Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Our Taiwanese Brownstone


Now I will describe the house:

I would explain the house we are going to be living in as a Taiwanese “brownstone.” It is the most popular residential structure in this area. They are large complexes of row houses. Each home is one room wide and 4-stories high.  The exterior is white brick mortared in such a way as to have the horizontal line be prominent and the vertical line be nearly unnoticeable.

The house has a “courtyard” at the front entry of the house. It opens directly onto the street. The courtyard has 5-foot walls with an iron gate and is covered with a green fiberglass roof. There are windows above the wall that connect with the attached roofing structure to let in light. Apparently the roof is optional because many of the houses do not have a roof over the courtyard, and there are a few different styles of those that do. Half of the courtyard is used as a garage to park a compact-sized car, thus there is a garage door next to the iron gate.

The floor of the courtyard is made of terra cotta ceramic tiles. The courtyard accommodates several things such as bicycles and the shoe cubby. A black granite step leads to the beautifully ornate thick brass entry doors… a “screen” security door and the inside door. This I cannot describe. I will take a picture.

The living room is immediately inside the front door. It is a square room that is about 18’x18’. Because the house is a single room wide, the entire house is no wider than 20’.

Each room, then, is either one behind the other or one on top of another.  The layout has the dining room behind the living room with a powder room off to the side.  Behind the dining room is the children's playroom/ den to the left and the kitchen to the right.  The playroom is wider than the kitchen., thus the kitchen is quite narrow, 4' of floor space and then the cabinets.

The stairway landing on the second floor has 2 doors, one to the left and one to the right. The door to the right opens to the master bedroom.

There is a sliding glass door on the far wall of the master bedroom that is situated facing the street. It opens onto a narrow enclosed, believe it or not, shower room with a wooden plank floor, 2 wooden slatted sidewalls and the 4th wall is the outside wall of the front of the house. That wall has 4 lattice windows that are divided into 24 panes each giving the effect of a rice paper room divider. You can look out of these windows and see the courtyard roof below and the sugar cane fields across the street. It has roller shades for privacy. One slatted wooden wall has shelves and the other has the water faucet, hand-held showerhead and small shelf for soap. There's also a tall white chair for sitting while soaping down.

There is an actual bathroom off the bedroom on the opposite side of the room. It is narrow. Remember that the total width of the house is 18’…the 18 feet for that part of the 2nd floor is taken up by the stairway landing and the bathroom. Immediately inside the bathroom door is the toilet, lined up next to it is the pedestal sink which is next to the open shower (a drain in the floor and another hand-held shower head).


Then there is another door that opens to the walk-in closet/ dressing room. It is a good size room lined with closet space. It also contains a full-length mirror and a loveseat. This room has 3 doors: the one from the bathroom, one from the stairway landing and then one that leads out to a utilitarian balcony. This area is where the washing machine is, the washtub, the clothesline, the air conditioner and all the other kinds of stuff that often ends up in a cleaning closet along with plants sitting on old shelves and cement blocks. The balcony is covered by a green fiberglass roof that is similar to the one that is over the courtyard.  

Note: I mentioned a washing machine…very nice new top-loader…but I did not mention a clothes dryer…because there is none, hence, the clothesline, or more accurately, clothes pole. The balcony is the area of the house that again resembles that of a NYC brownstone because each neighbors’ balcony is only feet away. You can look down the block from the balcony and see everyone’s wash hanging out to dry.

To review the floor-plan: main floor has living room, dining room, playroom/den, kitchen; 2nd floor has the stairway landing and going in a circle starting to the right there is the master bedroom with the shower room, the bathroom, and the walk-in closet. Off of the closet room is the balcony.

The interior décor is very simple, all neutral colors, all shiny tile floors, and granite stairs. The furniture is nothing to write about. The living room furniture is a set but the rest of the furniture, of which there is little, is mismatched. This could be accounted for by the fact that the house had been owned by Johnson, the CEO of SF, who recently moved into a new house and left this one to be used as a temporary residence when needed. I’m sure it is furnished with whatever he didn’t want in the new house or replacements from who-knows-where. The most attractive décor feature of the house is its indirect lighting. There are many choices for lighting in each room…overhead, lamps, and a number of indirect lighting designs. For example, the living room has a marble wall that is suspended away from the structural wall. Behind it is lighting that will give off plenty of light but it is soft.

The opposite wall of the living room is recessed and the lights can shine out of its edges, as you can see in the first picture I posted of the living room. The dining room has similar choices, as seen in the picture below (the door in this picture is to the playroom/den and the kitchen is to the right).

A unique decorating feature in the house is the door valances. Most of the doors inside the house have a valance hung from a tension rod on the outside of them. When you open the door from the inside of the room, you, in my case, walk under a valance. In Don’s case, his head is caught in a valance. We had to gather up the one on our bedroom door after the first day so that Don could walk out of the room without having to brush his hair again. I’m not sure what that’s about. Take a look at the picture and see what you think.

Note: I described only the main floor and the 2nd floor of the house even though I originally said there are 4 stories. Mike and Donnie are “living” on the 3rd floor and Mr. Lai lives on the 4th. I haven’t been to either one, so I cannot account for them.

We are so thankful to be living in a house while we are here in Taiwan, and a lovely house indeed. We already have a feel for the neighborhood and average life in Chia-yi which I know we wouldn’t have if we had had to stay in a hotel. What a fabulous opportunity!

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