Seen and Not Heard
A smoothly blended renovation designed by architect Jane Mathews doesn’t scream “addition”
Elevation by Mathews Architecture
Expanding an older home is a delicate business. No matter what exciting new features reside within the addition, the outside must match the main structure. Too often, various parts are tacked on a la Frankenstein, and the resulting aesthetic can be, well, monstrous.
“You don’t want to overwhelm a bungalow,” says Jane Mathews, principal at Mathews Architecture. Renovating Craftsman-inspired homes from early last century — a style prevalent in Asheville’s west, central and northern neighborhoods — requires a certain approach. Boxy is a no-no. So is overbuilding. And appreciation for deep eaves, gabled roofs, eclectic dormers and rustic charm is paramount.
“The architectural style of the addition has to look and feel like part of the original house,” she declares.
Mathews Architecture has built its name on this foundation. An ardent proponent of the Not-So-Big House movement espoused by Sarah Susanka, the firm goes for sophistication over sheer size in its residential design. Last fall, they were awarded for this approach, receiving the 2011 Firm of the Year Award from the North Carolina division of the American Institute of Architects.
They are the first North Carolina-based firm west of Charlotte to get the award — and it is a client-nominated one. If Mathews Architecture can be considered a quintessentially Asheville operation, savvy homeowners get at least part of the credit. The architect and her crew are currently expanding the 1920 shingle-style Craftsman home of a North Asheville family with two children. The couple, who requested anonymity, were familiar with Susanka’s books and envisioned what Mathews calls a “quiet” addition to give their 1800-square-foot house some needed breathing room.
“They didn’t want Jacuzzis. They just wanted a little more space,” she quips.
The addition is being built at the rear of the home on all three floors, for a total of 1,215 square feet. It will meld smoothly with its almost 100-year-old host structure via a strong vertical integration.
Inside, though, the changes are of the moment. About 885 square feet indoors is also being renovated, to work with and complement the addition. The old kitchen, small and dark, just didn’t cut it for a family who loves to cook together. That area has been “totally reconfigured, with new cabinets and an island, and expanded by incorporating a small, unheated rear room and a small pantry, both adjacent to the original kitchen,” says the architect.
Another portal to modernity is a bright suite of new windows that “opens the key living areas out toward the rear yard, which is an important and private activity area for the family.” Also on the main level is a new great room linked to an airy outdoor room that was once a small sleeping porch. “Again, the goal with the addition is to keep the south side of the backyard open for ball playing and other activities,” says Mathews.
Dancing with the architecture, as it were, became more of a challenge elsewhere in the house. Retro quirks abounded, including a bedroom literally cut in half by a protruding chimney. (It’s now a master-bath/home-office combo.) A tricky storey-and-a half layout meant that the low-ceilinged second-floor bedrooms were tucked under dormer windows and gable ends. And the basement was little more than a dirt-floored crawl space.
“There is a stair from the new family room at the first floor down to another, more informal family room and half bath,” says Mathews. (Up till now the family has shared one small bath on the second floor.) The builders of old bungalows apparently considered lack of storage to be a virtue; in this home, the basement will be civilized for that purpose by the installation of a concrete slab and insulated walls.
As for those second-floor bedrooms, the firm used the two central windows in a dormer of the main hallway as the access to a new additional space. The result was a larger master bedroom, with his-and-hers closets and a vaulted ceiling to give some additional height.
“It’s going to be much more comfortable for the husband, who is 6’5” tall,” reveals the architect.
Nevertheless, “I’m the one who will get the most out of the renovation,” insists the lady of the house, who says she can’t wait to revel in the new master-bedroom suite and the home office with the mountain view.
While the couple appreciates their vintage home — and traditional architecture in general — living in cramped, segregated rooms doesn’t fit from any angle. “We’re going to love having a great room, being in the kitchen and watching the kids play there. That’s something you just never get in an older house.”
Visit www.mathewsarchitecture.com or call 828-253-4300 for more information on Mathews Architecture.