Re: common house design
From: Lynn Nadeau (
Date: Wed, 22 May 2002 17:10:01 -0600 (MDT)
RoseWind Cohousing, Port Townsend Washington, has 24 households, and a 
common house of 2800 sq ft, on level ground, one story. Picture three 
30x30 ft squares, arranged in an L shape, and that's about the floor 

One "wing" of the L, about 30x30, is our great room, being a combination 
dining and living room. Lots of view and natural light from windows on 
north and south, propane "fireplace" at the west end, with sectional sofa 
and a couple of rocking chairs, as well as stereo, magazines and a coffee 
table. The main part of the room has dining tables and chairs. When we 
want a large group meeting, the tables are moved to the edges of the 
room, and the chairs go in a big circle. For smaller meetings, such as 
discussion circles, we gather around the hearth, on the sofas, 
supplemented by some chairs. Double doors open out to a south patio, in 
the "inside" of the L. 

The kitchen adjoins the dining room, to the east, with serving counters 
between the kitchen and dining room. No sound isolation, and it hasn't 
been a problem. A small pantry has a stacked washer-dryer for towels, 
rags, napkins, etc; an open mop closet for brooms, mops, buckets (with a 
low faucet and floor pan for filling and emptying buckets.) A door from 
the pantry goes out to where the trash, compost, recycling, and worm bin 
are located on a small porch. 

The other "wing" of the L has a rec room, about 30x15, presently used for 
pingpong and video watching; a kid room 15x15 which includes a sink, lots 
of open storage shelves, a loveseat, and a door to the south patio. Also 
in that "wing" are two ADA lavatories. The teens are apt to be found at 
the pingpong table. 

The center between the two wings is where the entry is, and there is a 
fair-sized foyer, where we have our postal mailboxes, our cubby boxes for 
storing personal stuff, coat racks, benches to sit on while changing into 
slippers. From this entry foyer, one can go left to the bathrooms and rec 
room, say hi to the kitchen people through a pass-through window, or 
proceed past the kid room to the great room, passing through a bulletin 
board hall, with 4 good-quality bulletin boards which are usually full. 

There is a good sized storage closet which can be accessed from the 
dining room, to fetch stacked chairs, folded tables, easels for meetings, 
or from the hallway, for the ladder or the hose for the built in vacuum 

Dining/living, kitchen/pantry, kids, rec, entry hall, bathrooms. At this 
point, there are so many common houses built, that "programming" one 
shouldn't be too challenging. Every site is different, in terms of where 
your light and view and social connections with the outdoors are, but the 
basic formula is pretty standard. If you can afford it, you can consider 
guest space, office stuff, outdoor storage for landscape and kid-play 

Hiring a cohousing architect like Mary Kraus is a great investment, if 
you can afford it. But it's not an absolute necessity: we used Mary and a 
few other professionals on a consultant basis, and did the great majority 
of the design work ourselves. Look at other common houses, if there are 
some in your area. Invest in a simple "3D Home Architect" software 
program for about $40. Figure out how to slice up foamcore board into 3D 
models held together with straight pins. Remember that every corner, 
every change in roof line, costs more: simple is more economical. Social 
connections are enhanced by people being able to see who is where, doing 
what: windows in interior doors, even in interior walls. 

Keep in mind the larger picture: energy efficiency, durability, ease of 
maintenance, acoustics, flexibility (if we someday had no kids, the kid 
room could easily be a craft room). Look for ways to get everyone's hand 
in somehow. Even if you don't do the work yourselves, find places to put 
your artwork, your handprints, donated stuff. 

Give yourself enough slack in the budget to include some quality 
upgrades. Better to cut back on the whole thing, and have it be beautiful 
and attractive, than have it be big and beige. It WILL cost more than you 
plan for: remember a generous contingency line. And if ecological 
upgrades are a value you want to act upon, give yourself a line item for 
such upgrades, so that at least some of them get included, as they almost 
always cost more. (thanks to Chris Scott Hanson for that wise insight). 

Good luck!

Lynn Nadeau, RoseWind Cohousing, Olympic Peninsula, Washington State
with one fascinating house coming up for resale: a 2-story geodesic dome 
with radiant floor, and beautiful bright interior design-- an artist's 
delight, with great gardens too. 

 RECREATION    |   south
LAV1    KIDS   |
LAV2    KIDS   |   patio

ENTRY          ____    ___________
COATS                            |
________    ___                  |
PANTRY| KITCHEN|                 |
        KITCHEN                  |
_______ KITCHEN  ________________|
TRASH                north lawn
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