Finally, the JUST RIGHT HOUSE!
Thanks to architect/builder Stephen Mott (F+M Design Build) and his detail-minded crew, our 1939 Land Park fixer has become the cottage of our dreams. With an eye to our future as “active seniors” (good grief!), we handed Stephen an 8-page, legal-size-paper document that detailed how we wanted EVERY SPACE in the house to MAXIMALLY function. Then we threw a style book at him to loosely define the look/feel we hoped to achieve: clean lines, open spaces, light filled, warmly contemporary, great for entertaining BUT cozy for two.
We also threw another, major caveat into the design requirements: We wanted a house in which we could “age in place”. Having downsized an 82-year-old father and a 95-year-old aunt, we knew we wanted a house that we could easily navigate in old age. We wanted this to be our last house, EVER! We wanted a house with a fresh, contemporary feel, designed to carry us through the decades ahead, keeping mobility issues foremost in mind.
We got everything we asked for, including things we didn’t even know we needed or wanted!
That last piece is so important. Keeping our immediate AND long-range goals in mind, Stephen designed us a FOREVER HOME that is spacious, whip-smart functional and gorgeous. It also has dozens of design features that maximize ease-of-use and movement throughout the house, while minimizing potential congestion in heavy traffic/task areas.
None of that sounds sexy until you visit our guest bathroom! By robbing just 6” from a neighboring bedroom, Stephen created a spa-like retreat with a gorgeous, walk-in shower that has a split-valve, water delivery system. Spanning the entire width of the room, the shower stall facilitates both a seated, hand-held shower area and a conventional overhead spray station. (We think of the seat area as the dog wash option, for now, but realize it could one day be necessary for seated showering.) What also was gained by this reconfiguration is enough floor space to do a wheeled turn-around. Not needed now, but the sense of spaciousness this small bathroom has gained is a wonder and delight.
As spectacular as both the guest and master baths are, the real stunner is our kitchen/dining area. Looks aside-- and this area is gorgeous -- for the first time EVER we have a kitchen that allows multiple people to be working WITHOUT stepping over or into one another! The kicker? When working alone, NO NEED to walk a 5K to prep food or get drinks!
Over the years, we’ve suffered the too small, the too sprawled and the too just-for-looks kitchen. Stephen’s brilliant design keeps every function within steps of one another, but spatially offset in ways that keep the action flowing around a huge work and entertainment island.
Our kitchen is a wonder in yet another way. As the first place the eye travels to when entering our home, it carries all the weight of setting the aesthetics for our open-concept living/dining/kitchen area. Stephen calls it the “big moment” – the moment one walks through the front door of our cute, but seemingly conventional cottage, into a spectacularly open, airy and contemporary space. Yep, the walls came down. The ceiling went up. And a counter-depth bump-out in the kitchen, that houses a bank of windows and a dormered ceiling, made what was once a series of cramped boxes into an eye-popping, light-filled, unified space.
We started with two bedrooms, 1.5 (laughable) baths, and a tacked-on (circa 1970s) family room for a total of 1629.5 sf. We were totally charmed by the cottage look, outside, but knew the chopped-up, designated-function living spaces would never work for our current or future life style. In the end, Stephen gave us a home that is only marginally larger, adding just 64.5 sf. But by tweaking every square inch of the original footprint, he designed the most functional house we’ve ever owned!
No part of the house went untouched. This was a total gut, including tearing down the family room, built on a cement slab. With our eye toward the future, we knew we wanted NO STAIRS ANYWHERE, so this area was reconstructed on a foundation that brought the floor level even with the rest of the house. What we also gained was a beautiful, vaulted ceiling bedroom with two walk-in closets, a private master bath and access to a covered porch overlooking our little back yard. All that in just 325 sf of smartly designed space!
One final note about how we got to this love song, praising our home.
We knew from past, less extensive renovations that we could be taking on far more than our sanity, finances, and marriage might endure. We interviewed five different architects, all with great portfolios. But the deciding factor for us was how well Stephen communicated his ideas, and how clearly he detailed his manner of working with clients, sub-contractors, venders, the city permitting office and, even our neighbors.
We were never disappointed.
We had routine progress reports, twice monthly meetings (more if needed), and immediate responses to all our questions and concerns.
We had constant budgetary updates, something that became truly critical as we began choosing all the interior finishes from cabinets, counter tops, sinks, tile, lighting, doors, floors, plumbing fixtures, moldings and so much more. (More than once, Stephen pulled us back from choices that were too trendy, too costly, or simply out of character for the clean, classic vision we had for the house, and redirected us to more timeless and cost-appropriate options that fit our project.)
And, we got compliments from our neighbors about how tidy and considerate “our crew” was. (Every sub-contractor Stephen employed brought the same attention to detail that he demanded of his own crew. Many of them so impressed our neighbors they were hired for other jobs on our street.)
We took possession of the house over six months ago. Rarely a week goes by that some passerby doesn’t comment of how lovely our cottage is, and how glad they are we didn’t build a behemoth on the lot, out of character with the neighborhood.
No need for that! F+M Design Build delivered the “just right house”.
Deb & Bob Hall