Provide varied phased additions and remodeling to a 1960’s walkout ranch house set on a restricted site, constructed in four phases over a period of 12 years. Because the project evolved over a long period of time not all aspects of the total project were determined at the beginning but were developed one phase at a time following an accreted process.
To provide efficient cost effective design solutions that built modern extensions of the existing building while incorporating the client’s interest in Asian aesthetics.
The multiple projects over time are a testament to the strong client architect relationship so essential in achieving good design that meets the functional needs of the client. So often residential design experiences are a one-time effort.
In 1997 I was contacted by my client Stephanie Shopa who was interested in adding a screen porch to her 1960’s modern ranch style home in Golden Valley, MN. The property was in its original condition, meaning it had not been improved or modified from the design intent of the original architect. There were a few aspects of the house that were in need of repairs in addition to the desire for the porch. The site itself also was in need of repair.
In this first phase of what would become a four-phase, multi year adventure, we worked with a limited budget. About half of the budget was expended on replacing old concrete block retaining walls on the backyard hill. The house had been sited into a hill and required retaining walls to keep the hill from sliding into the house. After some discussion about materials and pricing options, the new retaining wall was constructed of very large limestone rocks. Doing this was no small feat considering the tight conditions at the rear of the building. The balance of this phase included the new porch along with a new door from the interior which began to touch the interior. This also began discussion for phase two and three, repairing the balcony deck that connected with the new porch, and the addition of a small rear deck that would also provide access to a new hot tub. The start of a landscape design by Mark Johnson of NIWA Design also began in this phase.
Some years later, after another call, we began working on phase two. This was the smallest individual project. It consisted of gutting the existing laundry room and bath in the lower level and creating a Japanese style bath. Adjacent to the bath was a small office area, which was also part of this phase. I noticed from the beginning that Stephanie and I found it easy to work collaboratively. She has great taste and was not afraid to question ideas I came up with for the house. I enjoyed this way of working especially with Stephanie because we have an appreciation for similar aesthetics. An example of this was the existing house brought a modern base where we were able to add Asian influences. This was displayed most prominently in the new lower level bath, which provides the strongest Asian aspect.
After a few more years we were at it again for phase three. This time Stephanie was ready to tackle the kitchen, which we discussed back in phase one. We had set up a plan idea from the beginning, but then waited until a budget was generated. Along with the kitchen, this phase included an expansion of the main entry to the house, which incorporated a split entry. Like many versions of this entry type, it had room for one person to stand at the mid point of the stairs going up and down. By projecting the entry landing out from the building we were able to create an area where more people could stand and greet one another with some comfort. This required some zoning investigation, as did the porch in phase one. Now we were up against two setbacks out of four. The kitchen required expansion as well, however in this case it was into a small portion of an adjoining bedroom. This small move added more circulation space and more storage in the kitchen. This kitchen phase was constructed by Crystal Kitchen Center.
The fourth and final phase was an expansion of the bedroom end of the building. It was feeling a bit too small and the two bathrooms were in need of updating. This required an addition of the upper level only with zoning that limited the size. With this phase we were now slightly beyond a set back in a corner of the building. We were able to receive a variance for this on what proved to be a limiting site. The small addition did provide opportunity to add more Asian influences with a wall of shoji like doors and wood on the ceilings. The two main rooms were connected visually with ceilings that flowed from one space to another while still providing walls to separate. The phase incorporated from Flynn Construction, Inc. of Chanhassen, MN.
Being able to work with the same client for over 12 years on the same home was a distinct and quite enjoyable adventure. At every stage of this long-term process the next phase was discussed in very general terms. Ideas were planted and time was given to let them be tested. Stephanie seems to like getting the basic idea on paper and then a period of time to mull it over. Sometimes this period could be a year or more. Stephanie is a unique person and had a long-term vision she was committed to finishing. Many of us at SALA do have repeat clients and it is rewarding to know that the experience you had was positive and warranted a repeat performance. Sorry I have to go now. I just got a call from a client from 2006. They want to add on!
Wayne has enjoyed decades of award winning experience including the 2011 RAVE Award winning Shopa project! In this video Wayne describes a terrific example of the architect / client relationship and process.