Part 2 – Victoria Residence, British Columbia

Part 2 – Victoria Residence, British Columbia (PDF)

  • John Brown


    This is the completed concept design for the Victoria residence.

  • MichaelG


    In addition to the one I posted yesterday/today here are two more for your enjoyment Leo. Neither as simple and elegant as John’s though… My “wish I’d though of that” moment was pushing the entrance out into the study, making the northwest window smaller. Nice.

    The first one is a variation of yesterdays, that I believe has much better circulation. And it keeps your preference for having the living/dining/kitchen areas facing the back. The large space next to the sitting area is a free space for the kids with lots of storage for toys or anything.

    The second one has the study in the same area as a lot of the other designs from yesterday. It would be a really nice large space to escape the kids :) Kitchen is awkward but functional, and can look out onto the backyard. Living area can’t though…

    Both designs I tried to keep most of the structural objects in place, including the duct. The fireplace may re-added to, but with a nice secure shielding to stop 1 year old hands! Gas fireplaces are great. Not much heat, but give a great atmosphere.

    Note, I left the big separating wall in on both designs, but in reality they’d be removed as much as possible depending on whats required for load bearing.

  • MichaelG

    oops, uploaded in the wrong order. The left design is “the second one” the right design is “the first one”

  • Brad W

    Paul C – From yesterday, well done plan – I really liked the front entry with the seat, closet and especially the turned fireplace as a nod to the past. Also, I think you were the only one to get kitchen, living and dining across the back. The laundry location is controversial but your design could probably be modified to make that a small home office.

    John – You cheated! :) That flue in the middle of the space really is a problem in the existing space. Anyway, nice straightforward plan. The front entry is well done and incorporating the hall into the living room expands that space tremendously. On first blush, the kitchen sink location seems awkward…regardless, a well done, affordable plan so a tip of the hat to you.

    Thanks to Leo and John for hosting this very enjoyable exercise this week!

  • Brad W

    John – the thing about the kitchen sink is that it is facing away from the action in the backyard…

  • Jim H


    Here is my design study of the first floor. I opened the plan as much as possibe. The south wall utilizes a “NanaWall” system to open the indoor living space to the outdoor living space. A large masonry fireplace anchors the outdoor space. The stairs are now open to both the east and west side of the house. The north stair wall is constructed of either stone, tile or wood creating a “feature” wall. There is a work counter in the dining room to allow for 2 computer (laptop) stations.

    The flue from the basement is a non-issue. A high eff furnace and water heater will resolve the need for a flue chase.

    Enjoy…Comments welcome.

  • Brad W

    John – How did you plan on dealing with the load bearing wall which you removed for the living room? There is no post for a beam to stand on in the back wall. I guess nothing some steel can’t handle.

  • James Scott

    Jim H – I stared at the stairs for ages. So many great plans but that trick really makes the difference.

    Leo – What are the ceiling heights of the 3 levels?

  • John Y

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the “flue” is actually the ductwork to get heat upstairs, right? As such, I assume that ductwork has to exist *somewhere* in the house; just putting in a high-efficiency furnace doesn’t remove the need to get heat upstairs.

  • Jim H

    HVAC ducts run between the wall studs (interior and exterior) and floor joists above. A wall can be framed with a thicker stud or double framed, and soffits can be created to run the ducts perpendicular to the floor framing above. Soffits also help to break up the “sea” of dry wall that can exist on the ceiling and to better help define a space. Duct runs are a minor issue coordinated by the architect in the construction document phase of a project.

  • John Brown


    I understand your concerns about the sink but I thought that the proximity of the front facing window trumped the idea of the sink facing out to the living space.

    In terms of the load bearing wall, I am assuming that a single steel beam would take care of it. If that proved too expensive or difficult then a column would have to be added. I don’t think this would seriously impact the layout.

  • John Brown

    Brad, John Y, Jim H

    Good discussion about the flue.

    We have done a number of these turn of the century houses and given the extensiveness of the renovations being contemplated in this project it is not unreasonable to move all of the ducting (it will probably be removed anyways)and to relocate the venting for the hot water heater (given the use of a high efficiency furnace). I assumed that it would be hidden within the millwork along the side wall of the kitchen.

  • John Brown

    Jim H,
    A very nice idea for the stairs.

    I like the way it opens the kitchen up to the living spaces on the other side of the house. Detailing the free standing wall at the end of the stair as the visual center of the plan is also a good idea.

  • Paul C

    In response to your thoughts from last night. Absolutely, sometimes the amount of stuff is directly proportional to the amount of space provided for the stuff. I would suggest as well that stuff tends to follow children, in particular younger children. (boots, mittens, touks, (well maybe not so much in Victoria :-) ), but raincoats, back packs, board games, craft materials, etc etc) In addition, my thinking with the back hall storage is that it could fulfill a number of other storage requirements. With its close proximity to the kitchen it could also serve as place for dry goods, preserves, infrequently used dishes (i.e. turkey platters) and maybe with further tweeking one might be able to find a spot for a standalone freezer, essentially expanding the functionality of the kitchen. Regarding the bump in the back, assuming I got the scale correct I simply made use of the structure that existed. My feeling was that if that portion of building is reusable why go through the expense of removing it?

    Dimensionally, I think the kitchen is ok. The space between the counters is 42”. It is a gallery style and so one needs to be sensitive to that space. Too little it feels cramped, too much and it is awkward to work in. As well, I had thought about including a “cooks door” (where the window is presently)that would swing out onto the deck and then locate the outdoor cooking nearby. There is enough room to expand the space between counters if required. I kept the width leading into the kitchen ( at the end of the counter) oversized such that it would not feel constrained.

    I think awhile back there was a bit of a discussion with respect to laundry location and so I will leave it there. Regardless of where it is, I would suggest that having a good amount of space for this utility especially for a family of 5 is paramount, otherwise rooms in close proximity become extensions of the laundry room. My choice for location was also driven by wanting to take advantage of the existing, presumed large, living room windows. I neglected to mention with respect to the proposed study that given its size, location and privacy it has the flexibility to be used in various ways over time.

    Brad- thanks for the feedback. I really liked your modern kitchen version from yesterday and the manner in which it expanded so much into the outdoor space.
    Michael G- I like the kitchen/dining in “the first one” and how you managed to incorporate the existing flue as well as the large kitchen.
    John- the expansiveness of the three main spaces(living/dining/kitchen) in your design is very nice. Compared to the existing home this would truly convey an open feel. I think incorporating Jim H’s stair, leading into the kitchen would work well.

  • Paul C

    YIKES! My sincere apologizes for that rather long post everyone. I get typing and the next thing I know…I will endeavor to be brief next time.

  • Louis Pereira

    Paul – No apologies necessary for your Hamlet-like soliloquy (hehe!), especially when many of us find your contributions very constructive.


    Leo – Thanks for sharing something that is personal to you and what could be a very interesting project. i find the style and age of the house particularly interesting in that most houses featured in the SH design projects are often newer construction or from the mid-century era. I appreciate why John does not focus on the exterior design for these assignments, but I think in this case i’m curious how one should approach the exterior design given the many solutions imparted over the last couple of days.

    Do you have a prediliction for historic design and is this how you would approach not only the interior renovations but the exterior as well…or should one design to suit our time and place…


    John – I’m very interested in how you (as well as others here) would approach this. Depending on the nature of the project and it’s context, i would be first inclined to arrive at a modern interpretation; while respecting existing materials, scale and proportion, rather than, in Thom Mayne’s words, ‘…design new buildings to look like old buildings’

  • Terri

    Nice simple solution. By not including a shower in the powder room and making the study entrance off the living room, you allowed for a very nice entry space and a front porch to boot.

    My only criticism– other than the kitchen sink that Brad points out (I’d put it where I put it in my plan, nicer window there, not North-facing, etc.)–is the door to the powder room opening as it does. If a kid leaves it ajar, the toilet is obviously visible to guests entering the house.

    As for the chase discussion, I remembered you saying that it could be moved–but maybe not removed. And the demo plan didn’t show that that load-bearing wall could be completely dealt with by a steel beam. It would have been nice to know that both these elements were non-issues and have the demo reflect that fact. (I’m not a trained architect, obviously!)

  • Leo

    Today is hectic as I am juggling the kids as well as recovering from working last night. If people are interested, I can keep yesterday’s and todays threads going if people want more personal input on their plans. I know my comments have been fairly general thus far.

    John, I love how you’ve opened up the space, and you seem to have inspired a few others to open theirs up further. My only concern is the lack of storage space. Paul C is obviously living through what I am and hence his focus on storage, which is not glamorous, but pretty important. I suppose it’s something on the wish list that tends to be placed a little lower down on the priority list because of its lack of glamour.

    Louis, in response to your inquiry…to be honest, the house does not have a whole lot of curb appeal. In general, our personal preference is for more modern styling. While the devil is always in the details, I think we would agree with your approach, Louis

  • Paul C

    Nice to hear from you as always. Let me BREIFLY share with you where I was at :-) Similar to you, (if I am reading you right) I saw it as a blend which I believe can be honestly and genuinely achieved. It is very hard to say anything for certain without understanding overall context however.

  • Louis Pereira

    Thanks for the feedback Leo…


    Paul – your comment “honestly and genuinely achieved” is so true, especially in terms of materials and i think is key to the success of the design

    ^^^…I should clarify that the quote from Thom Mayne – principal architect for the very progressive architecture firm, Morphosis, stated this in an interview with Charlie Rose. His derisive observation was aimed at the general notion or public’s fear toward contemporary design. In other words, rather than creating a ‘fake history’, you’re thinking ‘logically about a problem in contemporary terms’

    I’ve posted the link to the interview for those interested… (refer to 11:50-14:00)

  • John Brown

    Good point about the view of the toilet from the front door. I suppose we could try reversing the fixtures so that the view was of the sink — or put a self closing door on the bathroom — or reverse the swing of the door.

    Sorry about not mentioning the wall. I thought about removing it in the demo plan but then decided that it might lead the concepts in a particular direction. I then forgot to mention the possibility in my intro.

    Generally speaking wood frame houses are pretty easy to modify at a structural level – just about anything can be changed with a beam or maybe a beam and a column. Even a steel beam is pretty simple to do.

  • John Brown


    You bring up an interesting issue with regards new and old structures. In our own work renovating older houses we tend to concentrate on the interior and usually leave the exterior alone- both for budgetary reasons and as a design strategy for “inhabiting an old structure”.

    If we do make a change to the exterior, we generally don’t try to recreate the past but rather insert/ integrate the new elements into the old facades.

    As an aside, Thom Mayne is going to be the inaugural speaker for our Faculty’s 2009 lecture series on September 25.

  • Louis Pereira

    Thanks John – I would certainly consider a trip to Calgary to attend that! I presume the lecture series is open to the general public?…

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    Having looked at all the plans submitted, I really like Paul’s design from yesterday. I think it is the back hallway and the features around it that just clicked for me.

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    Do you by any chance record the lectures and make them available as a podcast? I’d love to get an rss feed for that!

  • Brad W

    Paul C – the comment you made about the study in your plan being assigned multiple uses really reasonated with me. In my first plan I had the study in the same location and was thinking at the time that this would make a great music room – kids playing the piano, violin, brass etc. require a quiet space (actually, mom and dad require a quiet but you get my point). That is the thing with open concept plans as proposed by John and others – how can you get away from each other? BTW, I really can appreciate the thought and detail that went into your submission. For sure, one of the most intriguing proposals.

  • Tom G

    Great discussion about open living spaces vs. smaller more private spaces. I prefer the open larger public spaces. I rehabbed a 1940′s house. We removed most of the interior walls on the first floor, much like John & Jim’s plan. We finished the basement for the kids to have a room. This is where the toys/clutter live.

    You want a design that will meet your present and future life style. Remember your kids will some day be grown, toy and clutter storage may no longer be the primary focus. Design for the future!

  • Leo

    Michael G

    You’ve done a nice job working within the plan (is the flue still in the same place? BTW, after revisiting the house today with a prospective designer, the flue is actually a chimney for an oil burning furnace. This will definitely be replaced) While not as open as some of the other plans, I think you’ve opened up some sight lines which currently are lacking, making the house feel small and confined despite its size. The desk at the back would get a lot of use, and I think the office in the front would definately make a nice music room as has been discussed above.

    A lot of good ideas have been presented. I suppose the tricky bit is figuring out what is feasible in terms of price and structure.

  • Leo

    Jim H

    You have certainly achieved the “loftiest” of the designs. It would certainly be a very modern interior (until my kids made a mess of it). Apart from a little more closet space I have little criticism. It would make the place feel huge. The other question is where any ducting would go.

  • John Brown

    Louis and Jim,

    Re: Thom Mayne lecture in Calgary
    Yes it is certainly open to the public, and yes I believe it may be recorded for a podcast.

  • Terri


    Hello Leo,

    Okay, I know this is really late to the game, but I’m posting this messy-looking plan that I first sketched on Wednesday night (but wasn’t happy with because of issues with powder room and dining table). John’s posting yesterday regarding the use of a steel beam to span that load-bearing wall got me thinking that maybe I could fix my dining table issue. Anyway, after work last night I re-sketched it (I’m sharing the office with the prodigal son, so I’m late to my computer–yes, they grow up, but…)

    My initial objective with this plan was to remove that fireplace and to maintain the present ducting/flue box. So I put a two-sided gas fireplace next to the duct–I imagine a wall unit so that it’s not on the floor. In my reiteration last night I remembered the “extra storage” refrain so I’ve put in lots of cupboards or shelving units.

    My plans aren’t as open as many, because I’m living in an open plan living/kitchen/dining-home (albeit it’s small) and it can be problematic, depending on the family’s entertainment needs. And as someone (Brad?) posted late yesterday, sometimes it’s nice to have “your own space.” I can second that!

  • Elva

    John; I know I am a little late on commenting on your design but here goes. Your design seemed to provide more space for furniture layout in the living room and it seemed to be easy to expand the seating while entertaining. I especially liked the dinning room placement. It appears that this would allow expansion for very large family gatherings that happen once in a blue moon.

    I think the kitchen could be improved with a better layout. Things I would like to see are:
    -pantry like shelving with built in dual ovens on the wall against the stairs to provide upper cabinet space as well.
    - reduce the depth of the surface area in the bump-out. It looks like 4 ft. Even if herbs are grown along the back, as suggested by Terri,it is a long reach for a shorter person when it comes to cleaning. My apologies for being practical.
    - perhaps a breakfast bar at the window looking out to the front porch. I think that would be a nice place to wait for the kids to come home from school, (if people do that these days) or get acquainted with the neighbourhood.

  • Terri

    You make an excellent point regarding the total depth of 4 ft from counter front to back of bump-out window. Maybe the surface needs to be ceramic tile with a hose attachment on the sink nearby so that you could just aim and spray whenever cleaning is required.

    I like your idea for a breakfast bar facing the window, though I think it may be a little dark at that end of the room since there’s a porch beyond the window. That’s why I chose to forego the bar in my first plan and include a nook (though it wasn’t roomy enough for entertaining during those odd occasions).