View out picture window in kitchen
I made my first visit to the Norris House in June, at the end of the build part of the project. Finishing touches were happening inside—assembly of the bed platform, installation of bathroom shelves, sewing of slipcovers for the furniture cushions. The floor was still covered in paper to protect it from dusty footsteps, tool boxes and ladders occupied floor space inside the house, and students were in and out finishing up their work. The house felt open because of the high ceiling in the living area, but it also felt… small. At 768 square feet (not including the loft), the perception of “small” is relative, but that was my first impression. We were living in a 1,200 square foot condo with two bedrooms and two bathrooms, and a 1,350 square foot house with a garage before that, so it was obvious we would need to do some purging and rent a storage unit for things like furniture and larger items, and some miscellaneous boxes.
View from kitchen through bedroom window
My original perception of the interior has changed after living in the house for several months. With the floors uncovered, the furniture in place, and only two of us here, it no longer seems small.
High ceiling and view to the backyard
There are windows on every side of the house, allowing light in and views out. I can sit at the kitchen table, look across to the living space, and out the doors and window into the trees out back. The window in the kitchen between the counter tops and cabinets might be my favorite window in the house. Sitting at the kitchen table, I can look out the window to a direct view of the sky and trees and birds.
A favorite view
Without the high ceiling and skylight, the house would certainly still feel small, but the open space combined with all the windows gives the feeling of living in a house that is larger than the plans say it is. It wouldn’t be difficult to live in a house this size after our time here is over (the time saved on cleaning a smaller house is a perk). For now, we’re enjoying the views and the light.
The New Norris House is a design/build effort from the University of Tennessee's College of Architecture and Design. Began in 2009, the home was designed and built by UT students in collaboration with Clayton Homes. The built project is now complete and the final phase of the project has begun. A team of 4 people (2 living in the home, and 2 graduate researchers) will rigorously document the experience via qualitative assessments and quantitative measurements, posting results to this blog.