we have a responsibility to have lines that we will not cross.

    At the same time, I would argue that the slow home philosphy is a pretty big tent that is really about getting the client more involved and engaged with their house so that they make more responsible and thoughtful decisions that fit the way they want to live rather than some marketing brochure. It is about good, sensible design, financial responsibility, and environmental appropriateness. Within these parameter, the details of how the house is actually designed are pretty open to interpretation and variation.

  • John Brown


    Thanks for your comments. It is great to see a discussion like this evolve out of a design project review. The fact that our homes have become such significant financial interests has certainly colored our individual and collective understanding of them. At one level you are absolutely correct that resale value shouldn’t matter. This is consistent with a slow home philosophy of tailoring your home to fit your needs and then staying put. On the other hand, the realities of life often require people to move and this kind of attitude could be too easily dismissed as elitist.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that shifting people’s attitudes to their homes is the best way to affect change. I believe that, like slow food, this is best down through education – hence the slow home design school.

    Our collective goal has to be to try and get the word out. We need to spread the idea of good, thoughtful design and get more people to start thinking about their home in new and creative ways.