Saturday, August 27, 2016

Idea File - The Expandable Condo

In the interest of sharing unique design ideas I will veer outside of the mid-century modern and 1970s era and share some unique plans and ideas.

Over the years that I have worked in the various facets of the real estate industry I have been inside many condominium apartment units in Ottawa. I am always surprised and delighted to see innovative designs that then become inspiration for the "hobby" floor plans that I design as a pastime. One design aspect about condo apartments I like playing with is the idea about space that can be expanded. This is something that is typically impossible with a condo apartment unless an adjacent unit is bought. I am not the only one to have thought of this - here are some examples/ideas in Ottawa. 

The Broker I work for recently listed Alanis Morissette's spectacular suite in the Sussex condominium building. Her (now sold) suite was re-imagined from the original plans, but the original design for the building is quite unique. Each floor has 4 standard designs, all corner suites. Yet, each floor has 8 distinct modules with their own separate legal identity. The typical suite is 2 units, but there is the potential to be expanded in to one of the adjacent units - resulting in 3 condos per floor (two 3 module suites and one 2 module suite). I am not sure if anyone actually did expand their suite when the building was built, but the idea is noteworthy!  

Additionally, some condo buildings allow homeowners to enclose a balcony for extra interior space, such as at 160 George Street. My Broker currently has a listing for sale in this building with the balcony still open, but I have been inside some of the units with enclosed balconies that have been opened up to the main living space quite successfully.

The Classics at Riviera condo also allows enclosed balconies, but it appears that they must be fully glass so as not to detract from the overall facade of the building. On the flip-side, some units in this complex were built with an enclosed solarium (sometimes called a "sun den") that homeowners have opted to completely open up to the main living space.  

Another example at 373 Laurier Avenue East with enclosed balconies. Many condominium corporations do not allow the enclosing of balconies as it changes the look of the building facade.

One building that has always intrigued is the Parkway Terrace condominium at 77 Richmond Road. From the outside the building presents a unique facade with large expanses of glass and deep-set balconies.

The overall layout of the building is very unique with all of the units (8 per floor) loaded on the back of the building, overlooking the Ottawa River and parkway. At the front of the building most units (except the end units and ground floor units) have a second balcony and a solarium space (called a gazebo on the plans). These are separate from the main unit as the building hallway runs between. This unique, yet separate, expansion space could have numerous options. From what I have seen with real estate listings in this building most owners use this space as a solarium, but I could envision it used as a home office just across the hall from your unit.  


Monday, August 1, 2016

Mid Century Summer Reading list 2016

Happy Summer!

In an old post I compiled a list of mid-century-era books perfect for summer reading (Summer Reading), but this year I stumbled upon an article on with some other books of interest. The article (a great read in itself) has a rather negative view of mid-century suburbs, but it has a nifty list of works that I have either already read, or want to get my hot little hands on. Here is a link to the article: Welcome to Disturbia

Used I come!

I wish all of my blog readers a great summer!


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Idea File: California Dreaming in Ottawa

In addition to my collection of Ottawa and Toronto-area floor plans and housing ephemera, I also have boxes upon boxes of American plans and articles - with a particular interest in Californian housing. 

Within this collection I have some favourite designs that I keep revisiting for inspiration, as I also design floor plans as a hobby (none have been built). Among my most cherished "inspiration" plans are those designed by the mid-century architect partners Robert E. Jones and Edwin K. Hom. Recently I discovered that some Ottawa houses may have been inspired by some townhouse designs by these architects. Here is what I have found:  

A while ago I published a post on the Assaly Villas built in the 1960s and 1970s in Westcliffe Estates (Bell's Corners) and Trend VillageAssaly Villas. In these neighbourhoods a series of exterior styles for the houses were offered, including the "Spanish Valencia", shown below:   
Many of the houses built with this exterior facade have been altered over the years, but the archway and balconies over the garage with curved details still remain in most cases.

Below is an advertisement from Time Magazine in 1965 showing houses built in San Juan Capistrano, California, designed by Robert E. Jones. Notice how the exteriors are strikingly similar.  
The article below from House & Home Magazine in 1965 also shows the same houses - including the floor plans.
In terms of the layouts, the main floors of the two-story designs are very similar to those built in Ottawa, yet there are differences on the second levels. Of interest is the fact that both the California project and the Ottawa versions have 2-bedroom bungalow units (although the plans are not exact matches). Larger versions of the California designs are below:
Here are the Ottawa plans:

If there was any doubt that the designer of the Ottawa houses was influenced by American design, the Colonial Williamsburg (Virginia) elevation options are a sure giveaway.
As mentioned earlier, Robert E. Jones and Edwin K. Hom are some of my favourite tract-house architects, yet there is very little written about Jones and Hom. What I do know is that they were based out of La Jolla, California, and designed a handful of very unique projects, some of which were unbuilt

In the interest of sharing their inspirational designs, I will veer away from Ottawa for a moment and present a collection of Jones and Hom plans from California:

This design for Huntington Harbor was not built for some reason, and the land was developed with detached houses instead. Yet, the designs are intriguing and I love the architecture of the houses with walls of glass and steep roof lines. I wonder what happened to the scale model they built? 

The designs for the unbuilt Huntington Harbor project above appear to have been altered for the Tennis Estates complex built south of the original site. This neighbourhood was actually built with some interesting waterfront townhouse designs. 

House and Home, September 1974
I am a very big proponent of the zero lot line concept where houses are pushed up to one side of the lot, creating a larger side yard, instead of two narrow and often unusable side yards. This enhanced usability of a lot can be further expanded with the "patio house" concept by enclosing the whole yard - including the front yard - with a wall. Although not invented by Jones and Hom, they embraced the concept in Westlake Village. In some cases an enclosed yard would allow for a pool to be located at the front of a house.  

House and Home, September 1967
Also in Westlake Village, this proposed design for waterfront houses was not actually built. I love the roof lines of the houses and the way they interact with each other. Hiding cars in an covered parkade is also an unusual idea. 

The Shores development built in Monarch Beach has a collection of zero lot line houses including one that is pushed right up to the back of the lot. A trademark of Jones and Hom's designs are their use of steep or unusual roof lines to create a sense of weight and paired with large expanses of glass.

House and Home, May 1972
Another patio home project in Huntington Beach:

In Sunnyvale, Jones and Hom designed a series of award-winning houses called Bahl Patio Homes:

House and Home, October 1974

House and Home, August 1969
The Bahl Cluster Homes are fourplexes designed in a pinwheel layout:

House and Home, September 1972
Hopefully these designs from California will help fuel ideas and inspiration for any home renovation/design projects here in Ottawa!