While the house in Garden Oaks was the right era for mid-century status, nothing about it was Modern – until its renovation.
At 1,000 square feet or so, the wooden-sided 1940 domicile sat on a uncharacteristically small lot for the neighborhood, its pie wedge property formed by the curving streetscape often found in pre-war subdivision platting.
Even in its early years, the small (not-tiny) home was likely a bit unusual in its design and layout compared to nearby traditional two-story residences, explains Greg Ryden of Ryden Architects. For this project, he teamed up with remodeler Paul Richardson, both of Oak Forest and both advocates for right-sized residences.
FITTING THE FOOTPRINT
Originally, the “front” door was half-way down the side of the home. The front elevation shared the one-car garage and galley kitchen. Inside, a short hallway off the living room at the center of the floor plan separated the home’s two bedrooms and led to the lone bathroom.
Having been a rental house before its recent renovation, the home was especially ripe for attention, says Ryden, diplomatically. Its condition exhibited not just deferred maintenance, he says, but “extreme deferred maintenance.”
Initially, the first-time home flippers were planning to “just clean it up to rent or sell,” Richardson recalls. They ended up adding about 400 square feet, enough to accommodate a third bedroom and second bathroom — aka a master suite, boosted a bit by capturing space from the second bedroom for a bigger closet and part of a former porch.
Meanwhile, at the front of the home, the former garage bay has split its space between a new entry and expanded kitchen.
“It’s not oversized, it’s right-sized,” Ryden says of the results.
Richardson says the main issue was where to put the HVAC since the original roofline was low-slung and attic space minimal. Ryden’s snazzy solution was to vault the roof at the front of the home, something that adds a modern design sensibility, soaring sense of space, natural light and aesthetic zip.
The roof height didn’t change in the bedrooms because the exiting exterior walls were salvaged, he notes.
“It’s still a small home,” Ryden says. The open floor plan helps flow and feeling. So does the loft tucked under the vault over the kitchen. It’s accessed by a firehouse style ladder.
In addition to keeping the home “efficient” in its modest scale, the project sought to reclaim and reuse what it could. The former attic, small as it was, revealed pine planks and rafters in excellent condition that were worked into the interior finishes and parts of the exterior.
As tweaked, the compact property sold quickly.
“Perhaps I am not the only one who hates moving,” Ryden says. (His home-ownership advice and personal philosophy is to pick well the first time and avoid the starter-home, move-up market progression of home ownership.)
Buyer expectations continue to escalate, he observes. Among the “must haves” of today: bright rooms, lots of exposed woods and no more granite. Storage is still in big demand, with walk-in closets a particular challenge to provide in small floor plans.
So are designated spaces for specific uses, such as a home office, workout equipment and such. One way to include these functions in a smaller home is to add flex space in the master suite, he notes, where a bump out or nook can accommodate the tread mill, reading area or TV/sitting space.
Meanwhile, with smaller interiors, outdoor spaces provide much needed overflow space. However, this too can be a design challenge for homes adhering to the Modern Style: how to add a screen door without varying the style. In Houston, however, that’s a bug-busting necessity.
With this first home flip complete, they are gearing up for another project, though it will be a new build since the older home on the lot (another pie-shaped property) was beyond saving.
To share your renovation survival tale, contact Cynthia.Lescalleet@gmail.com.