Prefab Additions

An article featuring how homeowners married a prefab addition into their preexisting two-story Rhode Island home


Home additions shouldn't stick out. Wedding two construction styles into one home design begins as a marriage of convenience, but the result is a prefabricated addition that ties in perfectly with this Rhode Island home.

Bill Wladyka and Cindy Bogart's stock modular house sits on a pretty spot in Newport, Rhode Island, but it wasn't much more than a big box with a nondescript Colonial—make that Colonialesque—front facade and a bare-bones interior.

Fortunately, the house is well-built, even if it wouldn't win style awards. "My husband and I were desperate when we bought it," says Cindy, a field editor who finds locations for Remodel and other magazines. "We looked at the house and said, 'We can just add a family room, maybe shingle siding.' It's just like when you nonchalantly say, 'Wouldn't it be fun to have a baby?' "

From the day the couple, their three teenagers, and the family dog moved in, a major home remodeling project topped the agenda. Cindy and Bill knew what they wanted—a shingled New England beach house with a cohesive design and sufficient space. A two-story addition to the home design satisfied the latter desire, giving the couple a new family room downstairs and master suite above, and turning the 2,200-square-foot stock house into a spacious 3,550-square-foot family home. While they were at it, they decided to remodel the kitchen, dining area, and other rooms.

Because the original dwelling was modular construction, a modular addition seemed just the ticket. Bill, an engineer, appreciated the quality he'd seen in this building method, where the house is constructed under the controlled conditions of a factory rather than hastily hammered together on an imperfect lot. Discussions with modular companies went nowhere, however. Manufacturers were set up to build complete houses, not custom home additions. So Bill turned to another factory-built approach called panelized construction. With this technology, walls are built in panels and shipped to the building site. A crane then helps assemble these huge pieces into a structure.

After much research, Cindy and Bill hired Connor Building Co. of Middlebury, Vermont, to make the panelized addition. The company offered architectural services, could work with a tight schedule, and would add interior woodwork in the existing rooms to match the addition's trim for a unified look. For the exterior, the couple chose prefinished white cedar shingle panels. The panels, which quickly fasten in place, saved about 80 percent on labor costs compared with the installation of traditional shingles.

The interior of the original house and the home additions is characterized by rich, deep hues, from the paint on the walls to the earthy chocolate tones of the Brazilian walnut flooring. "I have color and lots of it," Cindy says. "But it doesn't look like a circus. The paint is magic." The new family room addition is a gathering place for the household, particularly the teenagers. The soft spots to stretch out and a gas fireplace for warmth make it a fine place to flop after school. While the kids benefit from the improvements downstairs, Cindy and Bill enjoy the new master bedroom upstairs. Delightful vintage details, a cozy bath en suite, and French doors that lead to a small balcony make this a rewarding place to escape.

Although it wasn't part of the addition, the kitchen transformation is a big part of the project's success. To design the space, Cindy brought in Susan Serra, a certified kitchen designer (CKD) and member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). Her assignment was to shape the room, carve out space for working around the big range, keep the 13x17-foot kitchen dimensions from feeling too linear, and create prep/cooking/cleanup stations that are efficient and aesthetically pleasing.

Cindy also threw in a request: no upper kitchen cabinets. She's happy to know she will no longer have to stand on a stool to reach items up high. Also, eliminating uppers cleared the way for windows in triplicate along the sink wall. The solid maple kitchen cabinets, painted white and lightly distressed, have abundant drawers to maximize storage. Unadorned knobs, a low-price choice, are just right for the casual kitchen. Serra also designed twin closet-size pantries, and a new china-hutch-style cabinet in black near the range varies the look and provides convenient open shelving. Instead of one massive refrigerator, the family chose a matching refrigerator and freezer pair. Standing a few feet apart, the two 27-inch-wide units add gleaming stainless-steel accents to the kitchen.

Although the project went over budget, the family is elated with the results. "In the end, we got exactly what we wanted," Cindy says. "We added another house onto the existing house and tied them together. And it was fun!"

Those considering home additions can take note of the successful elements in this remodel. A 1,350-square-foot master suite and family room addition, fabricated from factory-built panels, turns a run-of-the-mill modular house into a spacious family home.

What It Took

  • Using panelized construction to decrease labor costs and increase quality control.
  • Installing the same shingle siding on the old and new sections of the house and wrapping the front with a covered porch to connect the addition with the original structure.
  • Creating one interior look by using the same flooring, colors, and trim throughout.
  • Remodeling the kitchen and dining area at the same time; new kitchen cabinets, stainless-steel appliances, open shelving, and twin pantries maximize efficiency in the new work space.
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