Daily Archives: February 23, 2017

big plans

Let’s move inside, shall we?

There’s a lot of information packed into these plans, but hopefully it’s not too difficult to see once enlarged. I think I’ll start on the main level, which is the middle plan below, and I’ll attempt to keep it to under a thousand words:

If we start in the kitchen, you’ll see that the we’re not straying too far from the original location, with several key changes. First, the old outdoor side porch will be enclosed and become a walk-thru pantry. The east wall will have floor to ceiling shelving with some drawer units as well. This will give us a lot of storage for food and other kitchen items, freeing up a lot of space in the original kitchen space. Which is good because we aren’t going to have any upper cabinets in the main kitchen. (I’ll explain more when I get to the interior elevations.) We’ll have a larger range, a larger sink, a dishwasher, and several base drawer cabinets in the kitchen, but the length of that galley wall will grow by seven feet into the new addition. The refrigerator and freezer columns will reside in that section, as well as a full height cabinets with drawers and pull out dish storage.

In that 7′ wide section – what I call the “link” between the new addition and the original house – we have a new stair. If you look on the east wall, you’ll see a new entry door that comes in at grade onto a stair landing. You can walk up a few steps to the addition or down a few more to the new basement den. Just off this landing is a small mudroom. It doesn’t have a huge footprint, but we have some cool ideas for maximizing storage inside it. And it will be the FIRST CLOSET in our house. We’ve had a closet-less house for seventeen years, building in wardrobes and cabinets where we’ve needed storage. The current entrance to our house is directly into our living room, and we’ve tried jamming all of our jackets and shoes into an old media cabinet. I’m really looking forward to this new layout. That entry wall is all glass – from the landing to the ceiling above, so roughly 14′ high. We also have two skylights in the roof above this link, so we should get a lot of natural light into this space. With the entire rear wall open to this link, that light should really flood the kitchen. The skylights will be motorized, so we can open them, and operate retractable screens and retractable shading devices as well to give us control over the amount of light coming in.

If the budget holds out, we’re hoping to differentiate the materials on all the surfaces of this link – the full height cabinets, the walls, the ceiling – hopefully in a light wood finish that still bounces the light around.

Moving into the addition, you’ll find our new dining room! It’s the same size as the front two rooms in our house – roughly a 17′ x 17′ square. The south wall will have a folding glass wall that fully opens, with a retractable screen that pulls out to keep the bugs out when the wall is open. There’s a large casement window on the east side of the room – I wanted a big opening there to let in the early morning light. We’re only 21 blocks from the Mississippi river, and one of my favorite things on our street is the early morning sunrise and pink skies just outside our house. I wanted to walk into the kitchen in the morning and see that giant swath of sunlight spilling across the table. The window will open as well, and in conjunction with the skylights, should create a nice breezeway on pleasant days – which apparently start in February now.

Downstairs (drawing on the left), we’ll have a Den / Playroom the same size as the Dining Room above. In the link area, the floor level is at the same level as the current basement because we can’t undermine the existing stone foundation. But we wanted a decent head height in the den, so we’ve lowered the slab 21″ (3 risers) in the den, which will allow us a higher ceiling. We’re leaving all the framing exposed down here – painting it all out white, similar to the way we’ll treat the ceiling in the garage apartment. That will increase the feeling of height in the space, and we’ve also got two operable awning windows on the east side for natural light and ventilation. This space will give us some overflow space for the girls and their friends when we have people over – it’s closer and more connected than sending them upstairs to their third floor bedrooms to play. It will also give us a nicer space to hang out in during tornado warnings. Those are only going to increase. (See spring in February comment above.)

Lastly (I’m currently at 825 words), the Second Floor / Roof Plan is on the right. The former balcony (that we never finished) is now enclosed, with oversized sliding windows to open for breezes. This room is adjacent to our current studio space, and we’ll be able to open everything up to those breezes on nice days. There will be a door at the end of the Balcony that accesses the Roof Deck over the new addition. Our roof is structured for occupancy and for also supporting a green roof / grow roof. So we’ll use this space for outdoor gardening and relaxing when we want a little more privacy. The second floor of our house is really a giant master suite – and I see this as an extension of that. We’ll have a hose bib installed, and electric as well, so we’ve got the flexibility to finish this out as we want. We’ll tackle most of this part on our own, as time and budget allow.

Those are the plans! Feel free to ask questions if you have any. (“any” was word 1,001!)

site, site baby

First things first: when I uploaded this drawing I laughed because the addition looks BLACK. And we are using a black brick, but it’s still not THAT black. When you see the drawing at full scale, the new work is rendered in a darker line weight than the existing building – which is why the old house looks gray and the new looks like an ink blot at this scale. Click to enlarge it and it’s better.


The top drawing shows a cross section through our lot – if you imagine slicing it along the narrow walkway between our house and our neighbor-to-the-east’s house and then you look west. It shows the east elevation of the addition and the new enclosed balconies. Because the garage extends all the way to the east property line, this section cuts through the building, so you can see the stair to the upper apartment, and also the landing and ship’s ladder stair to the roof hatch, which will access the roof deck / roof garden above. The lower left drawing shows the stair to the garage entry door. Remember that the alley level is about 4′ below our yard level, so we have to go down to get into the garage. We probably tried fourteen different configurations of stairs – interior, exterior, turned, straight, entering at a landing, everything. Few worked with head clearances and the site conditions, not to mention the flexibility of uses for that upper apartment. If we ever rented out the space, the tenants or guests will have to walk through our yard to access the carriage house, but having a door on the alley side didn’t make any sense if we want to use the space ourselves or have family stay there. And I wouldn’t feel comfortable having a tenant park on the street and then walk down the alley to their front door. So this is where we landed!

The layout of the yard space is tentative – we’ll design that space more as the project progresses. You can see that the walls of the addition extend out beyond the folding glass wall, creating a small deck area where the glass panels can fold and rest when open, and where we can put a few chairs or pillows out and enjoy the sun. We’ll have some sort of stair / planter arrangement that will help us minimize the need for railings. And then we want to have a small seating area on the ground, with planting beds around it. There will be a nice shade garden against the wall of the garage, and I’d love a hammock there. By having a large dining room with a wall that completely opens, I think the outdoor space will feel quite comfortable for entertaining, and also cozy enough for just the four of us to relax in on a daily basis.

We’ll have to lay the salvaged bricks down again leading to the new garage stair. M wants to plant some fruit trees that have been trained to grow flat against that new east fence line. And the dashed diagonal lines along the enclosed balconies represents a cable system for growing green up the side of that portion of the house. It’s almost spring! Give me all the green!