Home & Garden

Built to scale

obert and Jennifer Barker were looking for lots of space when they bought a 1,000-square-foot bungalow in Raleigh's Five Points. But rather than tear it down and erect another cookie-cutter design, they chose to renovate and build an addition -- satisfying both their need for more room and their respect for this historic neighborhood.

Raleigh architects Brett Hautop and Chad Parker of Vernacular Studio created a spacious home that belies its quiet, streetside presence. Building off the original shotgun style bungalow, built in 1930, the house retains its original street profile with its traditional gabled roof. What's entirely new is the flat-roofed, two-story, 2,400-square-foot addition in back and the entry court that joins the two volumes into a single home.

The result is a house that is entirely modern in its aesthetic yet fits seamlessly into its surroundings. It is a powerful statement about the value of retaining the characteristics that make this neighborhood special while enjoying the benefits of contemporary living.

The house sits in the heart of Raleigh's teardown district, a swath in which developers are razing older structures and replacing them with homes three, four and even five times their size.

To the Barkers, the trend was nothing new. Robert Barker had lived in a 1,600-square-foot house down the street since 1998 and had been watching the neighborhood evolve. Then in 2005, after the couple married, they decided they had to move to a larger house. They had a child on the way and needed more room.

The answer, it turned out, was an even smaller house just a couple of blocks away on Sunrise Avenue. When they purchased the home it was clear the block was undergoing a change. The houses were old and looked it --most were formerly worker housing for the railroad switching yard at the end of the street. Amid the construction of massive suburban-style homes up and down the block, the Barkers had plans to make some changes of their own.

Blend into surroundings

"We wanted to see if there was a way to keep the bungalow concept but do something that was individual," says Robert Barker. "I really liked the open floor plan design -- something that had a contemporary feel to it. So we tried to blend that into the surroundings in a way that brings the best of both worlds together."

That's where Hautop and Parker got involved. Barker had been their landlord years ago. They had asked to do a few renovations in exchange for a break on the rent. Barker was impressed with their work then, and hired them for the house on Sunrise.

Hautop recalls the early conversations with Barker about the job. "At first he just wanted to add a little space, add to the kitchen, add a master bathroom -- spend maybe $80,000," Hautop says. "He wanted to keep the original kitchen cabinets, even."

"But knowing Robert to the extent that we did, we knew he wasn't going to be happy with it," Parker adds.

The biggest problem was space. The existing house just wasn't nearly as big as the Barkers wanted. They were also looking for an indoor-outdoor connection to the backyard, where a dense grove of old-growth trees frames the back of the unusually large 300-foot-deep lot.

The architects' solution was a hybrid of old and new. By keeping the original 1,000-square-foot house, they could save their clients money on the cost per square foot and retain the streetside scale and appearance of the home. The additional 2,400 square feet were created by the addition of a box on the back of the house, which given the slope of the property allowed it to rise two stories and still be no taller than the ridge of the original gabled roof.

Adding on

The house consists of two main volumes. The existing bungalow in front is entirely renovated, though its floor plan remains intact. The addition is spacious and open on its bottom floor, containing a contemporary kitchen, dining room and living room. Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors open the view to the backyard and a tree that dominates the landscape.

Upstairs is the master suite and nursery; additional bedrooms are located on the first floor in the original bungalow. The two volumes are connected by a glass breezeway and entrance court, which reconciles the grade change between the indoor and outdoor spaces.

Throughout the house, Brazilian cherry floors lend a warm, inviting feel. Ipe, a doppelgänger for Brazilian cherry that handles the elements far better, is used for exterior detailing including the backyard deck and overhead porch off the master bedroom. The similar woods create a strong connection between indoors and outdoors.

One particularly nice element is the cantilevered staircase, which with its lack of vertical supports allows the space below it to be used as a wet bar.

Last-minute change

"It was really innocent how we got there," Hautop says, referring to the final design. "It just kept growing and changing as we moved through the process. We kept reacting to their reactions -- that's how it kept evolving. It was a really organic process."

The architects worked closely with their clients, even when it came to on-site visits and painful last-minute decisions.

In one 11th-hour change, with the framing complete, the Barkers decided the entire master suite floor plan required modification.

"You don't understand perspectives of scale until the walls go up," says Jennifer Barker. "It just looks a lot smaller than you think it does in plan."

A year in, the Barkers say they couldn't be happier with their new home.

But on the lots around them, change is happening fast. Three new two-and-a-half-story homes have been built on the block in just the past six months, and three more properties have been cleared just since the first of the year, including their neighbor's.

Soon, the house designed to fit the scale of its neighborhood will look like one of the smallest on the block. But maybe that will make its statement on teardowns all the more clear.