Notes on TeleTalk call w/ Mary Kraus
From: ann zabaldo (
Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 11:33:56 -0600
 Common House Design & Curing CH Ails
 by Mary Kraus
 TeleTalk March 4, 1999

We had a FABULOUS Teletalk conference call last Thursday w/ Mary
Kraus, architect extrodinaire.  As many of you know, Mary designed
the CH at Pioneer Valley.  She is currently the architect of record
for the 2nd community at the Ecovillage in Ithaca, NY.  She is also
collaborating on Pathways cohousing in North Hampton, MA and on
another cohousing community in Texas.  She just completed the
programming for the CH for Takoma Village Cohousing in Washington,


These are the highlights of the hour long conversation.

*A good model to use in creating the great room interior spaces for a
CH is the quintessential ski lodge.  In the ski lodge model we can
see effective design principles that make a very large great room, w/
exposed rafters or ceiling, and often a very large fire place, seem
intimate and cozy.

*It's most important to have a space in the CH where an individual
would feel comfortable being alone.  If you don't have this, then
each time an individual comes to the CH he/she won't stay and you end
up w/ people leaving just before the next person gets there.

*If possible, have mail picked up in the CH.  (Some jurisdictions
won't allow this.)

*Put laundry room on the 1st floor.

*People should be able to see people in the CH from outside.

*Have areas you can close off for smaller groups.

*Make the LR/sitting room VERY COZY.

*Coziness in general is a very important attribute.

*Coziness can be acheived through kinds of materials, colors.  Lower
elements make a large room feel cozier e.g. wainscotting or painting
walls to head height.

*It's more important to focus on the QUALITY of a space than the
quantity of space.  In other words, smaller is better than larger if
the smaller space is done well.

*Decorate to complete the spaces.  (Many times groups run out of
money for decorating and end up using old, cast off furniture and
decorations.  Sometimes the furniture is broken and just plain ugly.
This doesn't make for an inviting space.)

*Avoid creating a "tunnel" effect from placing a LR, sitting room or
dining room directly down a long hallway from the door to the
outside.  This is a principle of Feng Shui

*If you have a square great room, break it up into smaller rectangles
by furniture arrangements and varying the ceiling height.

Noise abatement tricks:

*Ceiling should be finished w/ an absorbent surface.

*High ceilings are more effective at controlling noise but make sure
the ceiling is of varying heights to prevent noise from bouncing off
the surface of the ceiling.

*Use low lighting esp. at dinner.  Consider using candles.

*Serve dinner family style where food is brought to the tables as
opposed to cafeterial style.  This will reduce the number of times
people get up and down during a meal.

*Close off the kid's room -- this room should be far enough away from
DR and LR/sitting room so adults can't hear the normal chatter and
yelling kids do but close enough to hear a child screaming.

*Use smaller tables for dining.  An ideal size suggested by Lynn
Meadow of Rosewind cohousing is a 3'x5' rectangle that comfortably
seats four w/ room for serving platters.


If any of the participants on the conference call want to add
anything please do so.  Or if you out there on the listserv want to
add something from your experience we invite your comments.

April 4th, our guest on TeleTalk will be Jim Leach talking about his
role as a developer and answering questions about using professionals
in developing a cohousing community.  If you're just starting a group
or you're wondering about how a developer or other professional can
help you develop a site, this will be an indispensible hour for you.

The monthly TeleTalk conference call is a program of The Cohousing
Network and is provided w/ out charge to folks interested in

Best -- Ann Zabaldo
Zabaldo [at]

Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible
to be homesick for a place you've never been to,
perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.

     Judith Thurman "The Hand of Distance"

Takoma Village Cohousing is the Washington D.C.
 area's first URBAN cohousing
community.  Email me for more details.

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