SaboTeam, New Space
When this family outgrew their home, they decided to add on rather than move on—improving the place's awkward floor plans in the process
Renovating Rather Than Relocating
A half-century or so ago, homeowners who slapped on additions and undertook other "improvements" posed the biggest threat to the historic homes in Clarendon Hills, Illinois.
Nowadays, it may be teardown-happy developers who are erecting bloated McMansions on relatively modest parcels of land. Buyers of these new homes like Clarendon Hills for the same reasons people have for a hundred years. It's just 17 miles from Chicago, with a train stop right in town. And it's quaint, in a Grant Wood-meets-Norman Rockwell way. There's a local diner and a hardware store, kids ride their bikes to soccer practice, and police officers greet residents by name.
That small-town charm is one reason the owners of this 1909 American four-square, which had been added on to in the 1940's, decided to renovate rather than relocate—reworking the kitchen and adding a master suite upstairs to make the house more livable for their family of four.
In part, the wife, an electrical contractor by trade, saw it as her civic duty to save the home rather than watch it be razed. And doing so was something of a family tradition. When she was growing up, her mom bought a succession of homes in the area and lovingly restored them—dragging her family along with her as she did. "Many of the people around here now want new homes," she says. "But I want to take these old bombs and clean them up."
Slate tiles line the wall above the range and concrete countertop. Twin wine coolers installed side by side in the island serve as the homeowner's cellar.
A New Kitchen
About the same time, a "Eureka!" moment struck. One night, David Raino-Ogden, a local architect, was over for drinks. Raino-Ogden, who had worked with the wife's father and her contractor brothers, told her she could have the great-room kitchen she desired, and the extra bedroom, without packing her bags. "What they wanted was to cook and talk and watch Cubs games together, but the existing layout wouldn't let them do that," says Raino-Ogden. The small kitchen was in the older, front part of the house. The dark, paneled rec room was in the added-on back of the house—and not a place you wanted to hang out. An adjacent office didn't get much use, either.
Raino-Ogden suggested the best way to grow the kitchen would be to relocate it to the office. Though it wouldn't be easy to snake plumbing through the narrow crawl spaces, bumping out just 2 feet for a square bay of windows overlooking the backyard would fill the kitchen with light and views. And taking down a couple of walls would make room for a good-sized table, and open up the kitchen to an adjoining family room.
The new kitchen is not only warm and bright, it is stylistically more in line with the vintage of the house, with custom Craftsman-style cherry cabinets and red-oak floors. Updating the look are a pro-style range and twin wine fridges built into the bi-level island, which has concrete countertops instead of the usual granite. ("We wanted it to be different from everyone else's," says the wife.) There's even room for a desk nook with a computer.
And, in the spirit of neighborhood preservation, the owners commissioned a muralist to hand-paint a picture of what the area would have looked like in the mid-1800s—rolling green acres with winding dirt roads, mature trees, and a few modest homes. The mural frames the bay window bumpout that faces the backyard.
In the family/media room, the glass-front cherry cabinet to the left of the TV houses the family's collection of over 2,500 CDs and DVDs.
Part of Raino-Ogden's redesign called for reducing the size of the downstairs bath, making it into a powder room, and carving out a mudroom next door. The rec room became the family room with a TV and speakers built into the wall, flanked by cabinets that hold the family's sizeable CD and DVD collection. French doors now open out onto a new paver patio. The existing French doors leading into the living room stayed, flanked by shelves backed with frosted glass that allows a collection of colored glass bottles to be seen from both rooms.
To solve the space problem on the second floor, Raino-Ogden designed a master suite, bumping out the back wall of the house over the downstairs addition to add an extra 400 square feet of space. Now four people don't have to squeeze into one upstairs bathroom, which the daughters are thrilled about. In the master bath, there are his-and-hers closets, a steam shower, and an alcove for the tub. The bedroom even got a small gas-burning fireplace.
The major change to the outside was removing the mustard-yellow aluminum siding in favor of muted gray cedar clapboards. While they were at it, the couple also expanded the front porch, removing the roof and building an open-topped pergola to allow more sunlight to penetrate the living room.
Best of all, they stayed on budget, spending $315,000, which included the cost of the addition and interior changes, as well as re-siding the whole house with wood, redoing the front porch, and landscaping. Contractor Jim Jetel reused materials where he could, salvaging old-growth pine boards from the rec room's walls to build the master-bath vanity and re-laying the kitchen's pine flooring in the upstairs hallway, which helped save cash—and character. "If it looks like the original building, that's the best addition," says Jetel. And if, in the process of adding on, there's a chance to straighten out a "remuddled living space, so much the better.
The homeowners kept the French doors and glass-backed side cabinet between the family room and living room. Their collection of colored glass can be seen from both rooms.