best feature: distinctive boxy form
- add kitchen/family room
- new master suite
- more storage
Take a look at a typical foursquare floor plan, and its practical Midwestern roots become instantly apparent. No space is wasted on hallways or superfluous storage; each room leads logically to the next. This house type's simple, almost cube-like, form and its four-room-up, four-down plan hold renewed appeal for modern-day homeowners. It tends to dwell mostly on the outer edges of cities, in desirable, well-established areas with elm trees and neighborhood watch associations. And because it was typically constructed around the turn of the century, when skilled labor was cheap and materials such as plaster walls and wood windows were standard, the foursquare has held up beautifully. “The more solidly a house is built, the easier it is to remodel,” says Minneapolis architect Robert Gerloff, AIA. “It stays truer and is easier to rework.”
That's a good thing, because this particular plan type lacks many features current homeowners won't do without. A classic foursquare has a particularly closed-off kitchen, little storage space, and no first-floor bath. “Because of the size of the house, it usually requires an addition,” says Cincinnati architect John Senhauser, FAIA. “There just isn't enough storage.” The extra space most often comes in the form of a combined kitchen and family room on the rear of the house. “Foursquares don't have big side yards in many cases, so you add onto the rear by default,” Senhauser explains. More storage, often in the form of a back-door mudroom, is a must. Expanded master suites, with walk-in closets and enlarged baths, abound—most architects place them either above the first-floor addition or in the former attic space.
The foursquare's most defining point, its blocky shape, makes adding on a tricky proposition. “It was conceived as an object, so when you add to it, it's hard to have it not look tacked on,” says Senhauser. “It doesn't lend itself to additions in the way houses with more linear plans do.” Architects diverge on the best way to tackle this situation. “My goal is to work with the historic forms so that the addition may have been there originally,” says David Wagner, AIA, of SALA Architects in Minneapolis. “I'll match the rooflines or, if it's a two-story addition, tie it into the main roof form.” Those hailing from the opposite school of thought will purposely separate the addition from the house, either stylistically or physically, to preserve the foursquare's character. The latter is a favorite strategy of Bethesda, Md., architect Paul Treseder, AIA, who often creates a pavilion linked to the main house rather than a full-on addition.
project: Private residence, Minneapolis
architect: Quigley Architects, Minneapolis
general contractor: Lifespace, Stillwater, Minn.
project size before: 2,000 square feet
project size after: 2,700 square feet
construction cost: Withheld