I grew up in a basement rancher so I am always intrigued by how this popular house style can be transformed. Architect John Hutchison did just that with his imaginative transformation of this one-story rancher that is now a story and a half home. This neighborhood was originally the Byford Farm where some streets are named for the Byford children, as this house’s street is. This property is located at the end of a quiet street and the rear yard gently slopes down to the Chester River.
The original house footprint was a “T” with a double garage at the front leg and a screened porch at the back leg. Hutchison’s design for the front elevation began with eliminating overgrown shrubbery that obscured the front side of the garage.
Then he addressed the roofline over the front porch that had awkwardly stepped back to allow sunlight to the foyer. Hutchison’s imaginative solution added a sloped pergola that re-establishes the roof’s eave and casts delightful shadows over the porch’s texture of the brick walls and decking as the sun moves overhead.
The front door originally opened into a long foyer that was modified with an angled wall to direct your eye to a new stair with black iron railings, open risers and thick wood treads. To bring light into this windowless part of the foyer, Hutchison added windows and skylights in the new second floor’s roof to filter sunlight over the stairwell. I also admired the new hickory floors throughout the main floor.
The rear elevation of the house originally had standard windows and a screened porch for views of the water. Changing the original windows to doors and full height sidelights in the master suite, living-dining room and the side wall of the sunroom dramatically changed the elevation and increased the views of the landscape and water beyond. Hutchison then added a deck that spanned from the porch to the corner of the floor master suite at the opposite end of the house. The deck is a true outdoor room with space for a large table for dining al-fresco and seating for relaxing Steps lead down to the lawn and the planter marks the beginning of the gravel path to the pier.
The screened porch became a sunroom and the windows with awning units below offer panoramic views of the landscape with long views of the Chester River. It is no surprise that is has become the Owners’ favorite room. The square accent window is the first of several in the redesign.
The corner master suite is a serene retreat with contemporary details of the vertical plank doors and black lever hardware used throughout the house. The new rear window wall opens up to the deck that is a perfect spot for a morning coffee to start the day. The high windows lead to the bath and provide both sunlight and privacy. Opposite the master suite is the second bedroom and hall bath.
The living room, dining room and family room were originally separated by walls. Hutchison removed the walls and created partial height storage units clad in beadboard framed with wood trim. Columns at each end bear the load and create a pleasant rhythm through the now open plan area.
Next to the family room and the end of the foyer is the kitchen. Before this renovation began, the Owners renovated the kitchen with new white cabinets, dark brown quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances and a tile backsplash. They removed a closet door and their builder fabricated deep wood shelves with wood leftover from construction of the new stair.
The design that transformed the massing of the house was the addition of a sumptuous master suite on a new second floor area tucked into the existing roof framing. After going up the stairs, the landing enlarged into a delightful space that could be an office nook or sitting area. Sunlight pours in from the skylights and the square accent window at the top of the side gable wall. I then walked through the doorway to the adjacent master bedroom and noticed the same detail of the square accent window was repeated at the wall separating the bedroom from the bath and the end gable wall. All of the ceilings on this floor are pitched for greater spatial volume.
The master bedroom is full of light from the accent windows, clerestory windows over the bed and the glass doors flanking the gas fireplace. I admired how the rear of the firebox was glass so from any spot in the room you could see the Chester River. The glass doors lead to a deep balcony tucked into the rear portion of the roof and has a retractable awning for shade when needed. Beyond the master bedroom is a short hall between closets and the bath at the end wall.
It is difficult to match pictures of the original 1970’s rancher with this imaginative transformation with finishing touches of the Owners’ woodworking pieces they created. Bravo!
Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee.