John and Julie Corcoran plan to renovate this circa 1935 cottage in Essex, Massachusetts, into an inviting, universally designed home for Julie’s parents, who will soon relocate from North Carolina to be closer to their grandchildren. TOH general contractor Tom Silva and company will work alongside architect Sally DeGan to strip away decades of bad remodels and outright neglect and restore it to its original cozy character.
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John and Julie were elated when they found a cottage for Julie’s parents just down the road from their house. “It looks like it belonged to Hansel and Gretel,” says John, who loves the idea that the couple’s four children will be able to pop in to visit their grandparents whenever they please.
The Corcorans want the first floor to have a universally designed interior with wide, easily accessible doorways and wheelchair-accessible flush thresholds. This cramped front entryway simply won’t fit the bill. The closet will be removed, creating an entry into the living room, and the steep, tightly wound staircase will be replaced with one that’s wider and more accessible.
The back wall of the living room will be bumped out to make way for a brand-new kitchen addition. Since the existing wide-plank floorboards will be hard to mimic, they will be removed and repurposed as wall paneling in the house’s revamped entry. The area to the right in the living room will be converted into a dining area, with a long farmhouse table.
Better for a Bathroom
Since the kitchen will be relocated into a new rear addition, the cute but cramped existing kitchen will be turned into a master bath outfitted with a universally designed shower, toilet, and grab bars.
Old and in The Way
The outdated first-floor bathroom will be done away with to create more square footage for a master bedroom.
Too Cramped for Comfort
A hallway connecting the existing kitchen to the first-floor bedroom will be done away with, again to make room for the larger master bedroom on the main level.
This sunny little nook is a potential spot for a window seat in the revamped master bedroom.
Room for Guests
The home’s second floor will be configured into two large bedrooms and a full bathroom. While Julie’s parents will live on the first floor, the Corcorans want these rooms to be a great retreat for guests—namely, for the kids’ sleepovers at Grandma and Grandpa’s. The second floor would also be the perfect place to accommodate an in-home caregiver should Julie’s parents ever need one.
Bringing it Back
On the exterior, a clunky second-floor addition is out of character with the rest of the house. Tom will scale it down and add a dormer to better balance the facade. The large deck shown here will be removed, but there will be plenty of space to enjoy nature in the new sunroom addition on the north side of the house.