My clients – Megan and Andrew, a young couple with two small sons – live in a small bungalow built in 1918 in the historic district of Takoma Park, MD. The home suffered all the problems of homes built in the early part of the 20th century with small rooms, a small kitchen cut off from the rest of the home, limited connection with the outdoors, and a footprint of slightly less than 1000 sf. After living in it for 3 years they had saved enough money to think about fixing some of the problems. While we looked briefly at adding on in the back, their tight budget precluded it. However, opening up the back of the house makes the house very comfortable for their family of four and for entertaining friends and extended family.
The Big Ideas:
- Views through the House and to the Outside – As you enter the home you can see through to the back deck. There’s abundant light in the kitchen and tree-house views from almost everywhere throughout the living space.
- A place for the family to gather — The family gathers in the open back of the home – with places at the counter or table for kids to do homework and open floor space to play while dinner is prepared or while the parents review their day. There are also places to get away and do more quiet activities – while still being close-by and within ear shot.
- A small deck – big enough to sit and watch the kids play and to grill veggies for dinner – but small enough not to take up valuable yard space.
- A long-term plan that identifies future updates – to further open the house and to expand upstairs headroom
Cost Saving Measures with Added Design Value:
- IKEA appliances and cabinets – cabinets assembled by Andrew and Megan with the very generous help of friends over a long, hot summer day.
- They re-used as much as was practical including cabinet pulls, flooring, and doors
- Required structural beams were placed below the ceiling and left exposed. We spent a little more to use solid fir beams with a nice but simple detail added to the ends.
- Surface-mounted Light fixtures that give abundant light — task, ambient and accent lighting — but cost less in wiring and are attractive but lower in price than many fixtures.
- The original heart of pine floor was patched in without more expensive feathering. The patches – also in heart of pine – create interesting details throughout.
Small But Important Details Make the House Work:
- The Cabinets with the butcher block counter were raised on a 4” plinth putting the counter height at 40” instead of the typical 36” to accommodate Andrew’s 6’ 5” height. He can cut veggies or do other prep work without getting a backache.
- One of the IKEA cabinets was modified to provide extra counter space and 8” deep shelves around the chimney next to the fridge
- The family are vegetarians so they decided against a range hood – providing even more view lines.
The Right Attitude To Make It All Work
A key component for making this project work is the attitude with which Megan and Andrew approached the future and the remodeling work. They don’t believe that bigger is better; it’s OK for their sons to share a room and they don’t need a large, luxurious master suite. They intend to spend the rest of their lifetime in the home and in the Takoma Park neighborhood. They want a home with the flexibility to work equally well when the boys are teenagers and when they retire.
In fact, this remodel was completed almost 2 years ago — I’ve just been working too hard to take pictures before now and notwithstanding their original intentions, the family is moving oversees indefinitely while Andrew takes advantage of a career opportunity. They’ve already lined up tenants while they’re gone. When I asked Megan the other day what she would have done differently in the remodel she answered “nothing!” They love the way the house works. And expect that their new tenants will also.