What’s Old Is New Again — and Better Than Ever

We have spent decades becoming experts at breathing new life into old structures throughout the Greater Philadelphia region. And now Tamara is busy preparing a presentation on this topic — adaptive reuse — that she will make at The 2016 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) at the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 21. While this presentation is geared towards industry insiders who will earn continuing education credits for their participation, we are eager to share with you our insights on some exciting and effective approaches to sustainable adaptive reuse that can be applied not only to adaptive reuse projects but also to renovations in your own home. In the coming weeks, we’ll cover the following topics:

  • Why the choice to renovate existing structures is vital to a sustainable future;
  • Examples of buildings and spaces already integrated into our community that illustrate adaptive re-use and what makes some of these successful and others not;
  • Key principles for successful adaptive reuse of buildings, such as former sacred spaces, barns, lofts, warehouses — even gas stations — and how those principles should be applied universally to our renovation projects.

Built-In Storage: A Place for Your Stuff

1509290611_bench_That’s all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That’s all your house is — a place to keep your stuff. If you didn’t have so much stuff, you wouldn’t need a house. You could just walk around all the time. A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.” —George Carlin

This quote always makes us laugh, but let’s face it … George was right. Our houses are filled with “stuff”; some of us are just better at organizing it than others.

We often find that the houses we come across don’t have enough storage to accommodate the homeowners’ belongings. People need places to stow books, coats, off-season clothing, shoes, toys, cleaning supplies, camping and sports gear, and more. To combat potential clutter issues, we like to learn about how our clients need to live, and how their homes can better serve those needs. Designing and building custom built-ins allows us to match the house’s style and color, and make the unit fit into a particular space as if it was always there.

For example, we built the nice window seat with drawers shown here for a whole-home renovation we are working on in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood. We’ve built many window seats like this for both kids and adults, and we often incorporate other types of creative storage solutions in common rooms, bathrooms, and bedrooms. If you need help organizing your “stuff,” don’t hesitate to give us a call.

New Space for Outdoor Enthusiasts: Adventure Rooms

Do you love spending time in the great outdoors? Are you more likely to hit the trails than the malls on the weekends? If so, then you probably understand the logistical challenges that come along with your favorite hobbies: trying to store gear such as bikes, helmets, skis, poles, golf clubs, kayaks, surfboards, fishing poles, and so on. Lacking a better option, most people tend to force these items into closets, front porches and already overstuffed garages — creating stress and chaos in their homes in the process.

A fun and logical solution? Create an “adventure room” that is dedicated to your enjoyment of these activities. This can be done in any underutilized area of your home that has easy access to the outside: a large mudroom, basement storage area, or a double garage that can be partitioned off for this use. And the finished space can offer more than just attractive equipment-storage solutions; it can also feature items like a television, comfortable seating, a beverage chiller, exercise equipment, and memorabilia from outdoor events. The possibilities are virtually limitless.

Aside from providing a place for keeping your gear safe and protected from dirt and damage, adventure rooms are also a great home base for enjoying “staycations,” as many people will spend the coming summer holiday close to home due to the dual challenges of a still-sluggish economy and the skyrocketing cost of gas.

Image: Rick McCharles.

Coats, Mittens and Boots … Oh My!

Getting the family in and out of the door in the winter — without making the house a wet and cluttered mess — can be a real challenge. The solution? An organized approach.

At our house, we have a conveniently heated hard-wearing tiled floor in the entryway, which features a seating area and a place to hang things. Here, we can take off wet shoes and boots and hang up our soggy coats. We have a rattan basket to hold gloves, hats and scarves. And we have a wire egg basket for dog leashes and toys.

None of these things are expensive to install. They just require good planning and space use. That is what design to build is all about.

More Logical Storage: You Know You Need It

On every one of our renovation projects, we make sure to factor in lots of logical storage. Typically, people don’t pay attention to closets and storage areas unless they’re done exceptionally poorly or extraordinarily well. Here are some of results of well designed, logical storage:

guests arrive and know where their coats go
kids know where to put their toys, shoes and backpacks
your keys and briefcase have a place to be so you can find them in the mornings
your bathrooms and bedrooms are no longer cluttered with clothing and personal products
you can always find the dog’s leash
you have a dedicated area for storing party supplies, such as paper products, cutlery, and beverage glasses and bottles
items like cookbooks and audio equipment are neatly organized and ready for use
sports equipment and bicycles do not clutter your entryway

Because it makes sense in the room, because it “fits” properly, our logical storage disappears. Here are some examples of the kind of simple, logical storage we build into every one of our projects…

When It Comes to Older Homes, Small Is Not the New Big

In the world of new construction, the mantra is “small is the new big.” This means that people who are building new homes appear to be tired of — or can simply no longer afford — the ostentatious 5,000+ square foot McMansions that were so popular during the last decade. In our business, however, where we work on older homes in and around metro Philadelphia, the opposite is true. We get a lot of calls from folks requesting additions for their homes. They simply want and need more space.

Read more

Make it Boaty!

In our work, just as in many other professions, tidiness is important.

Recently, I attended a wooden boat show in Clayton, NY, home of the amazing Antique Boat Museum. Clayton, a pretty old town with lots of cafes and shops, sits on the St. Lawrence River, close to Lake Ontario and Canada. It is a tidy place. Things are well kept and well built, and efficient use is made of space there. I use a catch phrase for these qualities. When I want our designers to find space for storage or for the field crews to make things tidy, I say, “Make it boaty!”

You can see from these images that, on a boat, you must use space very efficiently and make sure that things get put away. Loose items can break or injure people when the boat rocks. In emergencies, items left lying around can cause serious problems.

Read more