- Just a Small Bump-Out Pays Large Dividends in Rowhouses, Philadelphia Inquirer, December 2006
Philadelphia row house owners who feel cramped and in need of more space typically add on to the back of their dwellings.
But Spring Garden residents Craig Smith and Michele Frank did something rarely seen in the realm of row house additions: They expanded sideways.
By bumping out 3 1/2 feet into the side alley that separates the rear section of their home from that of their neighbors’, the couple transformed their narrow first floor into a bright and spacious domain with front-to-back views and the modern kitchen of their dreams.
“In sheer numbers, 3 1/2 feet doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but it is” Frank says. “Our house feels so much bigger.”
Though the couple gained just 100 square feet, this was one bold and complicated project, involving the calculations of a structural engineer, the installation of massive steel beams, and the buy-in of the couple next door.
Only that last part was easy.
In fact, it was neighbors Anne Cook and Russ Troyer who had originally brought up the idea, years earlier, of transforming the sliver of side yard between their houses, used by most rowhouse dwellers for trash cans and central air-conditioning units, into living space. But it wasn’t until Frank, a former college English instructor, and Smith, an executive recruiter and consultant, had their second child that their home began to feel like a tight fit.
Not only was the house unusually narrow, a previous owner’s renovation that had opened up the first floor featured a strange kitchen layout that stretched from one end of the house to the other.
“It wasn’t efficient” Frank says. “We didn’t have a proper living room or a proper dining room.”
While searching for a new house, though, they realized there was much they liked about where they lived. They decided to approach Cook and Troyer about the addition scheme.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for 25 years” says Cook, who quickly agreed to a joint construction project that would create additions for both families.
Each couple worked with separate architects, but one construction firm, Hanson General Contracting, did the building, and one structural engineer, Skip Popoli, devised the system of steel beams and posts crucial to holding up the houses once the original sections of first-floor exterior wall were removed.
“There were some scary moments” John Hanson says of the project, which required a zoning variance. Chief among them: removing the enormous expanse of original brick wall after the beams were put in place.
“You try to do it systematically, but once it’s free-standing, there is a chance for that wall just to fall over” he says.
Fortunately, it didn’t.
With no rear access to the houses, a team of workers had to carry all the support posts and beams in through the front doors. The dirt from excavating the new foundations also had to be carried out through the front doors in buckets and wheelbarrows.
Cook and Troyer have not yet finished their interior work. Smith and Frank moved back into their house in November, after a total renovation of the first floor that took six months.
“There was a real advantage to both of [the families] doing it at the same time” says architect Kevin Rasmussen, who with his partner, Vivian Su, designed Smith and Frank’s reconfigured first floor, which uses the exposed steel beams as a design focal point. “The concept was they would share all the costs, from concrete to masonry to steel.”
In the end, construction of the two copper-roofed, skylighted additions, not including any internal finish work, totaled more than $90,000, split by the two couples.
A considerable expense, but one that bought a big impact, Rasmussen says.
“Because we knew it would be expensive, we wanted to make sure Craig and Michele got good value for the money. So we did 10 different plans, five with the original footprint of the house and five with the expanded one. It was amazing how many options opened up with that addition.”
Besides more space and light (from those skylights and a new window on the end wall of the addition), the couple got the powder room and coatroom they had always wanted. The project also created an open staircase to a new basement playroom for the couple’s children, ages 5 and 19 months.
“We really wanted to get the television and all the toys out of the living room” Frank says.
Also gained in the renovation: a well-defined gracious dining room and a comfortable living room that looks out into the garden.
But what Frank really loves about the change is the expansive new kitchen, with its Shaker-style maple cabinets, black-granite-topped island and breakfast bar, and six-burner Wolf range.
“This is not a show kitchen” she says. “Craig and I really cook.”
Such a kitchen wouldn’t have been possible without the width brought about by the addition, Frank says. “Craig and I just love our house now. It’s just what we envisioned.”
- Trumbauer Award November 2016
Our project for interior remodeling at The Acorn Club won the 2016 Trumbauer Award for Excellence in Contemporary Classicism in the category of Commercial Interior Design.Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Award October 2016
Our project for accessibility modifications to Beth Sholom Synagogue with John Milner Architects was given the 2016 Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Construction Project Award for Public and Institutional Properties.Philadelphia Preservation Alliance Grand Jury Awards June 2016
Our projects for accessibility modifications to Beth Sholom Synagogue with John Milner Architects and restoration and addition to the Vesper Boat Club with A K Architecture were both given 2016 Philadelphia Preservation Alliance Grand Jury Achievement Awards.Urban Land Institute Philadelphia Chapter Award January 2015
Our project with Strada Architects and the Food Trust won a Willard G. Rouse Award for Excellence for a group of five Corner Store conversions, which involved creating fresh food opportunities in urban food deserts.Philadelphia Preservation Alliance Grand Jury Award December 2013
Our project with John Milner Architects at the Sakura Centennial Pavilions was given a 2013 Philadelphia Preservation Alliance Grand Jury Achievement Award.Best of Houzz January 2013
Our Windsor Residence bath, in collaboration with architects Rasmussen/Su, is a winner in the Design category for the 2013 "Best of Houzz" baths on houzz.com.AIA Philadelphia Award of Excellence December 2011
Our project with Rasmussen-Su Architects at 1112 Locust St. in Philadelphia has been awarded a 2011 Award in Design Excellence from AIA Philadelphia.Philadelphia Preservation Alliance Grand Jury Award December 2011
Our project with Ewing Cole Architects at the Rush Estate at Greenwood Cemetery was given a 2011 Philadelphia Preservation Alliance Grand Jury Achievement Award.Residential Architect Grand Jury Award December 2011
Our project with Rasmussen-Su Architects at 1112 Locust St. in Philadelphia has been awarded a 2011 Grand Jury Award from Residential Architect Magazine for Light Commercial Construction.ACRA Award October 2010
Our project at the Knights of Pythias Greenwood Cemetery recently won an Industry Award from the American Cultural Resources Association for preservation of cultural and historical community resources.Citation of Merit Award December 2009
Our project at the Thompson Residence with Peter Bloomfield and Associates Architects (Queen Village Home in our portfolio) was recognized with a State of PA Citation of Merit Award from the American Institute of Architects.Preservation Award May 2009
A project we recently completed at the Haverford Grange in collaboration with John Milner Architects won an award for Site Preservation for its sensitive restoration of the mansion’s front porch, windows, dormers and cornices.Residential Award March 2008
A project we completed in Society Hill in collaboration with the owners and John Milner Architects won an Award of Recognition for its sensitive efforts to integrate two small 18th century row houses into one larger single family residence.Big 50 Award February 2007
Hanson General Contracting Inc. has been selected by Remodeling magazine as a winner of the 2006 Big50 Award in the Sales and Marketing category. The Big50 awards were presented at a gala dinner at the Remodeling Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. on May 19, 2006. Winning companies are featured in the May issue of Remodeling magazine.
Each year, Remodeling magazine inducts 50 companies who have set the standard for professionalism and integrity through smart marketing, exemplary business practices, unique design, and extraordinary impact in their community or the industry at large. Big50 remodelers run successful, often growing, companies of various sizes that have taken the lead in raising industry standards.
“We are very honored to receive this distinction” says John Hanson of HGC, Inc. “The award recognizes excellence and leadership, and we are privileged to be named to this select group of remodelers.”
Remodeling editors, columnists, industry leaders, and the companies themselves make the nominations each year. Following a lengthy evaluation process which includes interviewing people at the nominated companies, and often interviewing their competitors, suppliers, and subcontractors, Remodeling’s editors select the 50 remodelers who exemplify the very best of the industry that year, and who have something to offer other remodelers in proven practices. Winners are selected in these categories: business savvy, fine design, industry impact, market wise, movers & shakers, niches, sales & marketing, and teamwork.
Remodeling magazine, published by Hanley Wood, LLC, is the leading publication in the home improvement industry. Designed to address the specific concerns of residential remodeling pros, the magazine is both a business tool and an industry leader for a market that is projected to top $290 billion in 2006.