After living several years in a house that had been altered and expanded numerous times before they purchased it, the owners of a 1930s-era Cape Cod in New Canaan, Conn., decided it was time to add curb appeal and visual unity while improving their home's functionality.
They were referred to Wilton, Conn.-based Titus Built LLC, a design/build company with 15 years' experience remodeling residences throughout south Fairfield County. Jeffrey Titus, CGR, LEED AP, the firm's founder and general manager, has strong ties to the area. "My great-grandparents moved to New Canaan from New York City in 1918, so I have five generations of family here," he explains.
It's no surprise, then, that Titus was intrigued by the multifaceted challenge of determining how to honor the home's classic character, achieve the owners' vision for a more sophisticated Craftsman-style exterior and still ensure the remodeled residence would fit in with its "village" location.
"We start every project by learning what's on the client's mind," Titus explains. "In this case, the home-owners had done a fair amount of research, so they brought ideas to our first meeting. We worked with them to finalize their wish list, then focused on devising a design that would achieve as much as possible within their budget. We also determined how the remodeling could be completed as a series of mini-projects over time or all at once. The clients trimmed a few items from their wish list and decided to proceed with a full exterior face-lift and some interior improvements."
We start every project by learning what’s on the client’s mind.”
— Jeffrey Titus, CGR, LEED AP, founder and general manager, Titus Built LLC
One of the homeowners' top priorities was to add more room on the second floor, so they and their three young sons could live more comfortably in the bedrooms located under the sloped roof.
"One son was getting a bunk bed," Titus explains. "Before the remodeling there would have only been about 1 1/2 feet of space between the top bunk and the ceiling."
Titus Built lifted the roof, extended the height of the second-story walls, and added the beams and columns necessary to fortify the structural system and transfer the loads down to the foundation. This increased the headroom and amount of usable space in the bedrooms. The substantial change in the roofline and façades also made working out the proportions of the new dormers, overhangs, porticos, brackets and other design details especially challenging.
"We wanted to preserve the integrity of the original home, which had simple forms and basic doghouse dormers, while upgrading its overall appearance," Titus says. To ensure authenticity, the team meticulously researched its designs for extra-large gable-end rafters (bargeboards), flower boxes, shutters, and more than 100 mahogany and cedar brackets before producing these architectural details in Titus Built's millwork shop. Because almost nothing was purchased off the shelf, accurate planning was critical for accomplishing this highly customized remodel on time and in budget.
"The clients were very thoughtful and involved throughout the process," Titus says. "We presented several versions of each custom detail before they selected the ones they liked best. Because the project primarily was an exterior remodel, we recommended wood that was insect and rot resistant. We also considered whether the wood would be painted or stained because the design called for both of these finishes. The graining is important for stained wood because it will show. We were able to obtain thick pieces of sapele [African mahogany] as raw lumber. That allowed us to make some of the larger brackets and bargeboards from this dense, durable and beautiful wood."