I'm very excited to be able to share photos of the Lake Wisconsin Home that I designed for a lakefront site near Merrimac Wisconsin. These photos were taken by the very talented interior designer on the project, Lauren J Piskula of Deluxe Design Studio in Minneapolis. The photo above shows the living room fireplace from the dining area.
Here is a view from the living room looking back at the kitchen and dining area. To the right is the stair to the entry foyer, with a sitting area in the loft above it. The dark-stained trusses contrast with the white shaker-style cabinets.
This is the stair leading from the entry foyer to the second floor. The dark-stained wood posts and cable railing combine rusticism and modernity.
This is the sitting area at the top of the stair, which overlooks the great room.
The bunk room is one of five sleeping rooms in the home. Its custom-built bunk beds can sleep up to 10 people.
The master bathroom contains his and hers vanities, a beautiful free-standing tub, separate toilet room and large glass-enclosed shower.
The screen porch overlooks Lake Wisconsin. The stone patio beyond includes a swimming pool and outdoor kitchen. A wood-burning fireplace is the interior focal point of the room.
This current project is an addition and remodel of a one-story ranch home in Spring Green. With a growing family, my clients' goals include enlarging their kitchen and dining area, creating a new family room and adding a master bedroom suite. The larger kitchen that they envision will not fit within the existing house, so most of the existing kitchen will be closed off to create a new mud room to the garage, and the new kitchen will occupy the former dining area, as well as part of the addition.
Although the owners desire an open plan, they also want a feeling of separation between the kitchen / dining area and the family room. Nonstructural columns and stairs between the dining and family room areas will create that sense of separation, as well as giving the family room a higher ceiling.
The new master suite is almost twice as large as the existing master suite. The former master suite will be shared by two of the children.
Challenges include working around the existing exterior stair to the basement, making the rooflines work and keeping the proportions of the addition similar to those of the existing home. Construction is expected to start this summer.
View of the existing dining area from the existing galley-style kitchen - the addition will sit to the right of the photo.
View of the galley-style kitchen from the existing dining area - the addition will connect beyond the sliding patio door on the left.
If you're planning to borrow money to build an addition or remodel your existing home, it's a good idea to check with your lender early in the process to get an idea of what your options are and how much you can borrow.
If your equity in your home is greater than the cost of the addition / remodel, you're in luck. With a home equity loan or home equity line of credit, you may be able to borrow as much as 100% of your equity for your building project, although you will likely pay a higher interest rate if the loan to value is greater than 80%.
If you don't have enough equity, you will probably need to take out a construction loan. A construction loan typically has an adjustable rate while the project is being built and will be converted to a permanent mortgage once construction is complete. During construction, you pay interest on the funds that have been paid out.
For a construction loan, the lender will want to have a copy of the building plans, as well as your builder's bid to do the work. An appraisal is the basis for determining how much you can borrow. An appraiser will estimate the value of your home with the planned changes. Typically a homeowner can borrow up to 80% of the value of the improved home. Appraisers will judge the home's value based on the sale price of "comparables" - other homes in the area which are similar in size and age and which have sold recently. It may be difficult to find comparables that are very similar, particularly if the home is highly unique.
Homeowners may find that they're not able to borrow as much as they had hoped. Some improvements add very little to the appraised value of a home. Adding square footage to a home by adding another bedroom will likely increase the value of the home, although not necessarily as much as the cost of the improvement. By contrast, beautifying the inside of a home might add little, if anything to the appraised value. Using more expensive finishes or higher quality details may have little effect on the appraised value, because the appraiser has likely never seen the inside of the homes used as comparables, and so he or she is judging value based mostly on size, age and number of rooms rather than construction quality.
Occasionally, a client will tell me that they are considering general contracting the construction of their home project, usually in order to save money by eliminating the general contractor's fee. This is not a decision to be made lightly.
The General Contractor Role
What does the general contractor do? He or she oversees the entire construction process from start to finish; schedules and coordinates the work of the subcontractors, checks their work and pays them; orders materials and schedules their delivery at the appropriate time; and procures the building permits. Often the general contractor is also a carpenter and will do the bulk of the construction work with his or her own team: framing, siding, roofing, putting up drywall, etc.
He or she has built relationships with subcontractors over the years and knows which ones are dependable and do a good job. Subcontractors will be more responsive to a someone who general contracts for a living than to a do-in-yourselfer because they know that if they do a good job, it may lead to future work.
How much can you expect to save by general contracting a project yourself? General contractors often charge a percentage of the project construction cost, commonly 10%. So if you do a stellar job of managing your project, you could save up to 10%. On the other hand, the project could very welll end up costing more than it otherwise would have, due to mistakes, oversights, time delays and work that must be redone.
Are You Suited?
Before you decide to take on this role, ask yourself the following questions:
Having a complete and detailed set of construction drawings from an architect can help. However, a good set of drawings is no substitute for competent general contracting.
Think through this decision carefully before deciding to be your own general contractor. The risks are many, and the potential for costly mistakes is great. Don't underestimate the value of an experienced professional for this job.
I'm currently designing a new Prairie Style home for clients who own property in the Town of Dodgeville, overlooking Governor Dodge State Park. Two big ideas shape the house: a band of clerestory windows above the great room and a covered porch facing the back of the 60 acre property.
The clerestory windows are a band of high glass on all four walls of the great room, which bring light into the middle of the house. The living area will be dramatic, with a 19 foot high ceiling.
The porch facing the back yard is defined on three sides by the walls of the house. It is surrounded by the sun room, great room and master bedroom and provides a sheltered place to sit when it's rainy or too hot to sit in the sun. The yard beyond the porch will include a fire pit, seating, trellis and garden.
Typical Prairie Style features include wide (3 foot) overhangs, hip roofs, horizontal wings stretching out into the property and stone columns. Windows wrap around the corners of the dining area, master bedroom and sun room.
The children's wing includes a den with pool table, foosball table and TV area where the children can entertain their friends without disturbing the adults in the great room. The master suite is located at the opposite corner of the house from the children's wing for privacy. Double garage doors will allow the owners to drive straight out of their garage instead of having to back out. Planning ahead for their retirement years, the owners asked for 3 foot doors throughout the house, a no-threshold shower in the master bathroom and no steps from the garage and porches into the house, common features of Universal Design. With no second story and no basement, there are no stairs to navigate.
The great room, although open, is visually separated into three areas. The living area is defined by its high ceiling and columns. The dining area is defined by a 8'4" ceiling height and by walls and windows wrapping around three sides, creating a more intimate space for watching wildlife in the back yard. The remainder of the house has 9' ceilings.
3D Floor Plan
3D Back Elevation
One of the most common questions that people have when they are considering building a new home is "What will it cost to build?" This is not a simple question, and it takes time and work to calculate realistic costs.
The 2016 annual "Houses" issue of Fine Homebuilding (issue 259) has an excellent article, entitled "Calculating the True Cost of Construction," about home building costs and how they are affected by common upgrades. The article points out that comparing cost per square foot quotes given by different builders can be misleading if the quotes are not based on detailed drawings.
Starting with a no-frills base price of $110/square foot, which assumes vinyl siding, wall-to-wall carpeting, fiberglass shower units and laminate countertops, author Paul Biebel calculates how different upgrades increase the price. These upgrades or "premiums" include:
The article is a real eye-opener regarding the financial effect of different decisions that homeowners make when it comes to designing a new home. Adding all of the premiums listed above, the price of the no-frills home swells to $181/square foot. Of course, there are many more decisions that go into a home; this is just a few of the potential upgrades that will affect the bottom line. I recommend this article to anyone who is contemplating building a new home.
*Building costs in your area may vary from those calculated in this article.
This recently completed project was designed for clients in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, who own property overlooking Lake Michigan. Staying within their budget was important to them, and they were willing to keep the size somewhat modest in order to keep costs in check. The main level holds the great room, entry, 1/2 bath, mud room/ laundry and master suite. Two additional bedrooms, a full bath and family room are in the walk-out basement. Total finished area is approximately 2,000 square feet. All of the main spaces have views of the lake.
The footprint of the main level is 1,300 square feet, not including the garage. Priority was given to the great room, which has a vaulted ceiling and extra high windows overlooking the lake. The master bedroom, at 12' x 13', is smaller than typical for a custom home. Eight foot ceilings throughout the main level, aside from the great room, also help to keep costs down. Another cost-saving measure was to keep the roofline simple so that it is easier to build.
The main level floor plan is efficient and compact. To keep the project in budget, most areas of the house are modest in size, but the great room is spacious.
The street facade is simple but nicely composed and well proportioned.
The majority of windows are on the east side, facing Lake Michigan.
Passive Solar Design
Many of my clients express an interest in passive solar design for their home. Passive solar design utilizes the free energy of the sun to provide heat for a building. Typical features of a passive solar home include:
Now there's a relatively new concept in environmentally friendly building called Passive House. Passive House (called "Passivhaus" in Germany, where it began) is a rigorous voluntary standard for constructing buildings which require ultra low amounts of energy for heating or cooling. The energy savings is achieved through the following means:
One of the most typically American home styles is the American Foursquare, a style that first appeared around 1890 and remained popular into the 1930's. The American Foursquare was economical to build and incorporates elements of the Prairie School and Craftsman styles.
It's typically two-and-a-half stories with a full basement and a small dormer in the attic. Most foursquares have a pyramidal hip roof and a porch spanning the full front width of the house. As the name suggests, they tend to have a square footprint and generally contain four main rooms on each level: one room per corner.
I'm currently working with owners in of an American foursquare in Cazenovia, Wisconsin. They are fortunate in that much of the original interior woodwork in their home is still intact, including a beautiful built-in buffet in the dining room. As they work to update the home for their needs, they are converting a former 2-story 3-season porch into a heated space which will include a new mudroom, 1/2 bath and expanded kitchen space. I'm working with them to help them visualize options for a new porch or porches. Preliminary views of the three most promising possibilities are shown below. The Owner's selected option will be worked out in more detail.
Option #1 - A small entry porch (right side) provides a covered entry for guests without blocking light through the living room windows.
Option #1 - The mudroom and dining room share a covered porch, which could be screened in. The detached garage (not shown) is to the left.
Option #2 - This option retains the shared porch between mudroom and dining room but has an entry porch which spans the full width of the front of the house (right side).
Option #3 - A wraparound porch on 2-1/2 sides of the house connects the entry door (right), dining room door and mudroom door.
Option #3 - view of mudroom and dining room doors
My latest project involves additions and updates to a vacation home on Lake Wisconsin near Merrimac. The existing rectangular cottage is no longer large enough to accommodate my clients, their children and their grandchildren, who all like to gather together at the lake on weekends. In addition, the homeowners would like to update the half-timber style of the cottage exterior.
The project includes three parts. The west addition will contain a new kitchen and dining room with 9' ceilings and corner windows overlooking the lake. The lower level of the west addition will house a bedroom and bathroom.
The east addition will consist of a 3-season porch with arched eyebrow roofs and walls of windows on three sides. It will be raised up above the ground on decorative columns to permit views and circulation from the front of the house to the lake behind the house.
Finally, the aging garage will be replaced with a new one that matches the new style of the house. The existing wraparound deck, much of which is never used, will be scaled back. The dated-looking wood railings will be replaced with cable railings, and the skinny posts will be replaced with more gracefully-proportioned ones.
"Before" Lake Wisconsin Cottage - Street Side
"After" Lake Wisconsin Cottage - Street Side
"Before" Lake Wisconsin Cottage - Lake Side
"After" Lake Wisconsin Cottage - Lake Side