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.
The home also is earth-friendly, incorporating a variety of recycled elements. Old Chicago brick, salvaged from another project, is used for the patios and walks. Recycled aluminum is used to face the family room fireplace, and recycled glass tiles are used on the kitchen backsplashes. Bamboo and cork, both sustainable materials, are used as flooring.
Insulation in the walls and attic is closed cell foam that helps keep the home cool in the summer and reduce energy bills. Tankless hot water heaters and solar pool heating, likewise, keep energy use down.
Given that the house is located in Florida, it’s not unexpected that a lot of thought was given to integrating indoor and outdoor living spaces. Retractable screens are hidden from sight but can be dropped with a click of a remote control to keep insects from interrupting outdoor activities. Screened exit doors are the weak link in many outdoor living setups, but Ross addressed this problem by installing air curtains, similar to those found in commercial applications, over the doors. Opening the door turns on the air curtain and keeps out unwanted pests.
The kitchen was originally criticized by some designers Ross worked with as being too small, but he says it actually functions quite well and has more than enough storage. “It’s more of a chef’s kitchen in that the work triangle is in a condensed space. It’s good for entertaining, too,” he says.
Ross recounts that Ross Design Group was responsible for the interior design but that several designers were consulted during the process.
Lighting is somewhat generic and somewhat modern, including a lot of cable lights and halogen lighting. “Nothing too unusual,” Ross says. “We kept it somewhat neutral; more of the accents come in the tile, which offers color, contrast and texture.”
Attention to detail is evident throughout the interior of the home. For example, Venetian plaster was used in the master bath and master suite vestibule. The technique, Ross explains, is a multistep process that is more difficult and time-consuming than applying a faux finish or conventional paint.
The willingness to take such extra steps is what makes this elaborate transformation a success.
Fast Facts About the Project:
- Location: Windermere, Fla.
- Remodeling contractor: Ross Design Group, Orlando, Fla.
- Design principal: Jim Ross
- Square footage before: 2,090
- Square footage after: 4,658
- Project cost: $1,230,000
- Awards: Gold award, Whole House over $500,000; Best of Show over $250,000, Qualified Remodeler 2009 Master Design Awards
Bath fixtures: Kohler
Brick/masonry: Old Chicago brick
Interior doors: Craftsmen in Wood
Fireplace: Fire stones by European Home
Kitchen countertops: Concrete by Price Concrete Studio
Kitchen appliances: GE Monogram
Lighting Fixtures: Tech Lighting
Paints: Color Wheel
Roofing: Cap and pan clay tiles, Barcelona, Spain
Solid surface: Avonite
Windows: Andersen Windows