Build Out, Don’t Move Out
By Michael Jacobs
From the addition of a second floor to she-sheds, carriage houses and sport courts, make your home work for you with creative additions.
It’s an all too familiar story these days. That cute bungalow in Grant Park that went for $175,000 five years ago is now selling for a staggering $669,000. It can be daunting to consider moving with formidable home prices, but for many Atlantans, their homes just aren’t working for them anymore.
The solution? New additions. Atlanta-area homeowners are adding space indoors and out to accommodate lifestyle changes and to correct flaws revealed after endless hours at home.
“Additions allow people to stay in neighborhoods they like and, even when they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, are more economical than new construction,” says Jeffrey Dinkle, founder and owner of Eco Custom Homes in Sandy Springs.
Among the biggest needs are home offices, often carved from space freed up by adding a premium suite or family room. “Three or four weeks in a house that already feels small can be a little much,” says Helen Shuster, partner at Alair Homes Decatur, and the added room can be an office the rest of the year.
The design director of Atlanta’s Innovative Construction, Molly Trost is currently working with a Massachusetts couple flipping the script in Virginia-Highland. They use their one-story bungalow as a second home when they visit their children and grandchildren, but they’ve decided to make a full-time move to Atlanta.
Like many homeowners intown, where lots are small and zoning restrictions on setbacks and impermeable surfaces are strict, they’re building up as well as out. The new second floor will provide bedrooms, an exercise room and a game room for the grandchildren while the owners enjoy a new first-floor family room.
Additions targeting older residents minimize stairs or include elevators—an issue for rooms above garages. They feature wider doors to fit wheelchairs and incorporate safety bars, curbless showers and less-slick bathroom tiling. For clients who want to age in place but don’t need accommodations yet, Dinkle installs the blocking for safety bars to be added later.
Meanwhile, all the working from home inside has driven a demand for outdoor living space, which Chip Wade, owner of Wade Works Creative, says offers a much-needed change of scenery.
Some additions duplicate indoor functionality, such as outdoor kitchens with grills and pizza ovens, dining gazebos and living rooms with fireplaces and big-screen TVs.
Inside and out, Wade says the focus is on what the family needs every day rather than what works for a party. “We’re spending more time designing the intricacies of the way you really want to spend time in those spaces.”
Outdoor and Indoor Entertainment
Instead of dipping into your pockets for a new home, take a dip in a new pool.
Many backyards are being dug up for swimming pools, which are in such heavy demand, Dinkle says, that pools now have a longer lead time and can cost twice as much to build as before.
Backyard sport courts are also gaining popularity. CBA Sports vice president Mark Ziller, whose company installs high-grade sport courts, says the latest craze is pickleball. Instead of basketball courts that can be used for pickleball, many families are opting for courts optimized for pickleball with nets that can be raised for badminton and volleyball.
Recreational additions aren’t limited to the outdoors. For year-round hooping fun, some families are building indoor basketball courts. Ziller says the typical layout is a high-school-size half-court with 20 feet of space below the ceiling or rafters, but he also has added a full court to a home. Many homeowners choose maple floors like those the pros play on, complete with customized graphics.
Additional buildings are also popular, Shuster says. Examples include a small guesthouse that can double as an office, a pool house that also serves as a place for kids to hang out, a garage with a carriage house and a she-shed perfect for crafts and just getting away.
An accessory building can be about 1,000 square feet, depending on the size of the main house and the local zoning rules, she says, so a carriage house atop a garage could offer about 500 square feet of extra living space.
Covered decks, porches and enclosed sunrooms are also common additions to connect the indoors and outdoors. People living intown who have noticed how dark and closed-in their older houses often are, are building up or out to bring in more light and air, Shuster says.
In the end, what most additions have in common is that they help families enjoy their current homes more.
Alair Homes Decatur, www.alairhomes.com/decatur
CBA Sports, www.cbasports.com
Eco Custom Homes, www.ecocustomhomes.com
Innovative Construction, www.innovateatlanta.com
Wade Works Creative, www.wadeworkscreative.com