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Ann Architect, Renovation Design GroupAnnie Architect, Renovation Design Group

Renovation Solutions is weekly column on architectural home design by Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer, Principal Architects of Renovation Design Group, a Utah architectural firm focusing on home renovation design.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Duplex remodel maintains historical charm

By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer


The beautiful, brick Georgian house is in Salt Lake City Avenues historical district, and it was important to Jane Beatty to maintain her home's historic luster.

"The bones of the house itself are still strong," she says. "Instead of tearing things down, I wanted to incorporate some of the city and bring it back to life."

The original house was a duplex, but a previous owner converted it into a single-family home. The flow and function of the upper level left something to be desired.

The upper level of the former duplex — which is now a single-family home — was reconfigured to create a master suite.

"It was a great house; it just had a funky layout," Beatty says. In addition, "there was no master closet and an outdated bathroom."

Because the layout had been redesigned for a duplex, the upper level had a family room and two very small bedrooms. Beatty converted the large living area into a master suite with a closet and bath.

The two small bedrooms are now separated by a Jack-and-Jill bathroom.

She also added an upstairs laundry area with a stackable washer and dryer. "The new design is definitely friendlier to what people need today," she says. "Now it truly functions as a single-family home instead of a duplex."

Before the project even started, Jane had an open house for her neighbors so they could meet with the builder and the architects to discuss how the project would impact the neighborhood.

"Instead of my neighbors waking up one morning to a cloud of dust and noisy construction, we decided to build a bridge and open dialogue beforehand," she says.

"The neighbors were able to ask questions like ''Will this remodel add to the value of my home?'' The open house was very well-received."

While Beatty and her architect tried to cover everything in the contract documents, they still ran into some surprises.

This is typical of any remodeling project, but the older the home, the more likely you are to run into unexpected situations. Beatty advises homeowners to be prepared for additional costs and time, In other words, include a contingency fund in your budget to handle the unanticipated issues that will arise.

In Beatty's case, these included having to level the foundation with helical piers and updating the antiquated knob and tube electrical wiring throughout the house. With remodeling, the reality is you never know for sure what you are getting into until you cut into the wall.

Another thing Beatty didn't expect was all the dust. She lived downstairs while the work went on upstairs. "The old plaster emits more dust than the dry wall we are used to today," she says.

Living in the house during the remodel makes it easier to monitor the work every day, but since Beatty travels almost weekly for work, she hired a project manager to oversee the project.

This was an individual paid by Beatty to visit the project every day to help make decisions on the spot. Obviously it would be best to make those decisions yourself. If you are going to remodel, plan to monitor the project daily to make sure the work is continuing as planned.

Beatty also suggests choosing a contractor who specializes in remodeling. "Contractors who specialize in remodeling have a different mindset than general contractors who build from scratch," she says.

"A contractor who is just a builder thinks of starting over and rebuilding it, but a remodeler thinks of what they can save and blend together."

Now that her remodeling project is finished, she would never go back. "I come home to my master suite and it is like a cocoon, comfortable and warm," she says. "It is the most glorious gift I have given myself in years."

Beatty, known to be an early riser, is usually up before the sun. "But the first night I slept in my new master suite, I slept in until 7 o'clock! It was just so peaceful and quiet and wonderful."

"The truth is it was worth all the dust and the craziness," she adds. "I would do it all again." As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at ask@renovationdesigngroup.com.

© 2009 Renovation Design Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Renovation Design Group.

If you are considering a remodel project, please Request a Free Consultation with Ann or Annie.


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