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Staying Put in Style: Expanding without Adding
by Duo Dickinson
Sometimes the way the existing space in your home is laid out makes it difficult to use or appreciate its overall dimensions.
In a 1980s addition to a classic early-19th-century Federalist-style home, a layer of living space was simply wrapped around the perimeter of the existing home’s backside, with doorways cut through the original outside walls.
The kitchen was thus visually cut off from the informal living space, and the resulting wrap-around room was rarely used. Removing those walls was conceptually easy, but the second floor above the wall had to be supported.
Fortunately, the old one-story addition presented the opportunity to hide the beam that replaced the original exterior wall above the ceiling level. By setting the new beam in the cavity above the ceiling but below the old addition’s roof line, the original ceiling does not get interrupted by a dropped beam.
In this project, two custom birch columns supplanted a long bearing wall, and a large amount of millwork that was layered on the old outside walls of the home was replaced by an island cabinet between the columns. In addition, the raw 1980s ceiling was furred down to create a peak within the formerly sawtoothed ceiling-scape.
There are over 80 million single family homes in America, and it's estimated that in 2011, 18 million of these were underwater, meaning with a mortgage larger than the value of the house.
Millions of families feel trapped, living a life of domestic frustration in homes that do not work for them, while being unable to move to solve the problems they confront on a daily basis.
The benefits of concise, appropriate remodeling where you live now, independent of market conditions, can include improved convenience and lifestyle satisfaction, better looks, and a reduced environment impact, since improving an existing house is almost always greener than building new from scratch.
This series in ArchitectureWeek, and the book Staying Put that it's drawn from, offer tangible hope for getting the home you want from the house you have right now.
Each of these projects is a select example of the great and affordable outcomes that can be created, when a good architect and a good client team up together.
Architect Duo Dickinson runs his own practice in Madison, Connecticut. In over 30 years of professional practice, he has built more than 600 projects across the United States, with budgets ranging from $3,000 to $5 million. Dickinson has written seven books, including The Small House, Expressive Details, and The House You Build. He is a contributing writer for Money magazine, the architecture critic for the New Haven Register, and a contributing writer for New Haven magazine. He has also taught at Yale University, Roger Williams College, and the Harvard Graduate School of Design summer program.
One side of the new island provides storage and a place for the TV, while the back side accommodates space for informal dining. Photo: Mick HalesExtra Large Image
In reconfiguring the wrap-around living space to a rectangular room, one leg of the L was used, along with a modest addition, to create a new entry vestibule that includes a half-bathroom. The vestibule's corner wall is just visible on the left of the photo. Photo: Mick HalesExtra Large Image
Before and after plan drawings of the kitchen and adjacent spaces. Image: Taunton PressExtra Large Image
A major remodel of this home removed existing walls that had previously separated an existing kitchen space from a 1980s wrap-around addition. Photo: Mick HalesExtra Large Image
The walls separating the kitchen from the addition are seen here from both sides. Photo: Duo DickinsonExtra Large Image