Enlarging a Classic Fifties Modern House Print
Tuesday, 19 July 2011 06:43

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Kenneth E. Hobgood Architects in Raleigh recently completed the renovation phase of a mid-century modern house in Durham and is about to begin construction on phase two: a 1200-square-foot addition that will honor, without imitating, the original house.

When new owners hired the firm to renovate and enlarge the 2337-square-foot house that architect Kenneth Scott, AIA, designed in 1958, the design team immediately recognized the challenges they faced.

“We knew it was going to be difficult because of our respect for the original house,” said project architect Bob Thomas, AIA, a principal in the firm. “This was a renovation, not a restoration, so it needed to accommodate a family of five, including three young children, and lifestyle changes from the Fifties to today. So we had to strike a balance between opening up the space yet transforming the interior respectfully.”

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As for the addition: “It was challenging, and interesting, to add onto a house we respect so much without mimicking, or repeating, what’s there,” said Kenneth Hobgood, FAIA, principal. “We knew the idea had to come from the existing house, in terms of materials, scale and siting. We also knew we had to be very careful since the new owners hope to have the house designated as an historic property.”

According to Thomas, the renovation involved preserving the fundamentals of the mid-century house – the carport and enclosed courtyard entry, the floor plan organization, the cruciform footprint, and the planar language of the house (interior spaces are defined by brick planes), while enlarging the kitchen and bringing the house up to current building codes.

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By relocating a staircase in the middle of the house that once led to the basement, the firm made the kitchen not only larger but literally the center of the house. This also allowed them to remove walls that made the kitchen an enclosed room and visually connect to it the rest of the living spaces as is more typical of modern residential design.

“Where we did intervene, we made it more of a true modern house,” Thomas noted.

The living room, a glass-fronted space that overlooks the rebuilt deck outside under the house’s deep roof overhangs, was touched very lightly, he said. “Other than cosmetic upgrades, the living room is perfect the way it is. We couldn’t do anything to make it better.”

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The original house is organized so that living spaces are on the northern side of the east-west axis/circulation hall with bedrooms on the southern, street-facing side. A hallway/gallery leading to the bedrooms features a glass wall overlooking the courtyard.

The addition will continue this organizational plan, including a glass-fronted gallery. This gallery, however, will also be a 25-foot-long bridge between the old house and the new addition, following the original east-west axis and circulation pattern.

“We talked the owners into buying a portion of the lot next door so that we could leave some distance between the original house and the addition,” Thomas said. “The bridge keeps us from having to mimic the old house because it’s separate from the original, not grafted onto it. It takes its cues in plan and materials, for the most part, from Kenneth Scott’s design. Yet it will provide visual and physical clarity between the old and new.”

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Along with the bridge, the addition will include a master bedroom suite, a guest room and another basement, as well as Mark Hansen’s 36-foot-long, 8-foot, 8-inches wide office that will be cantilevered off the addition’s northern elevation.

“The office is the only true departure from the planes and materials of the original,” Thomas said. “It will be a separate object that will float above the landscape in a cantilevered box, framed in dark, anodized metal that will form ‘blinders’ on the east and west, except for one slender, floor-to-ceiling window. The northern wall will be all glass with Mark’s desk built into it. The southern wall will be covered in bookshelves to accommodate Mark’s vast collection of books.”

Thomas expects the addition to take about a year to complete.


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Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 July 2011 07:52