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Big Plans for 2017

The anticipation of a new year is time for reflection and ambition. There is great enthusiasm for a fresh start, a new beginning. The same is true for me and Mark Eric Benner – Architects. There are big plans for 2017.

Thoughtful planning has been underway for a project for my own family in Northbrook, Illinois. Our 1950s ranch home, purchased in early 2001 has served us well. However, it is now showing its years and my wife and I have been dreaming of the potential of reimagining its potential. As we face much-needed repair of the existing structure, including:

  • roofing replacement
  • flooring refinishing or replacement
  • chimney restoration or replacement
  • major appliances replacement
  • the list goes on…

It all adds up. So we ask ourselves, why not something to improve the use of our home as well? Rather than invest in these major expenses simply to maintain the existing configuration, we are envisioning a new and modern interpretation. This is a great opportunity for me to share just how the process works in a step by step manner.

We have many aspirations, chief among them is a modest budget, a challenge faced by most, if not all, of my clients. Of course, the main focus is on value, the balancing act between cost and benefits.

The Big Plans for 2017

Architect's Bungalow Conversion - blog plans for 2017In order to make room for entertaining, the ground floor bedrooms are going to move up to the second floor. Storage and organization will enable rooms to be sized appropriately, rather than oversized. Energy performance is to be improved beyond today’s code standards. There will be an office to operate a small architectural studio and the ability to convert to a bedroom suite in the future. With these improvements, our new home will not just be modernized for today but prepared for well into the future.

First Floor

Architect's Bungalow Family Room - big plans for 2017We will preserve the recently updated Kitchen (with some minor additional improvements), as well as the Living Room. The space vacated by the original bedrooms will be replaced by a combined, open-plan solution. The first floor spaces will include a Dining Room, Living Room and Pocket Library. Additionally, we will add a new Mud Room with large pantry and entry lockers. Finally, we will add a new two-car Garage.

Then we will leverage the exterior entertaining patio and phenomenal connection to the Forest Preserve by adding expansive French doors.

The driving factor of sustainability plays an important role on the first floor. The existing exterior walls are poorly insulated, if at all. A solid insulating air barrier of closed cell spray foam insulation will solve these two critical concerns. It will also do so in a minimal amount of space.

The existing fireplace and chimney are suffering from decades of erosion from high moisture natural gas exhaust. These will be reconstructed to bring up to modern code requirements of gasketed glass doors and exterior sourced combustion air. Additionally, the flue will be capped with a silicone-sealed vent cap system.

Lastly, to provide additional required heat for the home, we are adding a modern, Scandinavian style wood burning “stove.” The recently installed furnace is about 10,000 BTU’s short of the heat requirements for the new home. The stove will add as much as 35,000 BTU’s so that we will not have to replace the furnace until necessary.

Second Floor

Architect's Bungalow Master Bath - big plans for 2017

Glass shower and tub with stone wall

The second floor will feature three bedrooms and two bathrooms, including a generous Master Suite. Additionally, there will be a Laundry and a dedicated Architect’s Office (future additional bedroom suite.) In order to maximize every square inch of the second-floor space, we are taking advantage of the often missed areas, tucked into un-usable space.

Among the big plans for 2017 is maximizing the second-floor area helps to make the most efficient use of our construction budget, a well-known trick. The challenge is to balance the bulky appearance of a second floor while maintaining useful space. The craftsman and bungalow styles deftly accomplish this through low eave heights. Dormers are used to create needed headroom for these spaces. Careful attention must be paid to the scale of these elements as they can easily escape tasteful proportions.


With sensitivity to personal and neighborhood scale, the addition will maintain a 1 1/2 story presence. The exterior will be executed in a craftsman, bungalow style. Sustainability is a primary goal for us. So we plan to re-use as much of the existing structure as possible. Additionally, we need to improve the energy performance of the entire structure. Finally, we will create a contemporary blend of classic and modern styles, inside and out. Not only will this new home make a style statement, but it will perform well beyond the code standards of today.

Making It Happen

model new construction better tools for renovations and additionsThis project is one of significant complexity. So that there is no confusion and to minimize wasted time and resources special attention must be paid to the architectural plans. It will be crucial to clearly communicate the project scope using better tools. What better way to illustrate our big plans for 2017.

The prospect of our newly envisioned home has been percolating for some time. The plans are solid and we are working with a great team to bring it all together. We are eager to share our progress and experiences. Here will be a place to share our experiences in construction. Hear how we work with our team. Learn about the challenges that we face and just how we resolve them with our team. It will be just like a real project. We can’t wait to get started.

Like our other projects, we have remarkably talented and trusted partners working on this enduring project. I would like to thank them all for their efforts and insights. The following list will be updated as we progress.

What big plans for 2017 do you have?

These types of projects are some of my favorites.

Contact me today to discuss your big plans for 2017 or any other year for that matter.