Educated Design: A year in the Murphy Home

by | Sep 21, 2023

There’s a right & a wrong way to design windows on the southside of a house.

The Murphy Home windows are done the right way, are a bit high, tucked up towards the eaves to admit the low winter sunshine yet shade-out the unwanted high summer sun so it can’t enter the building & warm up the interior.

This means your windows are a bit high and look to the sky.

A photograph of the interior of the Murphy house, looking at the living room and south windows. You can also see the french glass doors that lead to the entry patio.

I battled Ted for years about these windows because I want houses to look at the ground, and, the sky. However after twelve months looking at the ever-changing sky of the Pacific Northwest I am a convert, and a disciple. It’s just fabulous walking into a cool house in hot high summer, knowing that absolutely no sunshine is entering.

A photo of the south-facing kitchen window. Out the short but wide window you can see just the tops of houses and hills in the background.
A photo looking over the kitchen bar top looking at 2 of the south short but wide windows. Again seeing the tops of the houses and hills in the background.

In the summer I want to live in a cool, dark cave. In the howling winter I want to live in a bright, warm sanctuary.

The Murphy Home brings this contradiction to life, and then adds space to time:

There is 750 square feet of space inside the Murphy Home, and there is 600sf of deck-space outside. The two spaces flow easily into each other. How, why, what?

A photo of the exterior front entry. There is a tall sloped patio area to the north with seating underneath. We can see half of the entry french glass doors. The space is enclosed with wooden railing.

You walk out onto a very modern pale-colored interior-style floor. It feels clean, like a room that’s outside, rather than a deck. Indeed I used to vacuum that floor with the shop vac, and it came up trim with the clean-house feeling. Add good exterior furniture and a partial roof, lights and pots growing peppers in the sunshine & you have a place to go, even it’s just to water the peppers. Now I’m drifting in and out, and out and in. Stimulation outside, sanctuary inside. I move between the two feeding my appetites and resting.

A photo of the exterior entry patio, from a slightly different perspective as the previous photo. This time we are looking east instead of north and can see into the house as the french glass doors are open. The entry is covered with an extended roof soffit.

As my life progressed from summer into winter I was left inside again, with those three sky-windows pointing up, but now I was looking at dark sky, stars, tungsten-lit clouds and tungsten-lit storms.  The Murphy Home was flooded with ambient night-light. Planet earth travelling around the sun is tilted, and the Pacific Northwest was at its distance-extreme from the sun; dark & cold, & I knew it.

A photo of the interior living room facing south, looking at the short but wide window.

Here’s the secret: if you put the windows above chest height you don’t need shades for privacy because there’s nothing to see except a head. So now there can always be a view out, so you can see it all.

I’m not sure it’s reasonable to write a whole post about 3 windows and a deck, but that’s really where it’s at.

A photo of the kitchen with the south windows on the right. We can see the tall cabinets on the left wall wrapping around to the back wall with integrated oven and fridge nestled in. We can also see the bar with chairs which hides the sink on the back wall. To the left just before the cabinets begin is a door leading into a bedroom.

The kitchen is worthy of mention because it formed an epic super-social axis around which I could meet new people; I would cook, and all these new dudes would sit at the bar. I think the concept of ‘defensible space’ bluntly describes how the kitchen/ counter combo lent me ease and accommodated new minds.

A photo taken while standing in the kitchen just behind the stove and bar looking towards the entry french doors and a bit to the north To the right is a door into the bathroom and then a door into the other bedroom. We can see some of the living room.

The very dark bathroom was the deepest and most welcome part of the summer-cave, a heavy earth-tile retreat, darkly contrasting with the bright, bright apartment (delete repeated word).

A photo of the bathroom looking north. There is a single sink vanity, toilet and walk-in shower with a small operable window.

I never lived in the Murphy Home with anyone, and there remain questions in my mind about privacy & the closeness of the bedrooms to the common areas. To my mind Ted’s Leong house addresses most of these concerns.

A photo of the bedroom closest to the entry. A small and simple room with one window overlooking the entry patio.

The western light poured through the double doors in the summer; orange and yellow and picked up the yellow fir floors. It was a golden place.

A close-up photo of the entry french doors looking out onto the entry patio. There is a sticker with the Net Zero Energy Ready certification logo and it says "Zero".
A photo of designer Jake inside the entry smiling and holding up three color samples.

The Murphy Home is one of many home plans we offer for purchase. You can find the Murphy Home design here.

Murphy house design. One bedroom in the north-west corner, a second bedroom in the north-east corner and between the bedrooms is the bathroom with laundry. On the south half is the living, dining and kitchen from west to east.

If you are interested in the Murphy Home design or are wanting to get started on designing your new home, contact us!