Project Notebook #2: Expanding a Contemporary Home on a Wide Open Property
A lot of homeowners dream of building on a large rural property with plenty of space to spread out, with no restrictions on what to build or where to build it.
From an Architect’s perspective, though, that’s both a blessing and a curse. A blessing for the same reasons as the homeowner’s, and a curse because unlimited freedom – the proverbial “blank page” – can make it harder to get the design process underway. Where to start?
This remodeling and addition project answered that question in a unique way. While offering abundant space to design and build on, the property also held an existing house with a distinct character – design freedom combined with a clear starting point.
But that doesn’t mean that the perfect design solution presented itself on day one. Just like every other project, I explored a wide range of possibilities with my clients early on.
What Have We Got Here?
My client built this house for himself 25 years earlier, and after raising a family here, has decided to significantly upgrade the house with a larger garage, a new master suite addition, and a nearly complete remodeling of the entire house.
That’s where the project got interesting – the house was an aging 1980s contemporary, the kind of look that turns some people off. But together, we discovered that the basic massing and details of the house were a great starting point for a fresh, updated, contemporary design.
25 years without significant upgrading meant there was a lot that needed to be done – some was just outdated design, and some was what you might call “deferred maintenance.”
Priorities One and Two for my clients were moving the master bedroom to the first floor, and adding a new, modern kitchen, opened up to the family living areas of the home. We started with three different floor plan concepts, each a little bit different.
Concept A kept the kitchen in more or less the same place, added the master suite on the left side of the house and the new garage on the right.
Concept B did roughly the opposite – master on the right, garage on the left. Both concepts kept the overall massing of the house relatively simple, and both kept the existing front door in the same place, but neither solved all the problems my clients wanted to address.
Concept C is the one we chose to continue with, for a number of reasons. First, it allowed for a much larger and more open kitchen. Second, the new garage could be attached to the existing garage. Third, the new master suite was more private and had better views of the west side of the property (something the owners wanted).
And almost as important, concept C created an overall more interesting massing that played really well on the existing character of the house.
Working Out the Details In 3D
With a solid concept agreed on, the next step was redrawing the design “to scale”, working on details, and perhaps most fun, creating 3D models of the interior and exterior of the house.
Now you can really see how the new additions fit with the existing massing of the house, bringing the scale down dramatically. The redesign also helps bring the existing detached garage into the overall architectural composition.
A series of interior 3D sketches helped define the character and layout of the newly-opened space. We also engaged an interior designer to begin helping with finish and fixture selections, and at the end of this phase, asked several local contractors for preliminary cost estimates.
How It All Turned Out
Of course there was much more to the entire process than the few things I’ve described above, but I hoped you’ve already grasped the main idea of this Project Notebook – which is that while total design freedom is wonderful, having a solid place to start a design concept helps the design process along dramatically.
More photos of the finished project are posted here.