2014 MBIA Remodeling Award Winner

Bright lights, big kitchen: Transforming a side yard into a light-filled addition

For Chesapeake Home + Living
How a tiny Federal Hill side yard became a light-filled addition and modern kitchen:

MBIA Award of Excellence, Kitchen Addition $100,000 to $200,000

With half of his company’s projects in Baltimore City, Greenleaf Construction owner George Brown says he is used to working in “incredibly confined” spaces.

So when a homeowner in the Federal Hill neighborhood asked him to transform his tiny side yard into an enclosed light-filled space connecting the front of the house to a new kitchen, all while creating space for a powder room, Brown welcomed the challenge.

“He wanted to make an atrium and let as much light in as possible,” Brown says.

Initially, Brown and his Lutherville-based team planned to pour a traditional concrete foundation for the new enclosure. But the side yard’s tight space, which ranged from 4 feet to 8 feet wide, combined with the proximity of the neighbor’s house, made it impossible.

“We almost scrapped the project because we couldn’t dig the foundation,” he says.

Instead, Brown used helical piers — steel shafts similar to large screws — to provide foundation support. Once the piers hit solid suitable soil, he added a steel beam and eventually wood framing to support the rest of the new structure.

Using a design by Northfield Sales, Brown gutted and reframed the existing kitchen, adding about 30 square feet to the room. He also moved the powder room from the back of the house to the middle.

To connect the addition to the existing 140-year-old structure, Brown cut two openings in the structural exterior brick. He also repointed some of the exterior curved brick, making it an interior central design feature in the new space.

Adding four skylights brought it the needed natural light. Each skylight includes a solar panel, which captures daylight and uses it to recharge a battery-powered operator. The homeowner can open and close the skylight as needed to access fresh air, Brown says.

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