Pattern 109, Long Thin House, suggests that the shape of the building directly impacts the degrees of privacy and feelings of overcrowding, which, in turn, has a critical effect on people’s comfort and well being.
At just under 14 metres (around 45 feet), my house is not as long as I might like but it is certainly thin; about 3.8 metres across (12 or so feet). As the shape of one’s house is not something easily changed, imagine my joy at reading Pattern 109. Finally. Here was something the original builders had done right, as least far as Pattern 109 is concerned.
As both Tonia, and I are working from home these days, our long thin house affords us both the degrees of privacy necessary for us each to work. My workroom (I’m trying to call it a workroom these days, as opposed to “my office”) is at the north end of the house, facing front, tucked beneath the lowest end of the vaulted ceiling.
Tonia’s workspace is at the opposite end of the house, in the southern most corner of the lounge, with a view out the back and over the garden. She is as far away from my workroom as it is possible to be, and yet we are still within hearing distance from one another. I can hear her on the phone, and she can hear me typing, but we’re out of each other’s way, and able to tune each other out when we are working. It’s private, yet intimate. together, but apart.
And so begins my exploration of A Pattern Language though living with it, applying as many of the patterns to my own home as I can, and seeing how they work. I’ve had a copy of this book on my bookshelf since 1986, and have read every pattern, bouncing my way around the book, as you do with this one. (It’s a book I’ve never consider reading cover to cover. If you’ve seen it, you know why.)
Despite having a library copy on my bookshelf for 15 years, before finally purchasing my own copy in 2000, it never occurred to me that I might re-imagine my own experience of the built environment, using the book as a guide. I made the assumption that using the patterns meant I need to build a house. Which I always meant to do, one day. So I saved them, the patterns. For that someday house.
I’ve lived with constructive discontent in my house for over 20 years. the main living area needs a major overhaul, the terrace in the back garden is too narrow to be useful, and the newly created outdoor room, (pattern 163, more on which later) while a lovely place to be, isn’t easily accessible. The bathroom now has beautiful light, thanks to a remodel in 2012, which included the addition of an upstairs laundry cupboard (very American) that gives me no end of pleasure. I don’t hate my house, in fact, I rather love it, all the more for it being likely to be the only house I will ever own. Yet there are still many things “wrong” with it that I would like to fix. And by wrong, I mean not supportive of the way that Tonia and I choose to live, and by fix, I mean bringing the space into alignment with our lives.
I realised recently that while I’ve tinkered around the edges of my space, I’ve never come up with A Plan to resolve the issues. So the buck stops here. My well-worn copy of a Pattern Language in hand, and with friends and family to help with the work, I’m making a plan to fix my long, thin house.