Case Study / Wiseman Residence

Background

A couple with two young children came to Studio CrowleyHall wanting to add on to their 1912 row house located in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C. In order to make more room for their growing family, they hoped to create a family room on the first floor. On the second floor, they wanted a new master bath directly off of their master bedroom. The owners envisioned both new pieces as additions to the existing house. The third floor—which housed both parents' home offices, and the basement containing the kids' playroom and guest suite—were not included in the scope of work.

Challenge

Addressing the owners' stated needs was fairly straightforward—both additions were feasible and the owners loved the concept design that we worked out with them. However, it was apparent that the cost was beyond what the owners' had hoped to spend. We offered options for ways to reduce the cost—mostly by reworking spaces within the footprint of the existing house—but the owners didn't want to compromise their vision for cost savings. So they decided to proceed with the design they loved. In the meantime, as we had gotten to know the clients a little better and saw how they lived, we had a nagging sense that, even after construction was done, they weren't going to be fully satisifed with their house. In addition to living there, both owners ran their own businesses from home and had at least one employee coming to work on a regular basis. Since the businesses hadn't been part of our discussions thus far, we wondered if there were issues involving the integration of home and work that we should investigate further.

Solution

At our next meeting, we told the clients we were concerned that this design might not be the right solution for them. We knew this would likely come as a surprise to them, since they were happy with it and they were expecting to move forward to the next stage of development. We then went on to explain our sense that there were other issues relating to how they live and work in the house that we hadn't discussed and that we felt still needed to be addressed.

After getting over their initial surprise, the wife acknowledged that she was very unhappy with her office space on the third floor, particularly the fact that her employee had to go through the family's private spaces to get to work. This led into a long conversation that helped us create a redefined list of priorities and goals for improving the house to better suit all of the family's needs. At the end of this conversation, the wife expressed a great sense of relief and gratitude that we had noticed something wasn't sitting quite right and cared enough to bring it up.

Once we understood all of the issues and challenges that the family faced-both personally and related to their businesses—we were able to present a comprehensive design solution that worked much better overall. By reorganizing and relocating spaces within the confines of the existing structure, we were able to use all of the space much more efficiently—and eliminate the need for the addition on the 2nd floor. We not only met the family's goals, but did it in a simpler fashion and for less money than the original design, which had only met a fraction of their needs.

(photos of this project)