The owners of this circa 1948 home — a record producer from Denmark and a singer from Guyana — tasked architects Margaret Griffin and John Enright with transforming the house into something contemporary that would fit their lifestyle and designer modern furnishings.
With just a few nimble moves — removing four interior walls on the ground floor, relocating a stair, and adding two rooms stacked on top of each other — they created an open living space, admitted more natural light, and updated construction to meet current codes.
Taking It Outside
The original entry sequence consisted of two courtyards bisected by walls around an entry stair. (The circa-1970 walls, which don’t meet today’s codes, were grandfathered in.) In their place, the designers created one large courtyard to seamlessly extend the living and dining area outdoors. Now visitors enter midway between street and courtyard and continue up a few steps to the large outdoor living space.
Fleetwood Windows & Doors telescoping sliding doors retreat into a pocket and separate the courtyard from the interior. Art Lopez, whose company Design Plus Construction built out the project, says that his crew put in structural headers to span the actual width of the whole window, which consists of three panels. They built the exterior wall first, then set the sliding door in place, and then built an interior wall that became the pocket for the sliding door — “a sandwich with the sliding door in the middle,” he says. During rain, water drains beneath the gravel in a channel beside the exterior courtyard walls.
Inside, the team removed first-floor walls, replacing them with beams and a single column (see small “after” photo, above). The central stairs were moved to the back, near the new addition. These stairs help to maximize the feeling of spaciousness, Griffin says, and sight lines from inside to the outdoors extend 35 feet, making “every space feel bigger than it is.”
Originally bisected by walls surrounding the entry stairs, the new courtyard is a unified space that connects and extends the living room to the outdoors. Fleetwood telescoping pocket doors remain open almost year-round.
Open up & Flow
The 300-square-foot addition to the back of the house (in green, SM LOCATE DIRECTION OF ILLO) includes a new library and bedroom. To open the ground floor, the central stair was moved to the addition, changing the flow of the house. Walls were removed, uniting the compartmentalized spaces, allowing rooms to open into one another and making the home — 2,000 square feet with the addition — seem larger.
Lopez, whose company also does design/build, has collaborated with Griffin Enright Architects on several projects. “We were able to understand the architects’ intentions,” he says. “This project was a big team effort. We met every week for two or three hours.”
A. Perfect Panels
The library ceiling is 3/4-inch white oak plywood stained in place. The panels are attached directly to the floor joists above but are furred down, Lopez says, “to make it nice and straight.”
B. Concrete Contrast
To save money, Lopez’s team poured the concrete for the floor and finished it with a high-gloss white epoxy resin. The contrast with the living room’s ebony fired-oak floor creates the illusion of an expansion of space.
C. Show-off Shelves
Traditional 12-inch–deep white oak shelving is stained to match the ceiling. The end panel, far left, is turned outward and functions as an entertainment center.
Off the Shelf
The wood stairs, which only appear to rest on the bookshelves, provide a visual connection between the different “rooms” and lead to the backyard, the bedrooms, and beyond.
The bookshelves are supported on the floor and the stair spans over them. The stair itself sits between the wall and a ½-inch steel plate stringer, which reaches from the floor to the wall above the bookshelves. The space beneath the stair provides a cozy reading nook for the owners’ young son.