My clients were a couple who bought a new home which was in the perfect location, but needed some remodeling. Their blended family includes six adult children. They wanted to achieve a large addition for a dining room and to enlarge the kitchen, and possibly enlarge the master suite above the kitchen. Very shortly after they bought the home, they called me to help them design their updated home. Here’s their wish list:
- A smart home, controlled by phones and pads
- A dining room that would easily seat 16-18 people;
- A larger kitchen with a dedicated coffee bar and more storage, and more usable countertop space
- A larger deck for entertaining and a hot tub for the family
- An updated living room with stacking doors
- A home office for the wife
- An updated master bathroom with a two-person shower and a separate makeup area
- A multi-purpose guest bedroom and bathroom
- A laundry room that’s accessible by everyone
- More storage
- A dedicated play room with a large projector TV and theater seats
- A storage area above the husband’s workshop in the garage
I learned years ago to check with the building and planning departments before starting to design an addition when I assumed what the homeowners wanted was not doable. The planning official said that the home was close to a floodplain, and he’d need to see preliminary plans of the proposed addition and a positive report from a soils engineer that the proposed addition was okay to proceed with construction.
It’s human to just go ahead and assume that everything will be okay. But in this case, it wasn’t. The 760 square-foot addition came too close to the floodplain. The planning official said that he definitely needed to see a soils report. The homeowners weren’t happy with the situation, but they hired a soils engineer. The engineer drilled several holes down to 50 feet in the area of the proposed addition and discovered that the “soil” was mostly sand. The homeowners were devastated. They had bought a home thinking it would be everything they always wanted. They had two choices: To resell the home and find another home, or stay in this home and make the best of it.
They took several weeks to talk about their alternatives and make a decision. I received an email telling me that they wanted to proceed, but scale back their project severely. The first part of the meeting after getting that message was uncomfortable for all of us, like trying to speak and understand a foreign language to build a strong bridge of communication. I felt the anguish they had experienced, and listened to their story to gather information about our direction moving forward. By the end of the meeting, we had achieved a new level of understanding and compassion.
I went back to work to see how we could achieve what they wanted, using the original wish list we had compiled. The smart home and the workshop with a storage mezzanine above wasn’t a problem, but the rest of the list was a challenge. Here’s how the solutions were achieved:
DINING ROOM: There was no way that the existing dining room would comfortably seat 16-18 people, because it was landlocked. When I asked the homeowners if they would ever seat that many friends at the dining table, they responded that the only reason for needing a large dining room was for family gatherings. I widened the doorway between the adjacent entry hall. If two tables were placed next to each other and extended to the maximum possible into the entry hall, it would seat 18 people. A custom cantilevered cabinet is a beautiful display hutch with a granite countertop.
LARGER KITCHEN: The kitchen was expanded to be in the same plane as the garage, approximately five feet. We achieved this by cantilevering the floor joists and creatively framing a new roof over the kitchen, so the ceiling could be extended at the same height. This additional space gave the homeowners what they wanted. They chose custom gray cabinets, granite countertops, and porcelain tile with glass tile accents. A bonus in the kitchen is the heated countertop where they can sit for casual meals.
LARGER DECK: The planning department didn’t balk when we submitted the plans that included a new deck that was three times larger than the original deck, because a structural engineer designed it for stability on unstable soil. The new deck has two sets of stairs: The large main stairway leads to the rear garden, and a side stairway leads to a concrete pad for the family hot tub.
LIVING ROOM: The homeowners found a manufacturer of stacking patio doors that met their requirements. They selected a new fireplace, and we designed the surround, mantel, and recessed AV controls that would be hidden by the flat-screen TV mounted on a heavy-duty swing-arm support.
WIFE’S OFFICE: The original den, adjacent to the entry hall, became the wife’s office. She requested a larger side window so she could see the floodplain and the wildlife.
MASTER BATHROOM: New cabinets, countertops, plumbing and lighting was designed to replace the existing double lavatories. A two-person shower replaced the existing 6-foot whirlpool tub. We replaced the double doors with a single 3-foot wide door that allowed the master shower to be amply deep. The existing window remained, and a new window was installed adjacent to the wife’s new generous makeup area.
WASTED SPACE CONVERTED TO A GUEST BEDROOM AND BATHROOM: This home had a large open area on the second floor, about 170 square feet, that was useless wasted space. The laundry room was adjacent to this room. I designed a wall along the upstairs hallway to enclose the room, and converted the laundry room to a bathroom with a neo-angle shower.
LAUNDRY ROOM: Borrowing about 10 feet from the large room allowed enough space for a laundry room that was accessible from the hallway. It has storage cabinets, a large single sink, a built-in ironing center, and pull-down rods for air drying clothes.
PLAY ROOM: The perfect location for this was a large corner bedroom separated from other bedrooms. A state-of-the-art ceiling projector and built-in speakers are the heart of the environment. We added a platform for two levels of comfy theater seats to watch TV, movies, and play video games on the humongous screen.
MORE STORAGE: One storage area is a cabinet that’s cantilevered into the garage, for bulk purchases. It’s high enough so no one will bump their head. Another storage area was achieved by redesigning the upstairs hallway to allow the addition of two deep closets. The loft above the husband’s garage workshop will also provide a lot of storage for seasonal accessories, luggage, and more.
We worked on this project for 15 months. The plans I prepared totaled 26 pages on 24” x 36” paper. The plans included 40 interior elevations, four exterior elevations, and eight virtual-reality perspectives. The general contractor called me the day he went to the building department. He said with excitement, “The plans were approved with no comments and no red marks!” He told me this is the first time in over 40 years that plans were approved so quickly without requiring additional information or revisions. I was happy to hear this, but this has happened with my plans many times. Details are important!
It was a joy to attend the housewarming party, to see the homeowners enjoying their new home and witness the guests’ reaction to the transformation. One of the guests was the agent who helped the couple find this home. He told us he couldn’t believe that it was the same home. It was a major transformation that the couple will love and enjoy for years. This is what makes me happy, when I know we’ve achieved my clients’ goals.
If you have an existing or new home that you’d like to transform, I can help you! I listen, and give honest feedback. I prepare detailed plans to help everyone involved in your project help you achieve your goals. Call me today to chat about your home remodeling desires!