Second-floor master suite
One of the primary reasons that people remodel is to accommodate changes in family composition. When kids come along, people add on or move. In this case, the couple with two college-age children were welcoming her mother to the house. The existing master suite on the first floor was converted to an in-law suite, and a back office space was converted into a craft room for their mother as well. The new master suite was for the owners.
Their original thought was to stack it on top of the front living room. But this was unworkable for a number of reasons, chiefly that there was really no good place to put the stairs in that scenario. It also would have been problematic from a massing standpoint. The one-story look of a mid-century modern would have been greatly compromised with a second story on the front. Thus it was decided the addition would be placed farther back on the house, above the existing master and a first-floor sunroom.
The staircase was tucked into a spot formerly occupied by the first-floor master bedroom closet. This solution seemed to flow naturally, with the bottom landing opening on two sides to the dining room and living room combination.
To make way for the extra loads above, new beefed-up posts anchored to new footings were added to the existing sunroom.
Then there was the matter of how to preserve the gently sloping interior ceilings. “One of the challenges was that they wanted to keep the sloped ceiling on the inside of the first floor under this addition,” notes Lind. “So our addition had to sit up above the original roofline. And that was a little challenging because usually you tear the structure out and you put new floor joists in. This was one of those areas where we had to make some special provisions to keep the original character of the house. We did not want to go in and change the original character of the house, which is what attracted the owners to us in the first place.”
Lind says that he did not consciously set out to design corner windows into so many places in the house. It just sort of happened that way, but he is very glad he did it. In addition to the corner windows featured in the “Japanese lantern” that is the new front entry, Lind added corner windows in the stairs, the study, the bathroom and the master bedroom.
“I was not even consciously doing this, but it made such a big difference,” says Lind. “I am trying to do it a lot more. It really just opens the whole room up, much more than just one wall with a whole bunch of windows in it. The whole second floor was 658 sq. ft. So it is really quite small, but it is a good example of a not-so-big-house and Sarah Susanka’s design principles. That is what this is. It is a fairly small house. And it is a small addition. But the clients did not need more room. Again, by using the corner windows to open the rooms up to the exterior, it feels larger than it really is up there. There is a great view from the master bedroom of the University of Texas tower through the trees. We captured a great view up there.”
One of the great ironies of preserving this gem-like mid-century house was the difficulty Lind encountered adhering to a new anti-McMansion zoning law. If it had been torn down, it would have been easier to get the exact space the clients wanted, but because they were adding height to the home, they had to meet new guidelines, says Lind. Because the second-floor addition was, in effect, built above the existing slope of the roof, an 8-ft. plate was as high as they could go with the second-floor addition; even then a variance was required, which delayed the project.
“I think more than just meeting the letter of the law, we really met the spirit of it,” says Lind. “We tried to keep the lines of the existing house and augment and add to its character. Later, when we had a party at the house, the owner told me that people would stop their cars at the house and thank them for adding onto the home in this way and not just tearing it down.