Just a Bit More Than Normal

Just a Bit More Than Normal

My first job out of school was in New York City working for a terrific little architecture firm.  They did beautiful work, mostly residential projects in and around the city. I was fortunate to have direct access to the partners and very early on, one of them shared his mindset when approaching any new design.  He said let’s make it “...just a bit more than normal”.  That usually meant tweaking the scale, position, or color of one or two elemental pieces of the work, and leaving the rest to be “normal”. The resulting designs were elegant, refined and very buildable.  And, that one little phrase became a stock tool for creating and evaluating many designs over many years.


Recently, I was so pleased to have the chance to pull that phrase back out of the design toolbox. My wife and I were invited to an art exhibit in a Fitler Square rowhome.  The owner had lived there for many years and the house was obviously loved over that time.  She had completed a Kitchen renovation a few years earlier, and what she described was exactly the approach I had learned way back in the day. 


The rowhouse is a very typical three story property with a small rear garden.  The original kitchen existed in a one story shed added on the north side of the building, adjacent to the garden. I’ve created a computer model to illustrate the “before and after” in the two short videos for each below.


Before: According to the owner, the existing kitchen suffered from:

  • Limited natural light in the north-facing space
  • No connection to the garden. There was one small window at the sink and a solid wood rear door
  • The layout was not ideal for cooking with more than one person


After: The new design is one of the most pleasant, everyday spaces you could imagine:

  • Three thoughtful skylights were added and centered overhead
  • The window to the garden was enlarged and stretched across the garden elevation
  • The solid wood garden door was replaced with a full glass door
  • And the same cabinets and appliances were re-organized around the room to accommodate more than one cook


She avoided the temptation (and expense) of creating an “open plan” and instead, focused on establishing a better connection to her garden.  Using larger windows and creating a new opening in a non-load bearing wall was and is  a relatively easy thing to do for most good contractors.  Skylights can be purchased at the local big box store.  And re-using and relocating perfectly good cabinets helps a project like this to stay on budget.  The result is a reinvented kitchen that is “just a bit more than normal”...and my favorite room in that house!


- Joe Morrison

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Our unique interests and passions allow us to better understand our clients’ varied needs and to serve them in an authentic and holistic way. When given an opportunity to help re-envision the local real estate marketplace, we took a creative risk, tried something different, committed to an idea and made a promise to ourselves and our clients that it would pay off.

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