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Two ways to go with open-plan house of the 1950s.

How do you adapt an open-plan, post-and-beam tract house when you need more space or a different configuration of rooms?

The two San Francisco Bay Area houses shown here were built by developer Joseph Eichler in the 1950s and '60s. Eichler-house hallmarks such as open floor plans, light-yielding atrium spaces, and low-pitched roofs with exposed beams were considered innovative in their day. But as the years went by, some owners found their otherwise-workable houses lacked spaces they wanted or contained spaces that got little use.

These remodels took two approaches. In one, reclaiming space from the atrium gave more square footage indoors. In the other, adding a new wing meant the entire house could be reorganized to "live" in a different way.

1. Atrium remodel

In this house, an open-air atrium lay between the carport and the front door. The owners found they used this outdoor space only as a passageway, not as a garden room. At the same time, they lacked a handy place for informal entertaining.

Architect Ernst Meissner of Menlo Park, California, devised a way to enclose the atrium while increasing the amount of light it brought into the rest of the house. He extended the atrium's perimeter walls up 2 feet on one side and 4 feet on the other, ran a new beam across the length of the space, and covered the area with shed roofs made of translucent insulated fiberglass (Kalwall) panels. Clerestory windows along the ridge above the new beam provide additional light. Enclosing the atrium dealt with one of the house's major energy flaws--its large, outside-facing windows. The new room was transformed into a heat-gathering space. By using a system of adjustable vents and fans, heat can be drawn from the atrium and forced into the rest of the house. In summer the system reverses--heat is drawn out of the house and vented through the clerestory windows.

2. Wing addition

Owners Terrie and Mike MacMahon wanted a clearly defined dining space, a master suite, and a family room somewhat apart from the rest of the house.

Architect Jack Matthews of Palo Alto suggested putting a new kitchen and dining wing behind the garage. Where the old kitchen and family room had been, Matthews placed a new entry hall as well as a master bedroom suite; a new bathroom replaces part of the old kitchen (and uses its plumbing connections).

He also moved the entry, so the front door now opens into the new hall. The master suite extends to include a study area that was designated as a small bedroom in the original plan.

To improve circulation from the kitchen wing across the living room to the bedrooms without adding another hallway, Matthews expanded the living room 3-1/2 feet into the space of the old kitchen--past the support posts for the previous kitchen wall. This area works as a traffic corridor and forms a gallery along one side of the living room. Mexican tiles on the floor highlight the new circulation pattern, visually linking entry, living room gallery, and kitchen-dining wing.

Two central bedrooms are unchanged. The previous master bedroom, at the back of the house, has become a more isolated family room.
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Nov 1, 1985
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