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Designing a Home for a Rock & Roll Band or What to Do When Your Kids go off to College
by Dr. Oneida Cramer
When Abbey heads off to Colorado State University this semester, she will be the last of nine children in the combined family of Patricia Magadini, AIA and Randy Johnston to leave the nest. In this case, the ?nest? is a remodeled 1972 modern split-level in a hilly section of north Dallas. And the teen departures, to some extent, have freed up space in the 4500 sq ft home for the parents to expand their hobby?rock and roll. For what was once Brett?s bedroom has been converted into a rehearsal room for the band?Blue Collar Crime, named after four lawyers, Gary Crapster on drums, Marty Lowy on harmonica, cow bell, harp, and vocals, Garry Cantrell on bass guitar, Johnston on rhythm guitar and vocals, and Dallas Guitar Show organizer, Mark Pollock on lead guitar.
Yet, it is the remodeling that Magadini designed into the home before the family moved into it that is helping to smooth out the current transition.
?The key is to have the room for rehearsal far away,? Magadini said. Initially, the band held rehearsals in the game/study an amply sized central room with built-in desks for computers and overlooking the wood decked patio and swimming pool and originally designated for Johnston?s music. But, when the space began to fill up with large amps and especially when the drums arrived and stayed after the musicians left, Magadini put her foot down. So, now, the band equipment has been more conveniently tucked away in a former bedroom at the end of a long hallway on the first floor, where the members gather weekly or even daily to rehearse before shows.
Besides playing performances in Deep Ellum, the band also sets up in the home?on the dining room stage floor, which overlooks the living room. In fact, designing the dining room with a proscenium stage is key to the home?s remodeling concept?a solution that added only 100 sq ft of living space to the original home but dramatically altered the traffic patterns.
Originally, the living and dining rooms were separated by the kitchen/breakfast, and both were sized out of proportion?the dining room too small and the living room too big. The dining room was located off the left of a spacious two-story foyer that opened with two steps down into a gigantic living room with a cathedral ceiling. Sliding glass doors were on two sides of the living room: on the left, the sliding glass door led to a patio protected by a large roof overhang.
In the remodeling project, Magadini pinched several feet off the living room and pushed out a portion of the left exterior living room wall to create a new dining room. She designed a large deep dining room but kept the dimensions inside the original roofline. And she opened up access possibilities with French doors in three walls?to the kitchen, to new outdoor decking, and to a new stair entry up a half-flight to the master bedroom suite. Lastly, she elevated the dining room floor to the level of the foyer, i.e., two steps above the carpeted floor in the living room, and constructed the floor out of wood?2?-inch strip oak. Today, there is an area rug on the floor.
Transforming the dining area to a stage takes about 30 minutes to remove the table and chairs and bring in the drums and amps. The process includes relocating the table and placing the chairs outside the living room dance floor that?s in front of the band.
?The stage is a just a matter of setting up the sight lines,? Magadini said. ?The little bit higher ceiling helps, too, for the sound in the room to get the right bounce off the wall to the ceiling. It helps that we have the carpeted floor so that it?s not all hard surfaces. It would get to be too bright in here. I?m afraid it would be too loud and too much reverberation. The upholstered furniture and carpet also help.?
Besides rock bands, the acoustics are good for a single acoustic guitar. And a grand piano next to the stage adds accompaniment. Any visual accents are created with adjustable ceiling cable lights that spotlight the dining table as well as the performers.
As a stage and dining room, the new space has improved the function of the living room.
?This (cathedral living room), it was a gigantic room that nobody came in; it was oversized,? Magadini said. ?The flow did not work right. It had beam ceilings, which we took off. And then the whole wall (fireplace) was rock; the rock went up to the ceiling.? So, Magadini plastered over the rock in the upper regions, which lowered the ceiling profile and brought down the sight lines putting the focus on the lower half of the space.
As such, the remodeled dining/living room has become a focal point in the home?but not the only gathering area or, indeed, the only place to set up a rock concert. In fact, some bands have played on the balcony off the master bedroom suite in outdoor concerts such as the one for Abbey?s graduation party.
Also, Magadini designed a second gathering area in the original remodeling project.
?We really needed a family room,? Magadini said. ?Randy had a list of requirements, too. He wanted space for his music, which meant we also needed a separate space for TV watching. It just makes sense over the kitchen?that way.?
So, the former dining room was converted into a family room and connected directly to the kitchen/breakfast area by knocking out the wall that originally separated it from the kitchen. And today, when the family gathers around the kitchen, they can be also be in the family room and breakfast area. And because the ceiling is standard height, the space takes on an intimate, cozy feeling.
?That?s another thing about this (large living room) contrasting with the family room,? Magadini said. A lot of times, people come in and want all high ceilings and lots of windows, which is nice. But it?s nice to have variety?not every room has a high ceiling. Not every room has giant windows.?
?Most of the time (when people think they want to add space to the home), the space just needs to be reallocated,? Magadini said. And that is exactly what she continues to practice in her own home.
Dr. Oneida Cramer
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