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Island to open and define spaces.  



An island replaces the center dividing wall to open the space while providing protection
for the cook and separation from the Great room activities beyond.
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4 Season Sunroom 



This 4 season sunroom was previously an unused screen porch because it required constant clean up and did not shield occupants from traffic noise nearby. 70 tons of salvaged barn stones transformed the hillside into retaining walls, pathways and stairs and provided a stunning vista which the owner enjoys daily at breakfast and dinner.
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Indoor/Outdoor Living Environments 



As you develop your new space, there are several types of outdoor living environments to consider …each with their own unique pros and cons. Before investing, decide which one is right for you and WHY. Some quick observations may help:



• A four season sunroom adds square footage (and greater resale value) to your home year round but you may not want to BBQ inside them and your upfront investment and disruption level will be greater. If you are on the south side of the house, solar gain can make the space too hot and needs to be addressed in the design.

• A screened porch provides protection from insects but requires regular clean up before use due to dust and pollens and cannot alleviate traffic noise or temperature variances. Consider a ceiling fan for hot days.

• A lower cost deck or patio option can integrate beautifully with the gardens you love and provide a great view from the interior. They are more weather dependent, however, which can limit your use of them.

• If you have a penchant for thunderstorms, an open, covered porch could fill the bill to protect you from the rain while enjoying the drama….. but bugs may be a more prominent part of your experience depending on the surrounding terrain.



Whichever environment you choose to explore, be sure your budget and your wishlist are aligned. Consider hiring a professional who understands how to “marry” and integrate your new outdoor living space with your home to best advantage….for both use and resale. Insist on building it to last, as it will lower surprise maintenance costs down the road.

With careful planning and a little introspection, adding a lovely outdoor “room” that is tailored to suit your needs can offer years of enjoyment while adding value and indoor/outdoor appeal to your home.



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Indoor/Outdoor Living 



For centuries, civilization has collectively cheered the advent of spring and summer and the promise of being closer to nature. For a nation that spends 90% of its time indoors, the call of lush gardens, light breezes and rich earth is irresistible. Whether you desire a year round relationship with the out of doors or prefer high intensity use during the warmer months, having an outdoor “room” to enjoy your home’s natural environment can not only increase the size of your living area, but can enhance your home’s appeal as well.

How do you determine what type of outdoor living environment is right for you? Certainly budget and size constraints matter but even simple changes can produce dramatic results. As you plan the look and feel of your own outdoor paradise, consider 3 simple tips to insure that you will be happy with the results.


1. LIST your top 5 outdoor activities and when they occur.
Start by considering what time of day you will use your new outdoor space the MOST…early in the day…evenings or both? Do you need a place to play soccer with the kids after school or a quiet spot for sipping morning coffee? Do you enjoy cooking outdoors for large groups or retiring with a refreshing adult beverage and a friend after dinner? Is a Koi pond among your wishlist items or a moss garden with a Japanese lantern?




2. PRIORITIZE your list by frequency AND emotional importance.
Identify the activities most consistent with how you and your family live now—as well as what you would LIKE to do (if you had the place to do it!) Would you eat breakfast and dinner outside daily? Are you a weekend warrior, a sunbather or someone who just wants to throw open the French doors and expand your view of the garden? Place your preferred and more frequent activities at the top of the list and plan your space needs accordingly. Consider longevity concerns while you’re at it…..will this be a temporary play space for youngsters….? or do you want a space that will remain a part of your home life for the next 15 years? This will affect both the upfront budget and your design goals.

3. ANALYZE the opportunities that your house and lot provide.
What is the orientation of your home on your lot? Which rooms in your house do you wish to access directly from the outside? If your new outdoor living space needs to be located on the west side of the house to connect with the family room, creating shade may be important to avoid the afternoon sun. If you want to read the morning paper off the kitchen, eastern sunlight in the cool of the day may be important. Are there existing natural features you can leverage or particular outdoor views and elements you want to include --or screen out? A busy neighbor’s driveway may not offer the ideal juxtaposition for relaxation.







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Happy Thanksgiving from the CDB Team! 


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Meanwhile... Back at the Ranch 

As you begin thinking about what changes you would like to make to your own home, carefully consider what to do with your existing square footage BEFORE planning to add on. More space is often less the motivation for altering a home than just wanting it to work better. Consider the case study of this 1953 brick ranch home.



The entire house dials in right around 1900 square feet. The owner’s biggest frustration was the lack of available space, light and elbow room in the kitchen located in the middle of the house. Looking at the original floor plan above, the problem becomes evident.

The kitchen is not only isolated from the living and dining rooms but it is the main thoroughfare from one side of the house to the other. Views and light from the backyard were non-existent and access was funneled through a small door by squeezing past seated guests at the dining table. Whether entertaining or living day to day, family and friends found themselves crowding into the kitchen, disturbing work flow and being jostled.

The owners dreamed of an urban, ‘kitchen centric’ concept. They longed for an open floor plan, more space, a protected cooking area and the flexibility to accommodate both large and intimate gatherings.

An analysis of the existing space above showed that two circulation paths could be combined into one main corridor---allowing the other to be “repurposed” as uninterrupted work area in the kitchen.
Parts of the old main “hall” through the kitchen were reborn as additional cabinet storage at one end and a new pantry and closet at the other.



Similarly, wholesale removal of the center wall provided needed visual connection to the spacious yard and main social areas. By introducing a large multi-purpose island and modifications to the ceiling plane, the living, dining and kitchen area coalesce into one unified great room with clearly defined activity zones. The long interior views expand the sense of space and the open flow creates elbow room for each function, allowing greater flexibility. The kitchen serves as the center of gravity and guests and family can congregate freely at the raised bar to interact with the cook. Combining circulation space and removing a wall effectively create a larger kitchen WITHOUT enlarging the footprint.











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A smaller footprint literally means, well... A Smaller Footprint! 

Nearly a quarter of our nation’s annual energy use (approx. $700 billion dollars) is spent on our homes each year. Utility and material costs continue to rise due to competing demands for our dwindling natural resources.



In an effort to reduce costs and consumption, the race is on to develop high performance homes (green) and to make sweeping changes to our public policy. But there is another story emerging, one that shakes the very foundation (no pun intended) of American culture. Many homeowners, architects and builders are rethinking the obvious: HOME SIZE. A smaller footprint literally means, well…. a smaller footprint.

The beauty of this concept is that it doesn’t take a building scientist to understand that less square footage can substantially reduce energy and resource use, not to mention maintenance long term. That a cultural shift of this magnitude could match or exceed the benefits of science and policy makes it even more appealing from a financial perspective. Downsizing may well be the wave of the future.

It has been widely accepted in the U.S. that bigger is better. Case in point: home prices are typically based on square footage calcs and the number of bathrooms and bedrooms a property contains. Exceptional design, the quality of a home, how well it functions or the energy it saves seldom factor into real estate value. The McMansion era saw oversized “white boxes,” tricked out with strategically placed chandeliers, big roof lines, high ceilings and a maximum number of rooms that “counted” hit the market in unprecedented numbers.

Unlike countries where available space is scarce relative to population density, we have always had the luxury of living LARGE. As energy prices rise and home values fluctuate however, more and more buyers are rethinking the value of “more is better.” A burgeoning cultural shift is underway to “reduce, reuse, and recycle” to conserve resources and cost throughout the life of a residence. The choice to remodel dovetails nicely with this approach, as does re-purposing the materials and resources of an existing home and site. Emphasizing skillful design is critical to making renovations with smaller footprints work to provide the luxury that sheer size affords us.

Good design principles certainly apply to any size residence. In terms of “not so big” homes however the stakes are higher for the homeowner since there is less wiggle room. In a larger footprint for example, a poorly designed kitchen may be less noticeable because spillover space can compensate for weak planning. On the other hand, distilling a home to its simplest form with proficient planning methods not only avoids waste but it can offer more freedom and flexibility than size alone, as well as clues to maximize use.

To live large in a “not so big” house we can employ time honored design precepts to outwit spatial circumstances. Utilizing borrowed views, efficient circulation, the integration of shelter and activity, organizing principles that optimize locations for each function, removal of obstructions and treating the interior and exterior as one continuous element….these are just some of the ways we can “expand” how a home lives. Our experience of a space is really not so much determined by its physical dimensions as by how it feels and flows when we are in it.


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This is a great explanation of some of the "Not So Big" House precepts that we like to use when designing homes, spaces and additions. Thank you to Sarah Susanka! 

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Thank You! 


Thank you to everyone who came to see us during the Remodelers Home Tour this past weekend. We had a great turn out with close to 700 people coming to see our Two-Story Addition featuring a Master Suite, Kitchen, Powder Room and Mudroom.








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