Re: Common house design
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sat, 23 May 2015 10:57:03 -0700 (PDT)
> On May 23, 2015, at 12:44 PM, Kathryn McCamant <kmccamant [at] 
> For example in my own common house at Nevada City Cohousing, 34-units and
> lots of kids, we have an excellent meal system sharing community meals 4-5
> times a week in our common house. Our kitchen and dishwashing area are
> totally open to the dining area so that those ³in the kitchen² feel very
> much part of the activity in the great room too.

I like this feeling too. We often have people in the kitchen carrying on 
conversations with people sitting at tables or around the fireplace. 

Another layout I like a lot is the kitchen opening onto a small area that in 
homes is often called the breakfast room, then the larger dining room to the 
side of both. This both provides a small area for small meals, a larger place 
than a counter to serve buffet style, and some buffering of the noise from the 
kitchen. But the people in the kitchen can still see into the dining room.

> Acoustics are not a
> problem because Chuck designed full accoustic (tectum) paneling on ceiling
> of the great room. Yes, this costs moneyŠabout $12K if I remember rightly.
> But given thousands of hours of use our common house gets, it was very
> well worth it.

How high is your ceiling?

I also wanted Tectum but we ended up with (boring) acoustical panels. I’m 
constantly warning people about protecting them — don’t lean ladders against 
them, don’t poke pins in them to hang decorations, don’t lean decorative 
baskets against them, etc.

For those who don’t know Tectum is a like wood shavings compressed into a block 
like tile. It can be painted and cleaned. Balls bouncing off it don’t make 
dents, except maybe in the ball.

Our members thought it looked too industrial or gymnasium like. But they were 
looking at it in their hands. On the ceiling, I think it would be different. We 
need to do more acoustical work for aging ears but will probably match what is 
on the walls. 

We have a two story high ceiling. Do not do this! It’s a wonderful open feeling 
room until thirty people open their mouthes. Or three four-year olds start 
making siren noises. And the high ceilings also say “gymnasium — run— to every 
school age child.

Think about lighting fixtures on the ceiling and how you clean them and how you 
fit acoustics around them. We have about 12 hanging fixtures with globes that 
have to be cleaned professionally or unsafely using a two story tall ladder. 
AND the acoustics contractors we had come in after the fact just groaned at the 
idea of putting acoustical stuff up there. Fitting around the lights and the 
sprinkler system standing on scaffolding.

> We have a commercial (2.5 minute cycle) under the counter
> dishwasher, and residential refrigerator. If you have a commercial
> dishwasher, yes, you absolutely need to separate it from the dining room.
> They make a lot of noise, let alone the energy they use.

I wish we had Joanie’s solution of two professional quality residential 
dishwashers. She has a long message in the archives on how this works. 
Cornerstone also has these and it is a dream.

> BTW, we had a fun Friday nite game nite last nite in oursŠŠ I hate to see
> underused common houses, but that is certainlh not our issue here at
> Nevada City Cohousing!

How do you manage your game nights? Ours start but then fade out. What draws 
people and keeps them coming back?

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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