Three Approaches to Opening Up a 1950’s Ranch Home

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Computer Rendering of Remodeled Ranch
Computer Rendering of Remodeled Ranch

My client owns a typical 1950’s post-war construction 3-bedroom ranch house in Silver Spring.  Virtually the same house can be found in many communities throughout the area including Bethesda, Wheaton, Gaithersburg and Rockville.  It’s a small brick house where the front door opens directly into the living room.  There’s a small living room, a dining room and kitchen plus 3 small bedrooms and a bath on the first floor.  It has a full basement – originally unfinished.  The house has relatively small windows and no connection to the outdoors.

This home is on a very large lot that backs up to park land – creating a private green way in the back yard – a very desirable reason for opening up the house to the outdoors.

We are still in the conceptual design phase but I thought I would share 3 separate approaches I developed for them to think about.  My client’s priorities include:
–    Bringing the outdoors in
–    A modern/open/informal lifestyle
–    Both a  foyer and a mud entrance
–    A Master Suite
–    A Carport with ample closed storage for recreational & outdoor equipment
–    Preserving or replacing the existing attic storage
–    The back of the house has a southern exposure and the client would like to be able to add photovoltaics in the future.

The following are computer renderings of the home after construction for each approach.  Since we’re at the beginning of conceptual design, the drawings are not fully detailed.  There will be many changes in whatever approach (or combination of approaches) they choose.

The options go from big to small and more expensive to less expensive.  All the options maintain the character of house from the street so the house will continue to fit into the neighborhood.

Option 1 – 775 square foot addition in the back of the house.

View from Dining to Living, Kitchen & Deck
Option 1: View from Dining to Living, Kitchen & Deck
View of Kitchen through to Entry
Option 1: View of Kitchen & Dining through to Entry
Option 1: Floor Plan
Option 1: Floor Plan

This option fulfills the client’s entire wish-list albeit at a fairly steep price of approximately $350,000 to $400,000 which includes refinishing the entire first floor.  The existing living room is transformed into a separate foyer.  From the front door you can see all the way through the house into the deck and gardens in the back.   The dining room, living room, kitchen and new master suite all open onto a large deck.  A new mud entrance off a new carport is close to the kitchen and bath.  The new carport has lots of enclosed storage for outdoor and sports equipment.  The new space has a new roof volume that can take advantage of future photovoltaic arrays and allows for clerestory windows to let soft northern light into the middle of the house.  A large southern roof overhang prevents solar build-up in the summer but promotes passive solar in the winter months.  While drawn here as wood, stone floors would provide further passive solar benefits.  With a generous master suite, 3 additional bedrooms, and an office all on the 1st floor – this home would provide substantial value with relatively small footprint and continued fit within the established neighborhood.

Option 2 – 800 square foot 2nd Floor

Option 2: View From Entry Through to Deck
Option 2: View From Entry Through to Deck
Option 2: View of Living, Kitchen & Deck
Option 2: View of Living, Kitchen & Deck
Option 2: First Floor Floor Plan
Option 2: First Floor Floor Plan
Option 2: 2nd Floor Floor Plan
Option 2: 2nd Floor Floor Plan

The second option involves adding a partial second floor instead of a back addition.  The result is a home that feels more traditional but still feels open.  Because the 2nd floor only spans part of the house, it still fits in with the homes on the block.  In option 2, we added almost exactly the same amount of space and met the full wish-list at a smaller price tag.  It’s often cheaper to build up rather than out.  In this case we’re re-using the existing foundation — investigation shows that the existing foundation and wall will support a 2nd floor.  We’re also saving money because we’re able to tie into the existing waste stack and other plumbing lines.

One small bedroom on the first floor was sacrificed to create an open stairway.  This change creates a large airy foyer with large coat closet and views through the house to the deck and garden.  The 2nd floor contains a master suite and 4th bedroom or study.

Compared with the first option, the kitchen is smaller and we lose a separate mud entrance from the carport – in this option, the mud entrance is incorporated to the side of the kitchen.  The deck is smaller with fewer access points.  We also end up with one less bedroom/study.  But the master suite is larger with killer views of parkland and a larger master bath with his and her sinks.

Option 3 – 290 square foot Back Addition and Remodeled Basement Master Suite

Option 3: View from Dining to Living, Kitchen & Deck
Option 3: View from Dining to Living, Kitchen & Deck
Option 3: View of New Foyer & Thru to Deck
Option 3: View of New Foyer & Thru to Deck
Option 3: Exterior View of New Deck & Basement Master Suite
Option 3: Exterior View of New Deck & Basement Master Suite
Option 3: Floor Plan of First Floor
Option 3: Floor Plan of First Floor
Option 3: Floor Plan of Basement
Option 3: Floor Plan of Basement

The house is on a slight hill and so the floor of the basement is only about 3ft below grade at the back.  The basement also enjoys full 8’ ceilings.  It is dry and already conditioned (heating and cooling) but is essentially never used except for some storage.

The least expensive way to fulfill my client’s wish list is to build a small addition in the back – creating a pleasing L-shaped house with good views and access to the outdoor – and to build a new master suite in the under-used basement.  We would excavate a small sunken patio just outside the new master suite with access through French doors.

The remodeled home would be modern in feel – with an airy, open foyer including a skylight over the stairway that brings abundant daylight to the middle of the basement.  A large open foyer and separate large mud entrance off the new carport would serve family and friends well.  The existing living room is turned into a study with a small but adequate open space with dining, living, and kitchen open to the back deck.  Corner windows in the kitchen add significantly to the open feel.  The master suite is large enough for a sitting area, plenty of closet space, his-and-hers sinks in the master bath and a study opposite the new stairway.
This option – at $65,000 to $85,000 less than the first option – still fulfills my client’s wish-list.  I also like this option because the work can be phased – if desired – to spread out the payment over 2 or 3 phases of work.

Conclusion

For me, the real less here is the value of the conceptual design phase.  For less than $5,000 my clients are able to fully visualize and understand their choices before investing in expensive construction documents.  None of these options were options originally conceived of by my client.  They were thinking that they would remove the entire back wall and double the size of the house – an option that yielded fewer benefits at greater cost than any of these options.  The conceptual designs presented to my clients included 2 additional options than presented here and all options contained much greater detail and more internal and external renderings than presented here.  It’s the right way to start thinking about remodeling.

Before Pictures

BEFORE - Dining Room
BEFORE - Dining Room
Front Exterior - Before
Front Exterior - Before

All images courtesy of Braitman Design/Build.

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2 thoughts on “Three Approaches to Opening Up a 1950’s Ranch Home”

  1. Wow – all great ideas! You’re a fantastic designer. These are beautiful options and I’ll be referring back to this when I do my own ranch add-on/renovation in a year or so.

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