Renovation Solutions: Frankenhouses: horrifying home remodels

Published: Friday, Oct. 28 2011 7:31 p.m. MDT

Multiple additions can create a disjointed feeling and negatively impact curb appeal.

Picasa, Annie V. Schwemmer

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Happy Halloween!

In honor of this ghoulish holiday, we want to tell a scary story: "The Story of the Frankenhouses."

Frankenhouses are homes that have been "renovated" and yet feature things such as pipes running through living rooms, rooms strung together like garlic cloves and roof lines that look as if an object from outer space has fallen from the sky upon some poor, unsuspecting house.

Frankenhouses are created by inexperienced do-it-yourselfers or homeowners and contractors who fail to appreciate the value of good design. Usually, a perfectly good home is morphed into a Frankenhouse by homeowners trying to save money to the extreme. Though these horror houses are not the norm, enough of these remodels exist that we have all seen Frankenhouse elements to some degree.

Here are some examples:

Dyfunctional floorplans: One Frankenhome owner constructed an addition that made the traffic flow in their home a nightmare. The only way from the living room to the kitchen was through a bedroom. Imagine stumbling through a bedroom for a midnight snack!

Room ratios gone awry: One of the signs that a home was remodeled without much thought is a five-bedroom-to-one-bathroom ratio. That makes for a scary morning schedule!

A similar problem is a home with inadequate infrastructure. This would be an existing kitchen and/or dining area that is too small to support the crowd that can be gathered in a huge, new family room or the family members that fills up a newly added suite of bedrooms. Make sure you keep the big picture in mind and don't get carried away with 'fixing' only one area of your home. Remodeled areas or additions must be carefully balanced with your existing home.

The bad garage conversion: Converting the garage to extra living space can be one way to add space while minimizing costs. However, thoughtless conversions ruin curb appeal when the new residential wing still looks like the old garage. In addition, you should also carefully consider a major consequence of this type of remodeling: You don't have a garage anymore, which can seriously affect your home's value and appeal.

Unbalanced floor plans: While you may want to devote more space in your home to your hobbies or areas of interest, don't do it at the expense of everything else. For instance, one home we saw had a huge kitchen, complete with a beautiful island, but no living room. That doesn't make sense for most families! Even if you think it works for you, you must keep an eye to resale — even if you anticipate that it will be years in the future. No one will want a house that is too intensely personalized.

Bedrooms with no closets: Bedrooms may end up with no closets for a couple of reasons. A previous renovation could have removed closets to increase the bedroom's floor space, or could have reallocated the square footage of the closet to an adjoining room. (For instance, they could have used the closet space to add a separate shower to an existing bathroom or to maximize the closet space in a master bedroom. Whatever the cause, this is not a good design solution. It negatively affects resale value since rooms without closets cannot be considered bedrooms, as well as reducing the functionality of your home for your own family.

The house that ate your neighborhood: Monster houses are aptly named for this season. Homeowners or speculators who try to force too much onto a residential lot cause many problems for those nearby. Views are blocked, sunlight is restricted, and neighborly relations are strained to the breaking point. While variety in design styles or elements can add interest to a neighborhood, make sure your remodel takes into account the context of its immediate environment.

Jungle landscaping: No matter how lovely the inside of your home, when the landscaping is taking over the yard and sometimes the house, it creates a dark, scary feeling. Keep the landscaping under control and you will avoid the appearance of a Frankenhouse.

Neglected and poorly remodeled houses can be a monster to re-remodel the right way, and it will generally cost more money than adapting a well-designed home. If you find yourself is this situation, fix the mess by working with a team of professionals. Work with an architect to ensure that your dream home does not end up a nightmare from which you cannot awake!

Architects Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founders of Renovation Design Group, www.renovationdesigngroup.com, a local design firm specializing in home remodels.

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