Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Importance of Good Design

In the last 6 weeks I've fallen down our stairs twice.


Not the outside stairs. Not the stairs to the basement. The loft stairs that lead from the main floor to the master suite.

They're fully enclosed, carpeted, and of spec but of bad design.

They are completely lacking in handrails and the carpet is a bit too plush. There's a reason we don't let the kids up to the loft.

The first time I slipped just a few feet. This morning I slid from the 3rd stair all the way to the bottom on my thigh. It looks like I've been caned, without all the fun.

I am unhappy.

We're installing goddamn handrails, the kind that should have been installed in the first place.

Were they required by code? No, because the stairs are walled on both sides.

Walls give absolutely nothing to grip. Any idiot could see handrails were a good idea.

As a bonus, the studs in the walls are offset since the construction crew didn't start the framing for the walls at the same point, as we discovered installing the doggie gate at the bottom of the stairs. Installing the hand rails is going to be fun.


Little stuff like this just pisses me off.

I've got a running list of this stuff saved for the house we're building.

Speaking of the house we're building...

My best friend (since we were 15) is pursuing a degree in Urban Design and Planning.

As part of that she needs to get her CAD certificate, which she's in the middle of classes for.

She's decided to help design our house as her project.

She also wants to know all of these little irritating things for her own use in her career, in order to design better.

So I'm keeping her a list of what works, what doesn't, what would be nice...

It's nice to know not all of my irritation will be in vain.


  1. take all the design parameters of a Frank Lloyd Wright home, and do the exact opposite. You'll be close, lord knows.

    When i was doing remodeling we used to mortise in a 2x12 on either side of a stairwell at the appropriate height for a handrail and at the very bottom (So you could install an electric lift with very little trouble) and 2x6 nailers at the floor plate and ceiling plate. Backers behind sinks. behind toilets. At chair height level in dining rooms. Such a little (and simple) thing that made such an enormous difference in the final product.18 years of side gigging remodeling jobs, and not one callback, ever, and LOTS of repeat customers.

  2. You might want to think hard about whether to have a one story home when you get to building one. I've seen a lot of people discovering that as they got older, stairs got to be major problems for them or members of the family. This can be due to chronic injuries, or illnesses, that make stairs difficult or impossible. Even temporary problems like back injuries or broken legs can have you camping on teh couch for a couple months.
    Got a friend who has to drive his mother to another house for showers, because a leg injury keeps her from climbing the stairs at the sisters house. Plus, they had to set up a bed in the dining room, because all 5 bedrooms are on the second story.
    The Walton's tv house was not a good design!

  3. One of my wife's main requirements when buying our current house was that although she wanted at least 4 bedrooms, it had to be one story (not too easy to find in Silicon Valley).

    Why? We owned a two-story townhouse when she was pregnant with our first. That was enough to convince both of us that stairs were a negative.

    We finally found a place we love, but it took quite a while - once you get above "small", most new California houses are two stories to fit into a smaller lot.

    If you're going to be building your own, you might consider a rambling ranch design, or putting at least the master bedroom on the ground floor.

  4. If it's going to be two-story, I'd put both the master bedroom and one guest bedroom on the first floor. That way you can have friends visit who can't handle stairs. Otherwise, I agree that a one-story design is better for living in.