Deciding On A House Design

Why Architects & Engineers Go Crazy

October 13th 2008: My first look at the Klamath River Country Estates.

In 2008 our son, Phil, completed geology field research at the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Park in central Idaho. Afterward, I drove him through northern California. We passed the Klamath River Country Estates (KRCE) along Ager-Beswick Road. We had no idea that the land we were admiring would become home for his Mom and me. This photo is looking slightly east-northeast (ENE) from the roadside at the intersection of Hornbrook-Ager and Ager-Beswick Roads.

Photo taken by: Phil


We develop our sense of what a home is from our earliest moments of life. Our 'sense of home' comes literally from our interpretations of our senses of smell, taste, touch, sight, hearing, pressure and space.

We sense comfort from foods and drinks that look, sound, smell and taste like 'more'; that feel 'interesting' on our tongues and gums; that are the 'right' temperature for our felt needs; and that 'fill' our empty spaces to create a 'satisfying pressure' of 'fullness'. Likewise with our 'home'. Home is the physical space we fill with our body and possessions. Home has to look, smell, 'taste', feel, and sound 'just right', and to provide that sense of fullness we all seek.

Our interpretations of the same stimuli change over time and so do our reactions to those stimuli. I once found safety and comfort in a mobile home that was 8 feet wide and 35 feet long. The rear bedroom had a 3/4-sized bed where my grandparents slept. A tiny toilet was in a 30 inch wide x 36 inch deep space at the forward corner of their bedroom. The sink overlapped the toilet and the shower sprayed water over everything when used. The 2nd bedroom was a 'pass-through' room with a 3/4-sized bed and a small closet and dresser built into the other side of the hall. My uncle slept there. At thirteen, he was already 6 feet 4 inches tall and slept diagonally on the bed. I slept on the fixed couch in the living room. I was at 'home' for that year. I felt comfortable and safe and cared for. But my sense of space was deeply offended by the cramped sleeping and toilet setup. Over time I began to dislike and then to 'hate' trailers as a result. One sense feeling negative was all it took. The lesson I gained was that almost everything can be perfect, but if one thing bothers you then it can make everything imperfect. "The Princess and the Pea" comes to mind.

A 'home' is a self-created or self-chosen environment where we find personal physical and psychological comfort that gives us a relative sense of being 'safe'. This sense of home is also strongly affected by the other people who occupy that same space and the broader world of people who make comments on what a home is, or ought to be. About age nine I became obsessed with home design. I stole pages from magazines in doctors' and dentists' offices and from piles of refuse on the curb. I bought home magazines and plan books and kept them catalogued in boxes. I am a charter member of the little-known non-organization called "Article Hoarders Anonymous" (AHA). I still cruise the Internet and magazine racks for interesting ideas....

Building a new home is never just about the house. The project has to be conceived as a whole that consists of the land and the home to be built on it. Consideration has to be made for the laws, regulations, best-practices, and the practical limits of time, money, labor and patience. Designing a house to become a home is an emotional experience. The experience has to include strong consideration for the sense of home of your partner!

My concept of the physical components and design of our home was derived from the things I loved to play with: rocks and sticks. I loved Lincoln Logs and combined several sets over the years to build huge log castles. I used real paving bricks to build towns, small stacked houses, and assembled long trains of bricks across our trailer lot for my "Sandy Yard Railroad". I saw my first real log cabin at age five. It belonged to my great-grandfather Wiltsey. It was a 10-foot square shack built of logs which had been covered by board-and-batten siding and then by asphalt shingles. He'd always say, "It tain't pretty, but she's paid for and it's all I've got or need". It was his home for 60+ years. I understood that a 'comfortable home' for one person might not be 'pretty' to another.

Over the years I saw, fell 'in love' with and absolutely lusted after many houses for their perceived beauty. I favored designs with lots of native rock (texture), that had full or slab log siding (color, pattern and texture) and tin roofs (the sound of rain or hail was calming). Apparently I shared this set of feelings with many other people for most of the magazines and plan books had at least one of such designs in every issue. I bought, ogled and stored every article I found interesting. I lusted and waited.....lurking in the 'home improvement' sections of hardware stores. When Lowes and Home Depot opened, I found I could spend whole days wandering the aisles of new lumber, lost in the fresh-cut smell of pine and oak.

I made use of scrap tan wrapping paper to draw my concepts for houses. I was enamored with stone and logs. I was fascinated with curves instead of straight lines. I liked sweeping vertical and horizontal walls. I preferred houses built on the edge of cliffs and river banks. I worked toward combining all of my desired features into a single house.... You can see some of my fantasies in the "Concepts" and "Rocks" sections.

When we got serious about designing our home for the KRCE I went first to the many sellers of log home plans and kits. The "Logs" section reviews our experiences with over thirty-five companies selling plans, kits, components and "turn-key" log homes. Our final decision to not build a total log home was based on the cost of materials and rental of the heavy equipment and specialty tools for the assembly. In short, I was just too frugal (some would say 'cheap').

The "Serious" section chronicles our design effort to combine affordable materials that could be easily assembled by me and some helpers. The designs initially were for large homes with the 'must have' features like saunas, whirlpool baths, work shops, garage, and solar power, already in the design. We learned these 'must haves' were expensive and that we would be better off "allowing for them to be done later, rather than now".

I finished my design efforts and turned them over to the architect/engineer. He reviewed and modified them to meet California's building codes and the physical terrain of our lot. At the end of the process, the only changes were: NO solar energy systems, 2x8 walls instead of 2x6, and a half-basement instead of a full basement.

The story of the land development and our lot survey is covered under the section titled "Our Land". The development of the plans for our home is in the "Plans" section. The story of the utilities installation is found in the "Utilities" section. The construction of the house and other structures is the focus of the "Construction" section. Have fun and enjoy. Perhaps you will learn something of benefit to you. Perhaps you will see things we might have done differently and perhaps do it better than me. Keep it to yourself. We'd rather be surprised than 'put down'.

But let me close this section with a 'senior moment' thought. A 'home' is more than the sum total of its physical components, the fixtures inside, the furniture and objects of art, the number of stalls in the garage, the size of the lot and the location. It is more than the emotions which have developed over a life time. It is ultimately and totally, the sum of all those things AND most importantly, the PEOPLE who share it with you.


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Information about the Klamath River Country Estates (KRCE) is of a public nature and is put here for your convenience. It can be helpful if you are considering buying land in this subdivision.

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