Never say too small to remodel

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Never say too small to remodel No matter what you call them--cottages, bungalows, or cabins-


  • Never say too small to remodel.

    Never say too small to remodel

    No matter what you call them--cottages, bungalows, or cabins--many

    little old houses have a certain appeal of their own: a reminiscent

    charm, an attractive setting, or simply an unbeatable price. Remodeling

    them for maximum livability without major addition requires creative

    plans that work within their compact square footage.

    We show three distinctive examples ofsmall-house renovation where

    the special character of the house hasbeen retained or enhanced, where

    floor plans have become more efficientwithout going beyond original

    perimeter walls, where the pressure onspace has inspired spatial

    inventiveness. They offer basic lessonsto anyone contemplating a


    Mendocino: reaching up and out for light and air

    The 25-year-old cottage shown here and on our cover sits on two

    pleasant berry-strewn acres in northern California. Until a few years

    ago, however, the pleasantness stopped abruptly at the front door.

    Inside, the 1,500-square-foot house was dark and confining, its

  • knot-holed redwood paneling having aged to a deep, almost black tone.

    Small aluminum-framed windows did little to relieve the darkness and

    much to thwart the architectural tradition of the Mendocino coast.

    Architect Obie Bowman of The Sea Ranch and his wife, Helena, bought

    the cheerless house and set about filling it with light and livability.

    Their plan centered around a new 17-foot light tower on the southwest

    side of the living room, with rooftop vents for releasing summer heat.

    Bowman held costs down by staying on the former structure's

    foundation, yet made the house feel larger by raising the ceiling to the

    height of the original roof, pushing out the light-tower dormer, and

    removing a kitchen wall. Outdoors, adjacent to the old front door, he

    created an angled deck that's bounded by lattice panels. A

    wisteria-covered frame defines the entry.

    Napa Valley: working with a house's original character and

    sense of place

    The decaying 900-square-foot farmhouse in the Napa Valley had one

    important asset: it looked as though it belonged there Built in the

    1890s, it's the kind of simple frame structure that used to be a

    common sight on California's back roads but is now fast

    disappearing. Its raised front porch and a front door flanked by

    double-hung windows powerfully evoke an earlier era.

    Inside, it was a mess. Plumbing and appliances were primitive. The

    bathroom was too far from the bedrooms, and you had to walk through it

  • to get to the back yard. Most walls needed rebuilding. Closets and work

    surfaces were minimal.

    San Francisco architect William Turnbull and his winery partner

    Reverdy Johnson had the job of making the house habitable for the

    Johnson family without oblitcrating its architectural character. They

    decided to revamp the floor plan slightly, turning the old bath

    (adjacent to the kitchen) into a dining porch with sliding doors to the

    outside and French doors to the kitchen and living room.

    The house originally had four bedrooms three along the north wall,

    one on the south. They removed the latter, adding the extra space to

    the living room, and converted another bedroom into the new bathroom.

    They enclosed a back porch for use as a master bedroom, bringing

    the finished interior space up to 1,296 square feet.

  • The two small bedrooms remaining each needed storage space, so it

    was built in: the beds themselves serve as cabinets, bookcases, night

    tables; you see some details in the photographs at left. In each room,

    a system of built-in cabinets and closets frames the doorway to the

    depth of the door's swing, making the entry to the room a sort of

    walk-through wardrobe. Turnbull turned the south wall of the living

    room into a miniature library by building in counters, a desk,

    bookshelves, and a window seat. He removed a shallow closet to the

    right of the fireplace and in its place put an interior window to the

    kitchen. The glimpse of a space beyond makes both rooms seem larger

    than they are. A big new multipaned window in the kitchen doubles the

    amount of light brought in but respects the carpenter-built tradition of

    the original windows.

    Honey-colored vertical-grain fir cabinetry, recalling the clarity

    and spareness of Shaker furniture, repeats the color and texture of the

    flooring and unifies the various rooms.

    Santa Monica: life in a chambered nautilus

    "It was a little like putting a new drawer inside an old

    bureau,' says architect Buzz Yudell about remodeling his tiny

    570-square-foot cottage. "You could hardly have called it a house

    when we bought it. The four walls were just about all we could use.

    But the price was right.'

  • With the help of partner John Ruble, Yudell and his wife, Tina

    Beebe, a graphic designer, looked for a way to make the interior seem

    less cramped.

    They chose a single strong shape--the ellipse--to define the living

    area, then placed kitchen, dining room, bathroom, and bedroom around it.

    The ellipse is actually a curving partition san jose remodeling contractor of gypsum board over stud

    framing, with cutouts for built-in seating and openings to bedroom and

    dining room. The cutouts help to open up the living area--without

    gutting the space in favor of creating a single, undifferentiated room.

    The unusual shape of the partition is a visual surprise; the

    sharpness of the contrast between exterior and interior almost jolts the

    visitor into thinking he has entered a different world. The cutouts

    also lend an enriched sense of volume simply by revealing the thickness

    of the partition. A skylight over one end of the built-in seat

    backlights part of this sculptural-looking partition.

    Fitted behind and partly exposed to the living-room ellipse, the

    bedroom is as compact as a ship's cabin or a Pullman car. Its rear

    wall, curving inward slightly to echo the curve of the living room,

    contains floor-to-ceiling bookshelves with another unexpected detail: a

    concealed door in the book-storage wall forms a "secret

    passage' to the bathroom. Built into the wall opposite the books

    (the back of the durved partition) are a bed, a desk, and drawers to

    hold linens.

  • A tightly organized kitchen opens directly to the dining area,

    which in turn opens to the living room.

    To enhance the exterior's cottage-like quality, the owners

    installed windows and doors salvaged from other bungalows that were

    demolished in the neighborhood.

    Photo: 1,500 square feet, Mendocino.

    Small windows, shady overhangs made for a gloomy interior. No

    more: see remodel opposite

    Photo: 900 square feet, Napa Valley.

    Dark, peeling paint and an unnecessary railing obscured the

    reposeful charm of this small farmhouse. See pages 96 and 97 for the

    current version

    Photo: 570 square feet, Santa Monica.

    Haphazard construction and unmatched windows gave a tacked-together

    look. The remodel-- shown on pages 98 and 99--is a startling contrast

    Photo: Vented light tower rises above roof plane of Mendocino

    cottage like a stylized dormer; its window echoes lines of existing roof


  • Photo: Opened-up kitchen wall lets dining area share light from new

    kitchen windows; knee-braced opening keeps to cottage style

    Photo: Raised ceiling of living foom shows original roof trusses.

    Under stacked windows of new light tower is 4- by 9-foot couch with

    built-in bookshelves at ends

    Photo: Built-ins make the most of 8- by 12-foot bedroom. Her bed

    is part of platform with storage cupboards at each end, trundle

    underneath. Closets and cabinets frame the doorway opposite--only 12

    feet from original double-hung window

    Photo: Self-sufficient bed has drawers for sheets and blankets,

    plus a shelf that slides out of headboard to become night stand

    Photo: Crisp outlines of porch posts and trim accent

    straightforward rural character of restored Napa Valley farmhouse

    Photo: New interior window by fireplace allows glimpse of kitchen,

    uncramping both small rooms and letting in light from scaled-up version

    of old kitchen window. Fir cabinets and moldings match softwood


    Photo: Graceful curves of steps to living room door hint at

    geometry within. Carefully proportioned bungalow windows resist

    horizontal flattening of eave line

  • Photo: Ellipse dominates the living spaces, completed outdoors by

    curve of steps. Bookcase wall is more gently curved

    Photo: Curved partition has cutouts for seating. Deepest cutout (far left) is bedroom; seat at foot ofbed can also serve the living


    Photo: Concealed door in book wall opens to bathroom. Where

    shelving passes windows, there's lighted display space