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Looking for more space? Think "caboosing." (house remodeling)

Looking for more space? Think "caboosing"

We're talking about adding on at the back of the house. It's another remodeling strategy--especially for tight lots. Here are five ways to go Try looking backward. On a tight lot, it may be the best way to find space for an addition. Setback requirements often preclude expansion to the front or side. And, as design review boards monitor the impact of each prospective addition on a neighborhood's visual character, they are becoming increasingly critical of what is seen from the street. Enter the "caboose": an extension at the rear of the house that enhances the existing structure without overpowering it. In these pages, we present five such additions, exploring the accomplishments of each. Will your caboose be visible from the street? If so, you must consider how it will relate to the house's architectural character. But if the rear elevation is visible only from your own back garden, there may be an opportunity to be more daring. How will your addition work with the existing floor plan? Can it improve traffic flow? Can it use windows and skylights to brighten interior rooms? Is there a way to create a new or better link with the outdoors? Will you face restrictions? Local codes may prohibit what you build from occupying, with the existing house, more than a certain percentage of your lot. Or daylight plane or height limits may be imposed, so you won't shadow your neighbors.

They added 750 square feet ... for openness, garden views

A feeling of openness in a tight space is the major achievement of this rear addition to a vintage 1912 Berkeley bungalow. The primary living spaces moved away from the street-front side of the small house to face the more private rear garden, allowing the owners to use the original house as an office and guest quarters. Architects Philip Mathews, Regan Bice, and Charles Debbas used a simple, barn-like form with a three-part organization--shed roofs flanking a taller central gable--to shape the roughly 750 square feet of new space. This new silhouette has its own distinctive character, but it nevertheless fits naturally with the house's straightforward peaked roof. Inside, the roughly 25- by 30-foot addition is essentially a series of overlapping spaces. At the center and facing north toward the back garden is the two-story gable, which contains a breakfast area, stairway, and sleeping loft. The wings to its east and west--like large saddlebags--are the living room and kitchen-dining area, respectively. French doors in the central section open onto a brick terrace and the garden beyond. The top of this section--just below the roof spine--functions like a monitor roof, with small square clerestory windows along its length for an even distribution of natural light. Designed as a legal second unit, this addition has its own entrance from the rear of the driveway. Flexibility is built in: if the owners ever want to combine the two structures into a single spacious house, they have only to remove a closet wall, opening a central hallway.

One way to protect neighborhood character is by regulating the size of residential additions. In this case, in San Francisco, the homeowner wanted to add on a large multipurpose room that could serve as home office, library, and guest room. To arrive at an allowable size for the addition, Berkeley architects Henry Siegel and Larry Strain averaged the depth that neighboring houses project into their rear lots and kept within that limit. Although it differs in character from the front of the house, the 250-square-foot addition is a good neighbor. The architects broke its rear wall into a series of bays--respecting the scale of neighboring houses and paying homage to local architectural vernacular. The bays' diagonal layout made it possible to save a garden-facing bedroom window and the entrance to an existing basement, and it preserved the northern neighbor's light and views. The addition's roof line is a few feet higher than that of the main house where they join. This allows for a band of street-facing clerestory windows that bring natural light into the lofty new room. The existing house had been badly remodeled before, and adding on provided an opportunity to improve a tortuous floor plan. A new hallway from the front of the house to the new space at the rear eliminates the need to pass through the kitchen to reach a pair of bedrooms at the back; it also brings light into the central core of the house.

More square feet are difficult to find on the small, crowded lots of Venice, California. To gain two bedrooms, a bath, and a soaring new breakfast room, Judy and Don Michel's caboose went up--adding a second story--atop the rear of the house. Its gabled form keeps it in visual harmony with the house and its neighborhood of former summer cottages. The two main-floor bedrooms became an office and a guest room. When planning access to the new upper-level bedrooms, architect Kenneth David Lee of Encino decided to put the stairway at the back of the house rather than up front by the entry. After all, the upstairs is a private family space, so why reach it from the most public part of the house?

Geometric contrast gives a quality of surprise to the addition at the rear of this boxy, two-story 1960s tract house. It also makes good sense. From inside the glassy half-cylinder shown at far left, you feel surrounded by daylight. The owners asked Los Angeles architect Melinda Payne to rework the rear of the house, which had been too dark in daytime. She replaced a Pullman kitchen with a square, island-anchored room. To brighten it, she used light maple cabinets and flooring, and white synthetic marble (Corian) counters. A windowed semicircular breakfast area opens to the garden. Upstairs, a circular bath welcomes the daylight through glass-block walls, balcony doors, and a wire-glass skylight. On opposite sides of the central shower are identical sinks with mirrors above, cabinets below. Dressing areas are along a short passage to the bedroom.

A space-efficient wedge

This wedge-shaped addition expands interior living spaces and creates a split-level entertaining patio without cramping the rear garden. It doesn't bow to the rectilinear format of the rest of the house. Instead, it juts out at a 30 [degrees] angle across a little-used corner of the yard, so it doesn't seem to take up much space. Inside, the 300-square-foot flat-roofed addition expands the kitchen and adds a family room. Both rooms look diagonally across the garden through a grid of 2-foot-square windows. Outside, a trellistopped colonnade of square columns follows the angle of the addition. It will support a wisteria vine. The addition was by architectural designer Dennis Patrick Finnigan of Mountain View, California, and Mark Widstrand.

PHOTO : Simple, symmetrical extension creates cottage feeling, complete with rustic flue

PHOTO : Multipaned windows in central gable flood new living-dining area with light and open the

PHOTO : view into the garden. French doors promote an appealingly casual relationship with the

PHOTO : outdoors

PHOTO : Bays step out and windows step down, creating illusion of deeper space as new addition

PHOTO : extends into garden. At highest point, ceiling soars to 15 feet

PHOTO : Addition stopped short of existing window at right, saving the bedroom's garden view

PHOTO : Though visible from street, setback gable doesn't overpower modest facade

PHOTO : Stairwell climbs out of new two-story breakfast room at back of house. Once-dark kitchen

PHOTO : gains abundant natural light from breakfast room's skylight and big windows

PHOTO : Balcony is an open-air perch off new glass-block bath above breakfast area

PHOTO : Ridge skylight rains daylight on stall shower at center of circular bath

PHOTO : Circular soffit over breakfast area echoes shape of bath above it. Waist-high wing walls

PHOTO : with inset glass blocks define kitchen

PHOTO : Angled out from two-story house, the addition adds contemporary accents with large window

PHOTO : grid, tile-covered patio, overscaled trellis

PHOTO : Before, Mediterannean-style house sat square to the lot, with smallish windows and poor

PHOTO : access to the back garden
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Apr 1, 1990
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