Home is where the heart is, particularly the kitchen, where family and friends tend to gather to nibble while cooking, share lively conversation and, most importantly, enjoy life with laughter.
Three Rice University architecture school graduates are out to make sure this social center and essential room is a part of all homes with their urban renewal project, the InHouse OutHouse. The team has installed a pre-fabricated core of full kitchen and full bathroom, complete with heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing services for a historic Project Row Houses structure.
Designed by Andrew Daley, Jason Fleming and Peter Muessig, the InHouse OutHouse just pops into any existing (or possibly new) structure for an instant renovation or addition, in this case, a kitchen and bathroom.
"The house had no kitchen beforehand, and just a sink and a toilet in the bath. Now it has both, including a shower and tub combination," Muessig says.
A small crowd of architects, professors, friends, neighbors and the curious recently welcomed the flatbed delivery truck as it drove up with the core on back. All watched as a forklift eased the InHouse OutHouse through a pre-prepared opening in the side of the house.
"We've already had people approach us, asking, 'What are you charging for rent for this place?'" Muessig says.
As shown here in the photo to the right, the InHouse OutHouse easily moves into its place, now serving as the perfect room divider in the very long and narrow building. The front portion of the space is dedicated as the newly created living area, while the smaller room in back is just right for a comfortable bedroom.
IKEA Houston is donating furniture for a photo shoot once the entire house is cleaned, painted and brought up to required living and safety standards. Muessig estimates the completion date is before the end of the year.
"We spent more than 1,000 hours building this, and it took us just a few hours to install it. And it really did just slide into place," Muessig says. "Seeing it totaly done is going to be amazing."
Danny Samuels, a Rice Building Workshop professor, had been interested in the idea of consolidating a room into a core, Muessig says. That's when then-students Muessig and partners decided to design a concept of a pre-fab unit.
"We started this as a school project," Muessig says. "Then we realized that we really were going to build this."
The Rice Building Workshop and Project Row Houses already shared an amiable relationship, so the selection of one of the structures in that neighborhood to receive the innovative renovation was a natural match.
"One of our biggest concerns is the urban substainability of neighborhoods, especially like these in the wards," Muessig says. "We want to see amenities, street scapes, shops to help improve these areas. One can achieve that with a more expensive but affordable housing market."
Team members Rice Building Workshop professors Danny Samuels and Nonya Grenader, from left, with Rice graduates Jason Fleming, Andrew Daley and Peter Muessig
The goal of making the trio's dream a reality gained an extra boost when AIA Houston named the InHouse OutHouse a 2012 design award winner in March. The Architecture Center Houston Foundation is providing a grant for construction materials and The Rice Design Alliance is helping fund the mechanical systems for the core.
Ferguson Bath & Kitchen & Lighting Gallery provided all kitchen and bath plumbing fixtures and appliances at a significantly reduced cost. In conjunction with Ferguson, Bosch and Häfele came forward with stylish bathroom and kitchen fixtures and LED lights for undercounter illumination.
IKEA provided the cabinetry for the kitchen and Lowe's, more building and necessary materials.
Top left, bright yellow accents perk up the bottoms of kitchen cabinets. Middle photo, a stack of plywood - the entire structural system for the OutHouse. At bottom left, a detail of the Bosche stovetop. At right, the spacious wrap-around countertop of the new kitchen.
"We saved cost by building it ourselves offsite, which also allowed us to include design elements using better materials," Muessig says. "Doing it this way, we have so many levels of customization.
"The main idea is the system, but how we finish it out makes the core stand out from other pre-fab cores," he adds.
The Rice Building Workshop warehouse, where the students constructed the prototype.
One of those design elements includes the long window panes on either side of the "bump out," allowing light to filter into the bathroom.
"We envision a block or blocks of houses with these bump outs," Muessig says. "They would stand out, like proudly wearing a badge."
After opening festivities, the Bastrop House, as it is endearingly called, will serve as an artist’s residence. Artist residencies are a key component of the Project Row Houses vision by allowing artists to engage and improve the area through their work and extra-curricular art classes for neighborhood children.
"We really hope this project can provide the opportunity to help communities maintain their identities," Muessig says. "That's our vision for the OutHouse."
The public is invited to tour the prototype in the historic shotgun structure in the Third Ward at 5 p.m. today and enjoy light refreshments catered by local neighborhood eateries and the project's donors.