No one likes being told they’re wrong. Especially in a public forum.
I was in a creative writing class at U of O when I really learned that lesson. It was a small group, maybe twelve of us, all of us trying to prove how well-read and literary we were while critiquing each other’s work around a large wooden table. The first couple of weeks had gone better than expected. I had made some well-received comments, and my pages were getting good marks, so I was really feeling myself during that third week.
It was during a discussion on another student’s story when I confidently chimed in about the main character. I used a certain word in my overly-verbose dissection that would ultimately cause me to never raise my hand again.
I was mid-sentence into my second important point when a dude (who I think was trying to show off for the cute girl in class) interrupted me,
“Sorry, did you say ‘volumptuous’?”
“…yeah. Anyway I thought that–“
“Ummmm. It’s voluptuous.” He looked around the table, like can you believe this idiot? Then hammered it home,
“Volumptuous isn’t a word.”
The air went out of the room and my lungs. All the faces swung back to me like spectators watching a tennis match, but like, if one of the players was a baboon. My cheeks flushed. My tongue clinched. I couldn’t believe what an idiot I was. I had always thought the word was volumptuous. I mean, just like in an onomatopoeia way it makes way more sense. It sounds more rotund and sexy. I think. But I could tell by the faces staring at me, I was wrong. I went white-hot. This guy had just called me out in the worst possible way, basically pointing out that there was a toddler at the table.
Now. I could have graciously accepted the correction, admitted my mistake, and continued like a big boy. But that’s not how a stubborn guy rolls. I really don’t like being wrong. Especially when people are watching. So naturally, I doubled down.
“No. It’s volumptuous.” I snipped.
The little titters around the table broiled my cheeks even more. I was ready to triple down, louder and more emphatic. There was no way I was going to lose ump-gate, dammit. But thankfully, right before I gave a version of “Yeah-huh“, the professor stepped in and moved the discussion along. I think he saw how embarrassed I was and graciously forced the room to ignore the exchange without taking a side on the issue. I learned a lot about myself that day.
I haven’t seen that hot-faced indignant kid for a while, I’ve developed a more grown-up set of responses and recognitions. But I have to tell you, he was back in full-force when I read all your comments about the farm floor plans. I was pissed! I was indignant! I couldn’t believe how wrong you all were! We had worked for like two months straight trying to figure out the best possible floor plan for the new house, and even though there were little things that we were still kind of bumping on, it at least felt done, like we’d done the best we could have.
I think Emily has learned from getting negative comments about her work before. She is very good at letting things roll off her back, or just ignoring them. Living your life somewhat in public teaches you to accept that haters are gonna hate. It’s been a hard-won victory for her, and took many years of crying before she learned to not let the comments get under her skin which I’m super happy about. Sometimes I’d rather she didn’t read them, because all it takes is one Mean Jean or Asshole Casserole to ruin all the positive comments (and now the comment policy is so much more strict towards cruel or inflammatory comments). It’s all you focus on. But she’s become very zen about it. In fact, she hadn’t even gotten around to read the comments that day, despite it being such a popular post. I think she knew what she was in for. Let me say right here, it’s a very vulnerable thing to share your work with the world, I don’t think I could do it. At least not in a place where I’m allowing immediate feedback. So my hat’s off to her for even doing it. I’m a little different. Because this was the first design plan where I had skin in the game, I definitely felt personally attacked and angry. Like, how could you not like this thing? We worked so hard on it! We really love it and so should you! But then I started noticing a pattern form in the comments.
First off, they all ended with “but I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful” or “can’t wait to see how it turns out”. Even the negative ones ended with a nice note of care and investment, which settled my hot cheeks down. I started to read them with more of a willingness to listen, not just through defensiveness. And the more I read, the more I started to see that there were consistent areas of concern. A few of them really hit home, because I had felt some of those concerns myself, but not like in a major way. Just like little naggings of, “I kinda wish this wasn’t like this, but I don’t know how to make it better.” So when those areas were highlighted it made me reluctantly admit that they might be bigger than I thought. And there were a few that I didn’t agree with or I think can be eased by some explanations. So here we go. I’ll start with the ones that aren’t getting changed.
1. Y’all Really Like To Pee But The Bathroom Isn’t Moving
Yes, the powder room on the lower floor is tucked into the family room, which means that if you’re hanging out inside and have to go, you have to walk past a sofa. But this one isn’t a concern for us for two reasons – first, if you could see the whole layout of the property, you’d find that the majority of the time is going to be spent directly out the west side. It’s where the kids will play, it’s where the stables are, it’s where the deck is. So anytime someone needs to go, they just come in the door at the family room and it’s right there. Second, there’s no other place to put it without disrupting the entire layout. So you’re just gonna have to do a pee-pee dance twenty steps further than you’d like. Sorry.
2. Stackable Laundry In Our Closet Is Staying
Yes, if this was meant to be the primary washing station it would be insane. But it’s not. This is a small unit that is just for our bedding, towels, and clothes from the main bedroom. We are installing a proper laundry room up on the second floor (well, it’s shrinking by the second because we are trying to add another WC up there). We’re doing this because we’re teaching our kids to wash and fold their own clothes and we want that mess out of sight down on the first floor. Oh, and for the commenters who see this as wasteful, I hear you, it seems like a lot, but it’s not like we’re going to be using twice the electricity or water, we’d still be doing the same amount of laundry, it will just be split between two units rather than an all-day marathon of one. I promise, we’re very conscious of wastefulness and will not be running these things day and night (and we make ourselves and our kids wear things until they are filthy, never washing after one wear). And for those concerned about not having it in the mudroom, well, now we barely have a mudroom so there’s no space. Also, is the concern that muddy pants will drip all over the house? I’m a little confused. It would be nice, but then that means you’re literally washing clothes every time you come in the house? I don’t mean for that to be condescending so don’t get your cheeks flushed but I’m genuinely confused as to why having your laundry in the mudroom is a “must-have”. But like I said, it’s not even an option anymore.
3. Family Room “Too Close” To Main Bedroom But We Have A Plan
I actually voiced this when we were designing. It does seem like it will be annoying to have the TV going when we’re sleeping but there are a few things that keep it from being a big enough concern to re-work the space. First, there’s a large walk-in closet between the wall that the TV is on and our bed. So noise won’t be an issue. Yes, I don’t love the idea of a bunch of smelly teens hanging out by my sanctuary of a bedroom. But here’s the thing you didn’t know – we’re planning a whole teen enclosure, like a zoo, out in the 1850s original house. If you look at the original post about the property, you’ll see that there’s an adorable little one-bedroom structure that Arciform labeled “The Victorian House” because of its style. Well, it needs a LOT of love but we’ve got some years to do it, and it is scheduled to become the teen-zoo. We’re gonna put a TV and sofas and maybe some games out there. I’m lobbying hard for a shuffleboard table and a pinball machine, so maybe it’s a Brian-zoo too. All that to say, hopefully by the time the kids are teenagers, all their friends will be out there so the adults can be in the main house talking about adult things like broccoli and economics.
4. The Sunroom/Dining Room (I Call It The Office) Distance Drama
Many people thought that it was a waste to have a breakfast nook and a dining room, and you’d be right if that dining room was meant to be our nightly eating area. I wanted to rename this just “Sunroom” because I didn’t see us using it for eating very often. Only when we had guests. Most days it would be used for Emily’s writing space (until the Victorian is done). We’re a casual eating family and we were planning on using the cozy breakfast nook for our day-to-day dining (which seats 4-6). What we have here at the Mountain House is kind of a nook, and we use it all the time. So that wasn’t a big deal to me. I really don’t mind walking a few more steps than normal to bring a steaming dish of Brian’s Famous Ribeye to a table of happy guests. The distance really wasn’t a concern. What WAS a concern was the fact that we’re adding an expensive (albeit beautiful) addition to the structure. We needed to make sure it was going to be used. Well, when you get to number 5, you’ll see that it may or may not have become obsolete. Saving us money, but leaving us a bit sad. What do we do?
5. The Kitchen/Living Room Situation (You Had Some Good Points)
This was by far the most commented upon aspect of the floor plan. Many of you thought it was too modern to have a great room and many thought it encroached on the living room too much. Both of which I had felt for a while but didn’t really know how to express. It’s also hard because the Chief Architect program makes everything look like a video game, and therefore more modern and sleek than it would be in real life. It can feel a little lifeless in the program. In reality, Emily had found an amazing ten-foot apothecary table with ornate drawers and labels that looked aged and had so much character. It would have made the space really unique and cool. But it was in the middle of the room, and it made the living room kind of hunch over to the wall away from the fireplace. Also, the fridge so close to the living room always seemed a bit odd, but there was no real other place for it that made sense for the flow of the kitchen.
Also, by pulling the kitchen into the living room, it would allow us to have that big beautiful mudroom, which was one of our favorite moments. AND it meant we could keep the cabinets that the previous owner had built and use them as like a pantry. Which I know would have made a lot of the “preservationists” happy.
But all the comments started scratching at an itch that we realized needed to be addressed. For some reason, we had just kind of thought, we either keep the small kitchen that’s there or we move it to the center and make it the hub of the house. The way it’s set up now is just not functional, it’s on the Eastern wall, with no real access to the rest of the house, even if you open up that eastern wall, the kitchen is like an afterthought. But you guys had a great idea – what if we put it up where the breakfast nook was?
Well, I had to fight my urge to double down and say that IT IS PRONOUNCED VOLUMPTUOUS! YOU’RE WRONG! but then we tried it out. And after the initial wave of nausea, we think we came to a new design that makes much more sense. We even wrote out a pros and cons list for each floor plan and we think the new one wins. We’re going to lose three major elements that everyone involved had come to adore -the mudroom, the breakfast nook, and the sunroom (potentially). They were all stand out, like, magazine pieces. But were they totally necessary? A reluctant no. Would removing them save us a lot of money that could be used on the Victorian, or even landscaping? A resounding yes. Does this new design keep things beautiful while making everything a little more functional? We hope so. It definitely moved the adjectives from luxurious to sweet. Is that a good thing? We think so. Especially when you’re trying to raise two level-headed children.
The reason we didn’t originally do this is also because there will be 3 different ceilings in the kitchen/living room – which is odd. We also thought that you’d have to have a load bearing post to hold up the second floor in the middle of this new kitchen. We’ve since talked to our engineer and Arciform helped come up with a solution. It of course will cost, but it will be a much better room. Moving the kitchen had a domino effect on everything else. It took away the mudroom, which is now like a six-foot area off the side of the house, and it took away the breakfast nook. But now we’ve got a small dining area right off the kitchen that flows into the living room or around into the family room. We have opened a ton of new light into the cavernous living room and put the kitchen in the best light. And instead of a separate sunroom we’re thinking about a wrap around deck. And we’re really digging all of it…… or we WERE.
After days of being sad about the sunroom we realized that we missed it too much. Anne showed us that if we made it a few feet narrower (so we don’t have to redo all the rooflines) it won’t be as expensive. So now we have a smaller little dining area near the kitchen, we have a ton of flexibility with how we lay out the living area AND Emily gets her sunroom/writing room back.
So I want to thank you guys for being so generous in your comments. It’s a strange thing, designing by committee, we probably would have just pushed forward with the great room design if I hadn’t spent the morning pouring over everything you wrote. And as much as it was painful, it was also very helpful. So bravo you designers. You all should have your own blogs. And when they get up and running I’ll come over and comment about how I would do things differently. And maybe I’ll be right!