Classic Charm and Moderm Amenities for Downers Grove Home Addition

A 100 year old home in need of modern upgrade

The charm of older homes can be a leading factor in a family’s decision to purchase a home. The hand- crafted woodwork, the original oak doors, the old claw-foot bathtub; these are all things you just don’t get in new construction and they win us over. You move in and over time reality begins to set in. The home is drafty, the floors creak everywhere you walk, and there is only one full bathroom for a family of five. No one should have to choose between charm and the comfort of modern amenities, so when a Downers Grove family decided that their 114-year-old home was in need of those modern amenities, they gave us a call.

The original home was built in 1901, possibly without indoor plumbing. Sometime in the coming decades an addition was put on the back to house a more modern (for that time) kitchen, and within the last 10 years a mudroom had been added behind that. The layout was boxy and closed off, and the current bedroom and bathroom situation was simply not working anymore. The family’s idea was to renovate the kitchen space opening it up to the rest of the house, while putting a new second floor addition above it with a much needed master suite. Another item on their wish list was to bring the laundry up from the very cramped basement onto the first floor.

The design of the kitchen reused the same size space as the original layout, but reoriented appliances and cabinetry to provide an island and opened up the wall between the kitchen and living room making both spaces feel larger. Reworking the mudroom and adding a small laundry room off of that completed the first floor design. On the second floor, a very small existing bedroom that had been used as toy room, was eliminated to make room for an entry into the new master suite that included two large walk-in closets and full bath with a large walk-in shower. In order to keep the exterior characteristics of the home, we followed the existing roof lines and matched the original 4” lap siding. The original home was built on a slight angle on the lot causing the north side of the home to not conform with current zoning standards.

In order to get the laundry on the first floor and maintain the exterior characteristics of the home, we planned for the small addition on the northeast corner of the home. In order to receive Village approval for this portion of the plan we submitted our ideas to the Village requesting a zoning exemption from the current zoning restrictions so that we could maintain the historic character of the home. The Village approved this plan, building permits were obtained, and it was on to construction.

When working on a century old home, you are bound to come up with surprises. During the design it was our intent, and hope, to work with the existing foundation under the kitchen to keep cost down, but we were skeptical of the existing condition of that foundation as it would not be visible until demolition. This concern was addressed prior to construction and we advised that a contingency be put in the budget for potential foundation work. Upon demolition of the existing kitchen and mudroom, it became evident that the existing floor structure and foundation were in disrepair. Having formulated a plan “B” already, we quickly shifted gears to demolish what was left and create a new foundation and crawl space to provide a solid base for construction above, and as bonus giving some much needed additional storage in the basement.

Older homes tend to keep us on our toes and we weren’t quite done with the surprises though. As the crawlspace was dug out, it was determined that the original stone foundation had some weak points where mortar was all but gone and stones were falling out. Another adjustment to the plan to add a new concrete wall up against the existing stone foundation for bracing, and we were now on our way to framing. From the foundation up, framing was blended into the existing home and some not so square corners and not so straight walls were worked through and mended.

A home addition and renovation like this can completely transform your day to day activities and routine. A once closed off first floor is now open and airy, creating a great family space and entertaining area. A second full bathroom gives parents a space of their own and makes for a much less congested morning routine for the family. Maybe best of all, a laundry basket will never again be carried down the narrow steep staircase to the basement. In the end, a 114-year-old was given the updates it needed to continue on giving a family all the charm of its age while now providing the modern amenities we all seek.

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