Drôle House Blog

Postcard 9

{Postcard 9} - "How can I make my narrow apartment entrance more functional?" Submitted by Tarryn

{Postcard 9}: How can I make my narrow apartment entrance more functional? - Submitted by Tarryn

Tarryn's second floor apartment entrance is up a narrow flight of stairs. In her sketch, she points to the "shoe mess" that inevitably collects in piles right at the doorway, making it challenging to move through especially dragging a stroller and pre-schooler.

Tarryn's interior design challenge includes:

  • a narrow shared stairway entrance to a second floor apartment
  • the need to store a family-of-four's worth of winter boots and shoes outside the door
  • the need for solution to be moveable (i.e.: no holes in the wall) because it's an apartment
  • keeping the passway and landing as clear as possible for neighbours
  • re-using the solution in a future home

Entrances without vestibules are so frustrating in northern climates! Having a door enter directly into a hallway leaves very little room for anything but circulation. Where is all the stuff supposed to go? Not clutter, just everyday boots, umbrellas and stroller stuff. The design of this apartment complex didn't accommodate wintertime use let alone the needs of families with littles ones. So, how to fix it?

One possible idea is a tetris-like custom shoe storage bench that fits directly on to the stairs. It's made as bench structure first, with a stepped plywood back for sturdiness. Channels can be routered in the main structure to fit 1/4" panels to divide the storage into cubbies of different sizes. It keeps shoes organized off the floor, as well as comfortable child's height bench (and adult on the longer end) for putting on and removing shoes.

Though a custom piece like this wouldn't likely fit on any other staircase because of the variety of stair riser heights, it can have insanely fun alternate uses. It can be flipped to become a modernist play structure/dollhouse or wall mounted to transform into a child's desk. See? Like tetris.

What alternative uses can you see?







Postcard 8

{Postcard 8} - "Is there another way to use my long driveway for storage?" - submitted by Aaron

{Postcard 8} - "Is there another way to use my long driveway for storage?" - submitted by Aaron

This design challenge hails from Halifax. Aaron demolished his 12'x22' delapidated garage this summer, but noticed how awesomely large his yard could be for his kids if he didn't rebuild it in the same place. He wonders if there is a way to rebuild something for storage and privacy while benefiting from a larger yard.

This design challenge includes:

  • an already demolished garage
  • an underused, 11 foot wide, ridiculously long driveway that is a pain to shovel in the winter
  • the need to maintain the access through the backyard for oil tank refilling
  • the need to store a snowblower, winter tires, bikes and a plethora of kid and yard equipment

Aaron is not concerned about keeping the garage for future resale, he'd rather have a bigger backyard and more accessible storage for the next decade.

Suggested solution:

In this schematic design, two smaller structures - joined by a gate - replace the garage. One is an 8'x8' shed, situated right adjacent to the wall of the house, between the side door and the first floor window. An overhang can be included in the shed's hipped roof to serve as a shelter for the side entrance (bonus!), as well as partially cover the walkway. Access doors to the shed can be on any of the three sides, depending on what needs storing. The second structure is a beefed-up fence to create privacy from neighbours and provide amble storage for yard tools and toys.

There are many benefits to re-imagining exterior storage space. 

Benefits include:

  1. By locating the shed further along the driveway, there is still room for two cars but cuts down on a 150 sqft worth of winter shoveling. Score!
  2. Two smaller structures (built at the same time over over a couple of summers perhaps), the square footage falls under 100 sqft (or 10sqm) which takes his build legally outside of building permit territory.
  3. Aaron and his family can properly enjoy the large tree in the corner where the garage used to be...a place to build a treehouse or patio perhaps?

What has your garage done for you lately?


Postcard 6

{Postcard 6} - "How can I design metal legs for an multi-use table to avoid knee knocking?" Submitted by Gary

{Postcard 6} - "How can I design metal legs for an multi-use table to avoid knee knocking?" Submitted by Gary

Gary is a woodworker and hobbiest furniture builder. He is building a large custom dining table out of rectangular slabs of wood and is stuck on how to fashion metal legs to support them and requested some design problem solving. He wants a small table for everyday family use, but the ability to have other narrower tables he can move around for bigger gatherings. He doesn't want the obvious pedestal styled bottom because he "thinks that the stability of the length would not be good if people lean on or put too much weight toward the ends."

This industrial design challenge includes:

  • several identical 2'x4' wood slab table tops
  • that need be able to stand on their own as side tables elsewhere in the home when separated
  • be able to be joined together to form a large dining table
  • allow for flexible dining seating with no 'knee knocking' on table skirts or legs

One idea is to make several L-shaped (extruded metal) legs that work by pivoting and latching in place. With four legs per table, each can be rotated out from a 'closed' pedestal position to several configurations. Latch holes can be drilled from the underside along the routered arc of the leg to enable latching into a traditional 'open' position at the corners, as well as to diagonally connect and support the adjacent table. The legs can be positioned to stay out of the 18 inches needed for knee clearance. Magnet and plates can be installed flush inside the edge of the table for added connectivity, and the adjustable 'toe' to the table leg can make up for any surface discrepancies.


Postcard 3

{Postcard 3} - "How can I get more efficient storage into a small living room?" - Submitted by Laura

Laura's challenge includes a narrow living room with:

  • toys, books and electronic equipment to store
  • a large fireplace mantle smack dab in the middle
  • limited circulation around a sectional couch

Ah, toy storage...the bane of parents' existence. Having kids certainly compounds the storage woes of old homes because kids not only grow out of things so fast, but you can't quite get rid of anything in case you have more kids! Generally speaking, if you were to reduce the toy-load by half, the living room would open up. If you do need to build something, it should at least hit two birds with one stone. In this response, a wall to wall built-in bench with storage drawers below also adds seating to the small living room. Keeping vertical storage to a minimum helps the space look wider, and can feature the window more prominently. 

Can anything fun be done with a fireplace you don't use? Televisions have long since replaced them as the hearth of a home. As a bonus idea to this challenge, here is a reimagining of the function of the fireplace mantle. Traditional looking on the outside, fun and flexible when opened up!