Remodeling a home to expand with a growing family can be tricky. It’s important to look at where they are at now and to see where they’ll be in 10 or even 20 years. That was the task for GC/a Architecture of Arlington, Va. when it won The Grabman Residence project.
The Grabman’s were starting their family in this Virginia neighborhood and were quickly outgrowing their single story, Cape Cod home. They sought to open things up and get rid of the cramped feeling. And because buildable land in Northern Virginia is a rare commoddity for non-developers, people like the Grabman’s will commonly entertain dramatic remodeling projects just to stay in the neighborhood.
“One of the most important facts about this area is that most of the land is controlled by large developers,” says Matthew Guenther, principal with CG/a Architecture. “It’s hard to get just a single lot. Some people will buy a house and tear it down just for the land.”
The goal for GC/a Architecture was to take this 2,442 sq. ft. home and add a garage; relocate and enlarge the kitchen; enlarge the family room; add a new, larger single deck; and add a new second floor with bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry. The result was a roughly $277,000 remodel to turn this into a 4,848 sq. ft. home.
“The home was very typical of the era it was built in,” says Guenther of the Grabman residence which was built around time of World War II. “They were built small and fast and tended to be two bedroom homes.”
Starting with this, Guenther and his team at GC/a Architecture had to find a way to take a very simple, traditional home and add very contemporary features. “Working with something that seems a little clostrophobic, we really had to give this look of openness which included the use of windows just to let in more light,” says Guenther.
Like a lot of clients, the Grabmans weren’t really sure what they wanted, except, more — more space, more bedrooms, more light and more places to park a car. That’s where the architecture team really had to show them what was possible to get a sense of what the clients were really looking for.
“In our process, we tend to show them a lot of different options on a macro scale,” says Guenther. “This way we can show them what is possible. And it is easier for them to talk to us about what they like and don’t like. At that point, it’s our job to listen.”
After listening to the clients feedback and understanding what they want, GC/a Architecture took the plans and edited them to be more responsive to what the Grabmans were looking for. This includes going down to a micro scale and examining lighting, tile and other options as well as making recommendations to the clients to help them achieve the look they desire.
Examining the situation
A primary challenge for GC/a Architecture was to enlarge the house and at the same time respect the small scale and context of the established neighborhood. The solution was to focus on some traditional exterior design features of gabled roof and dormers; including a large front porch; trim and siding details; and a configuration of windows that would allow more light into the house.
According to Guether, the initial design phase included doing a field measure that is precise down to fractions of an inch. That is when they discovered that the house was not quite square. With these measurements the GC/a Architecture team had to look at the designs to figure out if the rooms were going to be large enough and if it would all fit.
“We wanted to know if our ideas would give the home character, both inside and out,” says Guenther. “We saw that the wrap around stair [picture on pg. 30] had the potential to let lots of light into the home. It was a great opportunity so we started there.”