Remodeling within the Existing Footprint – Case Study

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A new Wrap-around Porch Provides a Connection to the Outdoors
A new Wrap-around Porch Provides a Connection to the Outdoors
This article is both about a particular remodeling project and about the process of solving problems through design.  When I first meet with any homeowner, the first thing they talk about are the problems.  Here was the litany of problems for this home:

  1. A kitchen that was too small– it was made even more inefficient because it also doubled as a mud room and passageway.
  2. A lack of privacy due to the proximity of a too-close neighbor with windows aligned with my clients
  3. No connection to the outdoors
  4. No bath on the first floor
  5. Old wooden casement windows that were rotten
  6. General disrepair of the existing home
  7. An old addition that was in bad repair and seemed to be falling off the side of the house, and
  8. A too steep entrance that was hard to navigate.

These homeowners came to me after talking with other contractors about putting on a big addition.  They thought that the only way to solve the problems was to tear down the old addition and build a new, larger one to include a kitchen and family room.  But the ballpark price they were getting was $300,000 for the new addition — and that didn’t include replacing the windows or fixing myriad other problems in the existing house which would have raised the total price to well over $400,000 — out of their ballpark.

While clients always bring up problems, I usually have to prod them to talk about how they live and how they want to live.  After talking with this family, I could tell that they didn’t really need more space — they needed different space.  Because they couldn’t imagine how to rearrange the existing space they thought the solution was more space.  But too often, in cases like this one, a family adds on to an existing house but don’t put money into making the existing rooms more livable.  The result is wasted space that’s never used.  The family lives in the new addition and only walk through the older rooms — but they still pay to heat and cool them.  They purchased the house, in part, because of some of the period details such as the stone fireplace in the foyer and the high ceilings.  But a previous remodel some 20 years ago had stripped the house of many of the trimwork and other period details of this 1905 vernacular farmhouse just outside Washington, DC.  After a little thought, I proposed spending most of the money on re-arranging the existing space.  We would bump out just a small section of the existing house by 5 feet — to allow for better flow.  I also proposed a new wrap-around side porch.  This would give them needed outdoor space, connect them with the neighborhood and better balance the home.  Finally, I proposed spending some of the money they were saving by not putting on a new addition on restoring some of the period charm.

Floor Plan After
Floor Plan After

Floor Plan Before
Floor Plan Before
Here are the fixes:

  1. A too-small kitchen that also served as a passageway:
    - Moved to a nook created by bumping out the old dining room 5 ft.
    - Turned old kitchen into family entrance, powder room & coat closet
  2. A lack of privacy due to the proximity of a too-close neighbor with windows aligned with my clients
    - Put art glass in windows facing neighbor (see below) –
    this was much, much cheaper than building a new addition
  3. No connection to the outdoors
    - New front wrap-around porch
  4. No bath on the first floor
    - New powder room where kitchen used to be
  5. Old wooden casement windows that were rotten & General disrepair of existing home
    - Had money to do this since we didn’t build the new addition
    - We also updated all the finishes in the original house
  6. An old addition that was in bad repair and seemed to be falling off the back of the house
    - Soil tests revealed that we could underpin the foundation for $10,000
    - The old addition was folded into a new Family room & Dining
  7. A too steep entrance that was hard to navigate
    - The new wrap-around porch provides an easy entrance to the home
    & the mud room is so gracious that it’s more formal than most foyers
Kitchen - Art glass used to block view of neighbor
Kitchen - Art glass used to block view of neighbor

The new kitchen as plenty of counter space and storage.  It now takes it’s rightful place as the center of the family’s activities — with a deep eating and homework counter.  Custom art-glass windows block the view of the too-close neighbor while skylights and an adjacent window let in light and views.  A custom concrete counter and backsplash create a single sculptural composition along with the windows and range hood.  Open upper cabinets create an open, informal look.

Family/Great Room Composed of several smaller rooms
Family/Great Room Composed of several smaller rooms

The new Family/Great Room has both a generous seating area and a recessed dining nook.  The table can be opened to accommodate a larger dinner party or kept small for the family and for even larger parties.  Large windows on 3 sides creates generous lighting and an open airy feel. The single patio door currently leads no where but allows the future addition of a deck without additional structural changes.  Elegant trim detail looks like it could be original to the house but is mostly new.  While the trimwork appears to be quite detailed in execution, we used many labor- and material-savings techniques to keep costs down.

New Family Entry with Art Glass Blocking View of Neighbor
New Family Entry with Art Glass Blocking View of Neighbor

In the new family entry we also used art glass to block the view of the the too close neighbor.  Not visible are built-ins that corral all the coats and bags and other items we need right at the entry.  Stools are available to sit and take off your boots in the winter — but they also add to the dramatic focal point in the room.  A new angled wall creates a dramatic view from the living room.  Stone-look porcelain tile creates an easily cleaned by durable finish to the floor.  Right off the new wrap-around porch this had become the main entry to the house for family and friends.

Foyer Looking Into Family Room
Foyer Looking Into Family Room

In the formal foyer, the stone fireplace sports a “new” salvaged old-growth redwood mantle. Interior square columns mirror the columns on the new wrap around porch, below.

Wrap-Around Porch Connects Home to Neighborhood
Wrap-Around Porch Connects Home to Neighborhood
One of the pleasures and benefits of remodeling within the existing footprint is that there is often money available for details and finishes that the client couldn’t afford if all the money went to a large addition.  That’s what we were able to accomplish in this remodel — solving problems as well as feeding the soul.  You can see from the floor plans that the client has lots of space on the first floor for both family and individual activities.  In a few years, the family may go on to phase 2 — outdoor living on the family room side of the home.  A patio door was included in this phase to facilitate future remodeling — another benefit of planning for your lifestyle instead of simply problem solving.  Phased remodeling can accommodate both today’s budget and tomorrow’s dreams.

Images courtesy of Braitman Design/Build

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