By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
We’ve decided to periodically highlight homeowners and their projects to give you a better feel for real-world remodeling experiences. We realize you will never really know what it’s like until you’ve experienced it yourself, but it’s wise to gather as much information as possible because knowledge is power when embarking on a major remodel.
So we’ll start with the Reynolds’ project. Aaron and Carolyn Reynolds had lived in their 1924 craftsman-style bungalow for about a decade and had made several small changes that kept the space livable. But while they knew they should do a major remodel, they were content to spend time just thinking about it.
The 1924 craftsman bungalow, above, needed a major overhaul. But the homeowners didn’t realize how major until they got into the design and planning stage. They learned that a teardown would be required.
That changed when their daughter came along. They needed more room and wanted to make the home safer for their child, so they knew the time had come.
When they came to us, they had lots of ideas — a decade’s worth! In addition, their home had been built by Carolyn’s grandfather, so they had great sentimental attachment. We took them through several options and they eventually decided on a plan they loved.
That plan left only two of the four existing exterior walls intact. Because their exterior walls were built of 80-year-old unreinforced brick, we recommended they get an engineer’s evaluation before proceeding with construction drawings. The engineer helped them understand that while salvaging those walls would be possible, it would be an expensive process and, structurally speaking, more trouble and cost than it was worth.
So the Reynolds had to make the painful decision to tear down grandpa’s house — an option they had not considered. “It was a hard decision,” Carolyn tells us. But since reinforcing the old walls “just didn’t make sense,” they began planning for a teardown and rebuild.
The result, above, is a brand new craftsman bungalow with lots of details that honor the original home. Many materials from the old house were reused in the new.
If they couldn’t keep the original house, they were definitely committed to keeping grandpa’s spirit, so we designed another craftsman bungalow. We incorporated thematic elements from the previous house, such as a large front porch, a half wall and pillars separating the living and dining room, and lower ceilings in spots to maintain the cozy cottage feel. At the same time, we improved the flow and function of the space to meet a modern family’s needs.
The Reynolds salvaged materials from the old house and reused them in the new house. They reused wood moldings around the windows, salvaged glass blocks for a living room window, adorned new doors with old knobs, and kept the fireplace mantel. The exterior brick was meticulously preserved, cleaned, and re-laid.
In the end, the result is a newly built home with an additional 600 square feet of living space. But you’d never guess it isn’t a classic bungalow. Great care was taken to preserve the original style and spirit of the place.
Their advice to anyone considering a major remodel: Don’t hurry the design process. “We actually spent longer working on the plans than it took to build the house,” Aaron points out. “If you can work out a lot of the bugs on paper, you can save yourself a lot of money.”
It’s advice we would echo. The planning phase takes time — much more time than most people think. But it’s time well spent because carefully making design and budget decisions will lead to a successful project. And remember, old homes can be full of surprises. But hopefully the result makes the effort worthwhile. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at email@example.com.