Designing an Urban Triplex for Tulsa
My high school English teacher, Douglas (pseudonym), and his husband have been living in a home along the Arkansas River in Tulsa, OK, for several years now. The neighborhood has been historically a poorer part of town, and they have tried to play their part in reviving it by renovating their own home and buying the home next door to use as a rental property. They fell in love with the properties’ views of the river and the Tulsa skyline and wanted to take advantage of it as much as possible. Douglas approached me and asked if I would be willing to help them design their dream home; it would serve as a home for them as well as other tenants interested in revitalizing the area. We negotiated a flat rate payment in exchange for me working to develop designs, floor plans, and property renderings for them.
In my first meeting with Douglas, he laid out his basic requirements for the space. There would be four units, each of which would have two bedrooms, a master and guest bath, and an open floor plan. The design should take full advantage of the river and skyline views by implementing picture windows on the north and west walls. All units should be accessible from a shared stairwell beginning in the garages on the lower level. I took this information and began preliminary sketches which I soon converted into CAD in SketchUp.
When I presented these rough ideas at our next meeting, Douglas and I agreed that squeezing two units per floor seemed a little cramped, and he suggested that perhaps a triplex would be a better idea. After some discussion, he decided he wanted the upper units to have their own balconies and the lower unit to have a garden patio. One challenge that was becoming increasingly clear is that the house would require serious site work as it was being build almost into a hillside. This and other new requirements continued to pop up: Douglas and his husband decided they wanted a full rooftop deck accessible to only the upper unit, a greenhouse, and wraparound balconies for each of the upper units. While completely manageable, these additional requests helped me realize how much of an iterative process this project would be.
The final design successfully incorporated all of Douglas’s wants and needs: each unit had an open concept floor plan with picture windows to maximize the view, lots of balcony spaces, and plans for how to utilize the hillside alley for easy parking access. I added simple yet modern furniture of my own design to the interior to give suggestions for how the space could be laid out. After Douglas and his husband approved, I created a set of 19 final renderings.
Douglas and his husband were incredibly enthusiastic about the final design and told me that the work I had done for them had helped them bring the visions alive from deep within their minds. They recently had the structure quoted for a building cost. Because they wanted to build the structure out of steel, the $500,000 quote from the builder was a bit more expensive than they had expected, but they still plan on moving forward with it. They are currently in the process of figuring out how to fund the project and how to turn my designs into legitimate construction plans.