By Stacee Lee Harger
Better Homes & Gardens Building Ideas, Winter 1994

Ever 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 move.

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,” says Mary.

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.

A Rewritten Script
(page 41)
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 toys.
  • 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 made.

(page 39)
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.

(page 40)
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 street.”

(page 41)
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.”

(page 43)
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.

(page 43)
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 Mary.

(page 44)
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.

(page 44)
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.

(page 45)
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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