Common House Design Workshop
From: Grace Kim (
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2012 00:17:11 -0700 (PDT)
Common House Design...requires special consideration.
As the living room for the community, the Common House sets the initial 
impression for visitors about what cohousing is, what your community
values might be, or the perceived benefits of living in community.

Here are a couple of tips to consider:

Select a single style of dining chair - one that is comfortable, attractive, 
easy to maintain, and ideally stackable. A commercial grade chair should be 
selected over a residential grade to ensure durability and ability to withstand 
long term use - Ikea chair looks great but will need to be replaced in a year 
or two. However, this is not an excuse to disregard design - Rubbermaid folding 
chairs are durable and inexpensive, but do little to enhance the sense of home 
or community.

Quality lighting can enhance the sense of community and encourage intimate 
conversation during common meals. Provide pendants over each table to provide 
flexible lighting - install dimmer switch to increase light levels for table 
setting and cleanup as well as a softer light level for dining. Additionally, 
provide brighter ambient fixtures around perimeter or above to provide overall 
illumination for sweeping fl oors or general meetings. Provide a third level of 
lighting to serve as a night light for those who enter the dining room at night 
and require a minimal amount of light to navigate the room.

I have analyzed scores of common houses in Denmark and North America to discern 
what works and doesn't work. Following Christopher Alexander's concept of 
Pattern Language, I have thoroughly documented the necessary programmatic and 
design elements for a successful Common House. If you are in a forming 
community ready to start design, or if you are unhappy with the current 
functionality of your common house, I invite you to join me in a pre-conference 
workshop focusing on Common House Design at the upcoming National Cohousing 
Conference.  Workshop is June 15, 1:15-5pm.

If you won't be attending the conference, you can obtain a copy of my book 
Designing the Cohousing Common House ($45 plus shipping).  The table of 
Contents can be found here.

grace h. kim | schemata workshop inc.
aia, principal architect


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