Connected Modern

Connected Modern Home Addition: Flexibly Expanding

Architects: Christiane deJong AIA and Megan Mueller AIAS

In many instances, a client’s desire to expand their home corresponds with a significant life change. This was the case with our client Kerin, who suddenly found herself in need of an in-law suite that could accommodate her aging mother. Kerin thought it might be possible to re-appropriate the carport area at the front of her mid-century modern home for this purpose but she would need an architect’s help. She found deJong Studio and contacted us right away to assist her with the project.

At the time, Kerin wasn’t thinking about the long-term use of this space. Christiane and the team brought up questions about what the transformation would do for the resale value of the house in the competitive Fairfax County real estate market. We asked, thinking outside the box, if she could imagine using the space in other ways in the future. These were difficult questions, but they got Kerin thinking more  broadly about how a flexible design might be a good long-term approach.

Street view showing new front addition and carport

With this in mind, we began our efforts to create a distinct suite, complete with a separate entrance. Christiane focused on developing a space that would flexibly function as both an in-law suite now and a master bedroom or family room in the future. We sized the main room for use as either a bedroom or family room and added an accessible bath that could be entered from the hallway connecting the suite to the main house. We included plenty of storage space and designed plumbed walls that could serve as a kitchenette now, a family room bar, or, with plumbing removed, a future bedroom walk-in-closet.

While thinking in terms of multi-use functionality, the most challenging part of the design came in maintaining the privacy required for bedroom space at the front elevation of the house. Kerin pointed out that her current main entry, located at the side of the house, was all but invisible from the street. This made finding the front door difficult, and she often had strangers knocking on her second entry door in the carport.

Christiane knew it would not be difficult to add the design elements that would better define the entry sequence. This path would sit adjacent to the new bedroom space, however, making privacy in the new bedroom a challenge. As a solution to this, we added a narrow full-height corner window. This allowed us to limit the glass area in the facade to a small area where window dressings could easily provide a privacy screen. At the same time this corner window works well to mark the path to the front door and creates an inviting facade while still limiting views to the interior. 

Side view of new entry at original house/joint between existing and new

As a critical part of integrating the new addition with the existing house, Christiane also incorporated a new replacement shed-roofed carport. In addition to its practical usage, the carport served as a reference to the home’s original design and anchors the addition with an iconic mid-century modern design element. In angling the carport away from the main house, we were able to separate the parking area from adjacent windows and allow the existing bedrooms to receive natural light. We also created a second entrance from the new carport through a new mud/laundry room. This mud/laundry room also serves as a smart way to pull the in-law suite away from the main house. As a finishing touch, Christiane refreshed the existing front entry with a new brightly lit overhang. At last we had arrived at the perfect solution and Kerin was amazed that we could serve so many purposes with just one design.

The resulting addition design fluently extends the language of the home’s modernist aesthetic and scale. Because of this we were able to roughly double the livable area in the home without a noticeable increase in bulk. Ultimately Kerin did not proceed with construction as plans changed for her mother. She instead sold her home and the addition plans with it making a very attractive package for the new buyer.