From Wreck to Home
Recently clients of mine (let’s call them Mr. & Mrs. M) gave me a call about a house they were considering purchasing. A little background on Mr. & Mrs. M, they are a young couple with two children who I have worked with before on both of their NYC apartments.
They had asked me to come and see the house located in the Hamptons. The home was a hop skip and a jump from my home in Montauk I went over that weekend. I had been warned previously to be “prepared” BUT nothing could have prepared anyone to enter into this wreck destruction hell hole of the house.
Adventures in Measuring
After some negotiations Mr.M purchased the house with half of his mind thinking it was a money pit and the other half thinking it was a nice piece of property in a great neighborhood.
From working with the M’s before I know that Mrs. M loves a lot of things and her likes continuously change. She is an artist so her creativity is not to be questioned but her decision making has sometimes driven me distraction. Mr. M on the other hand is very decisive and concerned with the bottom line, but most of all he wants Mrs. M to be happy. So during our first meeting we discussed their thoughts on what the house should be. Their first suggestions were: let’s make it a modern house with some traditional elements, I want it to be a country house, I want it to look like a barn and so on…
Process of Elimination
After the plans were drawn up of the actual space I started the simplification process, which had already begun formulating in my head from the moment I stepped into the house. The design intent was to visually increase the size of the house by opening it up.
You can see from the demolition plans below where we eliminated walls, added windows & doors and relocated rooms which in turn increased the square footage to other areas in the house.
Change of Plans…
After showing the new plans to Mr. & Mrs. M a discussion arose over Mrs. M wanting a terrace off the master bedroom and Mr. M contemplating the option of an extra bedroom upstairs. They already have 2 boys and are expecting the possibility of a third child, it could also function as an extra guest bedroom. We started to play with the idea of building this extra room above the living room and using the area above the dining room as the terrace. In my opinion I felt no one was going to use that terrace off the bedroom, I just couldn’t see them looking over their backyard and whistling at the birds but Mrs. M wanted to be able to watch the children from the terrace when they were playing in the backyard or pool. I was also concerned about the budget of adding on a terrace, but she was adamant.
The challenge now was how to build an addition over the living room while dealing with the code restrictions; we were going to end up with a slanted roof in the new bedroom since the code restricted how high we could go.
After going back and forth on the plans with the clients (as I had hoped the selection would be additional bedroom plus terrace option) we agreed that the third bedroom would increase the value of the house and provide room for a new baby and all in all would be a great plus. I thought this was a good compromise as I felt my lack of need for the terrace had more to do with me rather than Mrs. M who really wanted it.
I had always questioned in my mind the area above the flat roof over the living room which now would become the additional bedroom. Without the new room the house was disproportioned, the addition created the balance we were looking for. In turn the new back porch added volume, depth and three- dimensionality to the back of house.
There were a few more adjustments on the window placement and scale since we had to calibrate the size of the windows in proportion to the façade and also evaluate sash vs crank-out windows but for the most part the important decisions had been made and demolition could begin.
And the drama continues…
When you pull a little thread off a sweater and you keep pulling and keep pulling it eventually all comes unraveled. You can see from these pictures that what began with slight removal ended up as a total gutting of the house.
As I mentioned last week the house was not structurally sound, the beams and struts were not properly spaced and the fear of collapsing ceiling took the whole project to a whole new level.
This week we presented the bathrooms to Mr. & Mrs. M, as I had mentioned in the last post we knew this was not going to be an easy presentation. My team and I went through exhaustive processes to make sure we were ready and we had all the materials to make everything as clear as possible. We then crossed our fingers and went into the meeting ready as we could be.
Below are mini descriptions of each bathroom we presented with its elevations and images of the materials we proposed. We wanted the bathrooms to have a sense of the past but read more contemporary.
Bathroom Battles Cont.
Second Floor Guest Bathroom
For this room the M’s wanted more of a traditional bathroom, and we to keep the room neutral as we didn’t know how the room would eventually be used.
We proposed white gloss subway tile from the floor going up the wall 42”, except for the shower were we would bring it up to the ceiling. The walls above the subway tiles would be painted white. The floors are to be a combo of lime stone tile inlayed with limestone mosaic. For the sink we did a freestanding open metal leg washstand with a limestone top.
To give a sweeter quality we picked out a pendant blown glass light fixture and an elaborate mirror above the sink.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned the back porch just yet, this subject set off a HUGE discussion between Mrs. M and I which went back and forth several times. They wanted an enclosed outdoor space in which they could entertain, I felt that enclosing this area was not a good idea; I wanted the house to feel open to the exterior and be flooded with natural light. I suggested a pergola since that would filter the sunlight while not dramatically reducing the light quality indoors, I also wanted to maintain a connection between the backyard and the interior of the house, they preferred a screened in porch they could furnish and to have protection from the elements. I tried very hard to discourage this porch idea but the M’s were insistent.
For the M’s NY apt I had designed flush doors in their foyer as when you enter the front door these are the first element you saw. I wanted you to see a flush wall instead of door frames that would distract away from the foyer table.
What a Knob!
So we had doors, now it was time for hardware.
Initially Mrs. M and I had conflicting ideas about the door hardware (surprised?), she thought they needed to be traditional and I knew they needed to be modern since the doors were already traditional and modern hardware would be much more interesting . Mrs. M needed some coaxing and so the search began…