The ‘Messy Room’ Concept
Downstairs, there’s a study which is basically the size of a walk-in closet. It’s outfitted with a built-in desk, files and a computer. It’s a place where the homeowners can sit and do homework or work while a meal is being prepared or while things are going on in the big common room. The beauty of this room is that the project can be left in the middle without any cleanup required. Just close the door and leave everything set up.
“It was our way of keeping the mail and various projects off of the dining table or off of the kitchen counters and not having a kitchen desk,” says McKinney. “This is a space that can be closed off. It organizes the things that typically clutter the kitchen area, all in one space. That was something from the very beginning that was part of the old living room space and is now part of this much larger room, and I think it’s very successful as a nook to hide the messy stuff.”
Because of the success of this room, McKinney York Architects has started creating what they call “messy rooms” that are connected or adjacent to kitchens to function as project rooms where people can do homework, wrap presents, do their taxes — things that tend to be messy and can’t always be done very quickly. Self-contained, they don’t squander surface space in other parts of the house.
“We’ve done these rooms for years now and have found that they tend to be very popular with our clients,” adds McKinney.
At the front of the house there is a living room that opens onto a terrace. There use to be French doors that opened out to the terrace. McKinney swapped out those French doors in favor of triple-hung windows.
“That was more of a reaction to deliverymen, who didn’t know the neighborhood, going to those doors, when that’s not really the front door,” says Brian Carlson, AIA, project manager. “The front door is hidden from the street.
So we switched those to these triple-hung windows which can still be opened all the way to the top and open up to the terrace, but which give the appearance that this really isn’t the front door. They can be opened up and serve as a walk-through space on nice days and for parties, but when not being used, they definitely say windows and not an entryway.”
One of the ways McKinney and her team solved the problem of creating separation between the kitchen and dining area was to put in an island that contains a screen that can be opened up to give inclusion to the kitchen or closed to create a more intimate dining experience. The panels are made of copper by a local artisan, whose husband created some of the lights for the exterior of the home as well as other metal pieces for the home.
The key to adding almost as much space as the original home contained was to create a glass connector. The home is basically laid out as if there is a front house, a back house and a glassy connector. This connector and separation keeps the home from feeling like one long uninterrupted wall. Looking down from the bridge on the second floor of the glass connector, the entry space can be seen and gives the connector the feel of an indoor/outdoor area. The homeowners can pull up right next to this connector in the driveway to unload groceries; the connector functions much like the home’s back door.
“That whole entry point was critical to making the home work well and it’s kind of the most modern piece,” explains McKinney. “We tried to make it as light and transparent as possible, so you can read the stone through it. It looks like a glass insertion between two buildings of indeterminate age. It gives the project a little bit of an edge. You know it’s modern but it’s also very successful in terms of having that sense of being outside when you’re in that space. Having these spaces that kind of breathe is very important.”