Analyzing Existing Plans

A trip to the jobsite led to new expansion plans—and a clearer path forward

Planning began in earnest about this time last year, after I’d driven down to Flagstaff to spend a few days onsite with Owens Construction and get started on the architectural plans—a great chance to get a feel for the house, the site, and the in-depth goals for this remodel.

2nd floor analysis

After turning the field measurements into as-built drawings, I start every project by overlaying the CAD plan with trace paper and hand sketching an analysis (pictured above) of what’s wrong—and right—about it. I've found that doing this helps homeowners get used to looking at scaled plans, especially because this is often the first time they've encountered such drawings.

There's a secondary purpose as well, just for me. Hand sketching gets my head in the game and allows me to begin focusing on the house graphically. Solutions to the challenges come much more easily once my head and hand are working together on a plan.

model remodel west covered porch east

On the first floor, it was clear that much of the original design focus went toward the dramatic, vaulted living space—what we've taken to calling the "prow" end, thanks to stacked windows that provide gorgeous views of the 14,000-foot mountaint peak north of the valley. This area felt appropriately spacious and let in a good amount of sunlight and mountain views. 

But when the rest of this floor was designed with a shoehorn. The U-shaped kitchen layout was functional, but all the traffic in the house was squeezed between the peninsula and a dangerously steep and narrow set of winding stairs that led to the second floor. The laundry room served alternative roles as the mudroom and the boiler room—two functions too many for the compact space. The master bedroom had an acceptable layout and square footage for vacation use, but for permanent residency, the homeowners wanted more freedom. 

Finally, there was a large, covered patio to the east, toward the forest, but the roof came down to about 8-feet-high off the deck, thereby blocking most of the view of the trees. We quickly determined there weren’t expansion possibilities to the south, thanks to the guest quarters and an heirloom pine tree, but expanding either east or west (or both) was tempting. What we didn’t consider at first was the option we ultimately took: expanding north, toward the mountain, to increase the size of the great room. model remodel west second floor views'

The second floor had the view north going for it, but not many other perks. The steeply sloped A-frame roof cut headroom dramatically, so the bedrooms were fine for kids, but a bit cramped for adults. And the stairs were designed only for the fit and agile, but these set to be remodeled, as the homeowners wanted a second master suite up top. Time to start designing!

West Coast

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