This year’s New American Remodel is a real back-to-basics project. Winter Park, Fla.-based architect Phil Kean and his design-build team shows how thoughtful design and a close homeowner collaboration can solve real-world remodeling problems.
The home, which is next to a small lake in Winter Park, was built in the 1990s and was part of an event called The Street of Dreams. That event gave different designers a chance to showcase their work, and more than one contributed to the original design of the house.
The problem, of course, was that the home lacked a consistent vision. Kean describes the resulting floor plan as “quirky.” For one thing, the first floor had an inconvenient and unnecessary level. “You had to step up and down to get from room to room,” he says. In addition, the interior felt dark, cramped, and cut off.
The new owners, a couple with three children, purchased the home in 2021. They had their own vision of a dream home and this wasn’t it. “They wanted more of a Florida lake house feel,” says Kean. He and the owners worked together on a modern design that would serve their specific needs. It included an open floor plan and large windows that provided a connection to a large backyard.
The homeowners were very fussy about what they wanted and the husband spent a lot of time on the site with the crew. “He likes to be a part of the process every step of the way, which creates challenges when trying to push the project to completion,” says Kean.
As a show home, The New American Remodel has to meet an especially tight production schedule. Managing the homeowner relationship would be key to giving the family what they wanted while finishing the project on time. Having the owners make as many product selections before work began ensured a smooth process.
Of course early selections have always been good practice, but they’re especially important today, as supply chains continue to be an issue. In fact, there were problems getting delivery of some products, and the long lead times provided needed breathing room.
Unifying the Home
The results were worth the effort. The exterior got a needed facelift. Roof lines were simplified. Windows were made bigger. A large front porch was added. New stone and stucco siding was installed. A big lanai and outdoor kitchen were added at the back.
Inside, the old front door had opened to a small foyer with a narrow curved stair and a door to an enclosed dining room. A small archway led to the living area. Now, the dining room is gone. There’s a large foyer with a wide, straight stairway and a custom handrail. It opens naturally to an expansive great room, with a view to the backyard lanai and the lake beyond.
Walls were also removed on the second floor to create a big loft area with a view to the lake. This eliminated a small bedroom, but it was one the owners didn’t need.
Structurally, the work was extensive. The team removed some walls, raised some ceilings, and rerouted the stairs. They created a more open feel and a more natural circulation pattern. The sunken parts of the old floor were removed and reframed. However, the remaining floors had some buckling, so a layer of lightweight cement was poured and leveled as an underlayment.
Kean is very happy with the result. And he has appreciated the opportunity to work closely with the homeowners to provide them with the home they want. “Overall, the project was about fixing flaws,” says Kean.
Charlie Wardell is a freelance writer and former remodeler.