Re­pur­pos­ing un­usual ar­chi­tec­tural spa­ces

The Palm Beach Post - Residences - - Front Page -

Along with oo­dles of charm, old houses of­ten also of­fer a sup­ply of pe­cu­liar spa­ces. The chal­lenge for con­tem­po­rary users of such homes is what to do with strange lit­tle nooks and cran­nies. How do you cap­ture the valu­able space and as­sign a use­ful func­tion with­out a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion?

Ex­actly how do these odd­i­ties oc­cur in the first place? When an old struc­ture is added onto over many years you see the re­sults of changes in how we build. Take a beach cot­tage orig­i­nally con­structed at the turn of the last cen­tury, with no in­su­la­tion and no re­gard for cur­rent safety codes. Per­haps a chase must be built to af­ford a way to run duct­ing for a forced air heater ac­cord­ing to cur­rent stan­dards or all new elec­tri­cal wires must be run in a fash­ion that re­quires some mi­nor wall changes. New re­quire­ments may pro­duce a slightly off­beat floor plan.

Folks find closed-up fire­places, blocked-off clos­ets or stair­cases that have long been closed up. There­fore the other way that strange lit­tle nooks ap­pear is when you open up such “lost spa­ces” and dis­cover a hol­low area that can be re­cap­tured for some use­ful pur­pose. Shown here is a spot where a dormer win­dow may once have been po­si­tioned. We don’t know if some­thing was added onto the house and ren­dered this open­ing closed, but we might as­sume that is how this un­usual shape was born. In in­stances like this, it is wise to hunt for the per­fect size of fur­nish­ing to trans­form the spot into a func­tional one. Most house­holds can use a sim­ple work sur­face for a lap­top or note­book. Thanks to wire­less elec­tron­ics, it isn’t even nec­es­sary any longer to in­clude elec­tri­cal out­lets in or­der to cre­ate a com­pletely func­tional spot. Of course, in this ren­di­tion there is the avail­abil­ity of a task light; mak­ing the place more ap­peal­ing.

This space could also have been con­verted into a mini li­brary with open shelves that fol­low the tri­an­gu­lar shape. Alternatively, the depth is healthy enough to have been con­verted into a handy clothes closet even though it de­mands cus­tom shape doors. One could in­stall a ten­sion rod for low hang- ing items such as fam­ily win­ter jack­ets or ta­ble linens. If cus­tom doors are too costly, hide stored items with a fold­ing screen.

I am a huge fan of suc­cess­ful stor­age de­signs for un­der-the-stair spa­ces in homes of all ages. Gen­er­ally, we are left with ex­tra-deep clos­ets in the space un­der a stair and in some lay­outs there will be an en­tire wall of about 12 to 13 feet of cav­ity just wait­ing to be cap­tured for some unique pur­pose. While there is the chal­lenge of odd height, there is also the good depth of the stair treads to be con­sid­ered. Cer­tainly, 36 inches of depth can be con­sid­ered am­ple stor­age when out­fit­ted with roll­out shelves. If one doesn’t wish to use the en­tire depth, a sim­ple 12 to 14 inch deep shelf can be con­structed as well for dis­play or book stor­age.

Con­sider care­fully how you might in­vest a lit­tle en­ergy into trans­form­ing an ex­tra-spa­cious stair land­ing into some­thing your house­hold might find use­ful. Could a very wide hall­way of­fer some type of stor­age in a home starved for closet space? If you block off one of the en­trances to an old back porch ac­ces­si­ble from a bed­room and the kitchen, might you cre­ate a new stand­alone laun­dry room by us­ing a com­pact stack­ing washer/dryer com­bi­na­tion? When we are open to look­ing at odd fea­tures in a new way, we are bound to dis­cover a bet­ter way to use them.

Chris­tine Brun

Small Spa­ces

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