IN MOST HOUSES, the hall is just a way to get from here to there. In Arthur and Helen Garrett's house, the hall is a two-story glass-walled gallery, a main street, an all-weather, all-seasons forest of indoor trees. Rooms are strung along it like beads, with the formal adult parlor jutting out at one end and the informal children's living room at the other.
The sun comes in all over. In the dining room, the kitchen, and attorney Garrett's study, large skylights put you in touch with the mood of the heavens - rain is as exciting as shine. Upstairs, the three children's rooms, Helen Garrett's wicker-filled study and the master suite all open onto a balcony looking out on the gallery and its steeply angled glass roof. Since all the available light is caught, even cloudy rays seem bright. Every minute the light and shadows shift and change, making the whole house a giant kaleidoscope.
Helen Garrett has taken advantage of all this good growing energy for her plants. The gallery is guarded by a row of trees and at one end is a two-story section with a large glass wall to serve as a greenhouse. Both gallery and greenhouse are floored in a brown tile, treated with a sealer, so the Garretts can water away without fear.
The brown tile also helps to absorb solar energy in the winter, when the sun comes far into the house, to reradiate the warmth at night. To manage the vast 6500-odd square feet of space there are three separately controlled cooling and heating systems. SUch zoned air conditioning can be much more economical, if used correctly, because unused parts of the house can be turned up or down. This is especially important for the Garretts: while the children and Helen Garrett spend most of the summer at their beach place, Arthur Garrett cools the master bedroom to a comfortable setting and allows the rest of the house to stay warmer to save costs. (The bedroom suite in itself makes an elegant living unit for any time of the year.The bedroom has its own fireplace. The dressing room has big mirrors and generous tall closets. The plumbing is extensive: all compartmented. The best part is the two-story tower, housing the spiral staircase down to Garrett's study. His study has all the comforts of home: a bar and a bath plus a coat closet for guests.)
The house's best climate control device is the two and a half acres of surrounding woods. Sun comes through the bare branches in winter and is filtered by the leaves in summer. The upstairs hall has an elaborate ventilating system, exhausting to the outside. Because it is at the top of the two-story gallery, it works much like a chimney. All the glass in the house is Thermopane. The skylights are tinted to cut glare and heat. The roof is heavily insulated. Even so, said Garrett, the January bill was in the neighborhood of $400.
Richard Stauffer, the architect who designed the house, thinks that its building cost of $28.50 per square foot is quite an achievement in this day when costs could go to $60 a square foot without even adding gold-plated door knobs.
"The house is built of standard, modular units. For instance, most of the glass areas are actually eight-foot high Peachtree sliding doors. Where the glass is fixed, it is usually made up of standard sliders, because they are cheaper than anything else."
Even the ground floor (too grand to be called a basement) has full-sized windows, made possible by the slope of the hill. The children have a playroom and Garrett has a workshop on the lower level. Eventually the Garretts plan a garage with an apartment overhead for guests.
The storage spaces are one of the great joys of the house. Adjacent to the mud entrance are a coat closet and a half-bath for the children, so the closet and bath adjacent to Garrett's study can serve more august guests. In the kitchen, a tall pantry storage wall lines the way to the dining room, leaving the many kitchen cabinets for cooking utensils storage. The laundry is adjacent to the kitchen but in its own room, complete with deep tub sinks and ironing facilities.
The Garrets have ordered new furniture for the living room, replacing the pieces which fitted into their earlier, more traditional house. "We hope eventually to have antiques and classic modern," Garrett said.
They are well on their way with the dining room, furnished with a Nakashima wood table, shaped like a butterfly, made from two halves of a log. The chairs are mady by Nakashima as well. The Garretts went to his Pennsylvania workshop, chose their log, and talked with him about the way they wanted ti to look. Such custom-made tables by the great modern master cost in the neighborhood of $3000, but Nakashima's organic design fits particularly well into this house with its streets of skylighting.