Home Additions

An addition to your home can provide you with much needed space together with some fine craftsmanship and new functionality that may not have been available at the time your home was built.

An addition is a building project that adds living space to an existing structure. If the added space is alongside the existing structure it must have its own foundation. If we are adding up, for example, building a room over an existing garage, then the current foundation must be able to bear the added load of the addition.

Building an addition is very much like building a house, just smaller in scope. The same processes are required and work proceeds in very much the same order. In any organized urban area that has a building code, an addition will require a permit and occasionally a zoning change or exception.

But an addition has its own particular requirements. The big one is that the addition must blend well with the existing house. Sometimes that’s a bit of a trick since the materials and techniques used to build the original structure are often very different from those used today.

The general process of planning an addition is the same as planning for any major renovation. But there are some major differences. The main difference is the perspective. In a typical renovation we are constrained to fit features and functions into an existing space. If we are remodeling your kitchen, for example, all of the cabinets, counters, appliances and other items required for a kitchen must be fitted into the space you have available in a manner that is both visually appealing and functional. The space constraint is the overriding theme of the design.

Planning for an addition typically has virtually no space constraint. We can, for example, design the room to fit the kitchen, rather than forcing the kitchen to fit the room. Which leads to the first rule of designing additions:

It is very common for some designers and homeowners to do the opposite: start planning with a certain size room on a piece of paper, then figuring out what will fit in the room, and how. Sometimes things are just squeezed into the room any way they can be made to fit. Doorways, hallways, closets, etc. can end up in strange places. This, obviously is not the way to do it.

If you are blending an addition into your home, you want it to have the same overall style as the rest of the house, but avoid letting style dictate function. A common tendency, even among experienced designers, is to concentrate on the style elements first, and then try to fit the room’s functions into the design framework dictated by the style. This is backward. Function first, then style.

In designing a kitchen addition, for example, a butler’s pantry may be an entirely consistent style element for your 19th century home, but may not be the best functional dry-storage solution.

If you opt for the style rather than the function, you may end up with a lovely, but dysfunction kitchen — or at least a kitchen that is not as functional as it could be.

It’s a lot easier to wrap style elements around a good functional design that it is to force function to fit around style elements. First the function, then the style is the approach that produces the best, most user-friendly, designs.

The third rule of designing additions is that the first two rules can and should be broken when appropriate.

Sometimes there are space limitations that do have to be dealt with — for example lot setback requirements that limit how wide an addition can be. And there just may be style elements that are on your “must have” list. If, for example, one of the motivating reasons for adding a kitchen wing is to find space to incorporate your grandmother’s Hoosier baking station (complete with enameled table and zinc-plated flour bin), then that’s what we will incorporate. There are better functional solutions to providing a baking station, but this is an instance in which style should override function.