In the years following World War II, new housing plan types emerged such as simple Cape Cods, ranches, split-levels, and bi-levels.  These newer housing types accommodated the needs of a middle class family both in space and function, but tended to be built in mass quantities and without the detail and depth of façade of their predecessors. 

Today many of these homes are located in sought-after neighborhoods leading to a tremendous amount of pressure to tear-down the original homes in favor of new and larger versions of massed produced housing.  Dated plan layouts and more mundane exteriors are the prime drivers for the tear-down pressure.  Oftentimes all that is really needed is a refreshing and sensitive renovation and modest additions to make homes work for modern living.  By working with the existing structure, we can take a more sustainable approach and maintain a respect for its history and the context of the neighborhood.

Proposed Front Facade to a former Ranch Style home in South Orange, NJ

Proposed Front Facade to a former Ranch Style home in South Orange, NJ

This home is one example where the owners wanted a fresh look with a small increase in size, but also wanted to be sensitive the character of the neighborhood.  A Craftsman style was ultimately selected because it would not radically change the scale and massing of the home. It is also a style that is consistent with the surrounding homes in the neighborhood dating from the 1920’s and ‘30’s.

Front Facade of Existing Home in South Orange, NJ

Front Facade of Existing Home in South Orange, NJ

A key design challenge was to give the house a more vertical proportion given its low-profile and the property’s topography.  This was accomplished by adding a large gable roof, dormers, taller windows and a deep front porch.  The modest changes in the roof lines also allowed the owners to gain a bedroom and create some more functional space in the existing second floor rooms.

 Additional detail was added to the other elevations of the home with the goal of creating a more cohesive look and adding depth and shadow to the facades.  The house sits prominently at an intersection and serves as the terminus of a long view.  By adding a chimney element, more windows and richer Craftsman design elements, the house will have a more prominent Southwest façade for this important location in the neighborhood.

Proposed North Elevation with new mud room entrance

Proposed North Elevation with new mud room entrance

Proposed South Elevation with new screened porch

Proposed South Elevation with new screened porch

This project was entered into the American Institute of Architecture’s Design Awards Competition. It received a medal for Design Excellence in the un-built residential category. The great news is that the owners are moving forward with the renovations…knowing the they already have a winner must have given them added confidence in going forward with the project.

 At Clawson Architects, we believe that there are alternatives to tear downs. The greenest thing you can do is to renovate an existing home.