When a once-cozy cottage starts cramping a couple's family-focused lifestyle, they stretch the home by opening up rooms and adding space.
Pure chance—or perhaps fate—led Deborah and Robert Nash to the home of their dreams. While running errands, the couple spotted a 1915 Queen Anne cottage for sale in the historic Boylan Heights neighborhood of Raleigh, and they couldn't resist checking it out.
"From outside it had immediate charm, with a front porch suitable for rocking chairs, a 100-year-old oak tree, and a 1930s tin garage," says Deborah, who has an affinity for old homes. The inside was equally appealing—it boasted historical charm and was in good condition. The Nashes made an offer before driving away.
At the time, the 1,800-square-foot home perfectly suited the newbie empty nesters. "The house became rather therapeutic," Deborah says. "I was able to nurture the house with love and care, and busy myself with new projects."
But over the next decade, as Deborah and Robert's children started having kids, the home's flaws became more noticeable. The once-cozy cottage felt claustrophobic and downright chaotic. Closed off by divisive walls, the tiny main-level rooms—a kitchen and dining, living, and family rooms—could barely contain family get-togethers. To access the bedrooms and bathrooms on the upper level or the laundry room in the basement, the couple had to navigate precariously steep steps. "It seemed like we were stacking up and living out of corners," Deborah says.
The final straw? When Deborah stumbled down a flight of stairs. "I said, ‘We need to get a master bedroom on the first floor or move,'" she says. But the couple felt too attached to the home to leave. "Our hearts are in this home," Deborah says. So they enlisted the help of design consultant Chris Jokisch in planning an intensive main-level remodel and addition that complied with the rigorous standards of the Raleigh Historic Districts Commission. Deborah opted to act as general contractor, with behind-the-scenes help from construction consultant Steve Smith.
Jokisch rearranged and opened up the main level to squeeze function out of the existing square footage. "We tore down walls and combined the areas to create larger rooms, because a lot of the spaces were simply too small to deal with," he says.
A larger kitchen ranked high on Deborah's remodeling wish list, so Jokisch removed the walls between the existing kitchen and the adjacent family room to create extra cooking space. An unused sunroom connected to the kitchen became the new dining room, creating a convenient setup for entertaining. Relocating the dining room freed space for a larger living room at the front of the house. It shares the prominent spot with a library that recalls an old-fashioned parlor.
To save the Nashes unnecessary trips up and down the stairs, Jokisch designed a 1,280-square-foot addition along the back of the house. The addition features a main-level laundry room and master suite, as well as a heated basement with a playroom and Robert's woodworking shop. Because the Nashes enjoy spending time outdoors, a new deck extends from the kitchen to the master bedroom.
Though the remodel didn't dedicate a distinct room for the study the Nashes craved, interior designer Ann Nicholson devised a better alternative: a storage-packed black armoire-style cabinet that functions as the home office. The handsome unit fits between two walls on one end of the vaulted dining room. "It balances the room," Deborah says.
Few surfaces went untouched during the remodel. Stripping the original plaster-and-lath walls to the bare studs allowed the Nashes to add insulation and drywall and update the home's original wiring, plumbing, and mechanicals. They also removed all the worn original heart pine flooring. Now quartersawn oak boards extend seamlessly through the main living areas. "We absolutely love the way the home lives now," Deborah says. "It's all about family, all about function, and all about fun."