Learning from the past 20Ks

In order to better understand the 20K Project, we set off to visit some of the existing homes and meet with the owners. The experience has been eye-opening and invaluable in informing our understanding of how the homes are lived in and what opportunities exist to shape the 2020 20K Home to the needs of our potential client.

Our first stop was to visit Frank’s Home (the second 20K ever built). Frank’s is a minimal home, with a front and back porch and a linear design – recalling the vernacular “shotgun” typology. One of the design elements for Frank’s was to create a completely open interior, with curtains to separate the public and private parts of the house. While the concept allowed for the interior to remain open and free-flowing, Frank never felt like his home was complete. However, Frank did enjoy his front porch immensely, and he was seen sitting on his porch frequently, watching the passersby and greeting his neighbors. Although the home included a large screened-in back porch, Frank rarely used this amenity.

Next on our agenda was to visit the three original one-bedroom homes that served as the catalysts for the 20K “product line” development. We almost didn’t find Dave’s home as it was difficult to recognize post-renovation. Dave’s family has expanded and so has his home! The original screened-in front porch was enclosed, and the home expanded to include another two bedrooms. We enjoyed seeing how this 20K was being passed down through the family and how it continued to be loved and added to as the family changed and evolved.

In contrast to Dave’s, when we rolled up to Mac’s Home, we recognized it immediately – not only has the home remained unchanged, but the homeowner himself has also continued to occupy his beloved front porch just as he was originally photographed in 2010. We noticed that, in contrast to the drawings of Mac’s home that showed two chairs on the porch, Mac had seven chairs for hosting his many visitors. Mac is surrounded by loving relatives and neighbors who stop by frequently to talk with him. He also hosts his weekly men’s choir practice right there on the porch.

After Mac’s we went off to visit Joanne and Eddie’s. Joanne’s was relatively unchanged (aside from signs of wear after 8 years); however, we learned from the homeowner that she doesn’t often sit on her larger front porch, nor does she use it as her primary entrance. Joanne parks behind her house (between her house and Eddie’s) and uses the back entrance almost exclusively (this entrance also has fewer steps due to the incline of the site).

Eddie’s home (built in 2013) was designed in response to the need for accessible housing. This home was the first 20K to adopt a slab-on-grade foundation strategy (allowing for an easily accessible entrance), it also includes a tornado shelter to allow for an owner who might not be able to make it to a community shelter in time. Eddie’s Home was struck by a tornado last year, and Eddie made good use of his tornado shelter – however, the roof was blown off the house. When Eddie replaced the roof he made some modifications, including: enclosing the soffits, choosing a slightly darker roof color, and adding non-structural columns to the edge of the porch. We enjoyed the effect of these added columns and noted that they not only helped the house feel more substantial and grounded, but they also helped to make the porch feel more defined as an outdoor room.

Visiting the existing 20Ks helped us to refine our goals for the 2020 20K, and tailor our approach to the needs of the clients.

Based on our visits, we distilled a set of principles that we’d like to explore this year:

  1. Budgetary rigor: We are in the process of analyzing the budget for the 20K, assessing the upgrades over the past 15 years, and investigating opportunities to increase value while adhering to a strict budget.
  2. Expandability: While we have been tasked with a one-bedroom program, we would like to incorporate opportunities for expansion into our design.
  3. Heating & cooling options: We are exploring a range of possibilities for heating and cooling options, balancing comfort, cost, and environmental responsibility.
  4. Kitchen & living relationship: We are particularly interested in examining the relationship of the kitchen to the living areas (interior and exterior), and exploring a kitchen concept that would be more discreet that previous 20K designs.
  5. The porch: The porch is of the utmost importance to the 20K. Not only is it the physical and social connection point between the house and its surroundings, but it also one of the most prominent design features of the house.
  6. The landscape: We would like to consider the use of the landscape in our design, incorporating outdoor storage, social space, garden, and plantings
  7. Oomph: We’re designing a small home with big ambitions. When it’s all said and done, we hope that it will not only serve to house its owner and keep them safe and comfortable, but that they will be able to look upon it with pride, and call it their home.