Sometimes you realise that you don't have to go far to find inspiration; and that was certainly the case for this months blog (apologies for it being late, it's been one of those busy months again!). Looking close to home, I remembered a little building just down the road that I have always been fond of - it's an old blacksmiths building. Full of charm, and with an unusual half-hip roof, buttresses to the rear, and a fully glazed front; I'm surprised I haven't thought of using this building as a base for a design before. It's amazing what you can find on the doorstep!
I can't seem to find any information about this structure; not even the date it was built. Nor could I find any old photos, so I'm afraid this portion of the blog will be somewhat lacking in specifics! In any case, you'll note in the Google Streetview below that it is part of a larger blacksmith's complex - built mostly of corrugated iron (I presume that these are later additions). As far as I know, the little building is little used nowadays. Despite knowing the owner, I've never had the chance to look inside the brick building, only the larger corrugated iron one.
Anyway, as you can see, it's a characterful building; the low hanging eaves at the front and rear mean that I'm pretty certain the door is less than standard height, so I've added a normal door on the far side wall; both to comply with UK standards and also to provide a second means of escape. I'm actually pretty surprised just how big the building is, as from the street it looks pretty small; probably because the main road ascends at this point. In reality, it's 6.5m x 6.5m - making this design one of my largest so far. In fact, it took some time to adjust designing something in a bigger space than I'm used to! It is worth noting that there is a fair amount of unusable space which really shouldn't count towards the floor area (particularly around the stairs, and in the attic).
I suspect that the reason for the low eaves (but fully-glazed front) is that direct sunlight is best avoided whilst smithing. Direct sunlight distorts the colour of the glowing metal - blacksmiths need accurate colour information to determine the heat needed. Iron, for example, firsts glows red, then orange, yellow and finally white. An orange/yellow colour indicates the best working temperature for making the iron malleable. So whilst they need to be in well-lit areas to see what they are doing, blacksmiths need consistent lighting rather than direct light. Many blacksmith forges I researched appear to have white painted brick interiors; presumably to help reflect the light around the interior, thus giving more consistent lighting.
Here's a quick look at the new floorplan. As you can imagine, the location of the chimney and associated brick forge dictated the location of pretty much everything; with it being slightly off-centre, it seemed smart to use the smaller corner behind it as the wetroom since that would require the least space. Elsewhere, the other major consideration was the placement of the stairs. The low eaves meant that I had to site it slightly away from the rear wall, which in turn dictated the positioning of the attic room and furniture.
I can only assume that the real thing never had an attic, but I couldn't resist an open-mezzanine style attic to keep the bedroom separate from the rest of the building. Not only does this save valuable space downstairs, but it gives a slightly more private and larger area for the bedroom. Of course, if you wanted more privacy you could completely board off the attic; I'll explain why I didn't do this later on.
From a design point of view, as usual, I didn't want to change the exterior too much. Any changes I have made have all been on the rear wall (i.e. the one not seen from the road). As mentioned, the new standard height door has been added here, but so has a Velux rooflight in the new attic. Something noticeable on the outside that I did change was the brickwork. Instead of only the road-facing wall having the yellow/tan bricks, I've changed all the other walls (including the chimney and forge) to this as well. Personally I think this improves the look of the building a lot, although whether you'd be able (or willing) to do this on the real thing... I'm not so sure!
As with most of my designs, I've tried to keep the theme of the prototype going; with this in mind, I've introduced a lot of metalwork. Furniture and fittings are mostly framed in metal - giving the interior a homemade industrial feel. Let's go ahead and look at the design in more detail...
As we walk through the front door (ducking our heads of course!), we enter the "lobby" area. I use the term lobby lightly since really it's all one open-plan space that includes the lounge and kitchen/dining area. Anyway, I digress. Straight ahead is the double-winder staircase, with a set of shelves (with complimentary anvil!) on the left. I like leaving hints to the buildings past in places (you'll also see a set of tongs upstairs on the chimney); if I'm converting such an old building, it seems only right to at least celebrate the past usage with some original items on display somewhere.
And speaking of which, on the right you'll see a large metalworking bench; the spindle on the vice has been taken off though to stop your clothes getting snagged on it as you walk past! You could even adorn the walls with original tools and hammers if you were feeling brave... although I don't fancy hanging a hammer on the wall myself!
Originally intending to go with a cottage style of kitchen, I instead opted for a very sleek and modern design. No panelled door fronts, just a smooth finish. To compliment the blacksmith theme, the taps are somewhat more traditional, albeit in a raw dark grey metal. You'll see this same raw metal being used just about everywhere in this design; the cooker hood being yet another example. On select walls I've left the bricks exposed; again cementing the industrial vibe.
The kitchen features a breakfast bar area by the back door, with complimentary metal industrial lights hanging from the rafters. These lights are again used throughout the building, and are pretty modern in design compared to my usual preferred style. I think they do work well here though. The kitchen worktop is solid wood, in a very light oak (perhaps verging on beech) which contrasts with the dark metal nicely.
Elsewhere, you'll see the large dining table made of that same steel. The solid oak top helps give that homemade rustic appearance, and is also the same style as the flooring. The model of the stools at the breakfast bar area were modified and turned into dining chairs; the slender metal legs help make the space feel bigger than it is, with the white seat coverings also doing their bit.
And so we move onto the lounge area, where the large off-centre original forge has been restored and repurposed into an open fire. In hindsight, you'd probably want a secondary safety grate at the front and sides, as well as a floor plinth that actually surrounds the whole thing instead of just the front.
The modern white theme continues from the kitchen units into the lounge; with a large L-shaped white fabric sofa taking up the majority of the space. I suppose you could even have a sofabed here for any guests that stay over. The TV sits on the same industrial pipework shelving unit that was last featured in the two Norwegian designs from a few months back. You could even extend this shelving further to the left, above the storage cupboards. Speaking of which, this was made from the same design of table as that in the dining area, but shrunk down to more appropriate proportions. Underneath the table, a custom set of 3 storage boxes were constructed upon a wooden plinth, with doors to match. You'll see this same table used yet again later on!
Moving on through the only internal door, we come to the wetroom. Again, modern white cupboards are used here, with most walls kept as bright as possible. Unusually for me, I didn't include any windows in the wetroom; primarily because I didn't want to alter any elevations visible to the road. I could've added a small skylight, and built the walls up to the rafters, but I figured the space above the wetroom would be better off used as occasional storage for seasonal items. Whilst I haven't shown it, a ladder would need to be used to access this area. Alternatively, you could expand the attic area and access it from there.
You'll notice that a wetroom is pretty standard in my designs by now, and this one is no different. A large walk in shower is glazed partially off from the rest of the room, whilst a large washbasin and standard toilet fit around 2 walls; with plenty of storage above and below for toiletries. The road-facing wall has been left exposed for a bit of colour and texture.
And so moving onto the final space - the attic. Access is via a set of double winder stairs; with custom built steel handrails and spindles. The spindles are square section lengths twisted by 90 degrees - simple, but effective. You'll see this same combination used as railings throughout the attic.
As we go upstairs, you'll immediately see the large Velux rooflight letting in loads of natural light. The exposed rafters and horizontal boards have all been painted white to better reflect the light around the room and give a nice airy feel to the room. You'll also see the same cupboard unit from the lounge making an appearance, although perhaps you'd prefer some sort of wardrobe. Whilst there's not much height, there will be enough for a short hanging rail for shirts and trousers.
Earlier I mentioned that you'll see the dining room table again - well, take another look at the bed... that's right, the same style has been used for the bedframe! Obviously it has been enlarged in both directions, shortened in height, and a headboard added, but it's very much using the same base as a starting point. I could've perhaps made the loft the full length of the building, but in the end I left the two ends open to the lower floor for better cross ventilation, and to make the downstairs feel bigger. It's worth mentioning the ceiling height of the lower floor is less than the standard 2.4m; about a foot lower in fact. So any opening up of the ceiling to the rafters is a bonus.
Overall I'm pretty happy with the design, but there is definitely room for improvement; a window on the far wall (by the dining table) could be a useful addition, for example. It's a lot more modern in styling than most of my designs, which may or may not be your cup of tea! It would be pretty easy to adopt the basic design but with a more traditional look, but I feel the homage to the blacksmiths work is more fitting; hence the industrial modern style cues.
My main issue with this design is how big it is, and how much wasted space there is; particularly under and around the stairs, and in the attic. I'm always keen to try and keep things as original as possible, so whilst I could shrink the design down, I feel it's better to make use of an existing building, rather than build from scratch whilst a perfectly usable building is on the site!
Next month, I want to have another go at designing a true tiny house (might even be a portable one!). So fear not! The tiny designs will return...
... in the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this design, and as always please send me comments and suggestions. Know of a small building that you think I could convert into a small architectural space (whether for living, working, or both)? Send a comment or email with as much information as possible, and I'll see what I can come up with!
'Till next time!
Anvil - blacksmith
Books - Cassol, Alex Henrique, Gabby V.
Crates - Rustic Inventive
Industrial shelving - Katia M.
Metalwork bench - Alfred P.
Pendant lights - Cheriyan J.
Dining table - dmc
Dinnerware - Micha
Kitchen tap - Kohler Co.
Utensils - ARQ Raquel Muller
Bottle & wine glass - abursic
Coffee table - Matt
Clock - Frederik V.
Decorative plant in pot - Starrheit
Fire and grate - Carre Designs
Sofa - rhyan
TV - RRannar
Shower - Kohler Co.
Shower drain - Gunner
Toilet - Bambuhsamui
Toilet roll holder - Kohler Co.
Towel rail - Kohler Co.
Washbasin - Kohler Co.
Bed - v n T. (bedframe removed)
Tongs - Bear G.
Velux rooflight - Paolo F.
Iron gate - ModelProps