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When Remodeling is an Evolution of the Home
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Remodeling?the latest project, completed just in time for the third annual Homes for the Holidays benefiting Armstrong and Bradfield Elementary Schools?keeps this 1940 traditional home as contemporary as the New Year and abreast of the needs of the Dwight and Claire Emanuelson family, who bought the home in 1996 and immediately replaced a weather worn Texas ranch fa?ade with a Mediterranean style designed by Richard Drummond Davis, Architect, AIA.

?One of the wonderful things about this home is that it has continually changed in a manner where the additives, the sum that you have now, could not be there without the additions,? said Bill Larson, AIA, architect of the latest design project, along with Bruce Jensen of George Lewis Custom Homes builders and Nancy Wilkinson, ASID, of Low Country French Interiors. ?I think it?s an effect of changing how the family unit operates or recognizing how the family unit truly operates,?

?In domestic architecture, the kitchen really was a kind of a copy of residential architecture, where there were servants,? Larson said. ?And so the kitchen usually was off?it was small. But today, even though someone might have help, the kitchen is really family area. It?s really heart of the home. So, what we usually find in older residences, one of the things that we continually come up against, is trying to make the kitchen more into the heart of the home. And a lot of times, there?s absolutely no relationship to the backyard. So, we?re in this constant struggle to try to bring residential architecture into how people live today.?

Like many homes built in the first half of the century, the kitchen in the Emanuelson residence originally occupied the rear of the house with its wall forming the exterior wall. By 1971, the home had acquired a major addition?a soaring two-story solarium with a domed skylight and a semicircular steel and glass wall that overlooks a sculptured patio and extensive backyard lot (see cover New York Times Magazine 9-26-71). The solarium was built adjacent to the kitchen along the outer wall, but it did not access the kitchen although it did provide a hallway to rooms added along the back of the house, and a second story balcony connected the master bedroom suite with the study and guest room.

?The steel and glass structure, it was a wonderful addition,? Larson said. ?It was done in a manner that respected Texas climate, too, because it doesn?t have the west sun coming in it.?

?I would not call that 2-story steel and glass space a traditional addition in the sense?it used ideas and spatial techniques that you wouldn?t necessarily find in houses that were built by traditional methods,? Larson said. ?Even though it doesn?t read as contemporary, the materials and spatial devices are. We viewed it as an opportunity to propose some really nice things.?

?What we believe we did,? Larson said. ?We took the solarium and we intensified its relationship with what we usually call the heart of the home, and that would be the kitchen, the family room, where people live.?

?We sort of took all these walls out,? said Claire Emanuelson. So now, a double archway connects the kitchen to the solarium. And the view of the backyard behind the solarium comes into the kitchen, which, by the way, was also remodeled to allow the cook to face the solarium.

Remodeling the small library/reading room to the east of the kitchen and behind the entry stairway transformed a former room into an interior breezeway of sorts with a small built-in bar. As such, the space now accommodates entertaining and access from the front door. So, traffic can go behind the stairs rather than turning right to pass through the dining room or left into the formal living room and then into the second living room with its large window overlooking the backyard patio.

?We know that the living room was added at some point because you?ll notice you have to step down and there?s no crawl space,? Emanuelson said. The original house has a southern style basement, which is an underground utilitarian room where the walls go only up to the crawl space under the residence. These cellar spaces seemingly enhance the resonance of the wooden floors in the original home; especially pleasing is the feel and sound of walking in the dining room. But the magnificent view of the backyard patio dramatically shifts the focus in the living room addition. A second story view of that patio is also found in the master bedroom?built above the living room.

Here is a home where remodeling has embraced the back yard in the interior ambiance. Consequently, Larson proposed a second story office with a slightly different point of view?the front yard?as seen through a large pane of glass, tilted outward under the second story roofline. Such a configuration allows furniture to go right up against the window.

?We did it spatially different than what you might do if you just moved straight ahead?played it completely safe,? Larson said.

?You take it for granted how wonderful a room is if it has light from more than one side,? Larson said. ?That can be windows, a skylight?it makes all the difference in a space. It?s one of the reasons the Park Cities houses are so wonderful is that most of them came out of a time period, when natural light was really important. ?

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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