Monday, October 05, 2009
Good design transforms home, lives
By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer
In architecture, the basic building blocks of good design include space, light and order.
Good design doesn't have to be dramatic. It can be subtle and still have a huge impact on a house.
For Tom and Maria Maloney, all it took was bumping out the house 2 feet, reconfiguring the main floor plan and remodeling the partial basement.
Tom says they did what seemed obvious to update the design and flow of the 1930s Sugar House home. They removed the wall between the dining room and the kitchen to open up the space. They updated the kitchen, added new floor and windows, and they reconfigured the floor plan to create better flow.
The basement was the more drastic portion of the remodel. Half of the basement was a crawlspace while the other half with its low ceiling housed a laundry space, bathroom and office.
"It wasn't that bad, seeing how we lived with it for 14 years," Tom says. "But it hadn't been done right."
To increase the usable square footage of their home, they decided to dig out the crawl space. Without affecting the rest of the house or the existing basement, the contractor punched a hole through the foundation wall of the crawl space just big enough for a small Bobcat.
They then excavated the space to a full 8-foot ceiling height. They added two large windows with window wells in the new area, and one in the existing basement office.
Because the floor of the new area is lower than that of the old basement, there are now three steps that connect the original basement with the new family room and bedroom.
The full-height ceiling and large egress windows make the added downstairs area quality living space.
"This summer, when the sun was coming through the large basement windows, it wasn't like a basement at all," Tom said.
While they did do some major renovations to the basement and kitchen, one of Tom's favorite new rooms is a room they hardly touched. For him, the space and lighting in the front room makes for the perfect reading room.
"We didn't do much, but I love it," he says. "It is bright and cheerful."
The architect was surprised to learn that the front room was Tom's favorite room but says sometimes simple changes can make a big difference.
Because the architect removed the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, additional light now flows into the living room. In addition, creating a better flow directly from the front door to the kitchen makes you now feel you are walking past the living room rather than through it, which gives the living room more definition as a separate space.
The addition of new paint, new floors and new windows completed the room's transformation.
The Maloneys moved out of the house for six months during the construction phase, so moving back in was like moving into a completely new house.
"At first we didn't want to step on the floors — like a museum — but we are getting over that," Tom says. "The space is so much more comfortable."
They only moved back into their "new" home this past June, so they are still discovering what makes the new design so appealing.
"We will probably find our favorite part is really the new two-car garage when the snow starts and we don't have to scrape our car windows anymore," Tom says. "Or maybe when football season starts, the new TV room may be my favorite part of the remodel. We will just have to see!" As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.