Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Holiday Time - Beautiful Kitchens!

Kitchen Addition for young family with a Herb Farm home business
A wood stove, built-in bench, and Mexican tile make their kitchen cozy for gathering together

     It's holiday time again with cold, dark evenings encouraging us into our kitchens to cook warm meals to share with family and friends, bake cookies and other traditional holiday treats to give away and indulge in, and gather around our tables with candles lit to express gratitude for all we have.
    In the spirit of the holidays, I thought I'd share some of the beautiful kitchens I've had the opportunity to work on with my clients. Kitchens truly are the heart of the home and show the personality of those who live there. Some of the photos were taken after the owners had been living in the space, and some just as construction was completing, and varying styles and materials are shown. I hope you enjoy!
Guest House ready to graciously host family and friends with the kitchen open to the great room
This Kitchen Renovation is clean and modern to compliment an un-cluttered retirement

                  Remove the walls around a galley kitchen to allow the company to interact with the cook

This kitchen was re-done before I was hired to design a bedroom addition, but I love the "flipped" layout (no window at sink here!) and the quadruple sliding glass doors facing the yard
Here the sink is in the island with a tall side to hide the dirty-dish clutter from dining area view
Kitchen renovation and new deck with a Hudson River view at this weekend home
HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!! Cook something and give it to someone you love <3

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Framing the View

Those who aren't architects may think what we do is draw on paper, creating directions from which construction workers build "brick and mortar" (or wood and siding) structures out in the world- and that's true to an extent. Some aspects of my job can be fairly simple problem solving - making a space the right size, keeping the weather out, letting light in, facilitating people to be able to walk from one space into another. But of course - architecture is so much more! I love when I get reminded of the magic and I get reinvigorated to do good work.

This happened last week when I went on a tour of Frederick Church's famous Hudson Valley home, Olana, and I saw glimpses of what I and other architects do when we design - we layout space/walls/windows/doors to frame views.

Frederick Church was a Hudson River School painter. Wikipedia says this is the name given to a mid-19th century American art movement embodied by a group of landscape painters whose work depicts the Hudson Valley and the surrounding area. He designed his home (in a very unique, blend of Victorian, Persian, & Moorish styles, which I won't be discussing here) using the same principles good architects use all the time- and that were important to him as a landscape painter- framing views.

Screened Porch Structure frames the view in the backyard
When we first entered the house, the tour guide pointed out the long view through the home's length, and right out the studio windows toward the Hudson River. (No photos allowed inside the building, so I don't have one to post here) This is a technique I often employ in my designs. Any house feels much bigger, brighter, and spacious if, when you step inside the entry door, you can see through a window on the opposite side. Long interior views and aligning windows and doors to create views is part of good design.

Long view from Kitchen toward Family Room
Here are a couple pictures at a current project with a space I called the "Gallery" (a very generous hallway) connecting the existing part of the house with the new addition space. (Before our renovation, this space was a small screeened in porch) This "hallway" is enlivened with arches and columns; it is wide and provides a door to the deck outside and to the powder room and linen storage inside. (with more aligned views, of course, planned to showcase the owner's antique linen armoire cabinet by the powder room as one walks inside from the deck) In addition to those "programming" and "circulation" tasks, this space does something for the feel of the house - it creates a long view between the kitchen and the family room - aligning with large windows with transoms facing north toward the wooded side yard. This technique lends a sense of openness, light, and connection- even drawing a person from one space to the next.

Long view (with columns now built) from FR toward Kitchen
It was fun to be reminded of this aspect of my design for a client while on a tour of Olana. If you want to read more about "Interior Views" in my designs, check out this page of my website:
http://cwb-architect.com/interior sightlines

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Transformation Continues...

See Transformation Part 1 for the first post about this project.

We added a first floor master suite and a large great room on the north side of the existing house. Existing room functions were swapped - the dining room moved into what was the living room; the old dining room was chopped into a new pantry and butler's pantry, as well as increasing the size of the kitchen. We moved the laundry room and added a stair to access a finished recreation room in the lowest level. We added porches and a large deck and lots of glass doors. We sheathed the entire building with rigid insulation and spray foamed the roofs and box beams. We installed new energy efficient dark green 4 pane windows, added a box bay in place of the dated bow window, and lots of classy trim details. We re-roofed with standing seam metal (not yet- you see roof membrane in these photos) and slate-look shingles.  The old chimney was extended higher and changed to stone from brick. Blue vinyl siding and fake vinyl shutters were removed and new grey cementitious clapboard and board and batten-style siding was applied with lots of trim accents.

Here are some progress photos showing before and after (really during) shots so you can get a feel for the scope of this transformation:

Front- before
New front view (addition on left) 
Detail view of new Box Bay that replaced dated bow window on front

Screened Porch- before- was small and tucked into house
New 3-sided elevated screened porch has much more outdoor feel

Chimney- before
Re-faced chimney - now grey stone

Dining Room- before
Space that was the Dining Rm has become part kitchen & part pantry space

Living Room- before
Former Living Rm is to be new formal Dining Rm w/ box bay & added side window 

Long view from Kitchen through arched Gallery Space toward new Family Room
New Family Room space in addition w/ vaulted ceiling & transom windows

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Raise the Roof

Trusses are great - they enable us to put a roof (or floor) over long spans so we can have large, open rooms, like this family space with a fireplace, TV, and billiards table.

The truss in the existing room, however, was oppressively low. This playroom was placed a couple steps down from the rest of the main floor level of the house, and to walk from the kitchen into the playroom, the bottom chord (horizontal member in b4 pic) actually encroached into the code-required head room. (Code requires 6'-8" vertical space- the height of all standard doors).

In addition to the code violation, it just felt yucky. Here you were, in a large space, with a not-flat high ceiling, but with those thick, dark beams cutting across the space at the top of the wall, you didn't get the benefit of that tall space- you felt squashed from above.
Old Truss Configuration w/ heavy, low bottom chord
Without changing the roof outside or ceiling inside, we modified the truss to raise the interior volume. Don't try this at home! A structural engineer was consulted and angled metal plates with specific bolting patterns were specified to ensure the roof loads were being carried. The low horizontal chord was removed (and some that wood re-used). New angled bottom chords and a high collar tie (the reused timbers) were secured to the existing top chords that follow the ceiling line.

New Truss Configuration
The result is a room that feels much different. We joked it seemed like a pizza parlor before. Now the feel is much more lofty. We also changed the small, high-silled windows to beautiful low-silled 9 over 9 paned windows with a classic molding profile; they let in lots of light and are much more appropriate from the exterior for this historic home. Removing the dark wood wainscot also contributes to this room's transformation. And installation of a new split system for heat and air conditioning means the unsightly baseboard radiator could be removed, allowing for cleaner wall to floor transition.

New windows (same door to kitchen on far left of both pics)

Before- Yucky windows - no light or view!

Take away: space is about more than just space.

New Room - trusses painted

Newly renovated, more classic exterior

Thursday, October 8, 2015

From Tractor Garage to Office- Part 2

New Office / Pool House
See From Tractor Garage to Office- Part 1 for first blog post about this project.

I stopped by this project recently and my client has begun to get settled into his new office space. What was an unfinished space housing an oil tank and tractor and sporting a dirt floor, is now an up-scale office space for publishing with climate control, new windows, radiant floors, A/C and beautiful lighting & floor finishes.

New Office Space (same window locations as b4)

Before - Tractor Garage (note windows)

(Foggy Pic of) New Office / Pool House

Garage -before

I mentioned that when doing a separate, small structure people may be more willing to take risks and select some colors and finishes that they might not be bold enough to try out in the main house. This office/ guest house/ pool house may be an example of that. With fun colors and floor patterns, it is fresh and unique.
Inside the space - looking from office toward mechanical closet and bathroom
Bead Board Ceiling in Bathroom

Friday, September 18, 2015

Exterior Living Spaces

Exterior living spaces - architect speak for porches, decks, screened-in porches, patios and sun rooms - can add immeasurably to a home without adding square footage.

Often a deck or screened porch is located on the back, and offers a private area for outdoor entertaining, eating, or relaxing. A screened porch acts as one of those wonderful spaces somewhere between being outside and being inside.  Add glass to swap out for the screens annually, and now you have extended your ability to use that outdoor-feeling space further into the cold weather.

A front porch can be used to greet visitors or for relaxing on a porch rocker; in our family it's often where group/family photos get taken, too. It's part of what we call the "entry sequence"- creating a transition space between being completely outside and inside the home. Lastly, it's roof and posts can help create pleasing interest or shadows to dress up the front of a flat house and clearly show everyone where the entrance is.

See more on the idea of "Transition Zones" at my website: CWB-architect

The "farmhouse" renovation I currently have under construction has large interior spaces, so it called for generous exterior spaces. As a rule of thumb, exterior "rooms" always need to be larger than interior rooms. The same principle that makes the Christmas tree you select at the farm or lot look much larger once you bring it into your living room is at work here. Nature is big! The sky is WAY higher than our ceilings - making an outdoor room that is built too small feel very cramped and not give you that "I'm in the great outdoors" feeling you were trying to get when you spend time in it.

Large deck w/ glass doors to house. Screened porch off Family Room in the distance.

Another thing about outdoor spaces is that they need to deal with a lot of weather- sun, wind-driven rain, snow, etc. These spaces become a good spot for using some of the high-tech materials available now. For these decks and porch floors I specified a synthetic flooring and guard rail system. This is composite material (not wood at all - made from recycled plastics) that is rot resistant and can be ordered in different colors It never has to be painted or water-proofed, so is considered maintenance-free.

Larger front porch gives organization to the front elevation while providing protection and a front-yard outdoor space

Front - before with a much smaller/understated porch
As an aside, you can see the new gray clapboard siding is starting to go on (left side of front porch photo) the exterior walls. The trim around the windows and along the fascia and such will be painted white; This is also a synthetic material made of recycled poly fly ash, and it looks sort of tan in the photos now.

Stay tuned for more pictures and info from the New House Next Door!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

When is a building too far gone to renovate?

Front - before
 I've been working with a couple on the renovation of an old farmhouse that has been in her family for generations. The home was rough, but with (sort of) good bones, and a lot of sentimental long-time family use and memories. The location on 150 acres with beautiful mountain views is priceless.

The stone rubble foundation walls were inspected by a structural engineer and his suggestions for having a mason re-build the bowed walls were doable. The kitchen area had a tacked-on foundation that barley extended below grade, and and strange flat facade and crumbling chimney that all had to go.  The roof system was undersized and sagging. The cramped interiors, plaster walls and old wiring were to be gutted. The side used as a tractor garage was to get a floor system and become the family room. This was a substaintial renovation!

Back- before
The plan called for raising the roof with new dormers (similar, but larger than the current ones) and removing interior walls to create larger rooms and allow for more light and space.  There was going to be a lot of demolition work. With the amount of changes being made -all new windows, siding, insulation, wiring, bathrooms, kitchen, roofing and some interior partitions being moved to make a first floor master bedroom- there wasn't much of the original structure left.

When demolition commenced we found that what we had planned to reuse was built using poor construction methods and that much of the wood had evidence of rot and should really be replaced. When is comes to a building how much is too much to replace? At what point do you say "there is nothing here worth re-using"? We decided this was the case. Sustainability can be tricky. In this case, the best thing to do is start over with a new house that can be handed down from generation to generation and last for the next 100+ years.

Rotted Sill

Knee wall w/ broken top plate

Floor Joist System is cobbled together

So, what started a year before as a renovation to upgrade the family hunting camp into a more modern family vacation home, grew into a full gut-rehab, and has now been changed to building a completely new structure.

I will keep you posted once construction begins!

New building site staked out for new house
Proposed New Front Elevation

Thursday, August 6, 2015

From Tractor Garage to Office

Working on a discrete, separate out-building often makes for a fun project.

The costs can be lower, because of the smaller size. There are no strict rules to be followed to match the rest of the existing house or any particular style, necessarily. Clients often feel they can take more chances/risks and sometimes choose to do some funky or trendy finishes, that they might not be bold enough to do in their house.

This project is an old tractor storage barn. It is attached to another barn-type space that is near a pool, and has been renovated into a rough bathroom/changing room/pool house.

Tractor Garage  - Before
Pool House - Before

The bones of the building will remain as is: the foundation, the exterior walls and roof, the wood siding. New energy-star windows and doors have been installed to take the place of the existing over-head door. The walls and roof are insulated with spray foam. The dirt floor of the tractor garage now has rigid insulation and radiant heat tubes laid into a new concrete floor. What was a gravel floored, un-heated garage will become a new home office.

The pool house is being renovated with a new layout boasting beautiful new bathroom and laundry room inside and some sprucing up on the outside porch space. All new flooring, bead board walls, and paint- plus removing that indoor/outdoor plastic carpet- will go a long way to cleaning up this part of the building.

The whole structure will benefit from all new electrical wiring and plumbing and heating/air-conditioning. We have moved the pool mechanicals out of the building to ensure the office is a quiet place to work. We have kept the ceiling high in the new office and installed large windows facing toward the pastoral views. We have connected the office to the new bathroom so it can also function as a guest house.

Here are some photos of the work in progress: