Category Archives: project addition

new stair happy dance

I know I’m bouncing back and forth, but I thought I’d show you the stair details for the project. I’m really excited about having this new stair inside the house because the current outdoor stair is a joke.

But, because NOTHING is simple on this project, this stair has required a lot of detailing and finessing. The framing for it is tricky, and so is the railing. I want the finished look to be very crisp and clean, so complicated, yet simple. This could me my life theme. Or maybe simple, yet complicated. I need to mull that over a bit more.


(Again, sorry these images look blurry, click for a crisper view.) Simple railing, tube steel, (I’d like to paint it white), horizontal cables, a simple wood cap on top. On the dining room side I want a credenza / sideboard at the guardrail, so I had the idea to use the railing as the base for this piece. It would match the finish of the kitchen cabinets, and give us some storage for table linens and vases near the table, plus a place to put flowers or a spread of food.

The railing goes down the center of the stair, switching back at the landing, and on the outer side of the lower run, we can’t put a railing to match for a couple of reasons – it would interfere with the entry door swing unless we widen the stair (and every inch counts here), plus it would overlap the guardrail above, and look really cluttered. So we’re hoping to work with our general contractor (who happens to also be a master cabinet maker) to make some sort of perforated wood panel from the edge of the dining room floor down to the den floor – it will let some light in, and be a cool feature at the entrance, but still screen the direct view down into the den from the entrance. I think we have some neat opportunities there.

And no more outdoor stairs!

a few slices, and a look inside

I’m going to wrap these posts up because they feel like they’ve gone on for awhile, and the drawings following these dive deeper into the details. But I thought I’d share the building and a few of the wall sections that do offer a better understanding of how all of these spaces work together.


Upper Left: This is a section cut through the new addition, looking west, backyard is on the left. You can see the folding glass wall on the left, and the wood surround that frames that opening and provides some privacy and sun control to the interior. This is probably the most helpful building section because you can see that “link area” with the skylights in the roof, and the built-in refrigerator and freezer and dish cabinet that extend the galley kitchen another seven feet. You can also see a bit of the kitchen in this section too.

When you look at the lower level, you’ll see that shorter ceiling height at the base of the stairs in the link, where I mentioned before that we couldn’t undercut the original foundation which has a very short head height in the existing basement. But then the basement steps down 21″ from there, and the Den has a higher ceiling. Upstairs we’ll have a drywall ceiling, but downstairs we’ll leave the floor framing exposed and paint it all out white, so it will feel even taller without the flat ceiling. I think I forgot to mention this in the lighting post, but we’re thinking we’ll install a couple of surface mounted tracks to the underside of the floor and mount adjustable light fixtures to them. Mechanical ducts will also be exposed down here, so those will be spiral, and painted out white as well. Similar in feel to this photo.


Upper Right is cut in a similar spot, but is looking east, so just imagine you are pivoting around and looking the other way. You can see the enclosed Balcony on the second floor, the new Pantry area, the Stair landing, the adjacent Mudroom (see what I mean about the really tall ceiling?!), and the Dining Room on the main level, and Den on the lower level – with operable windows in both for ventilation. There is a decent amount of storage underneath the stair, with access to the crawl space under the Mudroom and Pantry.


I’m not sure it’s that valuable to go through all the rest of the drawings in great detail, but I put them here in case you are interested. I know there are more than a few architects that read this blog! (And my parents! They always like more drawings, not less!) Again, if you have any questions, just ask.

Wall Sections

I plan to put together a few more detailed posts that show the interior elevations of the space, which will dive deeper into the kitchen and the stair details. Those will take a little more time to put together, but I promise to get to this soon. We’ve really focused most of our attention on how this jigsaw puzzle goes together – how to maximize the volume of the rooms – new and existing, how to maximize the daylight (and how to control it), natural ventilation, opportunities for green growing space, and how to solve those initial problems that I outlined initially as Objectives for this project. I’ve copied them here to refresh your memory:

1. Connect this big old brick house to the outdoors in a more modern, open manner.
2. Bring light into the center of the house.
3. Upgrade the kitchen into a serious cooking / baking kitchen – not a fancy kitchen, a hardworking kitchen.
4. Carve out a mudroom space to control clutter.
5. Provide an indoor connection to the basement / storm shelter.
6. Create an urban courtyard and a more private outdoor away space.
7. The table is a big part of our family life – create a dining space that celebrates that and also allows us to entertain larger groups of family and friends.
8. Build an alley garage with a future attic space for guests or studio space.
9. Create an informal hang out space in the new basement room – a spill over space from the main level for the kids when the adults are lingering around the table.
10. Bring light into the basement room in a clever way from the outdoor garden. (M suggested portholes into the side of a pool built along the foundation wall!)

I would say we’ve accomplished all of these, even number 10, where we managed to get some natural light into the basement, albeit not through portholes from an adjacent pool. $$$$!

It’s always good to set those initial goals at the beginning, and then to make sure that the decisions that you make along the way align with them. It’s really easy to get off track on a project of this magnitude. Thanks for hanging in there with me, and following along on these posts. What’s your favorite part?


Moving right along – here are the three elevations of the addition (remember to click on them to enlarge):


I had a post last fall about materials, specifically our final choice for the exterior material of the addition and the garage. I think that using brick on the addition was the right way to go, although we’ve moved away from the idea of using both a matte and glazed brick on the exterior, and are sticking with just one brick finish. We originally thought we’d try to carry the line over from the line at the top of our stone foundation on the original house, but it was too fussy. The new addition will be all brick, with no exposed foundation wall.

If you look at that top elevation (east elevation), you’re looking at a view that you will never see in real life! That’s because our neighbor’s house is less than seven feet from ours, and so you can’t really see this side of our house at all, except a skewed version of it from the sidewalk between the houses, looking up. Our neighbor’s house is also longer than ours, although our new addition will extend further into the yard than the end of his house. So you will be able to see some of this from the cross street. That’s another reason we put that large window at the corner of the dining room. It will be nice to have a view to that street, and to also catch that morning east light.

I think I also mentioned this before, but we designed and re-designed the balcony enclosure many times. Originally we wanted to leave the top balcony as porch-like as possible, and use it as a screen porch. But when water gets in, it must come out, and that floor framing actually becomes a roof, and we quickly ran out of room to make that work. We opted to put in the largest sliding windows we could fit, installing the sills just over guardrail height. We’ll be able to slide the windows open and also open the rear door to the deck (which will have a screen door) and it will feel like a screened in porch without the headaches of having one over occupied space.

If you look below the two big sliding windows on the balcony, you’ll see a long, narrow window. That’s in the pantry, high above the shelves. That will let some natural light into that room without cutting down on its usefulness. Some of that light will also spill into our kitchen, which is now technically windowless, outside of the skylights.

The dashed diagonal lines represent a cable system for growing plants up the wall. Behind that we would use a wood T-11 siding, it has a vertical line to it, and it would have an opaque stain, likely similar in color to the brick, but currently not selected yet. We would need to have a shade tolerant climbing plant for this location, but there are a few options out there. I really would love for this entire wall to become green, with just the windows peeking out.

You can also see all the glass at the new side entrance. That entrance is at grade, and comes in at the stair landing. It will be our primary entrance from now on. Continuing to the left is the large casement window in the dining room, and there are two high windows in the basement den below, just above grade.

The south elevation is the folding glass wall system, and the surround in there is also wood, finish TBD. If you look on the second floor of this elevation, you can see the new door from the balcony onto the roof deck, and the green cable system wraps around there. That dark area of brick with the window in it is in the studio space in our house. We might have to rebuild a portion of that masonry wall when the new steel goes in below, so that’s why it’s shown darker. I’m excited to sit at the desks in there and look out onto our roof garden one day!

The west wall is SUPER exciting (not exciting at all) – all brick, as it sits right on our property line and we couldn’t put a window there even if we wanted to. All walls along our property line have to be rated fire walls, which dictates their size and their materials, so it’s just another one of many little things that add up to a fairly complex little project! That complexity is what makes this virtual tour of the project take so long. Thanks for your patience, and for all the funny messages you’ve been sending. If I had a nickel for every “holy cow!” text I’ve received this week, I could probably afford this project.