project addition: opening up

One of the objectives of this addition project is to finally create a direct connection to the rear garden in our house.  Here’s a BEFORE shot of the current status (well, current a few weeks ago – the lilies and hydrangea are in full bloom at the moment).

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If you sort of squint your eyes and ignore the general decline of the rear yard (leaning fences, sad chain link, failing retaining wall, piles of old building materials), it’s not horrible. It’s just that we never, ever hang out there. Ever. There’s a large window in the kitchen that overlooks the yard, but it’s not like we have a direct view to the garden unless we’re standing at the oven. The door to the side porch is tucked away, and there’s no great visual to the yard beyond because of that magnolia tree.

It may seem counterintuitive to reduce the amount of yard we have now in order to build a better connection to it, but the smaller footprint doesn’t bother us at all. We’ve never used our yard, but I know that we will use a garden, and for us – smaller is better. I’m ready for a courtyard garden, with more privacy, a thoughtful layout, and the opportunity to move freely between inside and outside.

There are two other components to our location that have to factor in here – summer heat + humidity and mosquitos. So there is a degree of shading and easing into the outdoors that needs to occur as well. We may want to feel like we’re outside more, but the reality of summer life in this city is that it’s not always the most pleasant outdoors. Getting some air movement and controlling the light and heat as it enters the new space will be really important considerations.

Here’s a peek into an older version of the addition model. It’s changed quite a bit in the process of working on the construction drawings, but this is a good view to get the overall concept.

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We want that rear wall of the addition to have as much glass as possible, but we also want the ability to open the entire space up to the outdoors, with a terrace and gardens between the addition and the new alley house/garage. We’re hoping to use a NanaWall system in this opening, similar to this.

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My one hangup on this idea has been the screening options. This looks really lovely in the land of no Zika virus. We’ve got big, nasty river mosquitos in our real world, plus I feel like screens offer an added layer of privacy – a bit of a visual separation but not a visual barricade. It was nice to have the rep into the office today to talk about the system, and to see the screen option available. I had looked at other screening options (like motorized screens that drop from a pocket in the ceiling, or the coiling spring loaded screens – some that are pleated), but none of these were really ideal. If we’ve opened up the entire rear wall of the addition, we’ll want to move freely in and out of it without raising and lowering an entire wall of screening.

The NanaWall Screen ONE system is pretty cool in that it allows you to slide it open and shut as much or as little as you want – and it stops sliding when you stop sliding. So you can have the entire wall open, the screen completely closed, and then slide the door a few feet to exit or enter. The glass portion of the system will have a swing door component as well – so you can just swing open a door rather than open the entire wall to exit and enter. If we just wanted to throw open the swing door for a little fresh air, we could pull the screen out to cover that opening and provide insect control where we need it. Here’s a cool video if you want to see it.

The other benefit of installing a NanaWall system on the house? My wardrobe and posing skills are going to vastly improve as a result of it. Also, my view. Mountains and oceans for everyone!!

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4 Responses to project addition: opening up

  1. the bug thing and humidity thing. real StL problems. but I get the desire for all glass…very cool doors. look forward to seeing how you integrate all of this (my brain only gets 3-d, making me really bad at figuring out architecture.)

  2. I can’t wait to see these photos of you!

  3. Hi! Just wondering about these doors….
    I live in St. Louis as well and have been working on a design for an addition to our small house. My question is: will you only be opening up the NanaWalls (doors) when your house air conditioner is turned off? We often sit outside in our screened in porch, even though it is too hot to turn off the air conditioner. Therefore, if we decide to scrap the screened in porch and go with a Nanawall, then I wonder if we will be less likely to open it up, as it will let out all of the air conditioning!?

    • Good question, especially after the July and August we’ve had! Our house is reasonably comfortable pretty far into the late spring months and early fall as well. We have triple wythe brick construction, plus those exterior walls are furred out and insulated. Our house stays cool far longer than most in the spring, and we also don’t have to turn on the heat until much later in the season than most people do. The weak points are currently the few remaining original single pane windows that we’re hoping to replace in this renovation.

      Because the house is so tall, we can actually get a pretty good chimney effect by opening windows on the second and/ or third floors (sometimes even throwing a box fan in one of them and drawing lower cooler air up through the house). We haven’t had the A/C on for over a week now, and we turn it off as much as possible. I really love fresh air – it’s one of my complaints on this house because we have old windows with no screens in many places, and I don’t like mosquitos in the house, but I want the windows open. We also dress for the weather in our house, and keep the thermostat at 78-80 during the summer and 65-68 in the winter. This seems normal to me, but I notice when we have house guests that we cool and heat more – our families tend to cool and heat more in their homes and are used to that.

      I’m hoping that this is the case, but I guess it’s really just an expensive guess at this point! I think we will likely use it when temps are below 85 or so, and above 60ish, which is a fairly reasonable chunk of time around these parts.

      I’m hoping that we’ll get some good use out of it, despite our hot summers. We’ll have an operable skylight at the opposite side of the room, so I think we’ll get some good air movement through the space when the wall is open and the skylight is open. The warmest part of our house is at the top, but it’s on a separate system, so I could see us running the A/C on the upper level, but having the lower level A/C off and not begin too inefficient. There are a lot of summer mornings that are reasonable, so even throwing it open in the morning, and then closing it up in the afternoon might be a good use for it.

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