Monday, February 28, 2011

The Home Office

The home office is a popular design concept considered for many new and remodeled homes.  There are a variety of possible options for an office: a separate room, area of a room, or a room doing double duty.   The first consideration is how and by who is this room to be used.  Is the room for working at home, for bill paying and home management, used by two or more people, or a homework/study center?  We typically differentiate this room from the control center of the home more typically found in or adjacent to the kitchen, performs a different function, and is best kept separate.  Options for the home office include a planned, dedicated room if one is available or can be part of an addition.  Remodeling can provide this space from an unused bedroom, a converted attic or basement, or even convert a large closet.  The office can be a nook off the master bedroom or hallway, or a dedicated portion of one room serving multiple duties such as a guest bedroom or library.  Sometimes a home office will require an exterior entry, especially if it is a working office that clients may visit.  In any case a home office should have some ability to provide acoustical privacy, typically by closing a door or doors.

The home office is an important consideration in planning a modern home and a request we hear more and more frequently.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Kitchens in the Modern Home

Kitchens have evolved into the heart of the 21st century American home.  Traditionally kitchens were a work area and removed from the main living area.  In larger homes such as those found in the Guilford or Roland Park areas of Baltimore the kitchen was removed from the living and dining areas, often with back stairs that connected to the maid’s room above.   Now the kitchen is one of if not the main living area.  At parties often everyone ends up in the kitchen, families spend a good amount of time together in the kitchen, and the kitchen is often the operations center of the home. 

With this in mind the “great room” has evolved.  This typically includes an open floor plan with the kitchen, daily dining area, and family room combined.  Larger homes often still have a formal dining room even if it only used on special occasions.  Removing walls and joining rooms can create this interconnection in some homes.  Other homes require an addition; the family room addition with an expanded and remodeled kitchen is one of our most popular projects.

This combination of spaces leads to some important design elements.  It is important to connect the kitchen physically and visually with the other rooms.  Floor finishes, wood trim, painting, and interior decoration all need to work together to create an integrated whole.  At the same time the kitchen work area needs some separation.  Islands or peninsulas are often a good choice to provide the cook a work area while still visually connected to the other spaces. 

Design elements can also separate the spaces even while they are physically and visually connected.  Varying ceiling heights and finishes define each area.  Floor finishes can vary.  Columns and structural beams can replace walls.

Careful planning and good design can go far in making your kitchen the ideal for the 21st century home.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Exterior Porch to Interior Space Continued

The following is a brief review of important considerations when converting an exterior porch to interior space.  Your decisions and the construction work may include:

· Insulating walls and ceilings.  How much and the type of insulation used depends in part on the existing structure and the room’s function.  Typically the existing porch ceiling will need to be removed.  Often the ceiling joists will need to be added to in order to have enough depth to properly insulate the ceiling.

· Windows and doors.  Adding, replacing, or installing new windows and doors using energy-efficient models is best done now.  Remember to match or complement your home’s existing window styles.

· Plumbing.  The proximity of the room to existing plumbing will greatly impact the difficulty and cost of installing plumbing.

· Electrical wiring and fixtures.  Plan and install all immediate and future electrical lines from the outset to avoid costly revisions later.

· Flooring and wall coverings.  Flooring especially can require planning.  Porch floors are often not level, may not be at the same height as the existing floors in the home, and may need to be raised to allow for insulation, avoiding a cold floor. Most people choose to sheetrock the entire room but other options may include an exposed brick wall or decorative beadboard trim.

· Interior and exterior trim.  Details such as door and window trim and other interior and exterior moldings can make the difference between a room that looks finished or one that simply looks like an enclosed porch.

· Heating and cooling systems.  While some homes may have systems that can accommodate additional rooms, others may need a supplement.  Baseboard heating, while easy to install and inexpensive, is costly to operate.  A mini split ductless system is a quiet and efficient choice.  This is basically a small heat pump without ducts and much quieter than a traditional through the wall system, often found in hotel rooms.  Consider also a wood burning stove or gas fireplace.  New models are efficient, attractive, and can heat a large room easily. 

If you have a home with a porch and need additional space, you have all the ingredients you need to create a beautiful new room with a significant cost savings over building an addition.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Exterior Porch to Interior Space

We just completed a porch conversion in Stoneleigh; some pictures are below, check out our website ( or newsletter for more images. Enclosing a porch can be a simple, cost-effective way to gain the extra living space you need.  You can gain space without eliminating the yard and often a portion of the structural work is already in place.  Side or rear porches can be easily converted into a home office, playroom, or den/family rooms.  Enclosed porches are also ideal for adding space to extend your kitchen.  The porch’s location, its wall and floor materials, and the condition of the existing foundation will influence the ease or difficulty of modifying a porch.  The next blog will review some important considerations in designing and building a new room using an existing porch.
New family room from converted screen porch

 Family room, showing bench seats, television, and electiric fireplace