This design-build project creatively transformed an older house in an inner-city neighborhood from a small, nondescript, one-story cottage into an efficient, hip, two-story dwelling for a young couple to showcase their collection of art, mid-century-modern furniture and furnishings.
From the beginning, existing site conditions presented significant design constraints. Due to FEMA regulations, the lot’s proximity to a 100-year floodplain dictated that the addition not extend beyond the original home’s footprint — a restriction that necessitated limiting the addition to a second floor immediately above the existing footprint.
In order to preserve much of the existing street façade, the new master bedroom and bath additions on the second floor were pushed back to the rear of the house. At the front wall of the second story, a large bank of operable windows was sandwiched between the existing first floor roof and the new roof above. This high bank of windows allows for a great deal of natural light and cross ventilation on the second floor, yet does so without sacrificing privacy in the master bedroom or views to the street below.
On the front exterior of the house, the primary design element is a large overhanging metal roof that turns down to shelter a small ipe (a Brazilian hardwood) deck above the front door. Behind this distinctive form, the new loft space and a new dining area are located where the garage once stood. Between the upper and lower floors is a continuous bank of horizontal windows that wraps the stairwell and visually separates the concrete stucco walls from the painted cement board siding above — an architectural strategy which not only allows for additional natural light on the interior of the house but helps minimize the scale of the final two-story home among its mostly one-story neighbors.
An open stairway made distinctive by floating horizontal wood treads and a steel and plywood railing system with a decidedly retro feel connects the dining area with the second floor loft space above.
Rather than create an attic space, ceilings on the second story instead follow the slopes of the roof — a design feature which admittedly complicated running ductwork inside the house. However the combination of these sloped ceilings, along with the windows that extend to the underside of the second-floor ceilings creates more interesting spaces and a feeling of spaciousness that helps contribute to the mid-century aesthetic that’s carried throughout the house.
A tiny, compartmentalized kitchen on the first floor was gutted and remade as a spacious, up-to-date kitchen with a large bar that’s now completely open to the adjacent living and dining areas. Caesarstone countertops with the look of concrete separate the stained walnut upper cabinets from the sealed MDF base cabinets. Above the bar, a large open walnut shelf suspended from the ceiling conceals puck lights and mirrors the finishes and forms of the wall-mounted TV enclosure in the nearby living area. In the hallway, the existing bath was remade with all new tile, lighting, plumbing fixtures, a cantilevered sink cabinet, and a horizontal wood-framed mirror with a medicine cabinet hidden behind its sliding panels. Existing bedrooms on the first floor were retained but have all new lighting and finishes.
Midway through design, the sudden crisis in the financial system and resulting constriction of the lending market forced the clients to reduce their budget, but a careful redesign and some strategic material substitutions allowed the design team to preserve most all of the key features without compromising the integrity of the finished home.
Creative use of materials, a carefully detailed stair with open risers, strategic placement of windows, open spaces bathed in an abundance of natural light, and a dramatic new building envelope defined by multiple interlocking volumes — all combine to create the feel of a larger, modern home that sits comfortably among its older neighbors with its own unique style.