Stacee Lee Harger
Better Homes & Gardens Building Ideas, Winter
wish you could just start over? Ted and Mary Brown did.
They built a great house, then quickly outgrew it. So they
did it again—a little bigger, a little better, a little
more perfect for a family of seven. Here’s what they
changed, and why.
Great wasn’t good enough. Ted and Mary
Brown’s beautiful home wowed editors and readers when it
was featured a couple of years ago in Building Ideas magazine.
But with a one-car garage and little space for guests,
that home turned out to be a temporary one for the growing
family of seven, including five children, ages 3 to 10.
“Living requirements generally change every three
years,” says Ted, a professional home builder. “Most
people just live with the inconveniences and don’t make
the necessary changes.” But when Ted and Mary tried to
imagine five teenagers sharing their home’s one
bathroom, they knew it was time to start thinking about a
They didn’t have to look far to find a site. Rental
property they owned next door to their own home gave them
the chance to build anew without leaving the neighborhood
they loved. Soon the rental home was razed, and plans for
construction of their new, bigger home began.
Ted and Mary didn’t want a drastic change in the
layout of their new home. Since the previous floor plan
had suited them so well, they decided to expand the old
plan and blend in a few new ideas. Working with Ted’s
partner, architect Chuck Bassett, they made the rooms
larger and added another bedroom and bath in the attic.
That gave the Browns the breathing room they needed to fit
comfortably in their home.
The new home quickly rose from the shadow of its
predecessor—a bit bigger, a bit grander. Trim,
built-ins, and moldings were given a stronger presence
than in the earlier home. More dramatic colors and
textures were used, as well. These details give the house
a richer, more sophisticated appearance. “As the kids
have grown older, I’ve felt ready for that change,”
Now comfortably at home, Mary says this is a true
“family house.” That means accommodating not only
parents and kids, but friends and relatives, too. “The
place can be full of people and there’s still plenty of
room—it never feels crowded,” she says. For example,
when they have friends with children over, the kids want
to be in the basement playroom, while the adults prefer
the family room or parlor.
Efficiency is a measure of great family homes.
They’re hardworking as well as attractive. In the new
home, there isn’t a bit of wasted space anywhere, and
everyone seems to have a favorite room.
Mary spends much of her day in the kitchen—with five
children, this is no surprise! Luckily, it’s her
favorite room. Initially, she had reservations about using
cherry wood for the kitchen cabinets. “I was afraid it
might be a dark room,” she recalls, “but with the
wallpaper and all of the windows, it’s not at all.”
The breakfast nook, where most of the family meals are
eaten, was pushed out an extra 4 feet in the new house,
adding more elbowroom at the table.
To make the kitchen work area as comfortable as
possible for Mary, who stands 5 feet tall, the cooktop was
lowered 6 inches from the standard 36-inch height. The
girls also love to cook, and now no one has to be on
tiptoes to stir.
After tucking everyone into bed, Ted and Mary can
escape to the master bedroom. “We hibernate in there,”
Mary says. The new master bedroom is smaller than the
previous one, allowing room for a private balcony. Ted
also wanted the extra space to expand the closet and add a
small home office behind it. Remember—no space goes
unused in this house! The office area is wrapped in
windows, so it doesn’t feel confining. “Whenever we
can’t find Ted, we know he’s tucked away in his little
closet,” laughs Mary.
Rewritten Script (page
The Browns didn’t start with a blank piece of paper when
they began planning their new home. Instead, they began
with the plans from their previous home and changed a few
things here and there. As these floor plans illustrate,
Ted and Mary’s new home isn’t all that different from
the old—just a bit bigger and even more clever. These
are some of the things the Browns are glad they added:
- A practical addition to the new home is the mudroom,
located just inside the back door. Each child has a
locker for hanging coats and bags after a hard day at
school. “Before, everything was just crammed into a
coat closet inside the back door. It was a mess,”
Mary says. “This is my absolute favorite feature of
the new house.
- Play equipment makes a move to the basement in
inclement weather. Carpet on the floors helps avoid
injury from roughhousing, and an unfinished ceiling
makes it safe for kicking the soccer ball around. The
ceiling height, at almost 10 feet, gives the basement
an aboveground feel.
- In another area of the basement, an entire wall was
fitted with built-ins, used to house a VCR, TV, and
- The attic was finished in the new house, adding an
extra bedroom and full bath to the floor plan. This
frees up one of the bedrooms on the second floor to be
used as a guest room and creates a private realm for a
couple of children.
- Ted wanted to be able to walk outside from the
master bedroom onto a balcony. By giving up a bit of
space in their bedroom, he and Mary were able to do
just that. It’s a trade they’re both glad they
The exterior of Ted and Mary Brown’s home plays a dual
role. The home’s first floor is hugged by light-yellow
clapboards, while the second floor is covered in
gray-stained shingles. Columns that appear at the front
door continue throughout the house.
In the previous home, the outdoor play area for the
children was in the front yard. Ted and Mary both
appreciated the change in location at the new house,
visible here between the house and the garage. “Now they
play in the backyard or the side year,” says Mary.
“It’s so much nicer than when they were closer to the
Architect Chuck Bassett created the parlor as a hideaway
for adults. “It’s a room to have a conversation in,”
he says. “I call it a parlor because that’s where
people are greeted, warmly and quietly.”
The room that you see when you come in the front door
should be the room that looks the best and sees the least
amount of activity,” says Ted. Dining rooms can
certainly fit that order, but until recent years they were
more often tightly enclosed dining dens.
The galley kitchen is one of the many successful ideas the
Browns brought with them from the former house. “The
objection that many people have with galley kitchens is
that they are so tight and the counters so close
together,” says Ted. Counters in this kitchen are a
comfortable 5 feet apart. One update the Browns made was
to lower the cooktop so it would better fit 5-foot-tall
How much more seclusion could one ask for? Behind Ted’s
closet is a small office space. The room offers privacy,
yet the windows allow Ted to watch the children play in
the side yard or driveway.
With the abundance of sunlight that streams into the
master bedroom, the Browns were able to paint the walls a
deep and dramatic blue. The light-color ceiling and floor
send light bouncing throughout the room.
Columns between the family room and the kitchen create a
hallway; a theme that runs throughout much of the house.
“We have a circulation spine that runs between the back
of the house and the front,” explains Ted. “You can
walk through a room without actually walking into
it—kind of a delineated traffic way.”
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