Decisions Decisions Decisions

The wait is over. Erik Johnson has the plans. The preliminary sketches actually, but that’s the only part I really care about. Erik nailed it.


We were happy to see the addition blending seamlessly with the existing house. Dave’s goal is always to create an addition where you can’t tell where the old stops and the new begins, and that starts with a well thought out plan designed by a creative architect.

The floor plan needs some tweaking to fit our personal needs and preferences, but that is to be expected. The hard part is done. Erik created a beautiful Howard Van Doren Shaw inspired structure that ties into the house and conforms to lot dimensions and restrictions. Now we get to play with interior layout.

There’s not much not to love about the second floor, except the fact that it blows our budget. Looking at Erik’s plans, it’s easy to start fantasying about perfect solutions to each of this old house’s quirks and shortfalls, but reality will bite you if you ignore it. We are pushing up against the ceiling of what this market will bear, and it’s no fun selling your house for less than you have in it.

2nf floor drawings
Johnson’s second floor plans had lots to love

If I were younger, and planned on raising my kids in this house, resale would eventually catch up, and I would be tempted to build Erik’s plan as is.  But I’m 54 and my kids are scattered around the globe; we’re working on a 5-10 year plan with a lot of variables, like how many years my knees will agree to three flights of stairs, so we have to stick to our budget. Besides, We fell in love with this house because of it’s 124 years old quirky charm; why would I tear out more of it than I really needed to? So I go back to our “Needs, Wants and I Can Live With This to Save Money List” see: Get a Plan and I remember  I was going to live with the hall bath, the powder room in bedroom 4 was adorable, and, for an old home the  closets( for kid’s rooms) were actually pretty big as is

Since reality limits our budget and these rooms are all in beautiful shape, we decided to limit the renovations to the new area, and freshen the rest up with paint and decorating.

_DSC0090.jpgDave’s education and experience gives him enough knowledge to make changes in design details and layout on his own. Then he passes his change suggestions to Erik to finalize in the new drawings.

Time to break out the wine and White Out.

We do need a second bath upstairs to service the three existing bedrooms, (3 bedrooms with only one hall bath would be difficult for resale) so we decided to take away space from our new master closet and squeeze one in bedroom #2 and leave all existing rooms alone except for modifying the shared closets in bedrooms #1 and 2.

Erik’s revised second floor plan

The first floor wasn’t so easy. Kitchens never are. Kitchens crammed into existing odd shaped places that need to look old but function like a chef’s kitchen can bring you to tears.kitchenrevised There’s a lot to love here too, but I few things aren’t sitting well with us. The house sits above ground, giving us that awesome front porch and windows in the basement. It also makes for an awkward transition from the garage to the mud room. With little room between the garage and back door, and the distaste for shoveling snow off steps, Erik drew the steps inside the addition, just like the original mudroom on the side. Fresh with the nightmare memories of hosting 14 people and 3 dogs in this house for the week this past Christmas, I had visions of bottlenecks and people falling down the basement stairs while trying to put their shoes on.

So here we go again.

Another problem with the additional new stairs leading down to the basement is it took away headroom in the new basement space. My kids are grown. I have no intentions of turning that space into a high school hangout. But my future buyer will. This is a large family home, and the new basement ceiling height will be 9 feet tall, giving us the rare opportunity to have a “new house” basement in a historic house filled with character.

So we cancelled the new stairs to the basement, made minor changes in the kitchen, and to save money, we are leaving the butler’s pantry ( not original) as is._DSC5555-Edit-2We’ve  never  been big fans of stepping down into a room, and having the mudroom lower than the rest of the house seemed awkward, so Dave decided to make the addition all the same level as the rest of the first floor. This meant the stairs had to be moved outside, but I think it’s worth it.

And yes, Erik agreed that there needs to be a passage from the foyer to the back of the house, which means carefully cutting through the beautiful oak paneling to create as cased opening. Despite the incorrect marketing (more on that on another post) we did not buy a compartmentalized formal Victorian. This is a Howard Van Doren Shaw home. He was a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright and a group of architects from the  Prairie School who  are “credited with the development of major architectural ideas that defined twentieth century architecture- the continuity of interior spaces, the relationship of a building to it’s site….and the visual connection of interior and exterior spaces” (Inventing The New American House , Howard Van Doren Shaw, Architect, Stuart Cohen). Shaw was known for adapting traditional architecture to suit the changing lifestyles of the turn of the century. His homes, many of them country estates , had large open rooms with big windows looking over expansive gardens. So while Id rather not touch the gorgeous wood, we are keeping with the style of the house. Erik purposely designed the radius  bay in the kitchen so the exterior gardens could be seen from the foyer; something Shaw was known for.

And for Dave’s part, he assured me they would disassemble the panels by hand and reused what they could when they pieced it back together. He is confident he can make it look as though the opening was always there. I’m sure he’s right, but I plan on being out of the Country that week. It’s just better for everyone .

2 thoughts on “Decisions Decisions Decisions

  1. Great post Karen!!! Great walk thru of your design process and revisions. LOVE the design and the exterior changes you’ve made to exterior – new dormer and revisions to garage to tie back. Very exciting☺. Looking forward to seeing yall on Saturday!

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