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Functional Spaces

A New Jersey residence creates functional spaces to live, entertain and enjoy

By Heather Evans, Brownmiller Design

The entry gateway from the driveway opens in onto the rear patio area offering inviting views into the back yard. A herringbone pattern brick area blends with the bluestone steps and patio.

Situated in the small neighborhood of Chatham, N.J. is the home of Fred and Cindy Loeloff. Their modest home of 2,600 square feet, sits upon a cozy lot covering just a third of an acre. The Loeloffs have made many additions and remodeling activities to the house's original Cape Cod style construction, but the biggest and best transformation was yet to come.

The professional couple and their two children desperately wanted to connect with the outdoors on their property. The nature of the lower level garage and highly elevated deck off the main level made the backyard hard to get to, let alone develop and enjoy.

Initial consultations with the homeowners revealed a need to provide convenient connections to the backyard and driveway from the main level of the house. The existing wooden steps next to the garage door were their only current access.

The gateway, constructed of a custom welded aluminum frame and panel and cladded with clear #1 Cedar, complements the clean lines and Mission Style of the project while also providing the necessary subtle buffering of the drive and parking areas. Solid thermal finished bluestone treads (6'' by 14'' by 42'') and herringbone brick paving enrich the threshold into the space.

An outdoor kitchen and entertaining area was desired to serve as a primary outdoor space for the family to support gatherings with their friends and relatives. The space should be dramatic and inspire the journey to be in it. Screening views of the driveway from the newly developed space was also important, yet the family didn't want to feel walled in. Finally, the Loeloff's wanted to maintain the modest curb appeal they currently had and remain consistent with the quaint character of their neighborhood.

The project of this New Jersey residence imposed a few challenges! The first issue Brownmiller Design encountered was relative to zoning changes over the years. Upon review of the property survey, we discovered the home's original location and the location of subsequent additions and a deck made it an existing non-conforming use according to current codes. Our first hurdle was to determine the extent to which we could expand the existing deck and the applicable setback regulations concerning other improvements. We developed exhibits used to illustrate the situation to the zoning board and ultimately received the direction necessary to proceed with the design.

Ultimately, the project succeeded and exceeded all goals and objectives of the client. The project received a 2005 Gold Award for Excellence in Landscape Design from the Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association and has been featured on HGTV's "Kitchen Trends" program. The owners were resolved to make an improved visual and physical connection to their outdoor space and create functional spaces to live, entertain and enjoy.

We faced a second challenge in developing a linear connection from the deck to be renovated across the garage to the existing entry from the driveway. The owners wished to have an exterior connection between the deck and drive without going through the house. The challenge involved providing support for what ended up being a catwalk between the two areas remaining open beneath for vehicular access into the garage. At this point, we enlisted the help of architect Arthur Demarest, RA of Architecture and Design in Hackettstown, N.J. Demarest was already consulting on interior renovations so he was able to join in quite readily. Art helped develop the structural support and connections necessary to combine this and many of the woodwork elements.

The third and most important challenge was how to develop an outdoor dining and entertaining area at grade level through careful connection both visually and physically with the house. The entire project needed to become the most popular room of the house. The lower level garage and high level deck made the space on grade just behind the house seem inaccessible and undesirable. This area of firewood storage, remnant foundations and broken concrete was in need of a new purpose.

One of the main considerations for the firm was to identify a style and character of design, details and materials that not only complemented the subtle Craftsmen style of the rear of the house, but also could be applied to all of the various aspects of the project. The small footprint of this project was quite deceiving as it required more careful design coordination than some projects many times the size.

The outdoor kitchen area incorporates built-in amenities such as a gas grill, sink, refrigerator and a fully functional fireplace, which is strictly wood burning - not gas. The fireplace serves as the focal point of the project. The massive scale yet articulated edges help to bridge the gap between the three storey house and the backyard beyond. Aside the fireplace are two recessed Pennsylvania Bluestone areas for firewood storage and a Pennsylvania Bluestone hearth in front.

The project involved virtually every trade known to landscape construction, all within tight quarters.

The results of the design and construction of the project included a renovation of the existing deck consisting of increasing the square footage, constructing a roof deck overhead (off the master bedroom) and enabling the potential for a screen enclosure system. The renovated deck was designed to provide protection from elements and incorporate a ceiling fan and lighting for a true outdoor extension of their interior living space. The deck renovation used Brazilian Redwood decking material and clear No. 1 cedar posts and railing components. These quality materials seemed to be the perfect choices for the clean Mission style details.

The same masonry construction can be found throughout the project. The column supports for the renovated deck and third level terrace feature chunky Pennsylvania Fieldstone 4-inch split veneer bases with an integrated steel column that is then clad in No. 1 clear cedar.

Connecting the renovated deck to the driveway is a new catwalk mezzanine that is both cantilevered from the house as well as supported with a custom timber and steel flitch plate. The existing steps to the driveway were reconstructed to accommodate the crossover connection. It featured an improved tread to riser layout, larger landings, new railings, lighting and a custom storage room underneath for refuse and recycling bins.

The second connection from the renovated deck involved a spiral staircase to the new outdoor dining and entertaining space. The spiral stair was chosen for its compact size and unique design character. The same Brazilian Redwood used on the renovated deck, catwalk and steps was repeated on the spiral treads for further unification.

At the bottom of the spiral stair, the new outdoor dining and entertaining space comes complete with full kitchen, fireplace, dining room and patio. The space was designed to function much like similar spaces would indoors. There are areas for a formal table setting to easily accommodate up to eight guests. The dining area is protected overhead by the main level covered deck and upper level master bedroom terrace. The exterior wall of the garage, which creates the intimate backdrop for the dining area, has been veneered with Pennsylvania Fieldstone matching the kitchen structure, walls and pier bases throughout the project. The dining area is further defined with Hadco overhead track lighting and special brick paving inlay.

Views of the existing conditions reveal a neglected, unusable and inaccessible backyard in need of a new purpose and connection to the owner's every day life.

The kitchen is fully functional and integrated within an L-shaped stone masonry structure anchored in the middle with a wood burning fireplace. The kitchen elements such as the Lynx sink and refrigerator are situated on one end of the masonry kitchen counter and are geared for food preparation and beverages. On the other end of the counter is the built-in Lynx barbeque grill unit and side burner with plenty of counter space for cooking and ample storage below.

The fireplace serves as the focal point of the project. The massive scale yet articulated edges help to bridge the gap between the three storey house and the backyard beyond. Aside the fireplace are two recessed Pennsylvania Bluestone areas for firewood storage and a Pennsylvania Bluestone hearth in front.

The entire kitchen and fireplace structure features masonry construction consisting of concrete foundations, block substructure, Pennsylvania Fieldstone 4-inch double split veneer with recessed (hidden) mortar joints. It's topped off with thermal finished Pennsylvania Bluestone. The Bluestone is repeated atop the backsplash which was designed to give the element structure and provide opportunity for lighting and electrical receptacles.

Details of the entry gateway.

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This provides consistent Mission style carpentry details. The wall and fence panel elements provide separation for the kitchen and dining areas from the driveway, pulling all of the project materials together and create the main visual unification for the project.

Views of the finished project illustrate the creation of multi-level outdoor spaces that are both physically accessible and visually connected to the home and owner's everyday life. The compact and detailed design was carefully conceived to complement the style and scale of the home.

Although the primary function of these elements was to provide privacy and screening of the vehicular areas, they presented an opportunity to incorporate a significant amount of each material and provide both visual relief and visual summary of materials. Even the gate used black powder coated steel construction that was left exposed to repeat the hardware, lighting and spiral stair colors and finishes.

Project Team

Landscape Architect:
Brownmiller Design Corp., Allentown, Penn.
Christian J. Brown, RLA, Principal

Landscape Contractor:
Environmental Landscape Associates, Inc.
Doylestown, Penn.

Architecture & Design
Butler, N.J.

Stowellbilt Construction
Chatham, N.J.

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June 26, 2019, 11:56 am PDT

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