Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Part 2: Modern Addition and Renovation to Classic Village Ranch- AFTER

To read Part 1 of this Post (and see the BEFORE photos and demolition floor plan) click on this link:

To solve some of the issues and meet the needs of the current family living here, I designed a  17' x 32' single floor addition on the northeast side of the house. I set it 29' back from the front wall of the current house, so the front room would have more privacy from the street, and so the new master bedroom could have a door leading to the existing back deck. In addition, this "recessed" placement allowed for a new side entry door that one day can lead to a detached garage or carport in the right side yard. (A covered place for parking the car was part of the original design and a reason they hired me, but the owners decided not to build it at this time)
Larger windows toward the back (see new A/C heat pump)

New Addition w/ vertical dark gray siding and Ebony Windows
Since the exterior of the house (built in stages) was already a variety of different materials and not really matching, I decided it would be fun for the exterior form, color, and materials of the addition to be different as well and more contemporary. Instead of a more traditional gable roof, I designed the new roof to be a low-pitch shed that lays atop a side of the existing gable roof on the back. I used a dark color (to further recede) of vertical "board and batten" style siding and windows clad in black to add to the modern aesthetic.

New Addition - Back View
The new space has two bedrooms and 3 large walk-in closets. (A lack of adequate storage space is a typical issue with older homes.) The ceiling in the new rooms soar upward to follow the slope of the roof-line. (Changing ceiling height is a great way to vary space - especially here in a ranch home where all spaces had the same flat ceiling height.) High, square windows dot along the front elevation, with larger windows on the more private side and back of the house. A a glass door with a transom window above is located in the highest wall at the back of the master bedroom to connect to the deck. An exposed engineered wood beam supports the long roof rafters above that door at 10' above the floor, adding some interest.

Master Bedroom w/ exposed beam, vaulted ceiling, & door to deck
Part of the existing interior area of the home was demolished and renovated. The large wheel-chair accessible bathroom (14.5' x 12.5') and small bedroom closet were removed and all that space was incorporated into the back room, which will be used as a family room. With that room getting so much bigger, I could cut off the north corner of it and make that space into a new beautiful bathroom for the 2 new bedrooms to share.
Family Room (same glass door to same deck as in before pics - but room is a different shape

The existing front room (that at one point was a garage) changed use to become a home office with a large storage closet for files. The out-dated small bathroom behind that room became a new half-bath (and got a window) off the family room space and near the new side entry. A coat closet and relocated laundry is tucked behind a pocket door off a new connecting service hall helping the flow of how one can get from one space to another. In my designs I work to layout hallways and doorways to make interior views that line up with windows for views and light. This makes spaces feel larger and more inviting. This project shows that adding just a little space, but re-configuring it to work better, can make a big difference in a small home.

Laundry -moved to service hall
Entry Hall- more open & uncluttered

New window in powder room adds light
New "service" hall connects front to back

Master Bedroom door to deck in high wall- transom above adds light and a unique feature
View down hall from new Master Bedroom aligns with square window facing the street

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Modern Addition and Renovation to Classic Village Ranch- BEFORE

This project is located in a small village neighborhood. The existing home is a quality older ranch (all rooms on ground/same level) that has a stucco finish on it's exterior and nice wood floors, arched openings, and brick fireplace on the interior. What was originally a front loading garage space had been incorporated into a finished room and a bathroom at some point. Then, in the 1980s or 90s an addition was made to the back of the garage part of the structure to enable a wheelchair-bound person to live there. A large bedroom, ramp entrance, wide doorways, and handicapped-accessible bathroom fixtures were part of that project. This addition matches the light grey exterior color of the rest of the house, but has clapboards rather than stucco as the exterior material.

All the changes made over time to this older ranch weren't as well thought out as they could be, plus the new owners wanted some additional space and didn't love the institutional look of the master bathroom and didn't need a bathroom that used up so much space. I took measurements and started designing some different layouts to reconfigure the existing space and add on again to gain some new space and organize the layout/function of rooms better.

BEFORE PIC Existing View- Front

BEFORE PIC Existing View- Back (left side gable addition & deck was added in late 20th century)
BEFORE PIC Area with single window to right of red door used to be a garage
BEFORE PIC - Inside the room that was a garage looking toward street
BEFORE PIC- Handicap Accessible Bathroom felt institutional
BEFORE PIC- Entry Hall had laundry and many different doors making it feel cluttered

BEFORE PIC- Room added to the back doubled as family room and master bedroom
BEFORE PIC- Looking toward closed-off/outdated bathroom in back of original garage (a window was probably there when it was a garage and before the 1990s addition covered it over)

 Partial Demolition Plan- shows former garage door on street side

The partial demolition plan above shows the side of the house that the work will focus on. In the front you see the room that was once was a garage and was currently being used as a child's bedroom. The original ranch (floor plan is cut off, but toward the left you see the kitchen in the front and an office in the back) does have 3 small bedrooms and a hall bathroom. Those bedrooms were being used as an office/studio for each adult and a guest bedroom. Behind that garage-turned-bedroom was a small windowless bathroom that was in poor repair. Toward the back of the entry hall was a bit of a jumble of doors and the appliances for the laundry jutted out of their closet - making for a cluttered space to walk-through. Behind this is the addition that was built for the person in the wheelchair. The bedroom and bathroom are very large for that reason, but for the current occupants those rooms felt awkward and wasted  a lot of space. The family living there didn't need 3 full baths, and did want a family room/flexible space for older visiting children, a larger office for working from home, and 2 bedrooms near enough to each other for their youngest child, but still with some separation from the rest of the house, the guest and working spaces, and the street.

In my next post, I'll show you the renovation and addition I designed to solve all these issues and how it all turned out... stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

NHND to the Pond - A Sheltering (& High-Tech!) Roof

In the book "A Pattern Language" the authors state that there are "patterns" that can be used to design a town or a home. They really take the language of house design away from square-footage and number of bedrooms and instead refer to big picture, not-quantifiable ideas like:
  • Sheltering Roof
  • Car Connection
  • Entrance Transition
  • Indoor Sunlight
  • The Flow Through Rooms
  • Dormer Windows
There are 253 "Patterns" in the book- and I am sure I will write future posts about some of the other patterns I tend to use... But today we will focus of the "Sheltering Roof" -Pattern #117- because the New House Next Door to the Pond offers us a really good example.

A roof is the iconic symbol for shelter- as in the phrase "a roof over one's head". Some of the most primitive shelters are only a roof- and Christopher Alexander and his co-authors had some serious thoughts about our building's roofs and all they must do: (the following list is directly from the book)
  1. The space under a roof must be useful space, space that people come in contact with daily. The whole feeling of shelter comes from the fact that the roof surrounds people at the same time that is covers them.
  2. Seen from afar, the roof of the building must be made to form a massive part of the building. When you see the building, you see the roof. This is perhaps the most dramatic feature of a strong, sheltering roof.
  3. And a sheltering roof must be placed so that one can touch it. If it is pitched or vaulted, some part of the roof must come down low to the ground, just in a place where there is a path, so that it becomes a natural thing to touch the roof edge as you pass it.
There is even a 1914 John Burroughs quote (really!) placed in the text after item #2 with nostalgic ruminations about roofs- such as the "charm to the eye of the old-fashioned country barn with it's immense roof"... "it's amplitude suggesting a bounty that warms the heart". And how those barns "covered their inmates as a hen covereth her brood".

WOW! How can you not be inspired to design an awesome, sheltering roof after reading that?!

Front of the House

Back of the House
When designing a house, addition, or outbuilding, my thoughts often start with possible roof forms. For the New House Next Door to the Pond, my clients knew they wanted a sustainable house, a metal roof, porches, and that they wanted most of the living spaces located on the first floor, with only the kid's bedrooms upstairs. These ideas lent very nicely to the house having a 'sheltering roof'.

Touch a roof as you walk out of the kitchen door? perhaps...
  1. The space under the main roof is useful space - it is bedrooms and a bathroom. In the case of the master bedroom and the screen/sun porch, the ceiling is vaulted so that the space under that roof increases the volume of the space, creating a feeling of being surrounded by the roof.
  2. Seen from afar, the roof is a very prominent feature because of it's covering of the second floor with dormers poking out. Using metal as the roofing material will also call attention to it and make a dramatic, strong visual statement. 
  3. Now... touching it from the ground... maybe... my clients are quite tall and athletic. :) And we do have some awesome thick eaves and bracketed overhangs over some doors. Building codes do require a minimum headroom height, and I don't know if physically touching the roof inside or out is likely, but figuratively, this roof and the sloped ceilings in many of the spaces will call attention to themselves in a way that another less sheltering roof (or flat ceilings) would not.

Sheltering roof over a door
In addition, the NHND to the Pond has a super well- insulated building envelope- and the sheltering roof is part of that envelope. The roof eaves (white edges) may look thick to you, and that's because they are; this roof is covered with 4" of continuous rigid foam. (Exterior walls have 1" C.I.) Click HERE to go to a former post to learn about continuous insulation, and if you want to use it in a project, be sure to have someone knowledgeable work on dew point calculations for your climate zone. CI means that there is not just insulation between framing members, like typical construction. You've see photos of framing here on this blog - there is a lot of wood, and everywhere there is wood, there would be no (cavity) insulation. (And yes, wood does have an R-value - about R-1 per inch- but that is a pretty negligible number and more importantly the studs provide a "thermal bridge" conducting and transferring heat and cold from inside to outside and vise versa)

We used pre-fabricated Hunter Cool-Vent panels on this project. They were installed atop the roof sheathing and the metal roof will then go atop of it. (after some other high-tech barriers and membranes that you see covering the roofs in the photos) A one inch air space above the insulation vents the underside of the metal roofing, keeping it cool to prevent expansion and contraction. This house will be quiet, warm in winter and cool in summer, have low energy bills and very little air infiltration. (Yes, it needs mechanical ventilation) With rooms in the roof, this system is extremely valuable at keeping those second floor spaces comfortable.

So the roof is doing many jobs both practical and aesthetic - and maybe even a little psychological as well. It is a high-tech, advanced performance system with the appeal of traditional forms and materials that does the important job of meeting our most basic human need for shelter. It evokes protection and contributes as a prominent design feature of the building while enclosing useful spaces that surround those who live there. It creates one of the most important layers of insulation between inside and outside, and, of course, it will keep out the rain & snow, too.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

NHND to the Pond - Hiding the Garage

Garage is set back behind the house to make it less prominent
 The New House Next Door to the Pond has a floor plan layout that minimizes the visual impact of the garage. The garage is large (36'x28') to enclose 2 parked vehicles in addition to a myriad of outdoor recreational equipment. It is a separate building tucked behind the house, on the north side, so as not to block sunlight from the house or unfavorably shade the yard.
Partial Plan above shows Garage tucked behind house with an exterior roofed connection corridor to Mud Room
Scaled for vehicles, garages can distract from the design of a house
 The garage structure also has a full width porch 12' deep along it's west side. This exterior covered space can be used for wood storage, bike tune-ups, as a staging area when packing or unpacking from a trip, and it may even house a hot tub. On a steeply sloped site, it provides a level patio-type area that could even become an outdoor living space off the back yard.

Long Garage Roof covers porch on it's west end. See the back of the house beyond
The garage is connected to the house with a narrow roof over a stone path leading to a small back deck and the mudroom entry door. This will likely provide the everyday entry for the family living here- whether they commute to school or work via bike or car.

Semi-Detached Garage on right with connecting roof leading to Mud Room in house

As an architect, I think this is a good compromise to the alternative of an attached garage or a garage in the basement of a house- both of which have their own architectural challenges. This layout of a semi-detached garage affords the house it's own anonymity and allows a more human-scale massing and detailing. (a house is built for people, a garage is built for cars - much different scale! Click HERE to see a post on why the attached garage is referred to as the "uninvited guest that never left".)

On a physical level, the connecting roof provides protection from the elements as one transitions to and from home - and on a psychological level "transition zones" such as porches, mudrooms, entry halls, etc. give one time and space to shift from in to out. See my website for more about my theory of transition zones here: CWB-architect