A New Norris House: Phase IV

Live-In Evaluation and Monitoring of a design/build effort

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    In through the out door

    By newnorrishouse
    Nov 17, '11 12:27 PM EST

    Doors are symbols of new beginnings, opportunity, transitions, the unknown, and mystery. Doorways are often a precursor to the personality of a space, leading one to anticipate or imagine what might be inside. Entry doors are practical and functional, essential for controlling what comes in and out of the house.

    ceremonial entrance with view of shared green space

    When homes were constructed in Norris in the 1930s, the ceremonial entrances typically opened to shared green spaces between houses rather than directly to the street. The primary entrance to the New Norris house follows this pattern—when looking out this door, there are views of a shared forest and sloping hillside. The door is on the east side, and is accessed by stairs. Entering here places you in the living area, with a view directly into the swing space.

    east entry with stairs

    There is also a wider door on the west side which is accessible by a ramped walkway. Entering here brings you to the mudroom hallway with tile floor; exiting through this door provides access to the wood framed electrical enclosure where the recycling and garbage cans are stored.

    west entry with outdoor electrical enclosure

    Having two entrances can be convenient, especially when it’s raining—entering from the west side onto the tile keeps the wood floors dry. However, not everyone coming to the house knows there are two entrances. Visitors or delivery people knock on the door they perceive as the front door, and some choose the door up the stairs while others choose the door up the ramp. Their door choices may be influenced by the direction they take to get to the house; the door seen on approach might appear as the primary entry option.

    west entry with ramp

    The sound of knocking on either door resonates about the same inside the house, so it can be difficult to decide which door to answer. On several occasions, there have been a series of comical near misses—I open the wrong door and while walking across the house to the other door, the visitor has decided to do the same outside and soon starts knocking on the opposite door. The back of each door is made of cedar, so the opportunity to open either door and catch the refreshing scent while doing so is rather pleasant.

    cedar on back of east entry door

    The other set of doors in the house are the French doors in the living space. They open out to the deck and provide views of the backyard and forest. While not main entry doors, they allow easy access to the outdoor living space and the gardens, continuing the thoughts of the door as metaphor.

    french doors in the living space

    Learn more about our project at

    Photo 3 courtesy of UT College of Architecture & Design
    Photos 4 & 5 courtesy of Ken McCown

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About this Blog

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.

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