In woodworking, “joinery” is the joining of pieces of lumber to produce something more complex. The more challenging the joint, the stronger it is, the longer it will hold.
Inspired by this concept, The Joinery is being designed and built to bring together residents of and visitors to The Heights neighborhood just north of downtown Tulsa. The first floor of the two-story building will feel and function like a "public house," dedicated for community gatherings, from cooking demonstrations in the teaching kitchen to yoga practices on the terrace. True to its name, The Joinery will have space for hand-tool woodworking as well.
Nathan and Kristin Pickard, who own The Joinery and the surrounding property, will live on the second story with their family. The floor plan was reimagined this summer with the help of their friend, neighbor and architect, Katelyn Parker.
“The Joinery has always been planned to be a community gathering space,” Katelyn said. “Back before the construction started, Nathan would hold a weekly neighborhood ‘wood shop’ in the old Tastee Freez building [behind The Joinery]. It wasn’t so much about gathering to work on woodworking as it was about just gathering and talking about 'the goings on' and what we were all working on.”
Evenings spent in the wood shop with neighbors have been paused (and missed) since construction began. The Living Building Challenge project has required equal parts focus, determination and passion to make progress over the last year. Though the more challenging the process, the stronger The Joinery will be, the longer it will hold.
"This is not a project motivated by profit, or by 'doing it the easy way,' Katelyn said. "I hope it can be a model for how we build in the future and teach the next generation of contractors and designers a better way to be."
Katelyn Parker has been involved with The Joinery since the early days and recently redesigned the interior to function as the Pickards’ home and a community gathering place. She answered a few questions via email about the new floor plan, her love for old houses and more.
Discuss your involvement with The Joinery, from attending the biomimicry charette in July 2015 to redesigning the floor plan this summer to being the “architect on call” today.
"I got involved because Nathan is my neighbor and my friend. He knew I did residential architecture and at the time of the original design charette, I was the Historic Preservation representative for the [Heights] neighborhood on the Tulsa Preservation Subcommittee. He knew he wanted this project to fit within the context of the neighborhood and asked me to be involved in the original ideation for what it might be. During the charette, I brought my passion for historically appropriate architecture as well as my knowledge of residential design to the table…
"That charette helped me to know better what Nathan and Kristen’s goals for the house were. When he asked me to step in and help with reworking the interior structure this summer, I knew better how to direct. We redesigned the plan to be sure that the new full second floor structure would suit their space needs. Once the walls were up and Nathan could stand in the space, he had a slightly different vision for it than what was on paper from the original plans.
"Molly [Jones] of Jones Design Studio was tied up at the time and Nathan knew I was willing to help so he called me in for quick answers. Over a weekend I met with Nathan and Kristen and we figured out what they wanted from the finished spaces. Because we had that figured out, I could re-diagram the structure so the framers could keep going. And then I kind of became 'the architect on call' because I live just down the street and it’s easy for me to stop by to answer quick construction and detail questions. There have been a lot of interesting problems on this project because some of the detailing is driven by the materials we can get that meet the Living Building Challenge imperatives. The redesign of the floor structure was because Nathan was able to get some reclaimed beams as well as 3-inch-thick reclaimed warehouse floor that were not in the original plans.
"As the self-appointed 'architect on call,' I step in to make it all work. In my normal day-to-day job, this is called 'construction administration,' where the architect oversees the construction and guides the contractors building the project, answering any questions that come up and filling in the blanks left in the drawings (because it’s nearly impossible to draw every detail)."
"The Joinery is a great example of a project that will last long enough to become something worth preserving."
Give a brief explanation of the floor plan design. What did you change from the previous plan and why? What aspect of the plan most excites you?
"The new floor plan has been a really interesting development. When Nathan could stand in the shell of the brick walls, he started to get a better feel for just how he wanted to use the spaces. The Joinery has always been planned to be a community gathering space. Back before the construction started, Nathan would hold a weekly neighborhood 'wood shop' in the old Tastee Freez building. It wasn’t so much about gathering to work on woodworking as it was about just gathering and talking about 'the goings on' and what we were all working on. I would sometimes bring my own hobby design projects to work on during shop. It was a lot of fun and we have all been missing that since The Joinery project started (since the Tastee Freez is a construction zone at the moment).
"Nathan wanted to really bring that feeling back to the space and he started to envision the main gathering space as an 'Irish Public House.' With the addition of the reclaimed beams and warehouse floor, that was an easy feeling to achieve. I had to re-work some of the bathrooms and the downstairs guest room a bit to accommodate the exposed reclaimed stairs as well as the long back-bar. The end result is the biggest gathering space we could achieve within the bounds of the existing walls. As Nathan and Kristen started to see the space take shape, they thought they might want to move their entire family of five into the second floor; so, the original open loft space was out and a new completely decked second floor was in. This is technically in the “attic” space of The Joinery as the second floor is entirely in the roof structure.
"It was a challenge fitting two bathrooms, and three bedrooms up under the eaves, but I think we achieved a nice balance. Kristin’s only requirements were that there be space for a sofa, somewhere to cook if there is stuff going on downstairs, and a laundry space. Nathan has been the driving force behind this project, so I made sure to accommodate Kristin’s needs and wants. I think the result is a really great family space. I know they spend a lot of time around the dining table, so I made sure to make that a central part of the space. Imagine big comfy chairs and long nights reading, chatting, doing homework, and lounging around the table. It’s one of my favorite features of the new upstairs living space. We added skylights to light the middle space, but we also have some transom windows planned for the bedrooms to borrow light from those fabulous windows in all the bedrooms."
"This is not a project motivated by profit, or by 'doing it the easy way.' I hope it can be a model for how we build in the future and teach the next generation of contractors and designers a better way to be."
You have a passion for historic preservation and old homes with unique details. How does The Joinery appeal to your interests as a new build?
"I think The Joinery is a great example of a project that will last long enough to become something worth preserving. The solid brick walls are just fantastic, and we have all worked very hard to make it architecturally interesting with lasting details and craftsmanship. The reason I love old houses so much is that they were built in a time when people worked with their hands, took pride in their craft, and really knew how to build things. There is a lot you can learn from old houses about detailing, and about proportion and design. Preservation is so important because once those houses are gone, I’m afraid that knowledge will be lost to our 'throw-away' consumerist culture. The Joinery gives me hope for the future because everyone who has worked on it really cares about what they are putting into the world and it really shines through in the end result. This is not a project motivated by profit, or by 'doing it the easy way.' I hope it can be a model for how we build in the future and teach the next generation of contractors and designers a better way to be."
The Joinery is a community-minded residence being built in your neighborhood. What does that mean to you?
"It means that I get to have a place to hang out with old friends and meet new ones. Nathan and Kristin are really great at welcoming people into their home and lives. I think this house is really an extension of their personality. It gives them a better space to do that with and it gives our community a really great place to gather. I am so excited for the end result!"
Molly Jones, Jones Design Studio
Austin Tunnell, Building Culture