Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Prairie Style

In an earlier posting I wrote about dog trot houses and our desire to include this regional element into our lake house.  
There is another, larger reference point that shaped our design ideas: Prairie Style.
Here we are in the middle of Texas blackland prairie, so it's a natural fit to look back to the late 19th and early 20th century designs usually labeled as the Prairie School.  There is great variety in the original home designs, but some of the key elements they have in common include strong horizonal lines (perfect for our wide piece of land), deep overhanging eaves (sun & heat protection), open floor plans with a central chimney (just what we wanted), and clerestory windows (very high on my must include list).
Add to that the ambiance of a Texas ranch house: limestone and stucco, metal roof, stacked stone enclosure.  Here is a picture I took at one of the missions in San Antonio a few weeks ago that just seems to capture some of that texture.

And here is our translation of these elements: a drawing of our front elevation.
The little colored drawing at the top is my idea sketch and the fancy blue version was done by our architect.

The dog trot is that opening between the main building and the guest house.  (Disregard the sidewalks and landscaping, as the front will be enclosed by a courtyard.)  The façade is Texas limestone and stucco with a metal roof.  In some ways it's hard to imagine this flat, two dimentional drawing transformed into a real building, but that's the plan!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Big Sand Pile

A shape is emerging from our big sand pile, and the placement of the house and porches is now clearly defined by a wooden outline.  This perspective is from the front corner of the garage, looking diagonally across the lot, towards the southwest.  Trenches have been prepared for the plumbing and electrical work that must be completed before the slab is poured.

Here is our view, standing in the center of what will be the great room.
Hopefully those fluffy clouds are going to power up into some serious rainmakers before the week is out!  Navarro County is as dry as ever.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tree ID

This weekend, while John worked on where to position the pier and boathouse, I spent my time with some tree identification booklets trying to determine what we have already growing on our lot.

This big guy, should he survive the heat, drought and perils of construction, will stand in the middle of our front courtyard. 
It turns out that tree identification is tricky business!  I am very grateful for my Master Gardener training and an excellent supplementary course I took last summer.  But, assorted tree guides in hand, I am still very much a beginner.  Fortunately, the trees we have left are fairly common in this part of Texas.  I feel safe in identifying this one as a Netleaf Hackberry (Celtis laevigata var. reticulata).  The curiously bumpy bark, small red berries, and rough textured leaves with asymmetrical bases are a give-away.
I was also able to identify a few Sugar Hackberry trees, two Gum Bumelia, a Blackjack Oak and what I think is a non-fruiting (hopefully) Osage-orange.

Another picture of a hole in the ground!
But this one is an actual pier, concrete and rebar included.
The next holes I hope to see will be for the geothermal system.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What is a Dog Trot House, and why are we building one?

Here is a lovely example of an old Dog Trot House! 
The Ruston Daily Leader
As you can see, it is basically two separate structures linked by a shared roof which creates a breezeway.  Sometimes called Dog Run Houses, Possum Trot Houses, or Saddle Bag Houses, these structures were a common style across the southern states during the 1700's and 1800's.

One side of the home was a cooking and living space, and the other side provided sleeping quarters.  In between was a clever natural air-conditioning element, shady and situated to catch the breezes.

 Naturally the family dogs quickly caught on to the benefits of the design, although I picture them napping rather than trotting.  I'm not sure how possums figure into the story, but I have no doubt that our dog, Beau, will be a happy dog trot napper.

The dog trot was one of the first regional elements to catch our attention as we started to collect ideas for a Texas style house.  We love the historical reference.  And we appreciate that the design is mindful of our weather conditions (hot) just as surely as a steep-pitched chalet roof in Switzerland reflects the fact that there will be snow in those mountains.

There are many wonderful examples of Dog Trot Houses still to be seen across the south (often sought after by those interested in owning and restoring a piece of our history).  In Texas, The National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock has a restored Dog Trot, and so does The Washington on the Brazos State Park.

I have photos of old and modern dog trot house on my Pinterest site.
Here is the link:

And here are some other sites to explore: Brazos/WashingtonOnThe BrazosStatePark.htm