Enlarging space for the family is a '90s priority


October 10, 1993|By Beth Smith

Families of the 1990s are looking for spacious living quarters where they can kick back, spread out and cocoon.

So it comes as no surprise that as our lifestyle space takes on increased importance -- and larger proportions -- the average American house is growing: from about 1,375 square feet in 1974 to more than 1,900 square feet in 1992, according to the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council. Packing up the family and moving to a larger house is one way to get more of that coveted space. But many families find that building an addition is the better way. Here are three projects that improved family space in Baltimore-area houses.


It was not a pretty sight.

Sitting on 12 acres in rural Baltimore County, the mid-19th century farmhouse had no plumbing and only four rooms -- two down and two up, the latter reached by a tiny, narrow stairway.

Robert and Marion Mullan bought it in 1983. The county inspector suggested they give the house to the county to burn, says Marion Mullan. But they were not discouraged. They thought the property was perfect for their landscaping business, the Mullan Nursery Co. And they knew they could make the house livable with a little sweat equity. During the next year, the ,, couple renovated the house.

Then in 1990, they brought on board architect Bruce Finkelstein of H. B. F. Plus.

"When we first started talking, the Mullans said they needed a couple of bedrooms and a family room for a future family of undetermined size," says Mr. Finkelstein. "They were concerned about some possible structural and easement problems and they wanted to make sure the addition matched the exterior style of the house."

Mr. Finkelstein wanted the addition to function as if it was part of the original house. Also, he wanted to make it compatible with modern lifestyles by adding open space and lots of light rather than more boxy, little rooms.

"I really wanted to think out the space and the issue of family comfort."

He designed a wraparound addition that mimics the original house with its handsome front porch and pitched roof. Inside, a new stairway to the second floor rises from a back hallway that runs the length of the house. It's the key to how the addition works, says Mr. Finkelstein. The family can come in from play or work and head upstairs without tracking through any major first-floor living space.

A large family room with a fireplace was added, as were a screened porch that leads to a hot tub and deck, and a front porch that is a replica of the porch on the original house. Upstairs are two bedrooms, a playroom and a laundry.

To ensure that the new blended with the old, the house was covered in cedar lap siding that was stained a custom "Mullan blue," says Marion Mullan.

Contractor Rick Batton of F. C. Batton & Sons completed the project in May 1991, just a few days before the Mullans became the parents of twin girls.

Today the farmhouse, with its additional 1,800 square feet, is still a simple structure on a landscaped knoll: pretty, pleasant and loaded with charm.


You get a hint from the street: This isn't a typical '50s rancher.

The shape at the roofline commands attention: Atop the roof, walls rise to form another peaked cap that seems to perch quite comfortably above Nina Nozemack's family room.

Its effect on the interior is striking: As you step into the family room, you can't help but notice the soaring height of the ceilings. Light from the clerestory windows floods down into the large, open room. Custom windows also line the walls, making the room a perfect vantage point for viewing the flower beds and watching birds flicker around bird feeders.

"I decided to add this room after my husband died," says Ms. Nozemack, who has lived in her home since the mid-'70s and now shares it with her son. "We had talked for years about redoing the kitchen and adding a family room and we never did it."

Friends and her builder, Bob Webster of Webster Building Inc., suggested she wait before jumping into such a big project. But she had made up her mind.

"The house was very low with very deep overhangs," says architect Mike Ryan of Luxenburg and Ryan Inc. "It was all horizontal with no vertical feel at all. The roof reminded me of a hat pulled down over someone's eyebrows."

Mr. Ryan wanted to open up the space and to draw observers' eyes upward. He added the clerestory to give height and light to the room. He removed the back walls of the kitchen and dining room so that they flowed directly into the new 17-by-30-foot space.

Ms. Nozemack also asked Mr. Ryan to drop the family room floor down about a step.

"I was so tired of living in a ranch where everywhere is on the same level that I really wanted something different," she says.

She had definite ideas also about a huge old hickory tree in the back yard. "Even though it is messy, it is just so full of life I just couldn't let them cut it down," she says.

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