By Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer
Meet the Schwartzes: A family of eight with six children ranging from one in the crib to junior high. They live in an East Millcreek neighborhood that is close to work and to extended family.
The kids are involved in their schools and the community. They love it there.
The Schwartz family of eight added more gathering space with a kitchen/great room as part of their extensive home remodel.
Their problem: A growing family in a house with little gathering space, a small backyard and an awkward, outdated floor plan. Their house is on a corner lot with no space to extend back for an addition.
The largest yard area was to the side and to the front of the house. That, combined with being on a corner lot, created a safety issue for their children.
Since their first home did not have the basic elements that could be enhanced by a remodel, they decided they would have to move.
Wanting to stay in the same neighborhood, they looked at all of the available houses and concluded that in order to get the kind of house they wanted, they would have to buy with an eye to remodeling the new home.
So, they looked for a home that could provide space where they could comfortably gather as a family every day and host extended family on special occasions.
Finding a home with a backyard where they could plant a garden and create a recreational area for the kids was also high on their list.
They found the new-to-them 1960 rambler a few miles away from their original corner lot.
After living there for a year and working on a master plan to achieve their remodeling goals, they moved out and construction began.
The house was originally an L shape with the garage set back from the front of the home. In the remodel, the garage was moved forward to make room for an addition at the back of the house. The new addition extended from the rear along the length of the house, providing a new kitchen and dining area, family/great room and master suite.
Within the existing house, the front bedroom was converted into an office, which opens onto the new entry foyer. Downstairs, space was created by excavating under the rear addition, adding 970 square feet of livable space to create a family room, a library and a toy room.
In addition to more space, windows were enlarged and added to capture more natural light, provide a clear view for mom to see the backyard play area from the kitchen, and to capitalize on the views of Mount Olympus.
The backyard was fully landscaped, creating a beautiful open area for the children to run, a sport court and garden boxes. Steve Schwartz says the new backyard was the biggest lifestyle change for the family.
“The kids are free to play outside without us worrying like we did in the other house,” he said.
While the home is now significantly larger — nearly doubled — it doesn’t look much different from the street. It blends in with the neighborhood well with a few slight updates, adding curb appeal.
Adding cedar shakes to the existing brick created the “country” look that the Schwartzes wanted. The entry was moved slightly and a new front porch was added to welcome family and friends to the home. They also excavated under the porch to create a useful storage room.
All throughout the house, built-in storage has been added to minimize the clutter a family of six generates.
A large mudroom fully equipped with lockers and storage spaces for all the children helps keep the family organized.
This project is fresh in our minds because we recently attended an open house given by the Schwartzes to celebrate the completion of their remodeling project.
It is always satisfying to see a family changed for the better because of the work we did, to see what we helped them create, and to see that people can actually survive the challenge of a large remodeling project. It reminds us of why we do what we do and why we love it! As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at