Katrina Cottage VIII

Steve designed Katrina Cottage VIII for the Washington DC region to demonstrate that these tiny cottages, designed originally as disaster housing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, had many other uses in many other places. Affectionately dubbed "KC/DC,” this cottage later won a Charter Award from the Congress for the New Urbanism. And it was one more step in the discovery of SmartDwelling tools and techniques that inform our work today. It also became part of the Original Green story, appearing in the book as an illustation of how elements in a building can be designed to have many uses. Here are some of the notable things this cottage does, although there’s a lot more than can be illustrated here:

• This cottage was designed to be manufactured. Today, manufactured housing is stigmatized as “trailers” and “mobile homes.” That stigma cannot be broken by building just as good as ordinary site-built houses; it must be remarkably better. This starts with a design that is lovable… check out this page to see some of the ways this cottage accomplishes that goal.

• It is designed with “Grow Zones” in each corner from which the house can sprout additions. A clear expansion path is essential for someone considering a cottage this small (just over 500 square feet). Incidentally, the ability to grow easy makes the cottage adaptable to many uses over time. As a matter of fact, it’s so small that it can be used for many things other than a home. It would make a great home office or studio, for example, or maybe a Granny Cottage that can be rented out once Granny is no longer there. And adaptable cottages help make the neighborhood a more serviceable place.

• The bed alcove is curtained for privacy, as someone else might be sleeping on the futon opposite the kitchen. But if not, then you may still want to close the curtains on long winter nights, conserving body heat in the bed alcove so you can turn the thermostat down impossibly low.

• Every interior wall is carved into with shelving, both using space that is ordinarily lost and eliminating the risk of mold and mildew in the wall cavities.

• Other spaces are used as well. For example, storage baskets slide under the bed. And although it’s not shown here, the bed itself lifts up like the hood of a car, exposing the empty space once occupied by the box springs, but now long-empty as box springs have given way to wood slat mattress supports.

• There’s not one square inch of drywall visible on any of the walls. Wall-boarding is charming, reminding many of us of oceanfront cottages of our childhood summers, but it also allows you to attach hooks, pegs, shelves, cabinets, and even appliances at any point on the wall you like. You don’t have to worry about whether there’s a stud to support the load like you do with a sheetrock wall because the wall boards are plenty strong to support whatever you would like to hand from them.

• The cottage daylights beautifully because the main room has windows on three sides. Unless a day is terrifyingly dark and stormy, there’s never a need to use electrical lights until sunset. This is just one of many things that makes this a really frugal cottage. And it’s not just about efficiency; light on multiple sides of a room also makes everything in the room more beautiful… including the people!

• The cottage is also designed for effective cross-ventilation. It doesn’t just have windows on both sides. Rather, the windows are placed to align with places you might spend a lot of time, like sitting in the booth (not yet installed when these pictures were taken) or working in the kitchen.

• The windows are also double-hung, so in the cool of the day, just before nightfall, you can still ventilate the house even if there’s no breeze. Just lower the top sash, raise the bottom sash, and the warm air flows out at the top and cool air enters at the bottom.

• All exterior details on the house are designed to be patchable and repairable. One of the greatest myths in American construction today is that building exteriors should be “maintenance-free.” This myth is true so long as nothing fails, but if your dog gnaws on a piece of vinyl siding or you get the charcoal grill too close and melt some of it, then there’s no way that (even if you stored some extra over the garage) new vinyl would match the old vinyl that’s been weathering on your wall for years. So you either endure the mismatch, or you’re forced to rip it all off and replace it. That’s not durable, but this cottage is.

There’s are many more ideas embedded in this tiny cottage… these are just a start.

© Studio Sky 2014