Preserving the footprint of a home during remodeling is often seen as a limitation, but in the case of a Windermere, Fla., house, the restriction was a major asset.
The most compelling reason to preserve the footprint was the presence of several mature oak trees. Aside from its lakefront location, these trees gave the lot its greatest appeal, and building within the existing footprint did not disturb them.
The advantage of preserving the footprint didn’t end with the trees, however. For tax purposes, the project was assessed as a renovation and not as new construction. Second, as a remodeling project, it avoided the setback restrictions that would have applied to new construction. Under new construction setback requirements, a new house would have been considerably smaller.
Unfortunately, the original home didn’t have a lot of character. “We’ve done a lot of projects where we’ve been able to salvage really nice ceiling treatments, masonry fireplaces or something of value,” says Jim Ross of Ross Design Group in Orlando, Fla., “but in this case the home didn’t have a whole lot of value itself other than the fact we used the existing footprint.”
The neighborhood is an evolving one, Ross relates. Originally an area of little fish camps on the western shore of Lake Butler, it’s not a typical subdivision. Rather it’s a shoreline and a single road that travels along the shore. Ross Design Group also remodeled the home next door, adding a second story and giving it a Key West theme, complete with a metal roof.
The goal was to build a functioning house that would work well for entertaining and would be a great place for kids to grow up, Ross says. The layout is unusual in that the main living area is on the second floor and comprises the family room, kitchen, covered porch, study and secluded master suite overlooking the courtyard and lake. The children’s rooms, a game room and the pool and recreation area are all on the ground floor.
When entertaining, guests can come right to the pool and deck area and into the summer kitchen through a breezeway without ever entering the main house. The children’s play room is on the first floor and is not connected to the main house; one has to go outside to access it. Besides daily use, it serves as a venue for birthday parties and other gatherings.
No structural challenge
Adding a second level was not a structural challenge; rather, it was creating a design that accommodated the trees. “Really, the trees were the biggest asset of the property other than the lake itself, so we created a design that functioned well for everyday living around those trees,” Ross says.
Having the living area — and the kitchen — on the second level created at least one dilemma — getting groceries from the garage on the ground level to the second-level kitchen. An elevator accessible from the garage eases the routine restocking of the pantry.
Because there was little to inspire or preserve in the original structure, Ross had a free hand in deciding what style he wanted the remodeled house to be — it’s his personal residence. He settled on a Spanish Revival theme, which is more typical of Southern California. The style emphasizes such details as shorter eaves, decorative moulding at the eaves and clay barrel tile.
“There are some authentic details that we made sure we included in the house — wrought iron details, hand-painted Spanish tiles — essentially it’s a 1920s style of architecture that we wanted to replicate and pay homage to,” Ross says.
"We kept it somewhat neutral; more of the accents come in the tile, which offers color, contrast and texture.”
While the exterior of the home looks as though it has been there for decades, the interior has a minimalist, modern flavor without a lot of clutter. “We wanted it to be clean, simple and kid-friendly,” Ross says.