Coming Soon: Carmen Avenue Sustainable Renovation Adds Openness and Energy Efficiency


We’re pleased to announce the start of construction on this remodel and addition on Carmen Avenue.  Our update will modernize the living spaces, create a connection to the back yard, take advantage of the solar orientation, and improve insulation and energy efficiency.  We will be giving this Andersonville single family house a new lease on life.

The House on Carmen Avenue and Its Owners

The owners of the house on Carmen Avenue have two young kids – currently bunking in together – and came to us wanting to add a master suite, expanded kitchen and family room to their house and seriously update the very dated layout of their living spaces.

The main floor has three small main rooms (front, parlor and dining (with bay window) plus a stair hall, and a narrow kitchen tacked on to the back that feels totally detached from the main house, and also cuts the living areas off from the back yard.  Upstairs, two bedrooms and a small bath serve the whole family.  In other words, we had a lot of potential design work to do.

Jumping off points

With this project we were fortunate to be working with a very engaged pair of clients.  They were plugged into the design process from start to finish.  Our early design explorations ran the gamut from interesting ways to connect a house to its yard through interesting applications of charred wood as an exterior finish material.

pinterest carmen

Our initial research explored the zoning requirements for area, height, and setbacks.  We studied the solar angles and realized that the house wasn’t taking nearly enough advantage of its sunny south facing back yard.

The New Floorplan

This project will preserve the exiting attic and preserve the general layout of the two existing bedrooms and bathroom – less work in that area means less waste.  The master suite over the new family room adds bedroom, bathroom and a large storage area, as well as bringing the washer and dryer up from the basement to the area where laundry is actually generated.


On the first floor we’ll open up the original arrangement of small, separated rooms on the main floor, add a powder room and open the kitchen up into a new living space at grade level in the back.

Rather than tacking an updated kitchen on at the back of the house (as is done in many renovation projects) we sunk the family room in the most private part of the house and kept a more central location for the kitchen – connecting smoothly into both the dining area and the family office where bills can be paid and homework done right in the middle of family activity. This created a split level first floor and allowed for an extra high ceiling in the family room space.

plans_ground floor

Last, but not least, we will create a livable basement, digging the floor level down to provide headroom (and in-floor radiant heat) and a recreational area (plus improved storage).

A glance at these plans will show that the family room/master addition at the back of the house is slightly narrower than the existing building.  This ties into our recent post on zoning Setbacks and Sideyards.   The original structure is grandfathered in but our addition needed to respect the side yard setback requirements and steps in accordingly.

More than just a Shiny New Layout

This project is about much more than improved floor plan or even the updated kitchen and shiny new bathrooms.  As we’ve said before, reuse is better even than recycling – for buildings as well as for materials.  Updating this building in a few crucial ways, will future-proof it for use well into its second century.

For the Carmen Avenue house we’ll be giving the structure a little boost when we dig out the basement foundation to lower the floor level.  A new steel beam (replacing the old wood 6×8 beam) will act as central supporting spine and reinforce the house from foundation to attic.

While we are going to the trouble of rearranging rooms and updating materials, we’ll be significantly improving the building envelope – the walls, roof, floor and windows.  We’ll be replacing windows and doors with new insulated, low-e 3 glass.  The walls and (extra thick) roof of the new addition will be insulated with closed cell spray-foam insulation.  The floor of the basement and the family room addition will have in floor heat provided by a high efficiency boiler.  Adding that heat in at the lowest levels of the house will cut down on the need for forced air heat in the rest of the spaces.

Connecting with the Yard, Uniting and Separating within the House

As the sketch of the existing conditions above shows, this house has great solar potential in the back yard.  At the moment nothing connects the house to the yard but a rickety porch.

Our plan is to change that with an addition that really connects to the backyard.  We’ve shifted the kitchen to the center of the house and the addition at the back steps down to yard level creating both a higher ceiling for the family room and increasing the area of (well insulated) glass we can use to gather in sunlight for both the master bedroom and the family room.

The view below shows how the family room (at yard level) looks up into the kitchen.  The two spaces are connected, allowing for easy conversation and camaraderie, but still separate enough that dinner dishes won’t overshadow an evening of relaxation.

We are so excited about this project – which will incorporate some really sensible energy features as well as making a vast improvement to the livability of the space.

More updates will follow as construction gets under way.  Come back to the blog for progress updates and the final photos that we are already looking forward to posting!