Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Project: A 70's Bungalow Redesign

I received a call from a wonderful couple waaay back in the late spring, they were interested in hiring me to oversee a complete redesign of an old bungalow they had just purchased in the west end of Toronto.   They were downsizing from a large family home and envisioned this bungalow as being their new empty-nester modern 'condo' but without actually having to move into a condo building.  A bungalow would give them the benefit of some outdoor garden space but they wouldn't have to endure the inconvenience of elevators, underground parking and adjoining neighbours.....(I can totally relate!).

This new house would offer them 2400 s.f. of spacious living all on one level, including 3 bathrooms, a laundry room and 2 fireplaces.  The bungalow was built in the late 60's or early 70's and has those distinct low horizontal lines often symbolic of that era, and I loved that about it.  These lines would lend themselves beautifully to a modern redesign in a simple contemporary style.  It was evident immediately that we both shared a similar enthusiasm for the redesign of this house,,,and about a month later I was officially on board, about 2 months later and summer vacations out of the way,,, the 'marathon' design planning got underway - its been a whirlwind!

Here's a look at the floor plan when they purchased the house.

The kitchen had already been removed (by Habitat for Humanity) by the time I began preparing the drawings, hence this plan only shows the old sink location.

There was a large additon on the back of the house which was once an old porch but now enclosed, however, these are never insulated well (if at all) and often lack proper footings or foundation.  They had no idea what to do with this space so their initial plan was to just keep it as a 2 or 3 season room.  Considering its adjacency to the kitchen it didn't make sense to me to have this as a seasonal room, imagine closing off this room for 3 or 4 months a year, dedicating an entire wall of the kitchen to this closed off room.  I knew it either had to go completely or,,,they'd have to invest a lot of money to upgrade it.  Its usually faster and easier to tear down and rebuild these make-shift add-ons then fix them,,and for minimal difference in cost.

Now here's a look at a proposed plan they had come up with before they decided to purchase the house.   These are the plans they brought to me when we first met and explained that this is what they had in mind but they were still very open to new ideas, or 'tweeking'.  I was happy to hear that! : )

This plan was drawn up for the homeowners with the assistance of the real estate agent's office.  The thing that I didn't love about this proposed layout was the open concept at the front door with its half wall and column.  I'm not a fan of completely open concept, I like 'rooms' and I particularly like a bit of a separation at the front entry to provide a weather barrier and privacy.  Whether its your pizza delivery guy or dinner guests,,,its nice to have a zone where they can enter without being on full view, centre stage.   So my approach was to ignore this plan completely and begin my own space planning process.  Sometimes small changes to a layout can make a huge difference, other times its just not enough of an improvement to realize all of the homeowners requirements or the full potential of the space.

Here's a look at what I proposed,,although I explored dozens of options this is one of the final two layouts I presented to the homeowners which I thought offerred the best solutions.  There was  another version of this plan with a different Master Bedroom layout incorporating a walk-in closet dressing area connected to the ensuite.  I liked the idea of having separation for the closet and dressing area but the homeowners preferred this version below and were totally cool with having wardrobe closets open concept to the bedroom area.

I have to say my clients were a bit blown away when they saw the layouts (in a good way) - they hadn't envisioned relocating the laundry room but for me it was key to making this house work and I saw it immediately when I looked at the plans for the first time.  The no1 thing that bothered me about the original house layout was the laundry room location.  In the new proposed layout I created a laundry room with direct access into the garage, acting as a mudroom slash laundry room.  This puts the laundry room close to where all the laundry is generated and the new interior door to the garage gives them convenient access to recycle/waste bins without having to go outside.  On every project I work on, these bins have become such a major challenge do deal with, there's so many fo them, they're huge, they have to be wheeled to the curb every week and/or two weeks but you also need to access them on almost a daily basis.

In addition to a new laundry/mud room this proposed layout now offered an enclosed front entry vestibule where you could leave wet or mucky boots and umbrellas,,and then proceed into the long and spacious symmetrical hallway with a doulbe set of closets to hang your coat and drop your bag(s).  Opposite the closets would be a symmetrical, deep framed opening centered on the large living room fireplace, which I can tell you is going to be a spectacular, stunning modern fireplace,,,,,,,,of some sort,,,,,that's one of the final details I'm working on. ; )  The Den will be 'his' home office and has its own walk-in closet with file storage but will also house their server, wireless internet equipment,,,and home theatre/audio electronics.  Both homeowners required a home office so the Guest Bedroom will function primarily as a library/office for 'her' and accommodate ocassional overnight visitors (there also a full bedroom and 3 piece bathroom in the basement).  The kitchen is now open to what will be the new family room which will be bright and spacious and perfect for entertaining.  I'll post more about the kitchen design later!

The furniture configurations on the plans are completely preliminary at this stage and are meant only to give us direction in placement of lighting and electrical, but even this will be planned so there is flexibility in furniture placement.

The first and most important phase of the re-design was coming up with this new layout - from here I would develop the interior construction budget and then proceed to develop the design details for the kitchen, baths, fireplaces and all other other construction details and finishes.  But already, at this point just having achieved a floor plan that so drastically improves the function and flow of the space - the design process has already exceeded my clients expectations.  To me, I think the most critical and valuable part of the design process is creating a great floor plan.  If the overall plan isn't well thought out, if it functions poorly or lacks flow then it doesn't matter how 'pretty' you make it, the redesign won't be a successful one.

Construction is now well underway and I'm busy wrapping up the last final design details with the homeowners so stay tuned for periodic updates on the transformation of this 70's gem.


  1. Wonderful plans! I can only imagine how excited your clients must be.
    Look forward to seeing the finished design!

  2. I too am looking forward to seeing the finished product! Good luck with it.

  3. Brilliant plan. I love how you have created a sense of entry through a journey - not just "bang" opening onto the living space. (Which can be fabulous too - depending on the property and the rest of the architecture.) But here, it creates a sense of layering, which I imagine will work splendidly. Also looking forward to final images!

  4. proof that a designer is worth their fee!!

    really, really great!


  5. As the homeowners, it's amazing to be reminded ( in such a beautiful way) of all the work and efforts of Carol and our contractor and all the trades that went into creating our new home. After living in our home for almost a year... we LOVE it...every single detail!! We're still working on the final bits of furniture and finishing touches with Carol's continued inspiration and guidance.

    Thank you Carol for leading us through this transformation. It's been wonderful working with you!

    eva and richard

  6. These plans are good and helpful for us who are working on a new house. We want a bungalow that has minimalist interior, found some helpful tips here


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