Building Up on a Narrow House
Green Lake Second Story Addition
A renovation for a mid-‘90s skinny, split-level house growing up.
The original construction and aesthetic of this 20-foot-wide home was your standard, mid-’90s, split-level entry, spec home. In Seattle’s Green Lake neighborhood, it blended in with others of its type, but they all looked out of character with the original homes in the area.
So, when the homeowners began the remodel process, we sought an architectural language for the exterior that nodded to its Seattle roots, was respectful of the budget, and that introduced some personal fun and flair — a high priority for the clients. New windows with simple, clean trim help a lot. But, the real flair is as simple as paint. It’s not uncommon to see brightly-painted front doors, but to attain that unexpected pop of color giving the house extra personality, look no further than the bright, aqua soffits.
A common challenge for second story additions is to design the plan layout to meet the programmatic needs, while taking care to design in three dimensions, which is how everyone will experience the home, whether inside or out. In this case, the homeowners needed to accommodate three bedrooms and two baths on the new second floor: a master suite and a pair of bedrooms sharing a hall bath.
The narrow width of this home, the fact we didn’t want to move the stairs, and the height limit required by the zoning code meant we needed to carefully arrange the plan so we could have the head height we needed in each space. This could have been easily resolved with a low-slope gable roof, but while that would have allowed an easy layout for the interior, the house would have looked awful from the exterior. The modern gable aesthetic on a skinny home required a steeper-sloped roof.
With the bedrooms moved off the main level, we opened up the formally-compartmentalized main floor into a “great room” with the kitchen, dining room, living room, and den flowing from one to the next. From the living room at the front of the house, you can now see all the way into the backyard. Though the floor plate did not expand, the space feels much larger.
To integrate the isolated split-level entry and stairway with the main level, we designed a screening wall of wood slats to replace the solid wall between the entry stair and the living room.
For the materials and finishes inside the home, the homeowners wanted a fresh, contemporary look that was still warm and welcoming. Essentially, it’s a clean, modern aesthetic augmented with warm textures and subtle traditional elements to add character throughout the home. The finish palette was left neutral to allow for accent pops of color to be sprinkled throughout with art, accessories, and furnishings. The design aesthetic is carried between all floors and rooms so the home feels unified as a whole.
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