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Want a family room? There are ways.

Want a family room? Spending time together in a place where family members can play games, watch television, work on school projects, read books, listen to music, enjoy an informal meal, or throw a party has become a high priority for many Westerners. If the houses they live in don't have such space, many homeowners are finding places to add on, or converting existing areas into these multipurpose rooms. Such an all-around place really isn't anything new, but it has taken on many new forms.

On these six pages, you'll see six family rooms that were created by remodeling existing houses. Each room demonstrates a different possible location for adding such a gathering place. Some are above or below the main floor of the house, while others project from the house, open up its corners, or transform its existing square-footage. While two are adjacent to kitchens (the traditional location), others lie some distance from that busy household hub.

The point is that a family room can function wherever you add it, and undoubtedly it will become the room in the house where you'll end up spending the most time in those fleeting hours between the end of the workday and sleep.

For many busy families, the traditional living room and dining room have become places for formal entertaining, not for day-to-day living. A family room has to be a little more forgiving of the rough-and tumble reality of living with children. In many ways, it can be better to have it slightly out of sight and removed from a home's formal spaces. After all, it should be the kind of room that copes with a high level of use--and one you don't have to clean up all the time.

Architecturally, most of these rooms blend with the style of the houses they're part of. Functionally, the rooms share many common features: plenty of storage (for books, games, television, and stereo) and floor space (for projects that spread out, teenagers who sprawl, or, in one case, in-house recitals).

The rooms all feature easily maintained and hard-wearing floors--hardwood, tile, or industrial-style carpeting--which accept the abuses of family life.

Cozy fireplace room adjoins the kitchen

Inheriting an unfinished addition that had been tacked onto the rear of their house, these new homeowners turned what first appeared to be an ugly duckling into a graceful swan. They knocked out the corner of the 16- by 24-foot original addition and wrapped it with a five-sided bay.

Soft-edged plaster shelves unify the space and are sized to accommodate books, television, and firewood. Mexican paver tiles and natural wood throughout give the room a warm pueblo feeling. Sandblasting gave the beams a weathered look.

A tile-topped raised health runs the length of the largest bay. At a height to invite informal perching, it comes in handy when the owners entertain. The arch-shaped fireplace recirculates its heat for maximum efficiency.

The front of the house blocks street noise, and surrounding garden provides dapled shade and leafy views.

Palo Alto designer Richard Elmore moved the house's original kitchen from the front of the house into the addition. (A formal dining room now occupies the old kitchen space.) The broad, tiled counter separating the kitchen from the family room is ideal for buffets.

Late in the day, the children pull stools up to the counter and spread out homework while their parents prepare dinner and compare notes on the day.

Many-purpose room was the garage

With its living room too formal for casual living, this house needed a room dedicated to recreation and less-formal entertaining. An attached garage, next to the kitchen and just off a central hallway, was the logical place for such a room.

A fireplace built into the back wall gives the room a cozy focal point. A built-in buffet provides serving space and beverage storage. Bookshelves, built-in desks, and cabinets make a home-office area on a third wall, while the fourth opens to the garden with French doors. The remodel was by Peter Rodi of Designbank, San Diego, for Chris and Craig Andrews.

Like a welcoming smile, a wide porch with gleaming white railings greets guest as they approach this ranch-style house in northern California's wine country. The porch wraps around three sides of a 25-foot-square family room added to one end of the house.

Formerly, a blank wall was all that people saw as they came up the long driveway. Owners Nola and Tom Colbert needed a generous gathering place, and they wanted an addition that was inviting to the eye but also looked as if it had always been there. The resulting room gives the house both distinctive architectural sytle and a bright and airy space that's as comfortable for two peope to read in quietly as it is for big sit-down meals and parties that overflow to the porch.

With the exception of a bumped-out bathroom and closet on one side, the room is the same width as the original end wall, and it extends the house's ridge line without altering its height.

Because the lot slopes down from the original house, the addition's tiled floor sits 2 feet lower than the floor of the main house. The new level combines with an exposed ceiling structure to give the room an intriguing 13-foot height, which contrasts with the 8-foot ceilings within the rest of the house.

To keep the roof structure open, a long glue-laminated beam extends from the former end of the house and stops on a post at the midpoint in the new outside wall. From the center of this beam, two other beams extend to the side walls, forming a huge plus sign overhead. Left exposed these big intersecting beams carry the weight of the rafters. They also become the ridges for four intersecting gambles, which radiate from the midpoint of the roof.

Two sets of French doors, large and small windows, and glass blocks in the south and west walls add air and light. Triangular windows flank the beam-supporting posts near the peak of the gables; one of each pair can open. Slender horizontal windows separated by squares of glass blocks run above the French doors and main fixed windows. The remaining two walls are solid, making room for art displays and built-in bookshelves.

Santa Rosa architect Michael Rubenstein designed this addition with an easy flow to its own informal garden. The roof of the 7-foot-wide porch, which wraps around three sides of the addition, shades the windows of the south-facing site in summertime. On the driveway side, 11-foot-wide stairs lead to an outside patio, while on the tree-shrouded west side, triangular mini-deck projects into the side yard.

A second-story addition mostly for chamber music

The delicate sound of chamber music occasionally spills down from this second-floor family room that's part of an addition to the rear of a small bungalow. Because the lot slopes away from the rear of the house, the 15- by 18-foot space lies only a half-flight of stairs above the rest of the house.

Like so many family rooms, this one assumes many roles. File cabinets and a desk help create a home office; built-in shelves makes it a library, a futon sofabed lets it serve as a guest room.

But the space's most distinctive use is as a music room. A violist, owner Marta Tobey can rehearse in quiet here, while husband Roger Ramey watches over their boys elsewhere in the house. Sound escapes only when double doors are open. The room uses tall interior windows on the north end to block sound to and from the room but let in light. The tall end windows, which are framed in clear Douglas fir, face smaller windows in the outside north wall. Both sets follow the pitch of the roof--the exterior windows by rising higher, the interior ones by becoming progressively taller.

The master bedroom and bath also share the top floor of the addition, and two bedrooms, a bath, and laundry area fill the floor below. The remodel was designed by architect Kwan Lam Wong of Albany, California.

Divided for adults' and children's activities

"Wee needed a place where the kids could play without the rest of the house being trashed," says homeowners Linda Knox. The Knoxes found it in an unfinished basement, a two-room space that had previsouly contained a furnaced and a laundry room and had become little more than a catch-all storage area.

The San Francisco architectural firm of House + House converted the 19-1/2- by 30-foot basement into a two-part family room that lets children play in one section and adults sit or exercise in the other. A 4-foot-thick storage wall, opened by two wide passageways, separates the two zones. Built into this thick wall are storage niches that hold toys and books.

Overhead lights and bold colors brighten the space, which has French doors on one end as its only natural light source. The owners and architects picked colorful plastic toys, then used the same colors on the cubbyholes, doors, and wood trim to contrast with the light gray of the walls and carpeting.

Walled patio becomes family room ... still lighted naturally

Attached to the rear of a house, a 22-by 30-foot walled patio became a family room that offers more privacy byt still enjoys a flood of natural light.

The room's interior is visible from the outside only through French doors. Three skylights let light stream in from above (scattered panels of glass block also add brightness); prominent are two 4- by 14-foot peaked ones that run almost the entire depth of the room. One peak runs above the seating area (top left picture), which faces a deep built-in case for stereo and television equipment and a fireplace outlined with glass block.

The patio was about 2 feet below house level. To make the new room feel more a part of the Mediterranean-style, architect Scott Strumwasser, of the Los Angeles firm Enclosures, built a foundation that brings the floor to just 6 inches below the rest of the house. The perimeter of the new floor is oak, which rings a hardwearing "tile rug"--a 15- by 22-foot rectangle of 16-inch-square Frech pavers that lie flush with the wooden floor.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Feb 1, 1990
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