Debra Rucker Coleman, Architect
Floor 1
2,201 sf
Floor 2
423 sf
2,624 sf
Unfinished Basement
796 sf
Entry Faces
South Glass
Garden Atrium
The Garden Atrium is based on the popular Atrium home with a central atrium that brings sunlight down into the center of the home to the garden atrium with a fountain. Unlike other Atrium plans which are designed to sit a 45 degree angle to the sun, the Garden Atrium has it's long wall facing south as this was desired by the client. The front is east-facing, but with the way the family entry and garage are situated, an approach from the north or northeast would be appealing.
First Floor
The kitchen has been enlarged but is still open to the garden atrium. The new morning room is nearby for a sunrise cup of coffee or starting spring plantings. From the kitchen you also have a view out through the enlarged south windows of the dining and great room. The corner southwest sunroom is for sunset viewing although in some climates we may recommend exterior shading or low SHGC glass for the west. With one bedroom by the entry, it would serve equally well as a home office. Bath 2 can also be used by overnight guests or another adult if the master bathroom proved too small for two at the same time.
Second Floor
The quaint loft above with low sloped ceilings has a study area that overlooks the main living areas and the garden atrium. The skylights and glass block maximize light in this quaint space. The upstairs bedroom and bath are quaint with their sloped ceilings and many nooks. You can even peek down into the southwest sunroom.
Combination Concrete Slab and Basement Foundation
This plan comes with an ICF foundation plan that is a concrete slab and partial basement combination. The slab is on the south which maximizes thermal mass for comfort. Garage The attached garage is separated from the house by a family airlock entry and angled to allow southeast views from the morning room. The southeast windows on the garage make that portion suitable for wintering potted plants.
Construction Info
The first floor ceilings are to10' to allow for more south glass and better views skyward. The great room, dining, part of the kitchen, and southwest sunroom have vaulted ceilings. The master suite and kitchen could also have vaulted ceilings if the loft above was not constructed. There are some interior mass walls for thermal mass and character. They can be covered in stone, tile, or stucco. This is a complex home and will cost more than average to construct. Have your builder review our Construction Review Set and give you a preliminary price. (This applies to all of our plans.)
Modification Ideas
Since changes may affect energy performance and structural integrity, they should be done with professional assistance.
  • Connect bath 2 to bedroom 2 or combine it with the master bath for one large one.
  • Move the laundry to the airlock family entry and then enlarge the master bath.
  • Make Bath 2 a half bath and expand the laundry
Construction Drawings
For this plan, the following are included with Construction Prints and CAD Files:
  • Schematic Site Plan
  • Slab / Partial Basement Foundation Plan
  • Floor Plans with Attached Garage
  • Exterior Elevations
  • Building Section
  • Kitchen Elevations
  • Typical Wall Detail
  • Schematic Electrical Plans
  • Schematic Framing Plans
Comments and Photos
A big thanks to Peggy and Steve (original Garden Atrium clients) for sending us the many photos of their house in a cold climate. We appreciate the photos under construction and later finished photos of the home as well the numerous comments about how much they have been enjoying their home.
Steve and Peggy moved into their 2625 s.f. house in Alaska two years after the start of construction.  They assisted with much of the work.
The foundation is an ICF (insulated concrete form) basement and slab combination with foam insulation beneath the concrete slab. The exterior stud walls are framed with 2x6s and the roof is filled with carefully fitted insulation. The south-facing glass surface area equals 6% of the conditioned floor area. As a result, no additional thermal mass is needed to maintain interior comfort. Still, the thermal mass provided by a 4-inch concrete slab covered with tile and stone over reinforced masonry walls can store what heat is provided by the sun. The floor mass close to the earth also helps moderate inside temperatures since the ground is much warmer than the outside air most of the time.
The auxiliary mechanical system is a gas-fired boiler for Hydronic radiant heating in the floors and some baseboards. Radiant heat works well in climates that don't need air conditioning. A fresh air heat exchanger is used. The thermostat is kept on 65 degrees F in winter and 60 degrees in summer. The gas-fired boiler is used from August through May. From May to August, the windows are often open.
They use ceiling fans year-round. Gas is used for hot water, clothes drying, and cooking.
When asked what they like best about their house: "All the windows and the views from them." Their favorite space inside the house is the great room and the favorite space outdoors is the south deck. "The tall rock wall reminds me of Rapunzel's tower. This will be the first thing people see when they enter the front door.
There will be a fountain in front of the rock-faced block wall, as well as lots of plants. The sun is very low in the sky from Nov. thru Jan. I'm hoping to catch whatever sun heat that is available in the rock-covered block walls. The basement is nice and cool; feels like it's air-conditioned, especially on hot days like we've been having. It'll make a perfect cellar for root vegetables and wine! ...
I'm very impressed at how easy it is to regulate the temperature in the house. All we have to do is open a couple of windows to get the air circulating to cool down the house. We don't even have to turn on a fan. The warmest it has gotten in the house is 75 degrees, which is HOT to us Alaskans. The thermostat has been set at 60 degrees since April. The basement thermostat is set at 50, and the warmest it's gotten is 60 degrees. The window in the upstairs bedroom is the old-fashioned kind that opens out into the atrium space. That bedroom gets quite warm on spring/summer/fall evenings, so it'll be nice to be able to circulate that warm air back to the rest of the house.
I expect to get the most energy benefits of passive solar in the spring (Feb.-May), and in the fall (Aug.-Nov.), when the sun is high enough to heat the tile and slab. The warmest room in the house the past two months (June, July) has been the morning room, because the sun hits that room first thing in the morning, and throughout the afternoon until about 5 p.m."
And thanks for these comments from Jennie who also lives in a Garden Atrium:
"We LOVE our will be pleased to know that those in charge were familiar with your plans when I said you were the architect. Anyway, thanks so much. I really, really love the house!!

"...the floors are WONDERFUL!!! The windows in the atrium are on buttons that I can push by the stairs on the main level so I can easy "cause" a breeze. The floors are stone, no carpet anywhere. This house is so much easier to clean than any house I have ever owned. Not sure why the time to clean a house is not figured into "cost", but it is an important cost, either in MY time or my money for someone else to do it."