inspired, comfortable, functional building design

Bruer House
Bruer House
Dutchess County, NY

Optimus was retained to design an addition to this early farm house for a couple who semi-retired to Dutchess County.

The owners wanted a comfortable family room addition in a location that would impact their patio.  They also wanted a garage with sheltered access to the house.

We toured the house and pointed out a number of compromises in the current configuration.  The main center hall entrance was not used, as it was remote from all vehicle access and parking.  The 1970’s kitchen addition was the main entrance, with all access and circulation directly through the food prep area.  Access to the living room was through the kitchen, then the dining room, up through the center, then into the living room.  The 1970’s kitchen addition with its modern shed roof and large single pane windows was out of character with the historic house.

We proposed an addition to resolve these many issues.  Circulation would still occur from the driveway and parking into the new wing.  However, a new extension of the kitchen wing provides a guest bathroom, coat hanging and circulation by the kitchen up into a new family room.  The family room with its own woodstove backed up to the living room fire place, accesses the living room.  The patios were enlarged and now accessible from the new entry porch and family room.  The new entry porch provides a sitting and dining porch with a covered connection to the garage.

This reconfigured and expanded house has become a comfortable country house for living and entertaining.

We offered a number of sketch options addressing the owner’s request.  However, we recommended several considerations:  The changes to the house should serve the longer term needs of the family.  The house configuration was full of unresolved compromises.  This project was an opportunity to address them.  One existing wing of the house effectively addressed the mother-in-law’s needs with minimal work.  The addition and renovation could concentrate on the family’s needs.  The addition and new work should restore and enhance the attractive historic character of the existing house.

A new large kitchen was created out of two smaller rooms with a large eat-in dining area overlooking the backyard.  The original front living room converted perfectly to a formal dining room adjacent to the kitchen.  The front hall, once on the side of the house and rarely used, became the new well used central hall when we added a large living room.  Below the living room, we planned a garage.  However, when the owner saw this space during construction, they chose to finish it as a large family room.  The back of the house was all accessed on-grade. The basement level where the laundry had been, had extremely low ceiling space.  We added a cross hall that connected the active areas in this lowest level, all now with comfortable ceiling heights.  The laundry was moved up to the new kitchen.

The completed house was a success.  The school class on tour of historic houses stopped by to remark that they could not tell what was old and what was new.  The family had space to spread out.  the mother-in-law enjoyed her proximity to the main floor kitchen and activity while she lived in the house. Later, the family was able to reclaim that wing for family and guest use.  Community Christmas parties became an annual highlight at this house, where the owners were able to entertain large numbers using every main floor and play room, with continuous easy circulation for and sitting areas for guests.

Design solutions that serve well into the future, accommodating the changing needs and activities of families, while contributing to the community place and identity is always on our mind.

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