THE GANG'S ALL HERE Enlarging space for the family is a '90s priority

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Families of the 1990s are looking for spacious living quarters where they can kick back, spread out and cocoon.

So it comes as no surprise that as our lifestyle space takes on increased importance -- and larger proportions -- the average American house is growing: from about 1,375 square feet in 1974 to more than 1,900 square feet in 1992, according to the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council. Packing up the family and moving to a larger house is one way to get more of that coveted space. But many families find that building an addition is the better way. Here are three projects that improved family space in Baltimore-area houses.

FARMHOUSE FOR THE FUTURE

It was not a pretty sight.

Sitting on 12 acres in rural Baltimore County, the mid-19th century farmhouse had no plumbing and only four rooms -- two down and two up, the latter reached by a tiny, narrow stairway.

Robert and Marion Mullan bought it in 1983. The county inspector suggested they give the house to the county to burn, says Marion Mullan. But they were not discouraged. They thought the property was perfect for their landscaping business, the Mullan Nursery Co. And they knew they could make the house livable with a little sweat equity. During the next year, the ,, couple renovated the house.

Then in 1990, they brought on board architect Bruce Finkelstein of H. B. F. Plus.

"When we first started talking, the Mullans said they needed a couple of bedrooms and a family room for a future family of undetermined size," says Mr. Finkelstein. "They were concerned about some possible structural and easement problems and they wanted to make sure the addition matched the exterior style of the house."

Mr. Finkelstein wanted the addition to function as if it was part of the original house. Also, he wanted to make it compatible with modern lifestyles by adding open space and lots of light rather than more boxy, little rooms.

"I really wanted to think out the space and the issue of family comfort."

He designed a wraparound addition that mimics the original house with its handsome front porch and pitched roof. Inside, a new stairway to the second floor rises from a back hallway that runs the length of the house. It's the key to how the addition works, says Mr. Finkelstein. The family can come in from play or work and head upstairs without tracking through any major first-floor living space.

A large family room with a fireplace was added, as were a screened porch that leads to a hot tub and deck, and a front porch that is a replica of the porch on the original house. Upstairs are two bedrooms, a playroom and a laundry.

To ensure that the new blended with the old, the house was covered in cedar lap siding that was stained a custom "Mullan blue," says Marion Mullan.

Contractor Rick Batton of F. C. Batton & Sons completed the project in May 1991, just a few days before the Mullans became the parents of twin girls.

Today the farmhouse, with its additional 1,800 square feet, is still a simple structure on a landscaped knoll: pretty, pleasant and loaded with charm.

UPDATING A RANCH HOUSE

You get a hint from the street: This isn't a typical '50s rancher.

The shape at the roofline commands attention: Atop the roof, walls rise to form another peaked cap that seems to perch quite comfortably above Nina Nozemack's family room.

Its effect on the interior is striking: As you step into the family room, you can't help but notice the soaring height of the ceilings. Light from the clerestory windows floods down into the large, open room. Custom windows also line the walls, making the room a perfect vantage point for viewing the flower beds and watching birds flicker around bird feeders.

"I decided to add this room after my husband died," says Ms. Nozemack, who has lived in her home since the mid-'70s and now shares it with her son. "We had talked for years about redoing the kitchen and adding a family room and we never did it."

Friends and her builder, Bob Webster of Webster Building Inc., suggested she wait before jumping into such a big project. But she had made up her mind.

"The house was very low with very deep overhangs," says architect Mike Ryan of Luxenburg and Ryan Inc. "It was all horizontal with no vertical feel at all. The roof reminded me of a hat pulled down over someone's eyebrows."

Mr. Ryan wanted to open up the space and to draw observers' eyes upward. He added the clerestory to give height and light to the room. He removed the back walls of the kitchen and dining room so that they flowed directly into the new 17-by-30-foot space.

Ms. Nozemack also asked Mr. Ryan to drop the family room floor down about a step.

"I was so tired of living in a ranch where everywhere is on the same level that I really wanted something different," she says.

She had definite ideas also about a huge old hickory tree in the back yard. "Even though it is messy, it is just so full of life I just couldn't let them cut it down," she says.

Mr. Ryan had to work his room design around the tree -- it sits within touching distance of one of the family-room windows -- by creating a foundation system to avoid tree roots.

From the back yard of the house, the '90s addition, with its soaring roof line and plentiful windows, is very compatible with the '50s house. Blue-gray aluminum vertical siding unifies the old and new sections of the house. A new cedar deck, stained bluish-gray, was the finishing touch.

"For an addition to be successful, you shouldn't be able to tell where the old ends and the new begins," Mr. Ryan says.

ROMANCING THE STONE

"Challenging" was the first word that popped into architect David Gleason's head when he considered the scope and scale of this project.

He was asked to enlarge a very traditional and stately stone home in a premier Baltimore community. In addition to the stonework, there were easements and set-back lines to consider along with the homeowners' desires. They did not want to change the style of the 1935 structure.

"Basically, my clients wanted a first-floor family room, near the kitchen," says Mr. Gleason. "But they also wanted a larger guest room and bath and a place for their exercise equipment, plus they didn't want to lose their two-car garage."

Mr. Gleason decided to add on to the back of the house, a plan that called for extensive reshaping of the land. Tons of dirt were dug out to create the house's walk-out lower level, terrace, new wing and driveway extension. When construction began in 1991, dump trucks carted out 50 loads of dirt in three days, the homeowner recalls.

She remembers thinking: "Well, once we've started, we can't go back."

The new two-level wing has an 18-by-22-foot family room a few steps up from the kitchen. The design also transformed the existing garage into an exercise room. To provide space for guests, Mr. Gleason created a suite with a bedroom, bathroom and sitting area. Its French doors open onto a small stone patio a few steps down from the swimming pool -- another feature that was added. A terrace with a wood railing runs the full length of the house and ties in with a covered porch, part of the original house.

The result is a house perfect for a gathering of friends and family, just the place to kick back and spread out.

INVESTING IN AN ADDITION

A homeowner debating the merits of an addition inevitably asks, "Will this cash investment increase the value of our home?"

Senior Editor Ken Holmes and his staff at Remodeling, a trade magazine for architects, builders and remodelers, look at this question every year.

"Consistently, the best payback is a minor kitchen remodeling, such as adding new appliances, putting in new counter tops or refinishing cabinets," says Mr. Holmes.

But additions are also strong. Second on the list for recoup value is a bath addition.

And one of the top remodeling investments is adding a family room. In Remodeling's 1992 survey, a 16-by-25-foot family room that cost $28,455 to build would bring $24,069 in resale value if the house is sold within a year -- an 85 percent recoup.

In resale value, a family room ranks ahead of an added master suite, a bathroom remodel and window replacement, and places fourth behind a major kitchen remodel.

"Family rooms, especially ones that come off the kitchen and are very open and airy with a cathedral ceiling, are becoming very popular additions," adds Mr. Holmes.

Before you plan a family-room or any other addition, consider the following:

* Additions usually increase the assessed value of your home and therefore will increase your property taxes.

* Recoup values hold in areas where other people are remodeling, or where houses are being upgraded to meet neighborhood standards. If you remodel your home too much, you might improve it right out of the real estate market for your area.

* Know your house and how you use it. Do you hold many parties? Do the kids need space? Are closets filled to the brim?

* Invite the architect for an informal visit, and don't try to camouflage design problems. An architect wants to see your house as it is.

* Be ready with a project budget and know what your priorities are.

* Be an active participant in the design process. Let the architect know what you like and don't like about the design.

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