Serious Fun: A Craftsman Enters a New Century
(This case history from Renovation 4th Edition reflects today’s need to maximize space and functionality, conserve resources, and create homes that can accommodate life’s changes.)
The two-bedroom bungalow “instantly felt like home” to Sandra and David. It had beautiful old windows, wavy glass, unpainted woodwork and built-in china cabinets in the dining room, and the house had been well-cared for. Small by today’s standards–roughly 1150 sq. ft.–it had comfortably housed a couple and their three kids when it was new. Its close quarters would be something of a challenge because one of the bedrooms would become David’s home office, but the couple welcomed the opportunity to get rid of stuff they didn’t need, recycle on a regular basis and live simply.
The kitchen, however, was a horror: cramped, dingy and badly out of date. The bathroom was also dark and a bit funky, but they could live with it. The couple lived in the house before starting their renovation but when they did, they had an ace in the hole. David’s cousin, Fran Halperin, was an architect who loved a challenge.
“A kitchen you can use without bumping into stuff! More storage, more counters, more room. It’s impossible to keep clean, and the old linoleum is shot. The bathroom is dark, it would be nice for both of us to have our own space in it. We rarely use the tub.”
Take out the walls and open it up to create one large kitchen space. Create a large island whose concrete countertop includes a cooktop, prep areas and places to eat and hang out. Replace the full-sized fridge (17 cu. ft.) with a European (9 cu. ft.) model. Upgrade the sink and replace the glass in the over-sink window with obscure glass to increase privacy. Replace the old linoleum with Marmoleum. A desk in the kitchen for Sandra next to the east window.
Replace the old, encased tub with a glassed-in shower stall. Instead of installing a second window on the south wall, install a light tube over the shower at a fraction of the cost–and greater privacy. Tile floors with radiant heating. In the small space next to the shower, a stand-up beauty area just for Sandra–David can have the medicine cabinet over the sink for his stuff.
The California cooler in the north wall keeps produce cool naturally so the refrigerator can be smaller: Shop often, eat fresh. Marmoleum flooring. The light tube is free lighting.
Interior designer Sharon Low and architect Fran Halperin often collaborate because their skills mesh so nicely. Says Fran, “Sharon is able to pull all the pieces together. Architects aren’t really into all those tiny little details, the pulls, the towel bars. You have to be a born shopper to be able to find all that stuff. She’s a hunter-gatherer.”
Says Sharon, “Fran’s a 3-D person, I’m more 2-D. I understand how colors and surfaces and textures work. And I’m a pretty good diplomat. If I am working with couples whose color choices are on totally opposite ends of the scale, I can somehow come up with a palette that pleases them both [laughing] so they can chose their battles about something else. I like to say that I’m sort of a color therapist–there’s probably about 20 percent design and 80 percent therapy in each project. Often I throw in something so completely different that it rocks them off their boats and really gets them talking to each other.”
Thousands of field-tested tips
This blog was adapted from Renovation 4th Edition, just published by Taunton Press. In addition to case histories about award-winning designs, Renovation 4‘s 614 pages include 250+ technical drawings, 1,000 photos from the 40,000 I have taken over the years, and thousands of field-tested tips and techniques that master builders have shared with me. I hope you find it useful. –Mike
© Michael Litchfield 2013
A glassed-in shower stall with a light tube upgraded a dark bathroom with a tired tub. To the right of the shower is a stand-up make-up counter with plenty of drawers underneath. Again, elegant details make the small space feel special: A pomegranate-seed motif in the tiles repeats in the drawer pulls and in a custom tile design on the radiant-heated floor.
Renovation 4th Edition contains the collective wisdom of hundreds of master builders and tradespeople, as well as talented designers and architects across North America, who shared lifetimes of experience with Mike Litchfield, a founding editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine.
A playful cutout provides privacy for a kitty-loo. Marmoleum flooring's wide range of colors allowed the designer to duplicate the pattern of a parquet border in the adjacent dining room. Craftsman houses often repeat architectural patterns in floors, cabinets, windows and doors.
David, a rocket scientist, was intrigued by the simple efficiency of the traditional "California cooler" built into the north wall of the kitchen, so he improved upon it. He insulated its door and added a pair of thermometers so he can monitor his attempts to optimize its performance.
A cheerful corner creates a temporary office for Sandra, a therapist. Lower cabinet drawers are large enough for files, while drawer-pull shapes echo playful accent tiles on the wall.
With natural light from three directions, the renovated kitchen was bright, airy and easy to navigate. An island with a colorful concrete top conserves space by combining functions: it serves as a cooking and prep area and, with room for three tall chairs, an intimate eating area.
This 1925 Craftsman bungalow is modest yet commodious, with an oversized, welcoming porch. Built from kits, such cottages provided affordable housing for working class families.
Before renovation, the kitchen had chopped up space, few cabinets, almost no counter space, a terrible layout, and it was impossible to keep clean. A full-sized refrigerator and stove didn't help the cramped space.
Architect Fran Halperin's "before" drawing shows why the kitchen was unworkable: Roughly one-third of the floor space was chopped into two small rooms.
With the space opened up and a multi-functional island devised optimize space, the kitchen now has breathing room.