Ideas for reconfiguring the back of my bungalow?

cruffMay 11, 2011

Hi! I've been hanging out over in the Home Decorating forum, talking about the quick-and-colorful update I'm doing in the 1923 bungalow I just bought. For the longer term, though, I want to think about how to reconfigure the back of my house to have a more open kitchen, more functional back entry, and make better use of the southern exposure over the back yard.

Here's the situation. My bungalow is this one:

and has been modified as indicated in this attempt at a diagram by me:

That is, an older porch addition on the back has been incorporated into the back bedroom to make one largish L-shaped space. Here's the addition from the outside:

and here's the view from inside the room formed by opening that addition onto the back bedroom:

It's a nice, sunny room, facing south, with windows on three sides, but the frustration is that it's the ONLY room in the house with any view of the back yard. The kitchen is completely closed off from the back. In this pic of a corner of the same room, the back yard is to the left and behind that blank wall on the right is the stair to the basement and behind that the kitchen:

The other frustrating thing is that the only transitional space from outdoors to in is the cramped little landing where the back door opens off the kitchen, seen here from the inside and then the outside:

I would love to 1) create a mudroom, or at least a more spacious and sheltered entry at the back; 2) open the kitchen up to a view over the back yard; 3) preserve some sitting/sunroom-type space overlooking the yard; and 4) preserve space for a study, which is what I'm currently planning to do with the part of that L-shaped back room that used to be a bedroom.

Creative suggestions? I went to dinner at a house with an almost identical layout, and they had moved their kitchen wholesale into their enclosed porch overlooking the back yard, and used their tiny old kitchen space as a butler's pantry. I'm open to the idea of taking down the addition, which, among other problems, just sits on piers and has no foundation or insulation under it, but an addition replacing it couldn't be much bigger than the current one, because of city regulations about what percent of the lot can be covered. I've thought of replacing the old addition with a new one that would sit closer to grade, and having a mudroom and four-season-room-type space down at back-yard level, and then having the kitchen and study spaces look down into that space from their current locations. I thought it might work to reorient the back entrance so it goes at 90 degrees from the way it does now, into the room that runs along the back of the house instead of into the kitchen - in which case, maybe the space now occupied by the door from the kitchen to the back stairs could be used for storage. But all this has yet to gel into a coherent, three-dimensional vision. I'd love your ideas, especially if you've done something similar to your tiny bungalow.



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Carin, don't want to go off half cocked here, so my comments will have to gel a while too. Maybe tomorrow.

It does occur to me that the roofline of that addition is too awkward for your house. The way the dining room bumpout roofline works is the way the addition's roofline should look. A gable which is smaller and built just below the kitchen/bedroom roofline.

Also, I'd extend that space all the way across, taking in the narrow space which leads to your back door. You have very small margin between you and your neighbor, would you need a variance to build on that space? But if you CAN build there, you very well could make that your only expansion. Do you have any space at all accessing UPSTAIRS?
Or, is it all DOWN? If it is all DOWN, what do you have down there that you use presently? Is your laundry there, your heating system? And what is the climate where you are? Really cold winters, what kind of heating system do you have? Where is your water heater and do you have a floor ducting or radiator heating system? Do you plan on air conditioning part or all of your house? Will you be hiring a contractor or DIY?

And, do you need two bedrooms or is one going to be adequate? Not much closet space showing up in what I see, which is typical of a 1923 house.

I think you have a lovely older home, and it does not have to be big to be comfortable. Just needs to open up and give you some space to LIVE.

Hang in there with us, we will give you enough ideas to keep you busy all summer. It will be an enjoyable parteeee.
:) See you tomorrow.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 11:02PM
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Moccasinlanding, I completely agree with you about the weird roofline on the existing addition, and taking a cue from the dining room bump-out is a very good suggestion.

To answer your various questions:

This would definitely be a let-the-pros-do-it venture, but knowing myself and my experience with previous old houses, I'd like to get my own mental wheels turning and spin lots of ideas. My budget will need to recover from the initial expenses of new old-house ownership, so there's lots of time to dream and plan.

There's no upstairs. The house has a finished basement the full footprint of the house (excepting under the foundation-less addition, that is), with a large bedroom and full bath down there. The boiler, water heater, electrical panel, and laundry room are in the basement, too. The storage space afforded by the basement, which includes two large closets as well as a lot of open floor space, goes a long way towards making up for the lack of storage on the main level.

There's just one of me (plus dogs), so having only one bedroom and a study for myself on the main floor is all I need, provided I have a small sofa bed in that study/den so if my mom, who doesn't do stairs well, wants to stay over, she can sleep on the main level. That's only a once-or-twice-a-year thing.

I'm in Washington, DC, so very hot, humid summers and genuinely cold (but not long) winters. With the summers, it would be good to have a nice overhang at the back of the house for shade, which the rest of the house has but the addition doesn't. The heat is hot water radiators; the piping for those has been extended under that porch addition to put a radiator on the back wall (see pic). The house was retrofitted for a/c by the previous owners, with ductwork that runs through the attic (currently accessible only through that window over the addition's roof) and has ceiling outlets throughout the main level. The a/c's compressor is dead, so I'm currently debating replacing that for several $k or living with a couple of window units until I do the major overhaul and doing whatever needs to be done to the central air at that time. I've often thought if I were doing a new addition that I'd love to have in-floor radiant heat, though depending on the size it might make just as much sense to tie into the existing heating system, which sure does do its job. (The boiler is newish and the rads are huge.)

I could build out to a line even with the side of my house - that is, to make the addition the full width of the house, as you suggest - but I couldn't go closer to the property line than that. Plus it's at that side of the house at the front that I have the gate from the front yard, so I wouldn't want to block off my own access by encroaching on that space, even if I could. On the other side of the house (i.e. the side away from the back door), there's a little more room between me and the neighbor, but I'm still not sure it would be possible, neighborly, or aesthetically pleasing to bump out further on that side.

I'm so glad I found this forum! I'll look forward to lots of happy brainstorming ahead.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 11:33PM
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I also have a 1923 bungalow with the similar room layout but different proportions. Fortunately, mine works out that I do have a small window in my kitchen that looks south. (My entrance is in the middle of the back so the up/down landing and stairs are turned 90 degrees.) My favorite room of the house is across from the kitchen in what would correspond to your back room. It has windows on 3 sides and faces full south on the backyard, overlooking the flower beds. I have turned it into a library and am sitting here as I type, so I can fully understand your wants!

My initial thoughts: Fix the roof line on the addition to mirror the angles of the original. (Or if you can afford to redo the whole thing, go ahead and replace it all. Since you said that you want a more "open kitchen", it sounds like you spend a lot of time there and don't mind the modern concept of kitchen multipurpose room? That being the case, you could move the kitchen into the back room and make it a kind of kitchen/sitting area (or desk area), so you can enjoy the view when cooking and relaxing. It would mean that you you zigzag to get to the dining room, but it is not really that far. Then maybe turn the kitchen into an odd guest bedroom. Plumbing should not be problem if you put the kitchen part in the area that still has a basement. Also, since you would be lifting the roof line, you could grab the extra space and vault the ceiling there, make the sitting area feel even more spacious.

On the contractor front: We live in Nebraska, and my biggest battle when we wanted to add a second half story was that all of the contractors that looked at my house only saw: OLD -rip it out and replace the plaster with drywall and put in new windows. They never saw its age as a beautiful patina. So when you get your ideas and they want to rip it all out, don't give in.

Does this help to get more ideas flowing?

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 11:03AM
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I think you should move the kitchen, too, if you can afford it. Make the current kitchen the study and move the kitchen to the back bedroom area. Incorporate your mudroom into that narrow area, behind the current kitchen. If you don't use the basement stairs much, I'd leave them in the kitchen/now study and keep the door closed, most of the time.

Can you add a deck, onto the back of the house? That would give you your access to the back and make a mudroom available on the same level as the new kitchen. Then, you could have stairs from the deck, down to the yard.

You can leave the current back door as is (reached through the new study area) or take it out and replace it with a window.

This would give you a much bigger and brighter kitchen, a mudroom area and views to the backyard. It would also hopefully provide an outdoor living space and easier access for entertaining. Hope this gives you some good ideas :)

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 11:25AM
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Boy am I glad I stopped in here among you creative thinkers, because the one thing I *hadn't* thought about was moving the kitchen to the current back bedroom space - the part that has basement space under it, as you two suggest. 11'sq makes for a small bedroom, but would be a generous-sized kitchen, by bungalow standards. It is an especially brilliant idea because, since it backs onto the bathroom, there's already a "wet wall" right there, so the plumbing shouldn't be a huge issue. I have the feeling that it ought to be possible to tinker with the way the hallway at the center of the house works, to make for a reasonable pathway from dining room to kitchen...

As for what to do at the back of the house, I think I'd much rather have a screened porch than a deck, since there are really only few days a year when it's possible to be outside here without being eaten alive by mosquitoes. If I could do a substantial re-build of the addition, a true year-round space with LOTS of windows that could effectively turn the space into a screened porch would be great. One thought about ceiling height, in addition to opening up the eves under a newly-reconfigured roofline, would be that if that space had its floor level down closer to back yard level, it would still turn into a wonderfully open, high-ceilinged space even if the ceiling weren't any higher than it is now. I'm picturing fans spinning in the rafters. Cool!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 1:30PM
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Since we are talking about moving doorways.... How about this? You would get a larger bedroom out of the deal.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 3:31PM
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Hi, Carin. I see the troops have shown up and started the idea generation for your lovely bungalow.

A screened porch and a year round space with lots of windows... sounds really good to me. If by the year round space you mean your study, or a "four season" or "three season" type room? In Sarah Susanka's NOT SO BIG HOUSE books, she had a porch that could be used as a screened porch all the time, but when it became colder or really HOTTER as well, she put up like the storm windows to cover all the openings to weatherize it.

And we recently installed a portable heat pump, which sits on the floor on wheels, and a vent hose (similar to a clothes dryer hose) can be exhausted through either a hole cut in the wall (not so portable then, right?) or through a raised window just like a small window a/c....only the machine does not block your view through the windows. We have not used the heater part of it yet, but the a/c part of it is doing a marvelous job in our newly rebuilt Teahouse/garage. For one room, even with a high ceiling, it might do the trick for you.

However, changing that access point for the a/c from the window above your back room is highly advised. I notice that there are a bouquet of downspouts to carry water from the various rooflines back there.

If you simply want to make a bumpout on the side which has more space, you can do so without requiring any making a squared off bay window cantilevered out. It would be possible to make it deep enough to hold the sink cabinets if that is your new kitchen area, or it could be a spot for a nice window seat and an eastern window exposure for a nice morning breakfast.
(That's also in Susanka's books, which I highly recommend to you since you have plenty of time to plan this redo.)

It might be possible to reconfigure the sort of confusing steps up/down/in/out setup. It cannot be easy maneuvering furniture through that maze. If possible to change the steps down to the bedroom wing without moving your laundry or anything except maybe the water heater, think about how it might be simplified. The extra room might come from something as simple as a TANKLESS WATERHEATER.

Do you have gas? Or are you all electric? Or do you use oil to fire your boiler for heat? I want a tankless gas water heater, which should be mounted on an exterior wall for easy outside venting. They say it reduces your utility bills because you only heat water when you need to use it.

I would still think about coming all the way across with the roofline, even if you wanted that back porch to be on that side and a small mud room, moving the back door to enter through the kitchen and not that stairway confusion.
I'll have to look again at the houseplan before I get too rambunctious here with mudrooms!

One thing that occurs to me is that your dining room can spare some space. That wall shared with the upstairs bedroom is a perfect spot to skin off 24" for a long wall of closets either opening into the bedroom for a generous closet, or sharing the space as builtins for the dining room. It could be a wall of cabinetry which conceals your office stuff, has a nice wood or stone counter surface which would serve as a buffet for entertaining. I surmise that the room is not carrying its weight identified only as a "dining room",

It also occurs to me that you might consider knocking down the hall wall and the portion of the kitchen wall between the kitchen/dining/back room. That would let a great deal of southern light through to the front of your house. This would, of course, require a professional opinion on what can safely be removed, but I think some nice columns/posts would serve very well to lead you where the columns seem to suggest you go. It would also make the use of the household bathroom more apparent to guests.

Considering the present kitchen as the dining room would give you a spot closer to the kitchen for company dining.
If it can look out through your back porch and see your back yard, or even see the vista through your kitchen, I think you will have succeeded in turning your whole house toward the source of sunlight.

When I had MoccasinLanding, it was on a bayou but totally turned away from the water and the light. Everything I did there was to turn the house toward its strong points. Light and water. It is surprising what a difference it makes to the way you feel when you come home to a house filled with natural light.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 4:24PM
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(Please excuse typos in what follows; I'm typing on an ipad.)

Dainaadele, swapping the dining room and front bedroom was my first thought when I first saw the house, before I bought it, but now that I've spent more time with the space, I see two problems. First, the dining room looks big on the plan compared to the other rooms, but once it has a table (mine is small - 48" round, to seat 4 comfortably and 6 intimately), plus my giant Craftsman sideboard, it really feels quite full. I think the little bedroom would be too small. It's small for a double bed, really, but then only I have to fit into it, not several guests plus people moving food around. And there'd still be the problem of carrying food down a narrow, door-filled hallway from the kitchen, pas the bathroom. The other major reason not to swap DR and BR that I see is that a great virtue of the current setup is that the living room offers a really generous seating area with no traffic through it. Havng the DR on the other side would route traffic from the front door through the LR's seating area.

Moccasinlanding, so much to digest! Some initial thoughts: what if I converted the current dinng room to a library, filled with built-in bookcases, and put a hide-a-bed in there? The mid-house space with nice windows but not excessive exposure to heat and light would be a better space for books than a sunroom-type space, and it would make a cozy den/study/guestroom. Then if the kitchen moved over to the current back bedroom space, the main dining area could move to the addition. I'd
love to be able to have the feelin of dining almost outdoors year-round. The kitchen could have a counter /half-wall separating it from the space in the addition.

I agree about extending the roofline all the way across, and it would definitely make for better management of roof runoff. (I love "bouquet of downspouts!) So, looking at the house from the back, you'd have a covered entryway, whether enclosed as a true mudroom or just a sheltered area, at the left; tehn to the right of that nder the addition roof would be a sitting area overlookng the yard; and to the right of that, behind the kitchen, would be a dining space. The idea of usng a bumpout on that side to get more sink/counter/window-seat space is brilliant.

The good news about the basement is that laundry, boiler, and water heater are all closer to the front of the house. The laundry is under the dining room and the boiler etc. Are under the small front bedroom. The stairs to the basement just come down into a nice open space, so reconfiguring those stairs wouldn't present a major problem - though it might only be necessary to switch around where they emerge at the main floor, rather than redoing the whole run from ground level down to the basement.

The above discussion leaves out what to do with the old kitchen space. It could become a much-needed pantry/dog-feeding/household-management space, and it might be a good room in which to add pull-down access to the attic. Pending structural assessment, it could definitely be possible to fiddle with the precise location of the hallway and its various walls and doors.

On utilities: the boiler, water heater, and stove are gas-fired. The water heater is brand new, so I wouldn't replace it any time soon, but I'd definitely consider tankless when the time comes for a replacement. If the addition contains dining space and is open to the kitchen, which sits in the old part of the house, it probably makes sense just to tie the addition into the heating and cooling systems of the main house. I'd definitely incorporate good insulating shades for both summer and winter climate control if I had a window-filled room tha I expected to use year-round.

Whew! That's a lot of typing to do on an ipad. This is fun! I may never leave this forum :-)

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 5:31PM
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Back again with a couple more thoughts before bed. Moccasinlanding, I forgot to mention that I have ALL of Sarah Suzanka's books. Love 'em.

Second, I remembred I had a pic of my basement. This is looking towards the back of the house. From where I stood to take this, the laundry room was just behind me to the right and the boiler room was way behind me on the left. As you can see, this back portion of the basement is pretty much wide open, and you can see how the steps run now. The back door is just at the top of the steps.

Which leads me to my next question. If the kitchen were to be moved to where the back bedroom part of the current large back room is, and a full-width addition across the back of the house were to contain dinng space, sitting space, and a sheltered or enclosed entry/mudroom, where should the entrance to the basement go? It could stay right where it is, from the old kitchen. If the main way into the house from the back were to change from stepping up into the current kitchen to stepping up from the sheltered entry into the main part of the addition, one cold preserve the current back door as a way of accessing the basement directly from the entry/mudroom. But would there be some value in moving the basement stairs altogether and putting the door to the basement, say, somewhere in a reconfigured central hallway? I'm thinking that if the headroom for the basement stairs weren't in the way, it would be possible to open walls to see right from the current DR > current kitchen > right out into the back yard. In fact, whatever purpose the current kitchen space is put to, it would probab,y be more useful if it weren't blocked off from the back of the house by the need to access the basement right behind it. I'm not expressing this terribly well, and I'm having trouble picturing it in three dimensions, Tomorrow I'll try sketching some variations and posting them.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 10:53PM
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At first I thought moving the kitchen or dining room would be a good idea too. But the more I looked at it, the more I thought it would be awkward. I think if it were me, I'd do something like this, both to make it more functional and less expensive. But I don't live there and have only looked at this for less than 30 minutes, so it's probably not worth much.

That means losing some square footage and part of your den/office, but gain function and view in the kitchen, although I don't know how much view you'd really have when you have to look through two windows and the wall to the bedroom would block the left side.

I'd also change that roof to match the style of the house.

When you step off the last basement stair step, do you have a foot of floor space or is there more space behind that wall? If you step off with your nose right into the wall as it looks, I'd probably want to change those so it's easier to step off into the room.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 12:44AM
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marti8a, using essentially a half-wall on either side of the stairs to let light through is a great idea, and I like a u-shaped kitchen. Your solution for that part of the space wouldn't be incompatible with having a full-width addition, either. I'll add this into the mix.

To answer your question, the ending of the basement steps looks like it's partially obstructed in the photo I posted, but it's actually not a big deal, or not enough of a deal to warrant moving the stairs unless there's a good
reason to change their access point on the main level.

I've got painters working in the house at the moment and don't want to get in their way, but when I'm back in their this weekend, I'll measure how much linear space the basement stairs actually need for headroom - that is, how much main-level acreage the opening for the basement stairs needs to take up.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 9:22AM
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Back again. How about some of the ideas in this sketch. (I excerpted just the
back half of the plan.)

On the assumption that you can't read all my scribbles:
- The dining room becomes a library with lots of built-in bookcases and space for a sofabed.
- The old kitchen becomes a pantry/dog-feeding space (so dog management doesn't have to happen in the middle of the kitchen), with a small desk space for paying bills and whatnot.
- What is now the left (east) wall of the kitchen is removed, as far as structurally possible, so the central hallway becomes double its current width and opens up the flow of light all the way from the back of the house to the new library.
- The dining area is in the addition at the SE corner of the house, separated from the kitchen by an arm of the u-shaped kitchen counter.
- The rest of the addition allows room for a small seating area.
- The addition (whether existing addition or newly built) is wrapped in windows that can be opened to create a screened porch effect.
- Possible bumpouts to gain more space for a window seat and kitchen counter acreage on the east wall.
- Main back entry is now into a space at ground level sheltered by the reconfigured, full-width, properly-pitched roof over the addition.
- Access to the basement is from that sheltered entry, via what's now the current back door.
- Access into the main level from the sheltered entry is up a few steps into the main space of the addition, bring you up facing the kitchen.

OK - off to get some actual work done! I'll look forward to your thoughts.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 12:46PM
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Supplementary question for those who have experience of such things: If I am, hypothetically, reconfiguring the addition's roofline, extending it the full width of the back of the house, and replacing all of the windows and almost all of the wall space of the current addition with new windows (and possible bumpouts), is there any virtue or significant savings in retaining the current addition rather than tearing it off and starting from scratch?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 4:04PM
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I think your changes will be wonderful! I really like the new library and all that lovely space in the kitchen. I also think the bump out for the sink and window seat is a great idea!

As for the hallway space, I'm no expert, but I would guess by your roof pitchen that the front to back walls are load bearing. What if you opened up an arch from the library into the dog/desk area and also took off the door into the hallway...and made that an arch. Then, as large an arch as possible, between the dog/desk area and the kitchen? Hopefully, you could include the area where the door is now on the plan, between the hall and new kitchen space.

The changes to the stairs and entry look really good and I can tell you've given this a lot of thought, but I think my favorite thing...all those windows in the back, opening up the new dining/seating area to make it feel almost like a screened porch. That will be a wonderful place to spend time, year round! Best of luck with your project :)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 5:22PM
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Carin, you are asking the question which I am asking myself about our back porch, when next winter we attempt to include it in a kitchen reno. I don't know how to answer YOUR question, since it involves a part of the house which has no basement, while the rest of your house does, it has no insulation beneath it, there will have to be some rerouting of electrical and a/c ducting, and tying in with the current heating system. Since you are not suggesting digging more basement under this portion of the house, just reinforcing the foundation as needed and weatherizing it could be all you should do to make it right.

If you kept the present foundation of that addition, IS IT STRONG ENOUGH, BEEFY ENOUGH, TO CARRY THE LOAD? Do you plan of replacing the exterior siding? Is that siding wood?

I think that before you commit to beautifying the present addition, I would imagine what could be built that was a LOT better than your current setup. What you have is a good sized space, and a lot of materials in it. Could any of that material be REUSED if you tear down and build a new addition? What I'm thinking is you may encounter some surprises when the old roof comes off, and the walls come down around the old kitchen, and at that point I'd be ready to change horses in mid stream to a tear down but wind up with something similar to the plan you last proposed above.

I really like the plan that you are tentatively proposing. Great flow and more of your house serves multiple purposes. I think your mom's problem with stairs should be almost eliminated too.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 5:53PM
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LL, I think you're right that it should be possible to open up the view substantially even if the back-to-front walls can't come out entirely.

ML, I'll be interested to follow your decisions about your porch. My addition sits on nothing but four piers. The inspector said it was stable, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's not a lot of tolerance for any additional weight. It also just occurred to me that if I wanted the new covered entry in what is now the angle between the back door and the addition to be any wider than 30 inches - and I certainly would - I'd have to move back the piers that hold up that side of the old addition, anyway. Given the difficulty of permitting in this city, I'd want to know in advance whether I was going to do a teardown before work got underway, but at that stage I'd be seeking professional advice, anyway. I'd just hate to find myself with a half-demo'd space and THEN try to convince the city that I should be allowed to build to the very limit of my setback! Oy.

The exterior is wood shakes. I intend to paint the whole exterior when I can afford it, and the sensible thing would be to do that at the same time as any renovation on the back of the house, so that new work can be painted to match or coordinate with the main part of the house. I'm also thinking that if I replaced the addition rather than working basically within its envelope, I could grab another couple of feet of depth, which could make a significant difference in the feel of the dining and seating area in the new addition. My purple scribbles above aren't to scale, obviously, but the old addition actually only sticks out 8 feet from the back of the main house, which could be a little too skinny for the dining area I'm envisioning.

OK - off to post some paint pics in the Decorating forum. Catch y'all in the morning.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 9:55PM
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carinr, how long do you see yourself in this house? I'm all for making the house the way you want, but if you plan on selling in the next 20 years, I'd want to make it work for future buyers too before you spend that much money on it. And frankly, the kitchen in the back where you have to walk past the bedroom & bathroom would be a deal breaker for me, as would not being able to use any of the other spaces upstairs as a 2nd bedroom. But if you plan on living there the rest of your life and that is what you want, go for it.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 10:37AM
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Carin, just another thought:
Have you considered screening in your front porch? In Mobile, on the old city streets downtown, where front yards are small and close to the sidewalk, it is something that brings together the neighbors, sitting there in comfort with ceiling fans and rocking chairs and swings, of an evening at twilight. A pair of double screen doors opening inward at the top of the steps, not latched but able to keep out mosquitos, would give you a nice shady spot for spring, summer and fall. I'm aware it is on the north side of your house, which is always in the shade too.

Even if you do not screen it in, hanging some seasonal fern baskets would work nicely. Having some pots of impatiens would also work, sitting on the steps, or maybe the coleus with chartreuse leaves, called sun coleus. I'm fond of the bright green of frilly asparagus fern, very strong plants that survive OUR winters outdoors, but could be brought into an unheated basement spot for the winter up there.

It seems to me you have an already-built open "room" which you have not mentioned so far. Do you use this front porch at all? Have you met your neighbors yet? Do THEY use their porches at all? Washington DC is after all a pseudo-southern environment, and might like to promote its ties to southern hospitality or tradition.

For your dark brick, I'd recommend white swing, white pseudo wicker rocker (allweather out of aluminum frame with plastic "wicker" wrapping). It would show up nicely against the dark surroundings, wouldn't it?

As if you did not have enough projects going already! But this one would give you a spot to sit with very little effort on your part. Maybe just installing the ceiling fan, and using some indoor/outdoor rope lighting on a dimmer to surround the porch ceiling. I love LED rope lights. You can buy it by the spool. It would also look nice going down the side of your house by the walkway to the proposed back door, along the top of the foundation, illuminating the flower beds by being set on a timer or light sensor or motion sensor, also LED.

Please note:
My brother installed a motion sensor for his driveway and front steps. He has 12-volt lights strung up his tall front steps. The motion sensor does not sound any alarm, it simply turns on a lamp in his house where he will see that someone is approaching. This could be a nice feature for YOUR side walkway, giving you an inside light as you come home.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 1:51PM
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Marti8a, fair question. After moving around the country and beyond for 17 years and finally having had the chance to move back to my home town, I plan to stay in this house for 20+ years or forever, whichever comes first :-) (I'm 46, so I can see *maybe* moving out at retirement and/or when my mom is needs to give up her house, but really, I'd like to stay put. I bought the house with an eye to its suitability for aging in place - one-level living, modest size for upkeep, on a bus line, and in a central location. The fact that it is so small means it's kind of an oddball in a neighborhood of bigger homes of the same period, so it's likely always to be a place for a single person or downsizer. On the other hand, Washington has a pretty robust housing market through thick and thin, so even quirky little houses sell for outrageous sums. All that being the case, I can't see living for 20+ years with a setup that doesn't really make me happy because of the resale issue. I figure two or three or four decades down the road, whoever buys the house next will want to reconfigure the space and remodel the kitchen, which by then is sure to be very dated.

Moccasinlanding, I *do* use my front porch whenever weather allows, and I definitely plan to adorn it with plants, colorful planters, new lighting, and even some art. It's definitely the sort of neighborhood where people sit out and socialize. I've met many new neighbors in the last few weeks just rocking on my porch while waiting for various workment to show up :-) I'd love to have a front screened porch, but I'm reluctant to do it because of the way it would obscure the design. I've seen other styles of bungalow around the nearby neighborhoods where screening all or part of the front porch works really well, but I'm not sure about this style. And now that I have the original kit-house plans for it, I'm kind of into preserving its original look. I've identified four other houses built from the same kit in this part of town and have become rather a connoisseur of the form!

I'd planned on adding to/improving the motion sensor lighting in my back yard, but I hadn't thought of a whole string of lights. That's a fantastic idea. It would be a big help to be able to see what my black dogs are up to when they run into the yard at night, and if I ran them along the west side of the house, where a path leads from the garage > back door > side gate, their illumination wouldn't bother me in the bedroom.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 4:46PM
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I'm glad you didn't take offense. After re-reading it just now, it sounds a little blunt. But if you are going to be there 20 years, it doesn't matter what you do, because like you said, you'll have gotten your money's worth out of it, and a younger buyer will want to put their stamp on it anyway.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 5:27PM
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Marti8a, no problem! It's an important question to ask. The last house I owned was one I kind of suspected was likely to be a medium-term house (which it was - 8 years), and it was in a rust-belt market where recouping any investment would always be touch-and-go. I definitely considered resale then. I feel like I get to make up for some of my restraint (or constraint) on this go-round.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 5:34PM
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Hi Carinr, I am not any help in designing your new space. I will agree to make it what you want if you plan on staying there even 10 to 15 years. After that kitchens do become dated. Course I love dated kitchens. LOL

I do think it is important to use your house as you really want to, I have lived so many years having to always consider resale. NOT this house. I pulled out all the stops. A couple things I had them do just for me but are easy fixes later on for a new owner. We do plan on spending our last days here if possible. That does make a little difference.

It really is much more fun to live in a house designed for you. I also agree a short term house should have resale considered. It does sound like you plan on staying there awhile.

Looks like you have a very nice basement. What are your plans for down there?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 8:49PM
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Hi, Shades! Glad to have my wishes reinforced :-) The fact that the basement is almost the full footprint of the house and all finished is a huge bonus for this tiny house, because it makes the square footage more like 2000sf instead of 1000sf. The ceiling is very low, so anybody over about 5'6" has to duck under pipes between the sections of the basement. For short guests, there's a nice-sized guest room in the basement, under the living room and the full width of the house, so about 22'x13', with two biggish closets. I'm painting that grassy green and am going to use it as a guest room, put a big dresser in it, and store all my out-of-season clothes there. If I never get around to having my air conditioning fixed, you may well find me sleeping down there, too, during the summer!

The middle section of the basement is a big open space with laundry area and full bathroom. A lot of that space needs to be used just for storage, since I've downsized from a significantly bigger house and also inherited some bulky furniture. It'll be like the warehouse at the Smithsonian - too much to display! The basement section that's under the back of the house has a wet bar - or, rather, a nice run of cabinets with a sink. I'm going to stick my spare microwave down there for guests' use, but I thought I'd also set up that room for crafty activities - put my sewing machine and whatnot there, since it'll be so convenient to have the sink and counter right there for whatever messy stuff I get up to. I opted to have that space painted white, for maximum light an minimum color distortion when I'm doing things like beading or painting.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 9:04PM
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WOW that is a large space then It looks in really nice shape from the pictures. Always nice to have good storage space too. My husband built me a small loft in his shop. I tend to rotate my favorite things around between house and loft for fresh looks. We down sized too. I am fine with it. Actually happy for it. So nice to be shed of many things I really did not care about just had.

I have always been partial to the bungalow house style. Your original plan looks very close to what my Grandmother had. I think her center bath was like jack and jill . Otherwise the plan is almost exactly the same. Her front porch had been closed in. Was a great sleeping porch for me when I would visit.

I hope to some day close in our front porch. I have not told my husband that yet. LOL

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 9:14PM
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It really is an amazing amenity to have that much basement space, and in non-grungy shape, too. Having a guest room and full bath down there takes the pressure off decisions about what to do with the second bedroom on the main level.

You guys are really making me want to screen my front porch! On the other hand, since I live such a dog-centric lifestyle, I know that most of the time it'll be a lot more use to me to have an airy, screened space overlooking the back yard, preferably with a dog door, so the dogs can use the fenced space while I hang out, drink coffee, etc.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 9:48PM
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I think it was Mama-Goose that has the sheers on her front porch. Was a collection of same size slightly different colors. Was so pretty. Right now I have shade cloth curtains on our porch because it faces south and it hotter then the blazes in summer. If we ever do close it in cooling will be an issue.

I just love the look Mama-goose achieved with her sheers. I have kept an eye out for them ever since and now I never see them. WWWAAAHHHH

Mostly for closing in our porch I was thinking just half of it and leaving the other half for out door cooking. This would make a vestibule to come into the house and help keep some of the winter cold out. The front steps would have to be moved over but I believe that would be possible.

This would leave a covered area at the front door. I would probably use the porch more too. Now it is either too cold too how or too windy.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 10:57PM
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Congratulations on acquiring such an appealing bungalow on such a charming block. I am just finishing renovation on a 1923 Sears kit house (not a real bungalow, but a small foursquare with a bungalow porch running across the front), also in DC.

My house was in such bad shape when I bought it that I was able to do some minor reconfiguring in the original footprint, but I was not able to add on because of the lot size, which is truncated.

Were I you, I would take plenty of time sketching out the current addition or a slightly larger version. If you are going to be plumbing what is now the back bedroom, you might want to consider whether it is worth your while to make your main bathroom a bit bigger. More to the point, you could have a really spectacular space overlooking your back garden. If you altered the roofline of the addition so that it continues the slopes of the original house roof, you would even have the option of a vaulted ceiling with exposed framing.

For what it's worth, I don't think porches with tapered piers screen in very well. In a neighborhood of like houses, an open and modestly furnished front porch just has a nice communitarian vibe. I think I may get a roll up shade for the west side of my porch, to keep the sun from heating the concrete so relentlessly in July and August.

Linked is a crude slide show -- you have to go through it manually if it is to be coherent -- that will give you an idea what went into my renovation, including really goofy decision making at the end.

Cheers and congratulations.

Here is a link that might be useful: here

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 4:16AM
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Honorbiltkit, that is a NEAT house! I *love* your screaming blue kitchen cabs. My previous house in Ohio was a foursquare and I have a real soft spot for them.

I agree with you on several points - about porches with tapered piers (the vertical lines needed for framing the screens and door would clash weirdly with the angles of the piers) and about the possibility of using the roofline of the addition to do great things. I was at a friend's house in Cleveland Park last night and took a close look at their kitchen/family room addition, which has a great set of clerestory windows under the roofline. If I had enough space, I'd love to have a course of little windows high in the wall of the addition, like transoms, that could be open for breezes - small and high enough not to compromise security when I was out of the house, and sheltered by the deep roof overhang so they could be open during summer storms. I'll try to start some 3D and elevation sketches one of these days.

When I get around to doing this for real, I may have to be in touch for some DC-specific recommendations.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 6:29AM
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Honorbiltkit, forgot to add: since you're in DC, will you keep an eye out for my model of bungalow in your neighborhood? I've started a small Flickr set of them (link below) and would like to add to the inventory. I bet there are lots more out there that I haven't spotted yet, especially since Standard Homes was a local company.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ardmore model bungalows

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 6:45AM
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carinr, I do believe you have kit house-itis.

I'll be happy to keep an eye out for Ardmores. I am in Brookland, where kit houses are thick on the ground because of the proximity of the rail lines. The facade of the Ardmore is distinctive and I ambulate by bike, so I should be able to spy any local candidates.

I have to admit that early on, when I wasn't sure what to do about the kitchen, I was trying to identify my model of house from the distinctive roof image as seen on Google Earth. I suppose I meant to walk up to someone's door and ask sweetly if I could see their kitchen and whether they had taken out their chimney, which just serves the boiler but takes a big chunk out of the kitchen floorspace.

I found a few Americus models (including one that has clearly been added onto in AU Park) but I didn't summon the brass to make contact.


    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 11:50AM
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Tee hee! I've so far resisted sneaking into the back yards of the other Ardmores around town to see what they've done with their rears, but maybe not for much longer!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 1:23PM
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Honorbiltkit, I forgot to respond to your point about the bathroom. The bathroom is actually remarkably big, by tiny 1920s house standards anyway. It's been modified from what you see on the plan. The door to the bathroom is closer to the front of the house rather than the back, more or less opposite the door to from the hall to the dining room. On the back wall of the bath, where the plan shows the sink, there's a tub with a shower in it AND a separate shower stall, which for my money is just a waste of space. The toilet is under the window, facing the door, and next to it is a large cupboard, in space grabbed from the adjoining bedroom's closet. The front (north) wall of the bathroom has a sink and radiator. My thought was to keep the components in more or less their present locations in any future remodel, but replace the current tub with a nicer tub/shower combo and grab the shower stall space for recessed cabinet space or maybe to recess the fridge in the new kitchen. Alternatively, if the shower stall went away and freed up room for more storage within the bathroom, or for a large hall linen closet, then maybe the current bathroom cupboard could be ceded back to the tiny front bedroom, which needs the space most desperately of all.

But since the wall between bath and kitchen would be down to the studs anyway, you're right, that would be the time to consider grabbing a smidge more space, depending on how things worked out. Just a few inches more width to the bathroom might allow a wider tub, for instance.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 3:21PM
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carinr, I am glad that you have a non-claustrophobia-inducing bathroom.

And as you mentioned a radiator in there, I just want to note that I really envy the relative sleekness of yours. I love radiator heat, but the house came with ones that stay at the window sill level but are deep enough to complicate furniture placement. I switched out the bathroom and the kitchen (which had to be moved anyway) radiators with shallower ones from Community Forklift, but I was afraid to switch out the bigger ones (which work fine) for fear of precipitating some major avalanche of elderly piping.

The net message here is that you chose a really nice house, with basic modernization having been thoughtfully done without a lot of gratuitous tarting up.

Cheers. honorbiltt

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 11:58AM
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hbk, I'm not sure I'd endorse all the POs' improvements, which were often on the cheapo side and included a certain amount of mis-plumbing and mis-wiring, but they did leave all the original windows intact, which is great. Happily, the radiators in the bathroom and kitchen are slim little things and should be easy to work around in any future remodeling. When I remodeled my bath in my old 1925 foursquare, my contractor was able to find a petite-but-period radiator for the bathroom to replace the gigantic one that had been there. It was the same kind that's in the bath in this house. Here's the cute rad in the current master bath (before painting of the room, so you can get a taste of the POs' taste):

It's just perfect for warming the towel that hangs above it. You can also just see the shelves next to the sink. The wall in this pic backs onto the tiny front bedroom.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2011 at 5:41PM
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it's a lovely older home - and in such good condition. It'll be even better when you get the updates done on it

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 11:33PM
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Carin, look for posts by a lady named Rosemary Thornton, who hangs out occasionally at the Old House Forum. She is a kit home and real estate expert (my claim not hers). She writes books also. Knows about Sears and Monkey Ward kit homes, plus who knows what other brands. She is also on Facebook if you wish to connect via that route.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 5:07PM
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