AIA DESIGN THEORY-August 2010
Edited by Rebecca Falzano
Photography Trent Bell
Architect Carol De Tine shows us how adding inward can be better than adding on.
It’s a classic case of less is more. With the rise of energy-efficient homes and a design community that’s more sustainably conscious than ever, we realize how much energy older, bigger homes can hog. According to architect Carol De Tine, “We’ve been so afraid to build smaller, and now we find ourselves with big houses full of underutilized and sometimes soulless spaces.” Below, De Tine shares with us how she goes about designing smaller, smart spaces.
Q: How do you maximize space in design?
A: How we deal creatively with these structures has led me to the idea of adding inward. A client came to me with a program that included the addition of a mudroom. The house is already quite large and has a generous two-car garage. It occurred to me that as we trade in our SUVs for Priuses and maybe even downsize to a single car, we don’t need so much garage space. My solution was not to build an addition, but to instead, reduce the width of the garage door and take some of the garage space for the mudroom and entry.
Q: What are the advantages for the homeowner?
A: It’s economical. We don’t have to build a foundation, exterior walls, and a roof. We haven’t taken away any yard space. We’ve gained an air-lock entry and lots of built-in storage in a place where junk used to accumulate. We’ve also improved the approach to the house by reducing the visual impact of the garage door and making hay with the new entry. Now, not everyone is ready to give up their garage, but we have to consider these things. My office space is similar. We converted a garage that was originally a stable and had also taken turns as a squash court and a lobsterman’s workshop. We reduced our yard storage to two closets on either side of the stable doors, created a vestibule with a modern steel and glass wall that allows light deep into the office, and raised the floor in the office area so you can see out of the old horse stall windows. It’s the best utilization of the space since the horses lived here.
For other projects, I am applying the notion of adding inward to the ceiling plane. In one case, the living space is two stories high with a cathedral ceiling. The proportion is awkward and arbitrary, and there isn’t much insulation in the roof. We are framing a vaulted ceiling below the existing rafters. It improves the character of the space, lessens the heated volume, and provides ample space for improving the roof insulation. Another home has roof trusses that provide plenty of room for insulation everywhere except where the trusses sit on the outside walls. In that case, we are creating a tray ceiling. Insulation at the new angled framing at the edges of the ceiling will eliminate the weakest point in the thermal envelope.
Sometimes “open plan” living is really “no plan” living: lots of space and no place to go. In those cases, adding inward means introducing space-defining elements. Cabinets, closets, bookshelves, built-in seats can all be used to create edges in an otherwise ambiguous space. It’s like pulling a shawl around your shoulders—everything becomes more warm, comfortable, and personal.