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November 29, 2010 / Robert Ross


Before photo from street

This is the house that Jack built….. in the late 1940’s after he returned from the war and started working for his father. It was a smart 3 bedroom house with a side porch designed to appeal to young men like him. It was an optimistic time. Men were back from the war and starting to rebuild their lives with new families. This particular starter home was purchased by Ward and June, two young kids in search of the American Dream.  They moved in, promptly had their 2 sons. Somewhere during the 1950’s the side porch became an enclosed space to give the kid’s more space.  A few years later, Ward and the boys planted the crepe myrtle out front in honor of June’s birthday.  Time passed, the boys grew up and moved away. Then June found herself alone after many, many happy years. In 1987, June sold the house to Steve and Elyse and moved to California to live with her youngest son and his family.

Times and lifestyle needs had evolved.  Steve and Elyse, randy and liberated young couple that they were, decided they needed a little privacy from their 2 young children Mallory and Alex. They decided to update the house by adding a new kitchen, Master Bedroom and bath, and a deck structured to support a hot tub. They also combined the original kitchen and dining room to create a much larger dining room. During the celebratory initiation of their new living arrangements, things got a little crazy. 9 months later their 3rd child is born. Faced with a declining city school system, and 3 kids, they decide to move to the suburbs of East Cobb in the mid 1990’s.

Before Plan. The original house had a flat back and an open side porch. Previous renovation added to the rear.

Located in a quiet pocket neighborhood with prime access to midtown and Buckhead, their house is supremely located and catches the eye of a hip young single guy, Trend Setter. Like many of his new neighbors, he does not anticipate children.  He does have a great many friends and family that visit often. Trend lives a relatively quiet, stable life focusing on his career and vast network of friends.  He also maintains the house superbly. After enjoying the house for 10 years or so, his feelings about the house start to change.  The negatives are starting to outweigh the positives. He finds himself faced with a dilemma. He really likes the location, but the house no longer reflects him as an individual. Should he move or should he ………….renovate?

New Plan. Subtle shifts of interior space are revealed that transform the existing space.

Unlike most people facing this dilemma, he chooses to call in his Architectural Designer friend, rather than his Real Estate friend.  After their first meeting at the house, the answer becomes clear. He really does not want to move. He loves the location, the house is sized right for his lifestyle, there are just a few things out of whack that need to be addressed to make the house mesh with his needs. AD assures him that the house can transform into what he wants it to be and, even more promising, at a reasonable cost.

First on his list is the entry. He, like most of his neighbors, actually uses his front door on a daily basis. He loves the old gnarly crepe myrtle out front. Rather than butchering it every year, he has carefully pruned it during his stewardship and it is truly a magnificent living sculpture. He likes the idea of a porch  and would like it to feel taller. Second on the list is somehow capturing the useless side room into the main living area of the house. Third, he would somehow like to increase his closet space. Like a lot of single bloke’s his wardrobe is rather substantial and a little crushed by current conditions.

Finally, Trend is bored with the Craftsman style that seems to have taken over Atlanta. Does AD think that the house could possibly be a little more …. contemporary?  EUREKA! Little does he know it, but AD has been lusting for the opportunity to do something contemporary.

New expanded Living RoomThe former porch is captured into the Living Room space and tied together with a vaulted ceiling. Off center tall window allows for furniture placement, light, and art walls.

After a close evaluation of the existing plan, AD proposes to take half of the little porch area and convert it to Master closet. He takes the other half and adds it to the living room. He also proposes vaulting the ceiling in the living area to give it more height. Trend is a little concerned about losing some attic storage, but after a little analytical discussion about “why?”, he chooses volume. AD has long ago learned that “why” is the most important question that can be asked of a client. (The client can always tell you “what” they want, but “why” unveils true motivations, often leading to drastically different solutions!) The living room ceiling becomes vaulted!

Relocated Dining Room wall expands Living Room and creates a sense of passage into Dining Room

AD also notices that the fireplace wall dividing the living and the dining room is in the wrong place. The fireplace should jut into the living room, not the dining room. Moving that wall will add 2 feet to the width of the living room without negatively impacting the Dining room. Trend asks if he needs the wall or if the spaces should simply flow like he’s seen in other renovations. AD is able to convince him that corners are not only important for space definition, but also the act of walking through an opening also makes a space seem larger.

Implied Foyer. Flattened ceiling at Entry end of Living Room provides a transitional space.

As with most houses of the period, the front door opens directly into the living room. AD proposes leaving the ceiling over that end of the living room lower to imply a foyer. Trend is unsure, but decides to trust. AD assures him it will create a nice transition from the new porch to the vaulted interior. The door is also replaced with a wood and frosted glass door to provide light into a previously dark end of the living room. The new styling of the door coupled with a handsome modern entry set in polished chrome sets the tone for the house.

Welcome home! Stairs and side walls were field adjusted to make a gracious and inviting entry.

Finally to the porch. Trend wants the entry to feel taller and lighter. AD listens and comes up with a creative system of floating roof planes that balance a heavy stone base. The resulting  asymmetrical composition and neutral, earthy colors balance and complement the living sculpture of the crepe myrtle. The floating planes allow light to penetrate the porch and create some dramatic shadow play. At night, an up light focused on the underside of the upper plane, provides a welcoming glow at the entry. The two can lights on the exterior stone columns flanking the stairs provide a wonderful accent, illuminating the texture of the stone.  The arrangement of the stairs naturally flow toward the drive, providing a graceful and natural entry path for the owner and his guests.

Still lacking final landscaping and interior artwork, the house sits elegantly and quietly on the traditional street. Trend is happy, his neighbors are happy and the house is set for the next 20-30 years…….except for that dated kitchen!

Evening shot showing floating planes and lighting effects.


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  1. Blog Finds « Happiness?

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