The next chapter in my love affair with old houses starts with shoes. His shoes. My shoes. Our shoes. Shoes were everywhere, and it just wasn't working out anymore!
Perhaps I should back up a bit. In 2000, I met the person who would be my partner for the next 7 years. We both worked in the retail industry, were both successful at what we did, and both had a thing for shoes. Working in stores tends to make one a savvy consumer, and we had the shoes to prove it. Being the first to see new arrivals, we knew to snatch the latest trends while our sizes were still in stock. And when shoes went on sale, we could stock up on things we liked, but weren't willing to pay full price for. When the shoes began to take over the house, we realized that we both had shoes we never wore. New rule: if you buy a new pair of shoes, you have to get rid of an old pair. This worked great until all the shitty shoes were gone- then the battles began! "Can we throw these away? You never wear them, and I saw some new Nikes I want. I've already ditched all of my crappy shoes- I wear all of these!" We surmised that civilized people don't fight over things like this, and our problem was not rabid consumerism- it was a lack of space!
We considered all of our options. Do we sell and find something bigger? Do we remodel and add space to the existing house? Is there anything out there that meets our needs? Would remodelling this house be a worthwhile investment?
I guess you know by now we decided to add on and remodel. We loved the neighborhood and wanted to stay in the Heights. We did the math, and felt the house could easily support the investment, especially since were planning to stay a while. We also discovered, at the time, that most of the houses on the market in the Heights had the same limitations- insufficient closets, one bathroom, and no room for a king-sized bed. Consulting with the architectural firm of McIntyre+Robinowitz, we landed on a plan that reminds me a bit of a New Orleans "camelback," where a 2-story addition is set behind an original single-story home. We had the advantage of a corner lot, so we were able to incorporate the existing garage with entry off the side street. This meant from the front, the home appeared as it always had, and the extension only became obvious when you rounded the corner.
It allowed for us to incorporate a downstairs family room that was open to the kitchen, with an outdoor porch and patio to extend the living space. Up the oak staircase, we were able to include a new master suite with plenty of room for a king-sized bed. The architects really listened to our desire for it to feel "of the right period" and we were thrilled with the results.
I'll start the tour in the most unlikely of places- the primary closet. The entire second floor became a new primary suite, with a huge bedroom, convenient laundry room, and walk-in closet that ran the width of the house. The photo you see here is from the entry, and represents one half of the closet; the other half, a mirror image, is behind you. This gave us all the space we needed for 2 large wardrobes of casual and business clothes, as well as shoes. The shelving and rods were very cleverly designed to be interchangeable, so space could convert between hanging and shelved as needs changed. It functioned as a closet/dressing room, which allowed once person to sleep in while the other dressed for an early day, or allowed 2 people to get dressed at once since each had their own side.
Civility returned to our family, and we each had room for all of our shoes!
The new primary bedroom had plenty of space for a king-sized bed, and by raising the ceilings, the architects added volume to keep it from overwhelming the room. Their signature use of shiplap on the ceiling to provide an "attic aerie" feel was very convincing, even though there was actually sheetrock and insulation underneath. High windows on one wall accommodated the tall headboard, and a window seat added a vintage touch and a cozy place for relaxation- though it was enjoyed more often by the household cats than by anyone else!
As luck would have it, the contractor was able to find reclaimed flooring from another project, so the oak floors brought charm and patina to the newly-constructed part of the home to make it feel cohesive and timeless.
Rounding out the primary suite was a double bath, jetted with soaking tub, large walk-in shower, separate water closet, and double vanities. We were able to find almost enough tile to duplicate the original floor of the downstairs bath, but to manage the shortage, the installer place a plain white border around the room, ensuring there was enough mosaic to finish the job. Deep drawers at both ends of the bathtub, as well as in the vanity, provided ample storage for towels and linens.
The new space downstairs consisted of a large family room, with gas fireplace flanked by oversized inglenook bookcases, giving a craftsman-esque feel. Recycled flooring was integrated seamlessly where the new met the old, and everything was refinished to match. Pocket door replaced what had originally been the window to the back bedroom, and that room could be opened to extend the family room and allow a circular flow, or closed to allow privacy as a second guest room. For us it made a cozy extension to the living areas and allowed for large parties without a crowded feeling.
The family room was open to the enlarged kitchen, and the back door provided direct access to the back yard.
The ceiling in the kitchen was raised to 9 ft to match the rest of the addition seamlessly, and new cabinets were site-built to fit the expanded space a new appliances. We rebuilt the serving hutch along the opposite wall to match the new cabinets and sprayed everything a rich brick red to give it warmth and character. While I wasn't 100% convinced I could live with red cabinets, I trusted my partner on this and I'm glad I did!
The new layout provided room for a breakfast table between the family room and the kitchen, and a large pantry under the stairs held a wine fridge in addition to the usual contents.
Just on the other side of the kitchen was the dining room and living room combo, made more cohesive by the relocation of a support beam into the attic. We often converted this space into banquet seating for 24 to accomodate an extended family for holidays- and no one had to sit at a children's table!
As much as we loved the house, the outdoor space is probably where we spent most of our time. With a raised deck at the same level as the interior flooring, it was easy to step outside for a morning coffee or a glass of wine after work. Three more steps down to the flagstone patio we enjoyed grilling and serving from the outdoor kitchen. The traditional home had been given modern comfort and convenience while maintaining a classic style.
I learned so much about old houses during that process, and now in my career as a real estate consultant, I learn more every day. I'll continue this series with some of those lessons, so anyone who is interested in older home can learn from my experience- and perhaps even my mistakes!
Most recently, I've been working with a dream client, who is looking for his own "vintage" house to remodel and restore. We've looked at myriad of homes in neighborhoods all over town to find the perfect candidate in his price range. Finally, I asked him "what era are you most interested in?" To that he replied "Oh, something mid-century, like 1960-1970!" Once I recovered from the sucker-punch realization that I, my friends, am officially considered "mid-century," I picked myself up off the floor and showed him the perfect house!