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Remodel strategies: 3 ways to grow.

1 Staying within the footprint

In the next 7 pages, how to remodel when you can't go beyond the existing foundation. What can you accomplish? Improve circulation, link inside and outside, increase airiness

2 Going up or down

In next month's Sunset, how to gain space on a tight lot. Where can you go up (or down)? Where to put the new stairway? Creating dramatic volumes. Blending old and new

3 Adding on laterally

In June, what to consider with a horizontal addition. Where do you attach it? What kind of connection or transition? What's the potential for shaping outdoor space?

You decide to remodel. You have many options-and probably just as many constraints. How do you describe what you need and want to an architect, or a designer, or a contractor?

The answer is, by understanding the basic design strategies open to you. This month we begin a series of articles (outlined above) to help you conceptualize your own remodel. In the seven pages that follow, we present strategies for reshaping existing space-staying within your house's present foundation, or "footprint." Subsequent articles will offer other choices: going up or down to gain space, or adding space through lateral extension.

Along with previous Sunset reports on general design ideas such as daylighting with roof-spine skylights (February 1989) and enlarging mass-built houses from different eras (May 1988)as well as our ongoing monthly descriptions of specific makeovers-this series is meant to serve as a design primer for any homeowner contemplating a remodel.

Where to begin? Try an architect's approach

When an architect talks to a homeowner about a potential remodel, he or she usually follows a step-by-step informationgathering procedure. It's a useful model to adapt, regardless of whether you actually hire an architect.

Start with the basics. Why do you want to remodel? Do you need more space, more convenience, more light, or more privacy? Do you want to improve views, improve traffic flow, or both? How do you want each room to function? What is your budget? Is building equity in your house important? Do you care if you "overbuild" for your neighborhood? In other words, what are your priorities, and where are potential trade-offs? Next, outline the physical limitations. If no reliable original blueprints exist, an architect or designer can make new measured drawings to identify which walls are load-bearing, where plumbing lines and beating ducts run, where the sewer or septic tank and gas and electric connections are. There may also be permit requirements, codes, and ordinances to consider.

Then, narrow down to the design strategy that's best for your situation. The six houses featured here illustrate various approaches to consider: changing the circulation pattern, opening up two-story volumes, linking indoors to outdoors, removing or lowering walls, raising the ceiling.

Remember that frustrations, disappointments, and delays are an inevitable part of remodeling. As one architect says "Our job is to eliminate surprises-but unexpected things always seem to happen." A well-thought-out design helps make the process worthwhile.

They reconfigured the circulation for easier flow, greater openness

How do you uncramp the floor plan to improve traffic flow and make your house feel more spacious-without adding a lot of new space? The remodels on these two pages show two ways to accomplish this. In Berkeley, designer Jim Zack bought a decrepit 1880s Victorian cottage and completely reorganized its dark, warrenlike interior. Originally, the house had no hallway; you had to go through the living room to get to the kitchen, and through the kitchen to get to one of the bedrooms. Zack opened the boxes by rethinking the relationships between living spaces. He pulled rooms apart and inserted a new circulation artery an open hallway that angles from the front door to the back of the "Once I decided on the angle and the openness of the hallway"' he says, "everything was freed up."

The hall functions as an interior street, allowing easy access to the back of the house while at the same time skirting the perimeter of every major living space.

Zack treated a new load-bearing central stairway as a divider between living room and dining room. Cutouts in the stair walls allow partial views between the two rooms, emphasizing the spaciousness of the design.

The exterior is little affected. The only hint of the internal developments is a new porch that continues the angle of the new corridor. In a postwar tract house in Los Angeles, David Voorhies, of Voorhies, McMurray Architects, freed the interior from its rigidly boxy design and connected indoor and outdoor spaces.

His method was to reconfigure the house as two distinct zones: a more open, public area for eating and entertaining; and a more private, enclosed area for sleeping and dressing. He replaced the house's central load-bearing wall with a series of load-bearing posts, which then allowed him to move nonstructural interior walls at will. The living room, at the front of the house, remained intact.

To create a single spacious room that could function both as kitchen and dining area, Voorhies removed the walls of the old dining room, kitchen, and utility porch and incorporated the old 4- by 5foot back stoop. He moved the kitchen closer to the entry, separating it from the dining area with an L-shaped, 40-inchhigh counter with a corner post.

For an airier feeling, Voorhies raised the ceiling over the dining area 7 feet with a new shed roof and put a skylight over the center of the room, New French doors and clerestory windows at the back link the dining area directly with the garden and bring in additional light.

A new curvilinear wall-extending from the living room to the back patio distinguishes the public zone from the bedroom area and dramatizes the sense of space.

Opening upstairs to downstairs, linking indoors to outdoors

Few Western remodeling situations challenge owners and architects with stricter constraints than those along the Southern California coast. The owners of this house started with a 1960s stack of beachfront rental units. In converting them to a single-family house, Venice architect Ted Tokio Tanaka had two design limitations. First, the existing building already filled the maximum allowable lot coverage. Second, because of the coastal location, any height increase would require a protracted hearings process-something the owners preferred to avoid.

This solution offers lessons for homeowners who must remodel not only within an existing foundation but within a twostory height limit as well. Tanaka's approach was to open up the interior to admit sunlight and beach views throughout the house, to create two-story volumes, and to gain outdoor living space by

sacrificing some indoor area.

This plan suited the owners, who seldom host numerous overnight guests. For them, removing interior privacy walls, ceilings, and square-footage was an acceptable trade-off.

To open up the ground-floor interior, Tanaka removed the wall that separated side-by-side rental units, replacing it with a 12-foot-long steel beam. This created a living-dining area that could flow across the full 32-foot width of the house. He filled in one 5- by 16-foot patio to enlarge the living room. On the dining side, he enlarged the patio by carving 5 feet from interior space, exposing a fireplace and creating a barbecue patio around it.

In two places, Tanaka punched upward through the lower-story ceiling to create two-story spaces: an airy 8- by 8-foot stairwell ball and an 8- by 10-foot light well over the kitchen (crowned by a 3- by 4-foot skylight). Upstairs, half-walls around the light well let the upstairs share the vertical volume.

As on the ground floor, Tanaka reworked the second floor by alternately filling in and cutting away. He filled in a 5- by 16foot beach-view deck to make a large master bedroom. He unroofed an adjacent 14 by 16 feet of interior space to make a second-story sun deck (with hot tub). Projecting onto the deck is a glasswalled and glass-roofed prow of sunroom that brings a wide expanse of ocean view deep into the house's interior.

To gain 18 inches of added height for the living room below, the architect raised the floor level of this sunroom and the outside deck three steps. Because the glass roof slopes sharply up, the sunroom's reduced headroom isn't noticeable. The lesson here is to think about trading headroom in one place for added height in another.

Look at what you gain when you remove or replace walls

A useful tactic in many remodels is removing walls to clear sightlines through a house or create a more gracious flow between rooms. These two pages show exemplary ways of doing that or of replacing walls with partitions ways that may help you see how to achieve greater openness in your own house.

Karen and Bob Goldin wanted a place where the whole family could gather at the end of the day. By taking out the walls between three adjacent rooms, San Francisco architect Roger East created a combination kitchen breakfast alcove-family room that is more than 38 feet long.

Since none of the old walls carried structural loads, they were easy to remove. In their place, East added an island and a 36-inch-high wall that serves as the back for an L-sbaped bench in the breakfast area. These divide the overall space into sections but don't block views.

Telescope-style, the separate sections grow progressively wider. The kitchen is 9 feet wide. The middle section, or breakfast area, measures 12 feet across. The family room space, previously a garage, is 17 feet wide.

After 15 years in their pleasant threebedroom Craftsman-era house, Barbara and George Gnoss needed more room. It wasn't possible to add on at the side, so San Francisco architect Howard Backen looked for ways to squeeze more spaciousness out of the existing structure.

By remodeling space in an under-utilized basement built into the lot's slope, he was able to create a new master suite. Above, on the main floor, he removed walls between the kitchen, the living room, and an enclosed front porch to create a unified space enhanced by its view of San Francisco Bay. Only the supporting posts remain, showing where walls once were and helping to frame the many vistas.

To make a more useful and graceful approach to the house, Backen moved the entry from its original position at the front of the house at the top of a flight of steps and opening onto the enclosed porch-around to one side. Now a new interior staircase leads from the remodeled basement up to the main level. Like large balconies, the expanded kitchen and living room areas overlook this open stair hall and share views across it.

They opened and brightened the celling for a single sweep of space

The inside and outside of Judy and Tom Buffaloe's ranch-style house seem at odds. The exterior implies the usual 8-foot ceilings. But the living room ceiling has been removed to create a bright space that soars to what was once the ridge line.

Incorporating even a shallow attic's volume into the room below can make a space seem much grander. There's nothing sacred about a ceiling. Its joists serve mainly to tie the outside walls together and structurally reinforce the triangular shape of a pitched roof. Of course, if joists are removed, the roof will want to flatten, so something must be done to maintain the integrity of that triangle.

La Jolla, California, architect Mark Lee Christopher picked up the roof loads with parallel glue-laminated beams and transferred these loads to posts buried in the end walls. Nailing plywood to tbe walls gave them shear strength against sideways movement. It also let him add a 4foot-wide, 25-foot-long, peaked skylight over the old living room and former hall. Christopher also removed the wall to the dining room, opening the core of the house even more.
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Date:Apr 1, 1989
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