Upfront Remodeling

Most additions achieve with varying degrees of success and style what they set out to do — add needed living space to an existing structure.

One California project did that and more. It added a contemporary Mediterranean flair to a typical 1970s California tract house, greatly enhanced the home’s curb appeal, provided a private courtyard for the owners’ enjoyment, and created a dramatic new entryway to the home.

The owners of the Encinitas home initially approached Marrokal Construction Co. of San Diego with two things in mind.

They wanted to provide a self-contained place for a relative to live, and they wanted to improve the curb appeal of the home as part of the process.

Steven Walton, ASID, senior design consultant with Marrokal met with the owners Tim and Yvonne Allen to explore their options. The obvious solution was to add a structure to the back of the house, but discussions soon revealed that the front yard was space seldom used by the family. Because the space was available and any changes there would certainly affect the appearance of the home made it the natural focus.

Entry Tower

Walton’s solution was a detached casita that would create an interior courtyard. However, putting a free-standing structure in the front yard with little or no tie to the main house was not acceptable. Instead, the casita was integrated into the main structure with a dramatic entry tower, providing an authentic new focal point to the home’s entry and doing much to elaborate on the Mediterranean theme and the desired curb appeal of the home. The entry tower features a wood door that can be remotely opened from the interior of the main house.

The space between the existing house and the new casita provides a private space formerly lacking in the front yard — no doubt one of the reasons the Allens so seldom spent time there prior to the addition.

As well as using the entry tower to tie the addition to the existing home, Walton added another touch to further unite the two structures. The existing living room windows were replaced with a series of French doors so that a strong connection was created to the front courtyard space. “I think that’s what pulled it together; it was a big part of the design,” he says.

An outdoor fireplace was built into the wall of the casita facing the new French doors. The Allens also wanted the tranquil sounds of a fountain. In a motif that mirrors the fireplace, water sheets down a vertical wall of glass tiles.

Walton notes that the rest of the home is fairly contemporary in style, and the courtyard, while Mediterranean in inspiration also is influenced by this contemporary flavor.

The casita, encompassing about 350 sq. ft., contains a bedroom, a mini-kitchen area, and a bathroom with shower. The entry tower adds another 100 sq. ft. to the addition.

Mini Bed and Breakfast

Walton describes the casita as “… contemporary, clean and very functional. It has the elements of a mini bed and breakfast.”

The compact kitchen has a built-in microwave and refrigerator as well as a space for a television. There is a separate dining area and a small entry area.

On the street side, there is an open courtyard with a working fountain also playing off the Mediterranean theme and anticipating the interior courtyard.

Lot setbacks stipulated in the zoning regulations were pushed to the limits, both to the side and front, Walton relates.

Some the façade details were replaced during the construction of the casita, and a new tile roof, essential to the Mediterranean look was added to integrate the casita and entry tower with the rest of the home.

With the casita and face-lift of their home accomplished, the owners turned to their kitchen, again a typical 1970s tract home affair without a great deal of style. Walton again worked with the homeowners create a more dramatic and enjoyable space.

Walton notes that “this is a kitchen where you typically would not see an island,” since it was fairly narrow. Initial plans were to extend the back of the house for more space, but this was scrapped as a cost-saving measure. Still the Allens wanted an island, and Walton devised a two-foot “sliver” of an island with a unique shape and a glass topped eating area set into one end. The island incorporates a sink, an under-cabinet microwave and warming drawer.

Island is Focal Point

“The island is the main thing; it’s quite unique,” Walton says. “We played around with that for quite a while. The homeowners were determined to have seating. We looked at having a raised area, but ended up doing a lowered area, since the owner prefers the comfort of a standard chair.”

The kitchen remodel did not add any square footage to the room, Walton relates. “We reworked the walls and created two little pantries with French doors; they’re no deeper than having a cabinet,” he says.

The doorway to dining area was reworked, framed in with a barrel vault and a butler’s pantry niched in to that. “In a typical kitchen of that era, you’d have a wall with a pocket door. We framed in a vaulted space with a butler’s pantry to create a transition between the dining environment and the kitchen,” Walton explains.

The custom-made maple cabinets have a conversion varnish finish for a highly polished look. They feature full overlay doors and all joints flushed out. The Allens were “after a fair amount of detail. They wanted everything very clean,” Walton adds.
Lighting was another detail addressed in the new kitchen. “Most clients don’t work with lighting specialists but we did on this project,” Walton says. “These are not just your typical 6-in. recessed cans. There are MR16s, low-voltage detail lighting, and puck lighting under the cabinets. There are colored lights as well as xenon and LED lighting.”

The kitchen opens directly to the family room, where an older brick fireplace with a niche for firewood was updated. The firewood niche was abandoned in favor of a clean, crisp look achieved by application of large stones — actually precast concrete. The fireplace was the major change in the family room, aside from adding a surround-sound system and changes to a window and a sliding glass door.

The home’s existing maple flooring, which extends from the kitchen to the family room, was reworked.

Working within tight space restrictions, the project succeeds by making every inch count, transforming a run-of-the-mill tract home into a home with added character and charm.

Outdoor Spaces Reflect and Complement Interior Form and Function

Remodeling is not just about interior space. Case in point is the Allen addition of a casita, which added not only living space but created a bonus outdoor courtyard and a new look for the home as well.

In the Texas project featured on the cover of this month’s issue, a strong feeling for Craftsman style and philosophy inform both interior and exterior design decisions.

The Buckeye home, renovated by Craftsman Homes of Austin, pays particular attention to outdoor details. It features a design that counters runoff, promotes irrigation and provides wildlife habitat. Such strategy spreads out and maximizes existing rainfall to boost a lush green carbon-consuming landscape instead of a brown “zero-scape” while returning more water to the aquifer, says Craftsman Homes owner Steve Wauson.

The deck outside the master suite was transformed into a private getaway where the homeowner can relax and enjoy views of the surrounding Texas hill country. Previously it wrapped around the house.

In keeping with the Craftsman philosophy, natural materials were used wherever possible. The deck is cumaru, a South American hardwood that is resistant to decay and insects. The deck railing is treated lumber that has been painted, and the siding is Western red cedar.

Instead of downspouts, water from the gutters is channeled into catch basins via rain chains, which slow the water to avoid erosion. Condensate from the home’s air conditioners and icemaker is likewise collected. A water feature starts at the front door and includes a koi pond as well as a natural spring.

The property has been accepted as a “Certified Wildlife Habitat” by the National Wildlife Federation. That means it includes food sources provided naturally by plants; water sources; cover such as shrubs, ground cover and rocks; places to raise young; sustainable gardening practices; and control of invasive, non-native plants.