Designing Minds: Corrective Vision for a Uniquely “Sighted” Home
Picture a Highlands ranch house (circa 1980) perched atop a foothills vista. You might think such a site would make for the quintessential Boise home — and you’d be quite right, except for the fact that it was poorly situated, both inside and out.
Undaunted, our clients bought their home not for what they saw, but for what they could foresee. Then they called STRITE design + remodel to ensure that their vision was not only correct, but realized.
Our clients’ primary remodel motivation was their kitchen, which was boxed in from the rest of their home on an awkwardly situated slab left from an earlier remodel effort — but their biggest issue with their newly purchased home, built some three decades prior, was that it had been placed on its site with no apparent consideration of how to maximize its Boise foothills view. Fortunately, one of their parents was an architect who brainstormed with them on some dramatic ways they could improve both the home and its connection to its setting. In addition, our clients created picture boards to assemble clippings and other visual aids to reimagine their home. These were invaluable in realizing their goals, and along with one of our favorite interior design partners, we brought new ideas that further enhanced their vision.
Short of lifting and repositioning, how do you take advantage of a view when a home is poorly sited? The short answer is to get technically creative — which means finding the balance between good design and engineering skill. Blending the two in this project meant accomplishing a number of goals. More than simply reconfiguring and updating the kitchen, we decided to integrate three separate rooms into a single open space that brought the living areas of the home into harmony. A second goal was to grab all the light and vista we could and bring it into the balance as well. Accomplishing this would require the removal of existing beams and walls, raising and expanding the height and width of a sliding door, and eliminating wasted space to create more functionality and points of light. It would even involve reframing ceilings and re-planing floors for more appealing spatial transitions.
Full height walls isolated our clients’ kitchen, reducing it to a tiny box with only one small window and no counter space. We took out a wall where a number of other beams came together to form a major load bearing point, and reframed and planed the ceiling to create a larger space with no inconsistencies in height. We further enhanced the seamless transition between formerly separate rooms by raising a floor to eliminate a step down, and within this open area we created a larger kitchen with a big island, a floating cabinet bank, walnut topped counters, a skylight, and a much improved flow. To add further drama, we installed a glass backsplash and enlarged a window above the kitchen sink.
Prior to our remodel, it was necessary to walk through the kitchen to get to the rest of the house. Opening it up allowed for new possibilities for previously adjoining rooms that included a back family room that lacked windows, and a room to the left of this that was accessible only from the outside and that had previously functioned as a tool shed. A storage room to its right was accessible from the inside. We walled off the former and added a powder room in its place so guests could access a bathroom without having to go into the home’s more private quarters.
It used to be that the only way to get to the laundry room was to walk around the family room. To eliminate this awkwardness, we took out the door to the laundry room, which became a wall for art display as well opening up additional space for furniture, and created a little hall that accessed both the storage area and and powder room and that doubled as a walk-through pantry with a pocket door from the living room and kitchen. By adding a window to this wall we brought in yet another point of light. We raised the floor of the laundry room to make it even with the rest of the home, put down marmoleum flooring, and brought the washer and dryer together (they had previously been in different areas). We also converted a former office into a mudroom, into which we built cabinets with outlets for cell phones and lockers for each family member.
To accommodate the new plumbing in the laundry room we cut a slab in the garage and raised the floor as well. We also eliminated a four foot bump out in the garage and built a new wall, which enabled two cars to be parked. Because the home had a stick-built roof rather than trusses, we ran into a number of bearing point issues which we corrected by virtually reframing the roof. In the process, we were able to broaden the home’s front entry (which was originally only three feet in width) and add a glass wall for better definition and light. To join the outside of the home to a newly reconfigured inside, we replaced a six-foot wide door with a 12-foot quadruple slider, and raised the top plate as high as we could to grab as much sky as possible, removing a view-obstructing outside beam that spanned a little roof deck. To keep the fireplace from sticking out into the path of the new door, we modified the hearth and made it perpendicular to the door, then coated the fireplace with stucco and constructed a simple mantel and a new hearth to compliment it.
It goes without saying that this was a very challenging and very technical remodel — and one that involved a lot of structural change that would be completely invisible to anyone not familiar with how the home had previously looked. A saving grace for our clients was that they were able to live in a quasi-daylight basement during the remodel — but months of living in a construction zone were more than compensated by being able to reclaim in a home that looks, feels, and functions the way they had envisioned when they first bought it.