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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?

Six Tips for Better Half Bath Planning

It’s the smallest room in the house – maybe that’s why it never seems to get the design attention it needs to make it truly functional, and not just a pretty place to powder your nose.

And while a typical half bath might be no more than 25 square feet in area, it has more parts and pieces than most of the other rooms in your house. There are at least twelve different finishes you need to choose for a half bath including a faucet, countertop, cabinet, sink, toilet, mirror, towel bars, light fixture, trim, flooring, paint…you get the idea.

Which is why, on a per-square-foot basis, it’s one of the most expensive rooms in your home.

So before you spend all that money in that tiny space, here are a few tips to help you get the planning and design right.

Project Notebook #1: Adding Space for a Family of Four on a Tight Lot

Remodeling a home in an older neighborhood often comes with challenges above and beyond what my clients want and need for their project. In this Project Notebook, we’ll look at how a small house in Upper Arlington, Ohio was updated and added to within the zoning constraints of a tight corner lot.

This family of four was quickly outgrowing the bedrooms, bath, and garage in their 1,200 square foot Cape Cod home.

Do I Need A Building Permit for That?

Every contractor and every Architect has heard the question many times – “Do I need a building permit for my project?”

Or to put it more accurately, “Do I need to pay for an expensive building permit, and go through the hassle and delays of inspections for my simple little project?”

In other words, “If I’m supposed to get a permit but don’t, what’s the harm?”

Most municipalities have a list of projects that require permits, so the first question’s often easy to answer.  The other questions are a little more complicated.

But first let’s take a look at what permits are for in the first place.

prairie ranch remodel

The Vertical Option – Adding Space in Mid-Century Moderns and Ranches

Single-story homes were at the height of their popularity in the middle of the 20th century. Those designed with traditional styling have always been called “ranches”; less traditional ones are now often called “mid-century Modern”.

Remodeling these middle-aged homes is becoming extremely popular to a wide range of homeowners – younger families like that they’re often in well-established suburbs with good school systems; older buyers like the one-floor living.

Some of the ranches I’ve been asked to help remodel didn’t need much more than a tasteful “facelift” and some new finishes. But frequently my clients also need to add some space, or want to do something about the low ceilings that are common in these homes.

The Right Height for a Kitchen Island Countertop/Breakfast Bar

Homeowners spend a lot of time picking out cabinets, countertops, backsplashes, appliances, and lighting for their kitchens, but sometimes, not enough time thinking through basic functions. A frequent example of that is the height of a raised countertop on a kitchen island, sometimes also called a breakfast bar.

Open floor plans expose the whole kitchen to view – cooking mess and all. A raised countertop can help hide the mess behind a short wall, and makes a nice place to sit and eat, drink, and socialize.

That’s the basic function of a breakfast bar, but there’s more to getting the design right than just hiding the mess. Choosing the right finishes will make it look good, but we want it to work right, too. Here’s what you need to know to get the height right.

Polish or Demolish? How To Decide Whether To Renovate or Tear Down a House

If you’re thinking of building a new home, you’re probably looking at empty property – a lot in a subdivision, or like many of my clients, a larger bit of land further out.

Or maybe you’re buying an existing house with the intent to renovate it and make it your home.

But what if you’re somewhere in between – you’re building a new house, but the property you’re thinking of buying already has a house on it. When does it make sense to fix it up, and when does it make sense to tear it down and start over?

What Is Quality Construction?

A friend of mine put me on the spot when she asked me over to take a look at the new home she’d just purchased.

“What do you think?” she asked, “It’s good quality construction, isn’t it?”

For what she paid, sure, it was decent quality; it wasn’t in danger of collapse, the doorknobs weren’t falling off, and water wasn’t dripping through a leaky roof – but it wasn’t a showcase of construction skill either.