Part 2 – Chen Kirkpatrick Residence, Washington

Part 2 – Chen Kirkpatrick Residence, Washington (PDF)

  • Louis Pereira

    Very well thought out John.

    While i had a very similar approach, i really like how you were able to integrate the front entry closet as part of the ‘study’. On my plan, i reconfigured the radial stairs at the base of the stair run and created a boxed-bay to accommodate a new closet. This would create a 2 ft. projection into the side-yard (which may be allowed since there is one similar on the opposite side of the house – including the fireplace)

    Looking forward to Part 3

  • John Brown

    Sounds like an interesting approach. Looking forward to seeing it.

  • Robert Bierma

    Hi John

    First off I want to say just how much I love your website. I have been a visitor to the site nearly everyday, and it is a significant reason for me changing my study focus’s to architecture/design.

    That being said I figured its about time to be an active participant in this collabrotive design process. I was thinking it would be nice to make a sort of atrium. Clearly this would be dependent on what the upper story of the house looked like, but I think placing one next to the stairs and new kitchenwould be ideal. It could bring more light into the middle of the house as well as making the primary circulation point feel more open. Just a thought I would love to hear how you might incorperate something like this, and why you might consider/reject something like this

  • John Brown

    Hi Robert,
    Welcome to the conversation. I am glad you are enjoying the site. A courtyard or atrium is a very good way to bring light into the middle of a long deep plan. It is a tried and true practice in New York Brownstones.

    I have tried several times to do something like this in my own work and have not been able to make it work in a house that is only 17′ wide as this one is. To make it a courtyard instead of a light well, it needs to big enough to make a difference – no less than 8′ I would think. That leaves only 9′ (8′ inside dimensions) of built space. Take away 3′ for circulation and you aren’t left with much usable space. A 33′ wide lot would probably be the minimum width to make this work.

    However, you are correct in thinking that the upstairs floor plan of bedrooms and bathrooms would also be directly affected by this kind of design move.

  • Paul Cameron

    Hi John,
    I too have been following your website for some time now and would like to pass along congratulations on the newer format.

    I thought I would join the design project conversation with the latest project and so I have attached here a jpeg for the groups interest. (I can send a pdf as well if you wish)

    Some of the plans details:
    •Reposition and consolidate the homes’ entries to increase overall size, amount of storage space and to locate centrally
    •Incorporation of a mid plan semi-private, covered, outdoor space that can be expanded into the interior spaces thru the use of accordion doors, floor levels to match. (the second floor would remain unchanged) Vertical forms with periodic breaks along property line( incorporated into fence possibly)
    between residence and neighbor.
    •Dining “table” incorporated into island
    •Cook top located (recessed) in projection so as to be out of island isle as well countertop increased in depth around cook top for functionality.
    •Half bath located such that it could also function as study/guest room private bath
    •awkward stair winder replaced with straight run, stair wall replaced with glazing to increase sense of space in kitchen

    Looking forward to part three as well and further discussion.

    Take care.


  • John Brown

    Thanks for the floor plan. It is a good version of the atrium/ courtyard idea that Robert mentioned earlier today. By placing the entry in the narrow end of the courtyard you have effectively dealt with the width constraint that I had previously mentioned. The consolidation of the two entries into one really good one is a strong notion.

    I marked up the drawing to bring two noteworthy points to everyone’s attention. Frist, notice how Paul’s plan makes the living area (shaded in yellow) feel like a freestanding room in the middle of a garden (because of the view out on two opposite walls (as shown in green). This is very nice. Second, notice how the entry sequence is a combination of a long walkway and an overlapping courtyard (in red). That is really an outside room and the four fence elements on the property line are key to defining it. It would be very important to make sure that they read like walls not a fence – minimum height would be 6-7′ at least. Again very nicely done.

    Of course, the success of the scheme for this particular house really depends on whether the courtyard could be incorporated into the functional layout of the bedrooms. However, this design is so radical it would probably require the demolition of the existing structure anyways. (The discussion of whether this is something the clients could afford is another matter).

    A great addition to the discussion Paul. Thank you.


  • Paul Cameron

    Hi John,
    Thanks so much for the comments. I had a feeling that my original description may not have been adequate and that it might be seen as an atrium or courtyard. Great ideas for sure but I was attempting to work within the confines of this existing structure. This image hopefully depicts what I meant by “the second floor remains unchanged”. ( I have left the 4 fence elements low for clarity)

    There would be some technical issues to work through (restructure,exterior envelope) but nothing overly major in my estimation.

    Thanks again.


  • John Brown

    Thanks for the clarification. How interesting. I really like it when a design discussion gooes off in an unusual direction and leads to something unexpectedly interesting. It is what makes collaboration so valuable.

    In terms of the original idea, my concern is that the main floor space would be too dark with the second floor above it. From a technical point of view, I think the restructuring of the main floor to allow that much of it to be outside would be a pretty significan cost.

    Can I convince you that your unexpected courtyard scheme might be more compelling?

  • Louis Pereira

    Great ideas – although i would consider having the courtyard facing west since the client rates the lighting as ‘poor’. I think designing a house around an outdoor courtyard is a very sensible approach to house design. While it would be great to have this done – ‘Outdoor Living’ is afterall ranked no. 2 on the client’s ‘order of importance’, it is as John says, a matter of whether the client in this case can afford it.

    Still i like the idea as, whether it is an opening on the main floor only or a 2 storey volumne like the ‘Coconut House’ by lee + mundwiler architects (see attached)


  • John Brown

    Good point about the orientation and thanks for the great visual example. It is particularly interesting because it is quite modest. I could easily imagine this for the project at hand.

  • Tony

    I noticed that when the guest bathroom was hand drawn by John the toilet was on the left and then in the final design it switched to the right and the room got smaller. I would try to put the door facing the back door, even if it made the room stick out more otherwise I think it is way too small to be functional.

  • John Brown

    Good eye about the toilet location. I understand your concern about the location of the door to the bathroom. It would certainly be better if it faced into the back entry rather than the kitchen. The problem is that doing so would make the bathroom stick out another 2′ into the kithcen, almost reaching the island. The layout I am proposing is for a 3′ wide space. I know it looks really small but it actually works pretty well in reality. (I have this configuration in my own home). However, some people do find these kind of guest baths pretty small so it would ultimately be the client’s decision about whether they want to trade a larger guest bath for a less optimal kitchen layout or not.

    I think you have certainly identified one of the key choices to be made in the scheme.

  • Paul Cameron

    Hi John,
    No convincing required, the courtyard is definitely compelling. I have employed it in the past. Well suited when working from a blank slate. In this instance, I agree, the costs would likely be prohibitive given the adjustments required upstairs to accommodate a full two storey open air courtyard.

    The dark nature of the single storey open room would be a challenge to overcome for sure, as well, one may need to contend with legislated prohibitions, if any, with respect to building within the side yard. Nothing insurmountable though.

    Fun project, great discussion.

  • John Brown

    Hi Paul,
    I was thinking about this last night and I could see the enclosed courtyard working well in a different climate,like a hot dry climate in which you want to be out of the sun. The shadowed courtyard would be cooler and would minimize heat gain into the interior.

  • Paul Cameron

    Hi John,
    And possibly a wetter climate to be out of the rain. I think having at least a 9 ft ceiling, preferably higher though 10 or 11 ft, would help mitigate the proportions and darkness of the internalized porch.