The Upside-Down House
Moving the main living spaces into a second-story addition reenergized a house for a family of four.
Synopsis: When author and architect Michael Roehr and his family returned from a yearlong sabbatical in Mexico, they decided it was time to reinvent their frumpy bungalow into the kind of open, light-filled space they had enjoyed in San Miguel de Allende. Among their goals were another bedroom for the kids and a larger kitchen. But they also wanted to save money. The solution? Move the living spaces upstairs into a spacious, straightforward box built on top of the existing house, and create a third bedroom downstairs with the surgical insertion of a few walls. The large, open second-floor space accommodates living, dining, kitchen, and office, all revolving around an enclosed half-bath. Clerestory windows wrap three sides of the structure, providing light and a convective chimney effect that cools the house. Magazine extra: Want to see how this house came together? Roehr and his wife, Elisa Bernick, kept a photo journal documenting their home’s transformation. Watch the slide show “Remodeling from the Top Down.”
A few years ago, we took a sabbatical. Along with our two kids, my wife, Elisa Bernick, and I rented a house in San Miguel de Allende in the highlands of central Mexico. We cheerfully immersed ourselves in the culture and language of this historic, light-filled city. Back in St. Paul, Minn., a year and a half later, we looked at our beloved but decidedly frumpy two-bedroom bungalow with new eyes.
The kids were getting old enough to want separate bedrooms, and the house needed another one. At the same time, we wanted to gain a kitchen large enough to accommodate our penchant for cooking and entertaining. But our sojourn in Mexico also made us realize how much we wanted to live in the same kind of open-to-the-sky, breezy space that we enjoyed in San…