Maximizing space in your townhouse

When you have a small townhouse and a growing family, it’s important to maximize your space. Homeowners often assume they need to add space to their homes when, in fact, more intelligent use of their existing space can satisfy their needs. That was the case for our client, an attorney with a DC firm, who recently welcomed their second child to their three-story, 13’ wide, townhouse. Like many townhouses, the formal living room is located on the second floor, and they felt it was too remote from their kitchen/dining for a growing family. Eager to replace their outdated kitchen, the clients challenged our design/build team to reconfigure their space to accommodate living, dining, and kitchen on one floor allowing the existing second floor living space to be utilized as a child’s playroom.

The existing conditions were not ideal because the first floor was inefficiently arranged in the 1980’s remodeling. The first floor entry hall was 54” wide and ran parallel to a 12’ long enclosed kitchen. Giving up space to a large entry hall, and preparing meals in a walled-off kitchen was not conducive to their family’s lifestyle.

Just beyond the kitchen, at the center of the house, is a staircase that links the three floors. Unfortunately a 7’ x 8’ space devoted to circulation was wasted in front of the stairwell. In a larger home the space could be called the “stair hall” but in a small house every bit of space needs to be functional. In the 1980’s the home’s staircase had been poorly remodeled with stair risers that were not equal, loose treads, and an inferior railing. Our carpenters completely rebuilt the stair with new oak risers, treads, and a handsome new oak railing. As the centerpiece of the home it was important to make the stair safe and attractive.

Beyond the stair hall, overlooking the garden was a “sunken” dining room, one step-down. The step-down into the dining room made it difficult to place furniture, was not flexible in terms of its use, and was a potential tripping hazard. These were the conditions that faced the design/build team.

To maximize space the entire first floor was gutted and reconfigured to suit the new design and accommodate living, dining and kitchen on one floor. The existing compartmentalized kitchen was replaced with a new open plan that is more efficient and attractive. The new kitchen is arranged with all appliances and pantry on an exterior wall. Because space is limited a stack washer and dryer were accommodated in the kitchen along with the range and refrigerator. A new kitchen island accommodates the sink and dishwasher, and acts as a food prep area. The island’s elongated shape terminates in a custom built-in dining table with a drop leaf that normally seats four but can seat six when expanded. The island, combined with the custom built-in dining table, form a sculptural unit that is both aesthetic and functional. Removing the interior walls provided extra space which also allowed our designers to place a row of 12” deep, floor-to-ceiling, storage cabinets. A chalkboard surface is framed by the wall of cabinets where the family can leave messages or the children can practice their drawing skills. Black honed-granite countertops, maple cabinets, and bamboo flooring set an elegant and spare tone for the first floor. A glass tile backsplash of bottle green, in a brick pattern, provide a dash of sparkle.

The rear portion of the first floor was an under-utilized dining room, one-step down from the kitchen, and difficult to furnish. The design/build team raised the floor to make it contiguous with the existing floor level. The former dining room became the new informal adult/media/family room. To maximize the space custom built-in storage was designed for both sides of the room. One wall is equipped with a flat screen TV and speakers that are set into a wall niche. Electronic equipment is easily accessible and tastefully placed on open shelving in a recessed niche with a cabinet below that conceals additional equipment. The opposite wall has a custom crafted bookcase with closed storage below, and open, adjustable, shelving above. The Wentworth interiors group was able to utilize their design skills by specifying custom furniture for the new family room. Although the space is small, it accommodates two upholstered swivel tub chairs, and two upholstered slipper chairs, each with side tables, that provides a comfortable space to relax.

With thoughtful design, and attention to detail it is possible to maximize your existing space. By carefully planning your home’s space arrangement, utilizing built-in units for storage, and keeping your possessions minimal your home can be attractive and functional. After this recent remodeling the home will suit their growing family for years to come.

photos by Ron Blunt

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