A ‘Royal View’ of a revamped 40′s Home

    July 12, 2011

    A ROYAL VIEW – modernizing a 1940′s bungalow-style home

    When the homeowners approached me for ideas for their pending renovation, they presented me with what seemed to be a reasonable, albeit tight budget.

    After presenting the client with 3 different spatial options (of which I don’t have any visuals any more – my apologies), the financial and day-to-day reality (it’s a home for a couple with grown children) kicked in, and after careful consideration the clients adjusted the scope of the project to better reflect their reality.

    One of our previous scenarios allowed for opening up the Master Bedroom to the Living room, with a grand staircase connecting to the downstairs. However, we decided not to touch the current Master Bedroom, and left ourselves the possibility of connecting that bedroom with the downstairs oceanfacing large room, which was slated to become the Master Suite, for a later date.

    For the remainder of the space the clients asked for a slight modification of my ‘large impact’ version, in which I suggested to remove the hallway altogether, thereby enlarging the Great Room and the Media Room.

     Let’s analyze the existing space first.

    The small, set-back entrance does not make a strong enough statement as the houses first impression, plus, it has a rather dated feel with the glass block sidelites. As is typical for houses that vintage, textured stucco is on all walls, and the coves that are in some of the rooms,change the proportion of the space even further, and make the 8′ ceilings appear even lower. On a practical level, there is no coat closet for guests (as the homeowners come in through the back door at the garage), and of course only insufficient lighting.

    Archway to Living Room in Entrance Smallish picture window in Living Room Niche in Entrance 

    An archway (lacking a really nice, deliberate curve) leads into the living room, where a rectangular picture window shows only a glimpse of the serene ocean bay and the magical trees. A wood burning fireplace is surrounded by a 5′ mantel clad in high gloss black tiles. The Art Deco flair is barely noticible, visually insufficient amidst the other decorative items along this wall – in combination with the rectangular window everything is happening at the same level. 

    Before photo of the fireplace

    The dining room had been altered before, and despite already being quite small in size to begin with – especially for the rather large table – a bump-in from the kitchen side is taking a sizeable chunk out of the formerly symmetrical room, making getting around the table very awkward. A set of sliding French doors goes out to the patio, and a small door leads into a small kitchen.

                    Patio doors in Dining Room     Dining Room table impeded by kitchen/fridge bump-out 

    The kitchen sports a 50′s style black and white checkerboard vinyl floor and a typical U-shaped layout, with a small window looking out onto the cove.

                   Kitchen with 50's diner style checkerboard floor     The U-shaped cabinetry  

    The most awkward part of the house is what I dubbed the ‘endless hallway’ – out of proportion, too narrow for it’s length, without natural light, and due to it’s width not suitable as a useful art wall. A small bonus is a tiny broom closet, other than that the house is extremely storage-challenged.

     footprint after

    On a structural level, aside from removing the hallway, which was just a waste of useful square footage, we also took out the internal partitions between Living Room, Dining Room and Kitchen. We opened up the exterior wall facing the ocean with floor-to-ceiling windows in the Living Room, a triple set of doors in the Dining Room, and, once we established the layout of the cabinetry, maximized the window in the Kitchen.

    As we were removing a structural wall we had to keep some posts in place, which I inteded to make invisible by hiding them inside built-in cabinetry.

    The glass blocks at the entrance were removed, and replaced by a set of French doors, which allowed the visitor to see the ocean when still standing in front of the entrance. The fact that the entrance is set back from the front of the house, and that the house is set back and shielded from the street by a large front yard, still maintains a sufficient level of privacy and security.

    The former open niche was reconfigured into a coat closet, complete with a room door. The new storage cabinetry which replaced the hallway was divided into 3 parts – the ‘Beacon’ at the entrance, combining additional coat storage with a signal-red art niche as a focal point and additional broom storage, the Buffet-style center part in the Dining area, with space for a painting above, and the tall storage at the other end, serving as a pantry for the kitchen and a linen closet for the washroom. The mix of high gloss white lacquer and matte charcoal laminate on the doors keeps the finishes within the chosen neutral black and white colour scheme.

     Beacon with buffet and pantry storage

    The woodburning fireplace was reframed all the way to the ceiling, and adorned with threedimensional ModularArts drywall panels. The very classy floral design evokes a feminine 40′s chic, while the motif also recalls a stylized leaf of a Magnolia tree, which is growing outside.

    ModularArts Fireplace

    The new floor-to-ceiling glass panels, which replaced the horizontal picture window, in conjunction with the new upright shape of the fireplace, along with the elimination of the coved ceiling totally changed the proportion and the dynamic of the Living Space significantly. 

    Enlarging the Great Room finally gave the dining room table the breathing room it required – not only to allow a managable flow, but also to give the onlooker the chance to have enough distance from it to admire the root in its entirety.

    Dining table - glass top on driftwood root 

    The kitchen is a mix of reflective high gloss white foil on the tall units, and manmade Wenge veneer on the base cabinetry. Topped with a piece of granite, this area is sleek and contemporary in a classic way. A rather typical L-shape with tall units for the fridge and storage along the only ‘useful’ wall for this purpose, and low cabinets containing the clean-up area along the window wall, and an island with the stove. Bar-height endcabinets with glass doors to showcase decorative items sit at the end of those base cabinets, defining the Kitchen space, while hiding a bit of potential mess from view.


    I would like to add that the original large impact version included a change to the bathroom layout as well, which subsequently switched the use of the Guest Bedroom and the Media Room. This would have allowed me to push in tall units along the current bathroom wall from the kitchen side, resulting in a much larger kitchen. As it is, the personal life of the clients did not require a larger kitchen, and it would have meant a significant increase of the budget as well, which was not desireable.

     Kitchen Pantry and Linen Storage

    The clients opted for keeping the existing oak floor with its decorative Mahagony inlay in place, and refinished it as required. Not only did this keep the cost down, it also is a beautiful way of keeping a piece of the heritage intact and of course it was ecologically correct. However, money was spent on upgrading the electrical system, with new low voltage halogen pot lights throughout the space for good general illumination, and for clean lines.

    As the client was looking for a minimal restrained look, we stayed with a neutral colour scheme of grey, black and white, and layered textures and finishes instead. There is a hint of blue on the walls, which is enough to soften an otherwise stark black and white graphic. The natural materials with their intrinsice textures, used in some of the accessories and artwork, provide a beautiful and very sensual balance.


    View from Kitchen to Fireplace

    The shade of red in the art niche was pulled out of one of the paintings in the room, with a mindful eye on the niches size and proportion. 

    The end result is a calm, lightfilled space, well organised and with ample storage throughout. A perfect canvas for the owners ecclectic art collection, and the perfect visual partner for the magnificent landscape outside.


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