SUBU Design Architecture added two “glass box” additions one on the second floor and another on the first floor to this...

Building a House Extension: 6 Important Things to Consider Before Starting

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SUBU Design Architecture added two “glass box” additions, one on the second floor and another on the first floor, to this residence in Manhattan Beach, California.

Manolo Langis

Relocating to a rental with a month-to-month option to extend rather than a fixed term is ideal, in case your project completion date slips. “I usually recommend at least a 60-day buffer,” Maestri adds. “At the end of a really big construction project, you want to give yourself time to work through a punch list with the contractor. And it’s no fun for anyone involved doing that while the house is occupied and full of furniture.”

Choose a Style

Perhaps surprisingly, the style of an addition is not a first priority for many architects. They’d rather start from the client’s needs and vision, the nature of the site, and the surrounding built environment, and brainstorm the best response (and look) from there. Aaron Mollick and Michael Troyer, cofounders of Seattle’s Studio AM Architecture & Interiors, are a case in point. “We encourage exploration, especially in the early steps of a project,” says Mollick. “Sometimes people can go in with one thought, and it evolves.” Troyer continues: “We take our clients’ lead on what their wishes are, and then, if there are things that just don’t mesh, we’ll have a group conversation and come up with ideas on how we can make it work.”

Meet the Designer: May Sung The founder of SUBU Design Architecture, a Los Angeles–based architecture and interior design firm, focuses on creating a bespoke and sustainable home for each unique client. Find out more…

When the moment to grapple with style does arrive, however, New York architect Valerie Schweitzer is a strong advocate for intentionality. “Are you breaking away from the rest of the design, or are you continuing with the same vocabulary, the same visual components?” Both can be done well, but, “It’s an either-or. It can’t be in the gray area.” Schweitzer also points out that additions needn’t always be physically attached to a house, and an extra degree of separation may change the style equation. “Pavilions allow more freedom of expression, but require stepping outdoors. Additions allow for seamless integration, while pavilions invite stark contrasts and delightful surprise.”

Find the Perfect Partnership

“First,” says Tyreus, “you want an architect whose work you like. Then make sure they are a good size fit for you. If they do all bigger projects and yours is smaller, they might consider you the small fish.” Studio AM’s Troyer recommends canvassing local real estate agents and others in the housing field for their recommendations. Conduct personal interviews, too, with your top candidates: “Our general feeling is that you either click or you don’t. There’s a chemistry thing that’s involved,” Troyer says.

Finally, let yourself honestly investigate all that’s possible for your addition. “We encourage our clients to bring their own ideas and potential solutions to the table,” McGriff says, “but ultimately the design process is the heart of a great project. A good client, like a good designer, should work to stay open to new ideas, especially those that challenge their assumptions.”


Looking to hire an architect to help you build a house extension? Visit the AD PRO Directory to find an AD-approved professional for your project

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