Whatever I’m designing, sooner or later most all clients eventually reference their favorite HGTV show. Perhaps because my teenage summers were on carpentry framing crews, one of my favorite homebuilding professionals is Mike Holmes—the tenacious renovation rescuer with the mantra of “doing it right the first time.” Holmes immediate came to mind when I learned about my cousin’s first encounter with a quaint college town zoning official. Seems the larger windows they just installed in their recently acquired “charming antique house” failed to conform to the rules of the Historic District in which it was located. “The window guy said we didn’t need any plans, permits or inspections,” she protested.
While designing new homes is my passion, making homeowner’s dreams come true within decades-old structures and demanding zoning codes of the North Shore is among the most inventive and rewarding delights of my architectural practice. Among my laundry list of possible alternatives, I always look for and often find solutions is the space above the garage that promise win-win, cost effective solutions.
A Northbrook couple dreamed of an expansive indoor pool lounge and entertaining space to enhance their pool time enjoyment on hot summer days. An old 2-car attached garage with its odd collection of four add-on sheds offered the necessary footprint but was built across property lines, and in some areas, without foundations. Above a garage, party room and bath my design inclu
ded a spacious guest loft and “away room.” Armed with constructions documents and 3-D renderings of the proposed structure, I helped the zoning board visualize how a small set-back accommodation would not further compromise zoning requirements and removal of the sheds would enhance the look of the neighborhood.
Over in Evanston, a homeowner was reluctantly considering a clumsy first floor addition to accommodate frequent visits of her adult children and expansion of her upper level Master Suite. My design solution was to replace her unattached garage with an attached one that would also provide expanded second level Master space for a quiet reading space and larger closets. In addition to garage space the expanded lower level accommodated a larger upgraded family kitchen.
I’m sure Mike Holmes would approve.