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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.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A neighborhood-friendly remodeling project

By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer

If you want to live in an established Salt Lake City neighborhood, the houses often are either too small or expensive fixer-uppers.

The nature of a typical city neighborhood breeds remodeling. In Holly Morham's neighborhood, she says she sees remodeling projects on almost every block. "But I see that as a good thing," she says. "It means we are keeping up instead of dying. Have you ever seen a neighborhood that has died? It isn't a pretty sight."

The second-floor library added to the bungalow gives the family more public space.

Holly's home was one of those remodels-in-progress just a year ago, but starting her project in a historic neighborhood wasn't without its challenges or fears.

A year before the Morhams' remodel, there was turmoil in the neighborhood. Someone had torn down a bungalow and built a two-story home that took up 60 percent of the lot. Even though it was only 4,000 square feet and 35 feet high (relatively small according to mansion standards), for the Salt Lake City neighborhood it felt like a monster home that towered over its neighbors.

The neighborhood tried to come up with rules that would prevent anything like this from happening again. They didn't want more "monster homes" ruining the character of the neighborhood.

"Whatever we did, we didn't want to be the next lightening rod in the neighborhood," Morham says. "I didn't want my house to be the house everyone hated."

So, the Morhams worked hard to design a home that blended in with the neighborhood and held true to the style and character of their 1913 bungalow, but also met the needs of their growing family.

As her children became older, her family was bursting out at the seams in their small three-bedroom home. While Holly didn't want the children to be hiding away in their bedrooms, she didn't want the computer, television and homework all going on in the same small public space anymore, either. The noise wasn't working for her — or the rest of the family.

She and her husband decided adding a second story to the bungalow would be the best option. The problem was, the proposed rules for the neighborhood would prohibit a second story. The Morhams compromised with the neighbors so their second-story addition wouldn't be outlawed. "Not every two-story bungalow is a bad thing," she says. "What it comes down to is, you can't legislate taste."

As part of the neighborhood remodeling regulations, the four neighbors surrounding the Morhams' house had to approve the design plans. "All four were absolutely supportive of our design," she says.

With the go-ahead from the city and the neighbors, the Morhams started the new remodel. There are now three bedrooms and two bathrooms upstairs, one of which is part of the new master suite. Also upstairs is a room the Morhams call the library, which is a public space open to the staircase and a small balcony situated over the front porch. "Now the space works for us," she says. "One person can be doing homework in the library while another one is downstairs on the computer and they aren't bothering each other."

Downstairs has basically the same floor plan but the rooms now serve different purposes. "We have a real mudroom now," Morham says. "The old dining room used to function as the mudroom because that is where we dried out all the lacrosse, soccer and ski gear. Kids seem to have a lot of stuff, especially as they get older."

Now that her remodeling is finished, all fears have subsided. "The neighborhood response has been great," she says. "People have told us they aren't mad at our remodel because we built something that looks as if it has always been here. I have never had a better compliment."

Remember, a good remodeling project must begin with a good design, and good design results from hiring a well-trained, experienced architect. The value he or she will add to your project in terms of beauty, function and increased property value will far outweigh the cost of their services. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

© 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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