(Inside-out is a design concept where your living space feels like you are outdoors)
It’s all in the perspective, isn’t it? Dancing in the moonlight that filters through the rafters, feeling everything from sultry breezes to howling wind rushing through the living room space, loving the open space concept so much we shrink the living room length by a third and significantly expand the outdoor patio area OR complain that there’s too much dust, rain, disruption in our house and in our lives right now. What would you choose? I choose to dance.
After making the decision in October to raise the living room roof to facilitate more airflow, we hoped to complete the project before we arrived in early December. However, coordinating all the moving parts – design, engineering, figuring out demolition and actual construction times took longer than we anticipated. Therefore, we chose to wait until after the Christmas holiday to start the demolition and construction. I’m really glad we did.
Once the rafters were put into place, the side walls were built taller, the front wall was built up to meet the new peak and the old roof was removed. The team then demolished the complete back wall of the house so it could be rebuilt to accommodate a large opening (16 ft. by 10 ft.) as well as support a huge hurricane shutter. This now opened up the living room space from the front door all the way to the back patio railing – about 65 feet long. Dangerous activity – now we had a huge open space and I was loath to close it off again and wondering if was heading to divorce if I suggested we change our design plans.
Fortunately, Michael was thinking the same thing and when I merely mentioned that I hated the thought of closing up the space again, he suggested we rethink the design. Brilliant! One of the very best things I love about our relationship is how aligned we are in our thinking. Again and again, we navigate this fun and crazy life easily as we dip and turn through challenges and changes.
We had until early the next morning to make the decision because, in theory, the new wall construction would start the next day. Changing the design to make the outdoor space even larger is more challenging than you might think. Placing the back wall in a new spot was not a big deal but we would also need to lower the existing floor to match the patio floor height, try to find new stone to match the existing patio floor (the quarry is no longer in operation), work around an underfloor cistern and rethink electric sockets and lighting. And, of course, these changes would add more cost and construction time to the overall project. We bounced around a bunch of ideas, decided to sleep on it and decide in the morning.
Michael woke me up around 6 AM and we walked the space one more time, decided to bite the bullet, authorize the change and then figure out the final details later. Michael placed an urgent message into our Contractor, Antonio Fields, asked him to call us ASAP — “no problem, but a major change” – and to be sure to be in contact with us before his team arrived and started working. Antonio looked at his phone shortly after, saw Michael’s phone number pop up and wondered what Michael could possibly want that he was calling so early in the AM.
Antonio arrived shortly after, Michael outlined our thoughts and they started to discuss options. The team arrived and his key workers added their thoughts to the discussion. Soon they had the cover off the cistern and were peering into its depths trying to figure out the underground configuration and its impact on our desires. At the end of the conversation, we had a new plan to shorten the living room by about 8 feet.
Since they had already built roofing rafters all the way to the “original” end of the room, we looked at keeping the original roof line intact which would now provide shade to the “new” part of the patio. Caribbean house roofs generally don’t overhang too much beyond the walls because it provides too easy a way for really heavy wind to tear off the roof. Generally, they rely on a secondary roof to extend out, under the original roof, which can be broken off under high winds without damaging the full structure. Once the wall is built and the hurricane shutter is installed, we’ll determine the best way to add the secondary roof to cover the rest of the patio and tie it into the house.
Now the “fun” begins as we blast out the living room floor tiles to see what is underneath, figure out how to reconstruct the cistern and decide how to pull together this new, larger outdoor space.
Confession: I’ve sort of been at loss about how to use the huge living room space since we first purchased the house. A 30 by 30 foot space is big and would be delightful in a traditional home, but we spend all our time outdoors, if possible. Even when it is raining, we generally are out on the patio that is covered. The only time I expect we would use the living room is if it is raining so hard (plus strong winds) that you’d get wet being outside, even if undercover.
The questions that had been running through my mind were – Do we basically leave the living room empty? Do we fully furnish it – (time, money and energy) when we expect to barely use it? Would we really ever use it as a dining space (probably only if a large dinner party had been scheduled and it rained hard) and, if so, wouldn’t we just carry the large dining table inside? Now it will be a much more manageable space, with just the essentials necessary for horrific, rainy day living. I’m going to keep count of the number of days between when we arrived in December and mid June, when we leave, that we need to stay inside due to overwhelming rain (zero so far).
Now the rainy season, July through December, might be another story but we plan to be traveling during that time.