Remodel enhances functionality without stepping outside footprint

By Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Aug. 17 2012 9:14 p.m. MDT

Before and after: The Grahams remodeled their 100-year old house in the historic Avenues in Salt Lake City. They rebuilt the rear of the house to expand the kitchen and make it more stable in the process.

Kevin Bunnell, Renovation Design Group

Everyone has a dream for their home. The trick is deciding whether that dream is worth spending tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to make it a reality.

Part of our job is to help clients understand that the dream for their house should not be about adding a door here and removing a wall there. It should be about improving the quality of their lives.

A remodel should make your life easier, happier and more comfortable. That impact is different for everyone and unique to every family in their various seasons of life. Interestingly, the impact to your family does not necessarily equate to the size of your remodel. Many times, relatively small changes have dramatic results.

Often renovations that have a huge impact on a client’s life are not even visible from the exterior of the house. We have done remodels that stay within the original footprint and simply reconfigure and repurpose space, which drastically changes the functionality of a home.

We recently held an open house for a newly completed project. For 23 years, Chris and Fred Graham have lived in a charming 100-year-old classic arts and crafts home in the heart of one of Salt Lake City’s historic districts.

Like many remodeling projects in the historic Avenues, this renovation stayed within the original footprint of the home. The project basically rebuilt a previous rear addition that was poorly constructed and had seen better days. The old sleeping porch had been closed in decades ago to provide additional living space. One room behind the back bedroom served as Chris’ office while the space behind the kitchen housed the laundry room. Because there was no foundation under this rear porch area, the wood was rotting away and it was basically falling apart.

The Grahams knew this remodel was inevitable considering the condition of the space. Chris says the rooms were so unsteady that the washer and dryer would actually shake the floors.

“It was very precarious,” she says.

The new design called for keeping the roof over the porch area while demolishing everything underneath it. A new addition was added on the same footprint. It provided not only a sturdy foundation for the area, but actual basement space below.

The rear wall of the kitchen was removed to connect into the space of the former laundry to create an eating area and a larger, more open kitchen. The washer and dryer are actually still in the space, but now hide behind two closet doors. The other side of the addition remains Chris’ office, which is now equipped with functional windows, new lighting, insulation and heating/air conditioning.

The new basement area also serves two purposes: The portion under the kitchen is open to the existing basement to provide space for a future family room, and the space under the office is a large storage room.

In terms of scope, this was a relatively small remodel. However, to the Grahams it was not a small venture and took years of planning and preparation. Chris says now that their family is grown they didn’t really need more space throughout the house, but definitely needed additional gathering space when the children and grandchildren come to visit.

Expanding the kitchen was a longstanding dream of theirs.

“I often would stand in the kitchen and imagine how nice it would be to take out the wall and expand the kitchen,” Chris says. “Everyone gathered in the kitchen before. The difference is now they can gather in the kitchen comfortably.”

For the Grahams, this remodel was about enhancing functionality with smart and creative design. We learned at the open house that though they didn’t do it to impress anybody, everyone who sees it is impressed nonetheless. Besides the increased functionality of the space, their selection of suitable and attractive finishes adds to the beauty of an already wonderful home.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the Principal Architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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