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Laird Residence

Dewey Beach, Delaware
Bill McMann
February 18, 2013

The owners of this project bought a house down the street from their condo in Dewey as a home to move into full-time. The original idea was to modify the existing house by raising it, altering the layout, and adding to it. However, the amount of the original house the owners wanted to keep versus the amount of work they wanted to do made it more economical to remove the existing house and start fresh. This turned out to be a good first move as starting over allowed us to capture every square foot that was available and to push the house up right to the hieght restriction, raising the roof up to the point where you can see the ocean and the bay over the neighboring houses.

These clients are people who enjoy entertaining, and so the major goals of this project were to provide a large amount of unique and open public space while also providing plenty of bedrooms for both guests and family who may be visiting from out of state. These goals were accomplished by creating a split level with very separate uses on either side of the stairs. The side facing the bay, where the predominate views were, became the public spaces for dinner and drinks while the side of the house away from the bay became the bedrooms. This separation allowed us to maximize each side for it’s desired effect. This lot was tightly squeezed in height by a flood plane that was well above the existing elevation of the lot and a height restriction based upon the height of the street. The separation allowed for the bedrooms to have lower ceilings to fit more floors under that height while the public spaces have very generous ceilings which allow for gigantic windows. These windows allow massive amounts of light to flood the space and natural breezes to cool the house while still keeping the roof deck as close to the height restriction as possible. At right is a picture of the nearly completed kitchen which shows off the size, flow, connection, and light in the public areas.

At the left is the view from the great room out the windows which ended up being the major feature of the house after the roof deck with it’s expansiveness and large hot tub/endless pool. This lot is on a corner, and has incredible unobstructed views towards the bay. The extra height in the great room allowed 9 foot tall windows to really capture the views, and potentially the breezes. It is hoped that guests can enter the Great Room from the street, and then move up to the roof deck which has even better views of both the bay and even the ocean across the highway. The family has their own entryway into the stairs that makes it easier to get to the bedrooms rather than the public spaces keeping the private and public affairs of this family as separate as possible for a lot this size.

One concern about that procession was the stairway to the roof which you can see the edge of in the kitchen picture above. Stairways can end up being very cold and narrow spaces, not especially inviting. This can be especially true of a stair such as this one which had to be very narrow and steep due to the small size of the lot and the large amount of space desired by the family for use.. The solution to this was to make it inviting by openning it up and installing a decorative railing between the Great Room and stair which was based on the railings in the existing house that the owner liked so much, and to add clerestory windows which add light to the space and help to draw you up to the loft that leads out onto the roof deck above.

The height restriction was very unforgiving on this lot, and led to a lot of potential challenges. On of the benefits of this crunch, however, was that it made the top level bearing height low and made us make the top level cathedral ceiling to gain some height back. This really helped give the master suite more interest and helped to bring the look of the house closer to the rest of the neighbors who also predominately have low slope roofs rather than earlier designs which used predominately flat roofs throughtout the house..

More images of this residence and the schematic design.