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Issue Date: January 2008


Room By Room

Build out or up, give your kitchen a makeover or create a master retreat. Check out these six remodeling projects and trade tips to inspire your own home renovations.
Kristen Hampshire
Mastering Serenity
Building out and up allowed for a roomy upstairs suite.
 
“We wanted a guest room in the worst way,” Stacy Windahl recalls, describing how her sister and other relatives would visit her Bay Village home prepared with sleeping bags. The house was best described as “three bedrooms-plus” — but access to that “plus” space above the garage required walking through the master bedroom. Not the most convenient situation for an overnight guest.

So, eight years ago, Windahl and her husband, Jeff, began a two-phase project to extend the back of their home, adding a family room and a bump-out bay window eating area. Because the couple knew the master bedroom was next in line, the structure was designed to take into account that second phase of building, says Mary Gut, a designer with DesignTech in Rocky River.

“When building up, we have to be sure we have the proper foundation and framing system,” Gut says. “Those can’t be fixed [after the fact]. You can’t build on top without proper support. Otherwise, you’ll have a sagging ceiling.”

Considerable advanced planning was also dedicated to the bedroom theme, space plan and color scheme. Windahl created a storyboard — a collage of fabric swatches, paint samples and magazine clippings.

“So often during the process, the designer would ask, ‘What do you want?’ and I said, ‘Where’s my board?’ ” Windahl recalls, noting that for years she maintained a binder with design ideas that piqued her interest. “The storyboard helped us communicate our vision.”

The vision was conceived from a seaside print Windahl treasures because it reminds her of family summer vacations in Wrightsville Beach, N.C. The master bedroom in many ways is a dedication to Windahl’s parents, both of whom have passed on. “They loved their home,” she says. “This space is a tribute to my mom and dad; it satisfies my emotional triggers.”

Ice-blue walls and a sage ceiling wash the space in tones that settle the mind. Windows look out to the garden below and welcome sunlight. An ivory cabinet and desk area provide a place for Windahl to write in her retreat. (Her old office was that “plus” room above the garage.)

Details polish the look and didn’t overextend the budget. Windahl faux painted the ceiling medallion where the chandelier hangs with paints from the hardware store. She, Jeff and his parents painted the walls and ceiling.

“We talked to our builder about ways we could get involved to save money,” she says. “Our project came within 1 percent of our budget.”

This is due in part to the Windahls’ well-defined goals for the space: to create a master bedroom that would feel like a vacation in their own home.

“We have gift certificates for two nights [in a hotel],” Windahl says, “and we’ll donate one of them because I feel like I’m away when I’m in this room.”

Trade Tips
Timing is everything in the renovation game, especially if you have specific furniture that must fit in the space. “The base planning is the part of the project that everyone would like to skip, but it’s crucial to decide the views you want and how you will move in the space,” says Mary Gut, a designer with DesignTech in Rocky River.

■ Plan and shop: Space planning and furniture selection should take place simultaneously. That way, you can be sure that furniture height will not block windows, or maximize great views of the lake by placing the bed appropriately.

■ Research products: The design marketplace is inundated with choices for paints, flooring, windows, sinks, fireplaces and everything else that goes inside a home. Collect your ideas before consulting with a professional. Get inspired. Then get advice.
The Kitchen
Sleek and set up for casual entertaining, this space captures guests’ attention.
It doesn’t matter if the couches are so comfortable you could snooze through “The Sopranos.” They’re in the living room. It doesn’t matter if the dining room table is elegant and immaculately dressed. It’s in the dining room.

Let’s face it, when guests arrive, they all head straight for the kitchen. And that’s where they stay. Anita Koynock recognized this, and since she and her husband entertain casually at their Chardon home (“we don’t normally have dinners where it’s ‘Pass the gravy’ ”) they decided to create a metropolitan bar setup that would remind the couple of lounges they like to duck into for martinis.

“We wanted bar seating in the kitchen, but we also needed table seating,” says Koynock, whose contemporary tastes clashed with the existing galley kitchen. “There was lots of wallpaper, flowers,” she describes. “We wanted something sleek.”

John Hall, president of J. Hall Design in Beachwood, created a design that flows and cooperates with the home’s architectural details. Cabinets leading into the dining room are angled to create an open-door feel and prevent bottlenecking. Though the general structure of the home is traditional, Hall calls the design “casual elegance.”

Functionality and design were equally important, especially because the Koynocks enjoy cooking. Anita came to the table with specific ideas for the layout and chose Hall for the project because his response to her plan was, “We can do that.”

The bar/table seating area was an immediate sell. Black granite countertops and rich, custom cherry cabinets lend the swanky atmosphere the Koynocks wanted. Hall built a two-seat bar area attached to a standard-height round that seats four. The seamless construction of the unit, which joins the remainder of the island and prep area, offers a separation between work and play. There’s room for her to chop and sauté without guests getting in the way.

“For the most part, people tend to stay on the other side of the bar, away from the stove and sink,” Koynock notes.

She appreciates the conveniences such as foot pedals that operate the sink, and switches that turn on the garbage disposal from push buttons located on the countertop. Anita opted for a gas range and a dishwasher-and-a-half. Cabinetry conceals the Sub-Zero refrigerator. A modern, glass-and-stainless steel hood is the undisputed focal point of the range area.

Skylights let the outside in, and generous windows to the backyard give way to a peaceful view — a serene lake where ducks swim. At night, the kitchen looks dramatic.

The space has energy. “It takes a very traditional house and gives it an edge,” Koynock says.

Trade Tips
Educating consumers is John Hall’s primary goal when he guides a homeowner through the kitchen design process. Because this space involves so many elements, people are easily overwhelmed. “I like to spoon-feed my clients on what decisions need to be made,” says Hall, president of J. Hall Design in Beachwood.

■ Personal shopping: Hall has been known to visit appliance stores with his customers so he can explain the mechanics. “You will regularly see me running around with clients, making them take their pots and pans to the appliance store to make sure they will fit into the dishwasher,” he says. Don’t forget functionality while shopping for appliances and hardware.

■ Ask the suppliers: Not sure where to find a designer or builder for your kitchen? Hall suggests contacting suppliers of cabinets, appliances and flooring. “Ask them who they would use if they were doing a kitchen,” Hall suggests. “They are in the trenches and see which designers work well with the client to meet their every need.”
 
A Closet Affair
Exposed storage calls for a clean design.

The closet is a destination at the Brichmann house. It features an island, a window seat and views into the master bedroom and vanity area. The open floor plan in this Bainbridge master was designed to mimic a spa — the closet is a dressing suite.

“For 10 years, we lived in a gold, shag room — you know, what you live with before you do anything for yourself,” says Maureen Brichmann, describing the old master bedroom and cramped 5-by-7 closet. “I really wanted a retreat where I could escape.”

Storage was also critical, as Brichmann and her husband, Todd, had decided to trade in dressers for a closet design that featured built-in storage. “We wanted a closet that could house everything,” she describes.

Hiding everything was also important, considering the closet’s plain view. So the couple enlisted the expertise of Erinn McFadden, a closet and organization designer at Creative Kitchens, Baths & Closets in Westlake. McFadden first took an inventory of the Brichmanns’ clothing, shoes, purses — anything the couple would store in the larger, 13-by-12 space. (The extra room was achieved by knocking out separating walls before the project began.)

“I evaluated their current space so I could make sure all of their belongings fit into the new design, and if we have some room left over for storage, that’s good, too,” McFadden says.

Men generally get one-quarter of the overall closet space, she remarks. “My husband didn’t fare too well,” Brichmann admits, though she says Todd appreciates the functionality of the new design.

A built-in unit that stretches across the length of the rectangle space includes floor-to-ceiling storage spaces for hanging garments that open like cupboards. Wedged between them are drawers topped with four rows of shelves that house sweaters, books and even a portable stereo. All wood is a candlelight color, matching the cabinets in the adjacent bathroom.

But the island is the focal point, and McFadden chose a chocolate wood to contrast this piece from the rest and single it out as a furniture piece. There, Brichmann stashes belts, purses and her clothing hamper. “I can keep my jewelry on top or set fresh flowers there,” she says.

The space is cozy and relaxing — exactly what she wanted. “I have three children who like to sit on the window seat while I’m getting ready for work,” she says.

Brichmann’s friends have dubbed the space the “mini Oprah retreat.”

“I wish I had her goodies to put in the island,” McFadden says.

Trade Tips
Before beginning a closet organization project, evaluate your inventory — shoes, sweaters and offseason clothing stashed in other places. “I always ask clients if they keep clothes in other areas so I know every item that must fit in the closet,” says Erinn McFadden, a closet and organization designer at Creative Kitchens, Baths & Closets in Westlake.

■ Out with dresser sets: With built-in closet units, there’s no need for dresser sets that can take up lots of floor space in a bedroom. As an alternative, simply clear space for dressers in the closet.

■ Protect against dust: Adding doors to hanging and shoe storage will reduce the dust that collects on belongings. Cedar shelves for sweaters provide moth protection.
 
Basement Office Build-Out
Building down and out created an airy basement office space.

The materials, finishes and furniture in a room provide functionality and style — but without a strong foundation, none of this matters. When the Goetsches decided to expand their Bentleyville home by building down and out, the clay soils indigenous to the Chagrin River bed presented numerous structural challenges.

The Goetsch home steps down a ravine in a terraced fashion, providing several levels of outdoor living space and a view at every grade.

“Our upper level is almost in the trees, and the first level is even with the ground,” describes Pamela Goetsch. “We keep pushing our way down the hill to the Chagrin River.”

By the time Frank Makoski, of F.A. Makoski Construction Co. in Chesterland, took on the elaborate project, several builders had already turned down the job. At the time, the existing home was essentially a slab — a modest footprint designed as a fishing cottage, Goetsch describes. The dining room doubled as Richard Goetsch’s home office, the kitchen was too cramped for entertaining, and the overall floor plan was a tight squeeze.

Building down was the answer. But first, the existing structure had to be underpinned. A new foundation was poured in 4-foot sections, piece by piece. Every step of the way, engineers examined the work. The slope was so steep that at one point, a machine was bracing another machine in operation to prevent it from slipping, Makoski says.

Goetsch was thankful the weather held out during the month-long process.

“The addition blends in beautifully with the hillside and the space is quite open [to the outdoors],” she adds, noting that a priority for the downstairs office was to avoid that “basement feeling.”

Sliding doors and windows accomplished this, as did the cabinets, which provide a library/study feel. The Goetsches chose commercial-grade, neutral carpet that would withstand heavy traffic, as pets and grandchildren also enjoy the space.

“Generally, our carpets are color-coded to our dogs, which were always yellow labs,” Goetsch points out.

Because this space served as Richard’s primary Cleveland office when he was not working in Chicago, technology and a functional layout were priorities. Built-in lateral file cabinets are topped with a cherrywood counter, which Pamela jokes are a shame for an attorney’s office. “There are so many papers on top of the cherry that you never see it,” she laughs.

The couple built more storage than they needed so they could continue to accumulate books. Underneath the stairs is a small wine cellar. The area also has a bathroom equipped for adding a shower.

It’s a perfect spot for guest overflow during parties, Goetsch says. And though it is arranged as an office now, the space is certainly versatile. “If we sold the home, the basement could be a hangout for teenagers, a playroom for younger children, or even a media room.”

But as it stands now, the lower level is her husband’s space.

“This is pretty much his domain,” Goetsch says. 

Trade Tips
Building down and out presents challenges in certain soil conditions. Topography plays a key role in the preparatory work involved in the foundation and external structure, says Frank Makoski, owner of F.A. Makoski Construction Co. in Chesterland. “The engineering must be done properly before the project can be executed,” he says, referring to the Goetsch property in particular.

■Build within limits: Stable ground is an absolute for any basement project, and even then, the site may not be suitable for all designs. Understand property limitations and work within those parameters. Otherwise, foundations can crack, slip or worse.

■ Open up the basement: Most people’s goal for a basement add-on is that the space “doesn’t feel like a basement.” Sliding doors and windows prevent a closed-in feeling.

 
Bathroom
Tiny spaces deserve big impact.

Renovating a powder room the size of a locker may seem like a simple project, but size is deceiving, says John Hall, president of J. Hall Design in Beachwood.

“Even though a bathroom is smaller, it is very labor-intensive with tough issues to work through,” Hall says.

For one, there’s plumbing. Add tilework, fixture installation and the overall challenge of fitting all the essentials into a tiny area. In the Koynocks’ Chardon home, the powder room off of the couple’s newly renovated kitchen (see page 127) required a facelift.

“It had a typical white toilet with a little cabinet, a porcelain sink and some Kohler faucets,” describes Anita Koynock, who admits that by the time the bathroom project came around — after an extensive kitchen remodel — she handed over the reins to Hall.

Koynock wanted to add some wow to the small space, which was accomplished with dark colors. The chocolate wall color in the living room was carried into the powder room, where Hall ran the natural-toned floor tile up the sink wall to create an elongating effect.

Inventive lighting adds interest to the close quarters. By incorporating it under the sink, the backlit glass countertop creates a warm, ethereal glow that highlights the artistic vessel sink’s glass, crimson and gold design. A simple rectangle mirror on stanchions “floats” away from the wall above it.

“A small room, for me, should be dramatic but simple,” Koynock says. “If you do those two things, you won’t notice how small it is, because you aren’t cluttering it with a lot of extras.”

The powder room functions mainly as a place for guests to use while the couple is entertaining. “We don’t come in from the yard and wash our hands in the sink there,” Koynock notes. But the couple didn’t shy away from extravagance in this guest bath. They actually intended on using a sink they found while on vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. But after crating and lugging it home, they realized it wasn’t a good fit. Instead, they installed the travertine souvenir upstairs.

This highlights one of Hall’s points concerning bathrooms. Choosing appropriate fixtures, tile and hardware can require advice from a professional. He suggests investing in the lighting and fixture — and call a professional to install them. “Bathrooms are not always easy to do yourself,” he warns.

But, Hall adds, the small space holds potential for a tremendous statement.

Trade Tips
Bathroom “wow” starts with smart design, says John Hall, president of J. Hall Design in Beachwood. “A designer is often called upon to get the most out of small spaces,” he says.

■ Go for drama: Achieve a focal point in the sink area with tile work and lighting. Try using a vessel sink that sits on the countertop like an elegant bowl.

■ Prepare with care: Bathrooms are likely to require complete gutting before a project can begin, especially when laying tile. Be sure the surface is level. Prep work is more sensitive than one may expect.

Recreation Central
There’s no place like this home for entertainment.

Chris Morrissette’s Solon basement is a long way from the cement floor and cinder blocks it was when he decided to revamp the space into a home theater and workout space. His lower level offered 2,500 square feet of canvas for creating a venue that rivals any sports bar.

“You wouldn’t dare call this a basement,” says Robert Somrak Sr., founder of Somrak Kitchens in Bedford Heights and Westlake. “It’s a recreation room.”

Allow Morrissette to conduct a tour. After descending into the space, a sharp left takes you into a weight room with six Nautilus machines and a 40-inch built-in television. A rubber floor lends authenticity.

Open up oak double doors leading to the main bar area, and the scene change is quite drastic. “Everything is top-of-the-line down here,” Morrissette says.

A curved, granite, two-tiered bar seats five. Behind it, 22 feet of countertop and cabinets house Morrissette’s refreshment cases. A glass-door Sub-Zero wine cooler holds 78 bottles. A double-door freezer and a twin refrigerator are housed under the counter. Three 32-inch televisions are built into the cabinets above the countertop.

Morrissette recalls last year’s tail-end of the NBA Playoffs. “I had five games on — three at the bar, one in the weight room and one on the big-screen,” he says. “People just come over and it’s really like a sports bar destination. Instead of going to the Winking Lizard, they come here.”

With a setup like this, a circle of friends tends to stretch — and stretch.

But the space caters to family, too. Morrissette’s children, ages 9, 11, 12 and 13, take advantage of the 120-inch projection screen for their Xbox and PlayStation 3 video-game systems. The space offers a private movie theater for a family of six. “There are some luxurious lounge leather chairs with built-in drink holders,” Somrak describes of the two rows of theater seating.

Morrissette did break one of the rules of renovation: Stick to a budget. “I was trying to control it, but halfway through I said, ‘Forget it,’ ” he says, estimating the tab at more than $200,000. A special rider on his insurance policy covers the hardware for all the equipment.

The project itself was recreation, especially the fun of choosing games. Danny Vegh’s didn’t disappoint. Morrissette has a wall of arcade-style video games, among them “The House of the Dead,” “Golden Tee” golf and “Silver Strike” bowling. A billiards table and pinball machine polish off the selection.

With all this at home, Morrissette really has no reason to go out.

“It’s really something you have to see,” he says.

Trade Tips
Before diving into a basement/recreation room project, it is important to secure the appropriate infrastructure and create a plan, advises Robert Somrak Sr., founder of Somrak Kitchens, located in Bedford Heights and Westlake.

■ Evaluate electric needs: If you’re adding a significant amount of wiring or technology to a space, always consult with an electrician to determine whether you have the proper amount of power. Keep in mind sound, video, refrigeration, lighting and air conditioning.

■ Protect against flooding: Water damage will sabotage a renovation project. Be sure your basement is watertight before you start construction.

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