The Home I will Likely Never Build: The Sun Side

I have been building a house in my head for decades, now. It’s a place that doesn’t forget what has worked for centuries, but isn’t afraid of technology. It is a place where you can feel the hands of the people who built it; the ghosts in this place are the echoes of the wood carvers, tile makers, welders, and artists who made this place special. You can almost hear them cursing.

You have by now taken a gentle walk through the garden, and while it is pleasant, and creates a crucial link to the land the house is built from, it is hard to ignore the structure in front of you any longer. You take a few more steps past the whimsical bird bath (that services the bats as well), and appreciate the humor of the artist who created it. But now it is time to turn our gaze to the house itself.

Today is a sunny afternoon, warm for the altitude, and the breeze is fresh.

The home seems to be embracing the garden, its wings like arms wrapping protectively around the quiet ground. The center section of the house is open, no walls facing you at all; the line between outdoors and indoors is not clearly defined. Softening this transition further is a patio and the long eaves shading the home from the summer sun. The eaves are built with math that has informed buildings in the Southwest for hundreds of years. The eaves provide shade in the summer, but let the warming sun into the dwelling in the winter.

You don’t need to know, but might find interesting, that these eaves are covered with photovoltaic cells.

The center of the house is two stories, with an observation deck on the highest roof. Both floors are open right now, allowing you to see common areas above and below. As you approach, you find yourself on a wide flagstone patio with a full barbecue. It is the outdoor kitchen, for days and nights when it is simply too lovely to go inside to cook. There are gas burners, of course, and a griddle, but also a place to light the charcoal when the moment calls for it. A refrigerator? Sure, why not. Don’t want to have to go inside just to get a frosty beverage.

Around the barbecue are tables, with umbrellas for shade. There is music coming from somewhere.

Suddenly, it is winter. Your nose is red from the crisp, cold air. The smell of burning piñon lightly scents the air. You squint in the bright light as the sun reflects off the light snow that coats the slumbering garden. Where moments before the house was open, you now see walls of glass. The sun, lower now, shines through the glass and warms the dark walls and the dark earth-toned tile on the floors where the sun can reach. You are in no hurry, but you can imagine feeling the warmth of those floors through your socks once you go inside and shed your boots.

This home, you realize, is powered and warmed in large part by the sun. While the techno-scientists try to achieve sustained fusion here on Earth (go, techno-scientists!), we’ll just draw from the one that is already up and running, even if it’s only available half the time.

On both floors, the glass walls curve gently, following the arc defined by the garden wall. “That must be preposterously expensive,” you muse. “Why not just have a whole bunch of French doors?” Because it’s my damn house, that’s why. If I can’t afford it anyway, why hold back?

Summer again. The house is open, and you hear laughter from the upper level, and the crack of a break at the pool table. You cross the patio into the shade of the eaves. It’s time to go inside.


3 thoughts on “The Home I will Likely Never Build: The Sun Side

  1. Well, now you are starting to flesh out this evolving dwelling, Jerry. Keep going with it. Your house is charming and intriguing, as well. Huge curved glass windows! Wow! I know that you had thought about an indoor wood fireplace. Is that still in the picture in your mind? I have a firebox inside my fireplace and metal tubes at the top that heat up as the fire gets going and it warms a cavity above the tubes. Then at a certain temperature, around 150 degrees, a blower that I can regulate turns on to blow warm air into the room. This fireplace is in the living room, which can get cold due to three double sliding glass doors that open onto my deck. That is 24 feet of double-paned glass in back of the couch that faces the fireplace. As you can imagine, there is little space for wall art, but I do have some, including some with a Southwest motif, including an oil painting of a mesa that had belonged to John’s parents, your grandparents. With the trees in my back yard, even without leaves, obscuring the sunshine, the sun is not strong enough to warm the house by itself, ergo the wood fireplace and a good-sized gas furnace. And anyone in the Northeast with some sense will also have multiple wool blankets, possibly a down sleeping bag or two, and some good brandy at hand. Keep dreaming, Jerry! Love, Aunt Marie

    • I remember that painting! Wood-burning fireplaces run against my hippie tendencies — but I love them. I hope to both maximize their effectiveness, using things like you describe, and to do enough other carbon-positive things to make up for the pollution.

      Brandy is of course an essential for cold days.

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