Historic infill Victorian house redux

Historic_InfillJuly 16, 2013

A. About Us: We are in our late 30s with two kids, ages 6 and 3 (no plans for more kids). We live in a mid-sized town in the upper Midwest (short, cool summers and long, cold winters). We are busy with many outdoor family activities. We often entertain friends with kids of similar ages, and sometimes host work-related social events. We currently live in a 100-year-old American foursquare (1,750 sq. ft. above ground; partially finished basement) in the historic district that is walking distance to downtown entertainment and a protected river basin. We love the neighborhood and the character of the house, but as the kids get bigger we are outgrowing the space (only one full bath, no mud room, small entertaining space, limited storage space, no privacy for adults).

B. The Project: Last year we bought a nearby 80'6" x 140' vacant lot with the plan to build a larger, "new" old house (3,000 sq. ft. above ground; unfinished basement). Our block is on the National Register of Historic Places, which adds some restrictions on the scale and outside appearance of new construction (e.g., must be two story Victorian, wood/fiber cement clapboard siding, substantial front porch, detached garage at back of property, double-hung windows). There are no restrictions on the floor plan or materials used inside the house. We envision an exterior in the style of a modest folk Victorian with simple trim work that includes a variety of textures on exterior surfaces. On the interior, we prefer a more Arts & Crafts style with a heavy emphasis on earth tone colors, natural materials and visible high-quality craftsmanship. We do not care for completely open floor plans, nor do we like the completely divided rooms of our American Foursquare. We wish to have long sight lines to give the impression of a larger space, substantial open area for entertaining, but with some separation of rooms to reduce noise. We plan to live in the house for the next 25 years, and will likely downsize in retirement.

A year ago we generated house plans with the help of a draftsman (link to original GW post: http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/build/msg121414223184.html). Based on feedback from GW, combined with our difficulties finding a GC willing to take on this unique project at a price we could afford, we decided to hire an architect and restart the design process. So far we are happy with our progress and are very glad we retained an architect for the project

C. House Orientation: The front of the house faces southwest. The best views are southwest (beautiful Queen Anne homes across the street), the south (my future vegetable garden) and the east (green space and mature trees at the back of the property).

D. Basement: The basement will be mostly unfinished for now, except for the mechanical/laundry room and possibly the bathroom. The remainder of the space will be used for storage and as a kids play room (floor hockey!), with the possibility of adding a family room later when the kids are teenagers and need more space. Two more bedrooms could be added by a future owner, but we are unlikely to need these.

E. 1st floor: With the detached garage at the back, we will almost always enter the house via the back door and therefore want nearby access to a bathroom and mud room (the latter is essential with lots of clothes for long, cold winters and sports equipment to be active outdoors).We want an open dining room/kitchen area for entertaining. We will likely eat breakfast and snacks at the kitchen island, with family dinners and larger gatherings in the dining room. Outside of meal time, the dining room will double as a quiet work space with pocket doors providing a sound barrier (e.g., kids crafts and homework, evening home office...we do this in our current home). The kitchen is designed for two cooks with a large walk-in pantry and access to the porch and greenhouse. In the family room, we will have a wood/pellet stove on the southeast wall, with the TV located in a cabinet on the northeast wall. The foyer (we almost never enter the front door) doubles as a library and will be separated from the family room by a half wall (built-in book shelves will be installed here and along the stair well). The framing will be reinforced in the foyer and in a second floor bedroom above to allow for the possible future addition of an elevator, should it be necessary. The covered front porch is mainly to sit and watch our kids play in the neighborhood, while the screened-in covered side porch will be used for summer meals and entertaining. There will be stained glass and/or leaded glass windows in a few locations on the first floor (e.g., foyer and stairwell) depending on budget. As an avid gardener, the greenhouse is near the top of my "wants" list (not the "needs" list), but this will also depend on the budget.

F. 2nd floor: We tried to minimize hallways. The kids will share a single bathroom. Most of the time the guest room will serve as a home office for the adults, although we frequently have relatives stay with us for 1-2 weeks at a time. The master bedroom and kids' bedrooms have windows on two walls to provide lots of light and cross-ventilation. There is a small "sleeping porch" off the master bedroom for morning coffee and quiet evenings (too small for actual sleeping).

H. Front and back elevation: We will use wood clapboard siding and the porches will be mostly of wood construction (to match nearby homes). The bottom 24 inches of exposed foundation will be covered in brick (common for area homes). Decorative trim will be added to the pediment over the front entrance (also common for area homes). We are considering adding an accent window on the front gable (e.g., palladian or oval) to add character and bring light into the attic. The gable end, siding and trim treatments are still a work in progress. We may add some exposed rafters and/or half-timbering. Any suggestions here from the GW architects would be appreciated.

I. Site plan: There is a 28' x 31'4" two car garage at the north corner of the property, with 26'11" x 22'11" of interior space for vehicles, plus an attached 13'3" x 7'5" shed and a 13'3" x 7'5" workshop. The garage is accessed from the alley behind the property. There will be a 28'x30' brick patio between the house and garage, with a covered walkway (not shown). In the east corner there is an open lawn area for an outdoor hockey rink in the winter (36'x60', I build this every year; tree in the middle of the rink will be removed) and a play space in the summer. A vegetable garden will be located on the southeast side of the house (~30' wide side yard).

Sorry for the long introduction. I am posting floor plans and elevation drawings below. We would really appreciate your feedback. Thank you.

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South elevation

This post was edited by Historic_Infill on Tue, Jul 16, 13 at 22:57

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 10:42PM
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East elevation

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 11:02PM
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North elevation

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 11:06PM
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West elevation

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 11:07PM
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    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 11:10PM
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First floor

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 11:11PM
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Second floor

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 11:13PM
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Site plan

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 11:16PM
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    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 11:17PM
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Love most of the plan! A few things I'd consider tweaking:

- The laundry is very far from the bedrooms. I don't see any way it could move to the bedroom level . . . could you install a dumbwaiter to do the lifting for you? . . . or at least put in laundry chute so you only have to carry it one direction?

- I don't like the kids' upstairs bathroom. The outer sink room is just odd, and someone's always going to be using the outer room when someone else wants to get into the inner room. I'd go with just one big bathroom.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 11:33PM
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Thanks for your comments.

There is a laundry chute accessible at the top of the stairwell on the 2nd floor. I'll ask the architect if this could be converted to a dumbwaiter at a reasonable cost (great idea!). We considered having the laundry together with the mud room on the 1st floor, but opted against it to prevent dirty mud room stuff from mixing with the clean laundry.

Yeah we wondered about the kids' bathroom layout. We have an alternate layout with just one big bathroom (i.e., no outer sink), which might be best.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 11:46PM
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I love it! I love the simple shape, I love the nice big dual-purpose foyer, I could go on and on... :)

I would keep the two rooms in the kids' bath, but swap the regular and pocket doors. Then a kid can be using the outer sink and the other kid can get past them to the inner room without whacking them with the door. Also, in our last house we had a similar set up with an outer hinged door and an inner pocket door, and found that the outer hinged door was always in the way, and the inner pocket door was the only door that was regularly closed.

I would go for a basement laundry room over a laundry room/mud room combo. I think you made the right choice there. I would need something to remind myself to go down and move laundry along so nothing is turning green in the washer, but there's probably an app for that.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 9:40AM
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I love it. Just a few suggestions at quick glance.

I would "plumb" for future washer and dryer placement in the the future, in the first floor mudroom, just in case you decide you dont want to tromp up and down the stairs to do laundry years from now.

I would try to get a 3/4 bathroom on the first floor.

I would try to avoid a corner kitchen sink. You will be limited in your choices.

Well done.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 10:19AM
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@ zone4newby

Thanks for your comments. I am really glad to hear you like the dual-purpose foyer. I am hoping the combination of a stained glass window and built-in bookcases will make this an attractive place to read a book. Of course, about 5% of the time it can also function as our foyer when guests visit.

I agree that if we do keep the two-room kids bathroom the outer door must be a pocket door. The more I think about it I wonder how easy it will be to walk past someone who is standing at the outside sink (e.g., brushing their teeth) in order to get to the WC. It would be easiest if the WC had an in-swing door, but I know this creates a safety issue. I suppose both entrances could have pocket doors. This is something we will need to discuss with the architect.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 12:51PM
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If you can afford it I would raise the roof pitch some on the gable side and see if you can use windows for the attic like shown in the link.

The linked Victorian just reminded me in general of your shape/exterior.

Edit: Adding about the plan. I would move the door on the secondary bedroom to the right some and make the room a mirror image of the other one. That way the kids room are the same.

I'm guessing you want the guest room to function more like a extra living space based on the double doors? I have to say though that it seems like very little privacy for a guest and privacy for the master from a guest. Just something to consider.

Here is a link that might be useful: Queen Anne

This post was edited by lyfia on Wed, Jul 17, 13 at 16:48

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 4:42PM
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Go with one oversize central window on the front LR wall instead of the 2 small windows, they do not stack up with the second floor. I'm thinking a 4' wide with a stained glass transom lite.
Get rid of the angle transition at the corner of the screen porch, why not widen the entire side? it creates a slightly higher roof line above in the upper siding, with that annoying sloped transition. You can frame hip roofs with dissimilar pitches and matching overhangs, it's just a wee bit more work.
At least the three other elevations look okay. The windows on the front just need tweaking to fit a folk Victorian frame.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 5:57PM
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@ red_lover

Good call regarding including plumbing in the mud room for the possibility of a future washer and dryer. The faint dotted boxes in the mud room are my reminder to do this.

I would also prefer a 3/4 bathroom on the first floor. Where can I put it? We really like the WC near the back entrance for easy access from outside.The existing WC is deep enough at 8' but would need to be widened from 4' to 5'6" at a minimum to accomodate a shower. If we steal a little space from the hallway and a little from the pantry this might be possible.

You mention to avoid a corner kitchen sink as this limits choices. Could you please elaborate?

Thanks again for your feedback.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 8:22PM
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@ lyfia

Thanks for the link to the Queen Anne house. The style is certainly very similar to our "new" folk Victorian. I'm uncertain whether to call the pictured house a simple Queen Anne or a fancy folk Victorian :)

I agree we need to add windows to bring light into the attic (this space will only be used for storage). I was planning to ask the architect about adding either a Palladian or oval window to the front gable. I am not sure if we need to raise the roof pitch to do this; hopefully not in order to cut costs.

I like the idea of shifting the secondary bedroom door to create mirror image kids bedrooms. This way, they have one less thing to argue about :)

Regarding the guest bedroom, we were planning on French doors mainly to bring more light into the hall. I am not a fan of dark and uninviting hallways on the second floor (I see this too often in new home construction). More than 90% of the time the guest bedroom will be the home office for adults, in which case privacy is not an issue. However, I agree with you that when guests are visiting the French doors do not add as much privacy, even with curtains, as a solid single door. This is definitely something to reconsider.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 10:16PM
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@ sombreuil_mongrel (Casey)

Thanks for the feedback.

I like the idea of combining the two family room windows at the front and centering this under the bedroom window above. We have the exact same arrangement in our American Foursquare, including a leaded glass transom lite

The angle transition is a byproduct of multiple redesigns of the side porch. I agree we should just square this off and keep the entire side porch 10' wide (more traditional look). It may cost a little more in materials, but we should save on labor costs with a simpler porch roof.

You mention the need to "tweak" the front windows to fit the folk Victorian frame. Are you referring to the window position, size or trim? Any suggestions for improvements here?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 10:38PM
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Your house looks lovely! I have a corner sink set up just like yours and I love it. However, a friend's house has a corner sink set back just a little bit too much and it causes a lot of back strain to use it. I know a lot of people don't care for corner sinks and it does make it more difficult to pull out the trash and recycling bins (in my kitchen, one is on the right and the other on the left). Overall, the placement of the sink works well in our kitchen and I love being able to look out both windows.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 11:15PM
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@ GreenVTtoNY

I'm glad to hear you like the house and enjoy your corner kitchen sink. We have a corner range in our current kitchen and find the back burners awkward to reach, especially with a microwave above the range. Moving the sink to the corner seemed a better option and it gives us the corner kitchen windows that I really like. As you suggest, we will need to give some careful thought as to how to use the space under the sink and where to place the trash bin.

Thanks for your comments.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 11:35PM
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A flat skylight not visible from the street would bring much needed natural light to the second floor hallway.

As pointed out above, the basement laundry is a mistake.

Overall, the plan makes good use of limited space. Was a larger footprint not allowed?

Thanks for the link. If that house wasn't in Kansas anymore, I'd bite!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 9:19AM
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Go to the kitchen forum and ask about corner sinks.

If I'm not mistaken, your width will be limited as well as the issue of back strain.

I'm not an architect so I don't know where you will find space for a full bath on the first floor, but I would give up space elsewhere before I would sacrifice a full bath on the first floor. If someone becomes disabled enough to have to sleep on the first floor...you will need that bathroom. I'm not even talking an elderly person with a stroke. It could be your 16 yr old with a severe leg fx from a sports injury.

Good luck :-)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 10:33AM
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@ worthy

Thanks for your insights.

We discussed the possibility of adding transoms above the bedroom doorways to bring more light into the hallway. The concern was the expense of adding more height to the second floor. A solar tube (not visible from the street) might be a cheaper option, although I always worry about roof leaks.

I have mixed feelings regarding a basement laundry. I like the separation from the living spaces to minimize noise and potential water damage. However, I agree that bringing laundry up and down flights of stairs can be annoying (this is our current situation). At our next meeting with the architect we will reopen the discussion of laundry room placement with the options of: 1) keeping it in the basement; 2) moving the guest bedroom to the basement to make space for a laundry room on the second floor; and 3) using the suggestion of @MrsPete to install a dumbwaiter.

Regarding the house footprint, we have tried to be as efficient as possible with the space available. With a narrow city lot (80') in the historic district (zoning requires two story) the house footprint is constrained. We also really enjoy the backyard for gardening and kids play and do not want the house to swallow the entire lot. Overall, I think we have achieved a good balance of a nice size home (3,000 sq. ft.) with most of the features we desire, that also blends into the existing historic neighborhood (the newest house on the block is 100+ years old).

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 5:59PM
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A corner sink is fine, as long as you have enough room for the dishwasher to be open, while you're standing at the sink. Your placement looks good, so I don't think you'd have any problem.

Some people say the back corner can be difficult to clean, depending on how tall you are...or if you don't mind using a step stool. I would add a plant area for herbs behind the sink, to take advantage of the extra light :)

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 11:27AM
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I'm sorta tardy here; I meant by "tweak" to look more carefully at the window size vs. that amount of siding between them. I think the windows could be a bit larger, an perhaps the gable could benefit from some variety or detail to make it less overwhelming to everything beneath it. More vertically-oriented windows will read more Victorian, shorter/wider reads Edwardian or later...
Now, were there shutters, the wall area ratio would be smaller.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2013 at 8:31PM
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@ lavender_lass

Thanks for your thoughts on the corner sink. We'll take a close look at clearance for the dishwasher. Otherwise, I can live with the occasional use of a step stool in return for looking out the window towards my garden when doing dishes. As for the herbs, if our funding allows it, I am hoping we can build the greenhouse shown in the plans. There is direct access from the kitchen to harvest herbs for dinner :)

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 9:26AM
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@sombreuil_mongrel (Casey)

Thanks for the clarification. We still need to add trim features to the gables (see examples in the attached picture). I would like to add a Palladian window in the attic, along with some exposed rafters and a bit of half-timbering (i.e., the top left photo but with a Palladian window). I will also ask the architect to carefully look at the window dimensions to try to capture the Victorian look. The trick will be not to have too many odd-sized, custom windows that cause our costs to sky rocket!

Thanks again for the advice.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 12:05PM
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@ palimpsest, virgilcarter, supergrrl7, renovator8 and hollysprings

All of you provided such helpful feedback on our original design.

Here is the link to the original GW post:


To refresh your memory, see attached the front elevation of our original design. Your input made us realize that we really needed professional help from an architect for this historic infill project. Thank you.

Any thoughts on our folk Victorian redux?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 9:40AM
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Just wanted to add a bit of info on the dumbwaiter idea for your laundry. The electric dumb waiters we discovered are very pricey -- almost as much as an elevator. However, from my searches on GW, I found a product another purchaser had used called the Silent Servant, which is a manual dumb waiter. We are looking into incorporating that style of dumb waiter to keep costs of such a devise reasonable. I did email the original poster and she raved about having her dumb waiter and she commented the pulley system works very well.

Good luck with your home plans.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 10:22AM
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I don't think that palladian window of the width you seem to mention would work historically. I'm trying to visualize an arch there in your top left picture and it just doesn't work for me.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 2:45PM
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@ OntarioMom (Carol)

Thanks for the information on manual dumbwaiters. I assumed we would install an automated version, but had not yet looked into prices. So long as the pulley system is easy to operate, the manual version might be an option. I'll ask our architect to check out the web site. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 7:28PM
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