Designed by Chicago-based Kathryn Quinn Architects, the new family room pushes off the kitchen, straight out into the backyard. Project architect Mark Gerwing kept the roof design of the addition compatible with the low profile of the house. It's a low-pitched gable whose ridge runs parallel to the main house. The area between the two is bridged by a perpendicular, tent-like gable section. While the roof ties the addition to the structure seamlessly, the new exterior walls give it a subtly distinctive look. Pale green-grey panels under the windows and a rustic rafter treatment lend the house a touch of Prairie-style character that lifts it above generic suburban ranches. INTERIOR ARRANGEMENTS
Indoors, the challenge was to make the new space meet the old with flair and make it all functional. The family room sits a couple steps down from the kitchen; a counter for casual meals acts as a wall between the two areas. Entries at both ends of the room prevent the space from being a cul-de-sac and create easy access from both the garage/side entrance and the front door. In the same way, because the family room is adjacent to the kitchen, it is also kept free from a constant flow of foot traffic: Family members don't always have to walk through it to get from one end of the house to the other. Instead they can use one of the two aisles in the kitchen. And a glass door provides a convenient exit out to the patio. Eight tall casement windows line the walls of the family room, bringing abundant natural light into the area while creating a wide-angle view of the backyard that can be enjoyed from any point in the room. Transoms repeat the paneling detail below the windows and throw sunlight deep into the space, unlike the dark days of the past. The open ceiling also contributes to the airy appearance. The height of the new room is emphasized with strips of trim that band the base of the ceiling and run up and down its sloped surface in pairs, extending the lines of the original beams out from the kitchen. Because the family room is often used for informal entertaining, the "TV question" comes up: How do you keep the TV out of sight when guests are over yet still have it at the ready when family members want to watch? The answer is the big maple cabinets angled into the corners of the room on either side of the brick fireplace. One conceals the television, VCR and audio components. The other is home to a bar, which is lighted with dimmable halogen fixtures and outfitted with shelves for glassware. Flipper doors open wide and then push back inside the cabinets, allowing maximum access with minimal obstruction. Bright, functional and flexible, the new family room closes the door on the dim, generic den of yesterday.
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