The Theater Room
One of the earmarks of luxury living is sure to be a Theater Room.   Although there’s a lot to be said for a well-designed bonus room with a large TV and extra seating, that’s not what we are talking about today.  A Theater Room has one job and it takes it very seriously.
 
The name alone is welcoming and clear about its promise to entertain, but it’s the details that will make it great.  Much like dining at a fine restaurant, expectations are high and “average” veers dangerously close to disappointing.  But fear not!  Get a handful of things right and even the snapping of a broken reel to reel becomes forgivable once the movie resumes.
  
But first, decide if a Theater Room is the right step for you.  This space is often for the house that has everything so if you’re on the fence, check out some of the rooms listed above.  But if your only concern is the size of the space, you're golden!  Quality over size wins every time here so don’t count this room out just yet.  Even a packed house can deliver when designed correctly.  But be cautious.  This room is deceptive, in that common sense and advice at your local electronics store is not enough.  That being said, let’s dive into some of the details that is sure to give your Theater Room a standing ovation.
 
Lighting.  Well, lack of light that is.  Currently, Home Theaters don’t require a window but if you want one, place the window behind the seats or opposite the screen.  Because a very dark room with even a sliver of bright lite shining through can be both distracting and disappointing.  Instead add wall sconces with a dimmer switch that can adjust to the age and taste of the audience.  This addresses safety concerns and the mood of the space.  Also, with theater seating being a must, consider ‘easy to ignore’ rope lighting at the base of the seats for dropped items and toe-saving stepping.  Another way light creeps in is by opening the door mid-movie.  A short hall or barrier will help with this distraction.  At the very least have the door open in way where the light floods to the back of the room when opened.  This is an easy fix, even as an afterthought.
 
Audio and visual.  We will leave the type of system to your taste and the professional’s but will touch on few considerations.  First, bigger is only better in large rooms so don't get oversold!   There's a reason no one sits in the front seats at the movies, so let the size of the room and seating placement be your guide.  Also, conditions need to be favorable for surround sound to deliver, so a little research can prevent costly mistakes.  Same for speakers in the furniture.  As a rule, it's hard for one product to do two very different things well, and the reviews aren't great so buyer beware.   As for soundproofing the space, know that keeping sound out (such as traffic) is as important as keeping sound in when trying to captivate your audience.  So it's best to address this issue even if your Theater Room is tucked away.  There are many ways to soundproof and since it depends on whether it’s a new build, a renovation, your desired decibel level, etc., it‘s best left for the consultation.  
 
Electrical.  This one’s pretty straight forward and it's likely that the current codes will cover your needs, but it’s best to decide on the theater system and wall lighting before the drywall is installed.  Also, knowing your electrical pl​acement needs upfront can give you an opportunity to prevent unsightly extension cords and power strips.
 
Design.  Custom shelving for equipment and mounted speakers will be user friendly and give the space a finished look.  Platforms for the seating are worth mentioning again because they are an attractive and cost effective way to ensure everyone has a clear view of the screen.  And don’t forget about the pillow friendly "lawn seats", which in this case are in front instead of in back.  Great for a packed house or a sleepover.  


Ready to hear more?  Call today for a free in-home consultation!


The Sunroom & Enclosed Patio.

Your in-home Getaway!

What is it about a perfectly sunny day that elevates a mood?  When the breeze is just right and you feel that gentle hug of sunshine, life is good.
 
But how much sun is just right?  For some it’s poolside with an unobstructed beam that refuses to be ignored, and for others it’s a shady nook and a good book.  These differences may seem like a challenge, but not always.  A well-designed sunroom can be many things to many people.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a strategically placed chair, other times it falls on the architect to battle the elements.
 
Regardless, a sunroom or enclosed patio is where you can color outside the lines a little, even introduce new materials such as brick or stone.  Or how about a big wood-burning fire place or a water feature?  Or both?  Crazy, huh?  Maybe so, but you won’t find a more forgiving room in your home than the one that bridges the gap between domestic life and the great outdoors. 
 
Maybe it’s not the call of the wild you hear.  Maybe it’s a comfortable chair in a beautiful garden that soothes your soul.  No problem.  Consider tile floors, cushioned wicker furniture, lots of potted plants and a view of your flower bed or garden.  (Outside access optional.)  This type of room can even be on the side or front of the home as a quieter option to the den.  Or add a smaller sunroom off a guest suite to offer some relaxed privacy.  Either way a beautiful place awaits - rain or shine.
 
However, if you envision a more exciting space where you can entertain, then head to the back of the house!  Here is where we break all the rules and add your long-awaited bar, ‘game day’ TV and reclaimed wood accents.  String up some tasteful lights, an attractive card table, durable seating and your home feels like a day off with friends.
 
Fact is, there are so many ways to go with a sunroom/enclosed patio that it can be overwhelming, so ask yourself a few questions.  Where do you want your addition?  What do you want to do in the space?  How many people should it hold?  Even knowing the type of furniture you want will help paint the picture.  Of course, it never hurts to browse through some magazines. Then let Jennifer Benson Architecture take it from there.  We will be sure to design a space that adds value to your life and your home! 


The Great Room

What’s the difference between a family room and a Great Room?  It's not the size, that I know.  Is it vaulted ceilings?  Wood beams?  Puddled silk curtains?  Or maybe love?  Yes, I choose love.

Truth is, I have found that the definition of a 'Great Room' to be a bit fluid but what I do know is that when you say, “come on in and have a seat”,  this is where you’ll head.  This space will arguably be the most used room in your home and is where the balance of comfort and function are a must!  It’s also where you’ll find your favorite chair, a big screen TV, a good book and where a loyal pet comes to curl up at your feet.  But is it “great”? 

Again, I've not found a consistent definition but the trends in architecture give us some hints. Titles aside, one thing for sure is that floor plans have changed throughout the years.  Gone are the days of having a separate room for every function or situation.  To the point where an updated home typically conjurers up visions of a new kitchen, updated flooring and an open floor plan.  And it seems that an open concept is not complete without connecting the kitchen and family room.  But does this pairing make it "great"?  Possibly.  Regardless, it's a good start because these two rooms go to together like popcorn and a movie.  And I believe no one appreciates this fusion more than the hands that prepare food while keeping an eye on children or entertaining friends. 
 
So what’s the secret to a well-designed Great Room?  It's the ability to give your space an open feel while clearly defining its many functions.   For example, if your kitchen is open to your Great Room, you’ll need something to help create boundaries.  An island or bar with chairs is the clearest and most used way to define the space while staying connected to the adjoining room. 
 
If you plan to gain footage by opening up a cramped or closed off dining room, then chances are you'll have to relocate your dining room table.  However, incorporating a large table can be can be like finding a seat for an uninvited guest, so make sure it’s considered in the designing process.  Once positioned, add coordinating decorations to help connect the rooms. 
 
Lastly, if this is your only entertaining space in your home then consider tucking a pair of chairs and a small table in a corner.  This will give you an extra conversation area for your guest as well as offering a little privacy among friends.   But the best thing about a Great Room could be its welcoming nature and ability to connect families and friends regardless of tasks.  So, if your ready to make your current place great, then give us a call today!


Bringing Beauty and Function Together

The kitchen is often considered the heart of the home.  Whether it’s the aroma of your favorite comfort food floating in the air or the sight of a loved one milling about, no room beckons like the kitchen.  So it's no wonder that the kitchen is where friends, families and guests gravitate.  It's the setting of many memories that last a lifetime. 
 
The 'Captains of the Kitchen' know that good food doesn't happen by accident and that beauty is secondary while crafting their family favorites.  Proving daily that a well-designed kitchen is key.  Professional's in the industry typically incorporate "the triangle",  which is the proper positioning of the stove, sink and refrigerator.  It's is a good place to start but a poor place to finish.  We at Jennifer Benson Architecture take it further by understanding that great design must reflect the passion of whom the heart of the home beats.  

 We achieve your dream kitchen by putting you in the space first, then design.  If you're a home chef then counter space and accessibility to spices is important.  You may even consider a bay window to grow fresh herbs.  Are you a baker?  Then a double oven is a must!  Entertain often?  An island with room for everyone's favorite appetizers and drinks will welcome your guests while keeping your work area free from traffic. And let’s not forget about a beautifully lit glass-front cabinet to display your family's cherished china.

As you can see, great design is not just about having your dishwasher near your sink or making sure your refrigerator door has room to fully open, it's about you! 

Outdoor Living Area
Do you find walls confining or catch yourself taking a long deep breath the moment a brush of fresh air hits your face?  Then this space is for you!

An Outdoor Living Area is a cage free space with a roof and (at least) one wall-free side that opens up to a yard or pool area.  Some are attached to the home while others find their way to a convenient part of the yard with a more welcoming footprint.  They always have a comfortable seating arrangement and promise a relaxing time.  Many have a fireplace or a wet bar, and all have a tenancy to draw a crowd!

Outdoor Living Areas have earned their name by mimicking the comforts of home, so no judgement for adding a TV.  Or if your favorite button on the remote is the off button then a fire and a good book will offer more peaceful entertainment. 

These spaces are also a perfect fit for the "glamper" as well as the minimalist because all you really need is a comfy couch, a roof and some fresh air to complete the space.  Since comfort is a must, it's best not to skimp on the furniture.  You’ll be pleased to find a wide variety of styles and durable fabrics to help your Outdoor Living Area looking great for years to come.  Decorating is easy here, all you need is some wrought iron, colorful pillows and a few candles to complete the look. One secret of the pros is to make sure you have a ceiling fan.  This will offer a cool breeze on warm days while keeping the delicate wings of mosquito's at bay.  A must for outdoor enjoyment!

To make your space extra cozy, decorate with plants - but no plastic foliage allowed in this nature loving space!  A little research will find beautiful and low maintenance plant life to suit any color thumb.  Not convinced?  Simply bypass the big box stores and head to a local nursery.  You can even take a few pictures of your space in the morning and afternoon sun for some planter placement advice.  They will be glad to help. 
 
As for materials, the more natural the better.  And with so many great faux options, you can feel good about bringing any naturally occurring look into your design.  Adding a kitchen and eating area is always an option but not needed to hold the title as an alternate living space.  However, it is a nice touch and the absence of walls makes the space 'grill friendly' while sheltering the chef from the elements. 

Of course you can always bring in a wine fridge or a kegerator as an added luxruy.  This addition promises to make an average Monday feel more like a Friday night.  But loner beware, with a space like this in view, you might have to fend off a neighbor or two! 
 
Want to know more? 
Call Jennifer Benson Architecture for a FREE in- home consultation.


The Master Bedroom 2.0

Think a Master Bedroom this nice only exists in magazines?  Think again!  This too is a picture from yet another happy client of Jennifer Benson Architecture! 

Make no mistake, this is more than a perfectly decorated Master with high-end furniture and a well balanced color pallet.  The right ceiling height, window size / placement and location of the closet are just a few contributors.  Much like most items that are a cut above, the quality is in the details.  For instance, this room would have a much different feel without the mirrored French doors and its detailed frame.  This is the type of door that promises there is more to come.  And yes, the over-sized dressing closet is fabulous! (See more pictures of this beautiful home under “Custom Renovations”.)

Like all custom home designs, the most important ingredient is you.  Yes, this is often stated but never underestimated.  For example, if you don’t seem to read or relax in your room, no need for a sitting area.  This extra space can be best used in the Master Bath or closet.  Do you like to wake up or end the night with a favorite TV show but don’t want the TV to be a focal point?  Let us know so that we can discuss ways to hide it when not in use.  Or if you have a piece of furniture that will host your TV,  we will make sure that there is room for it at an angle that is comfortable for viewing.

What really makes the Master Bedroom unique is that’s only about you.  No need to consider traffic flow, counter space or additional seating.  Only those who sleep here have a voice.  So the most important question is, what do you want it to say about you?  Classy?  Comfortable?  Cozy?  Relaxing?  Whatever your style, we can help bring it to life.



Whole House Renovation
Before & After

As you can see from the above before and after pictures, you don’t have to hire Chip and Joanna Gains to see an amazing transformation.  It seems that the closer we look at the before picture, the less we see the homes humble beginnings.  Yet a stunning new home now stands, marking the beginning of a new life in a beautiful new home.  And that’s just the outside!
 
It can be said that a whole house renovation is the best of both worlds.  Those who don’t share the desire to move, win the war of staying put and those who are working off a ‘dream home wish list’ can check some long awaited boxes.  It’s hard to think of a better scenario for those who love their location, yard, schools, neighbors, etc.  

We know that big changes can be hard to image, but we can help.  We look past the walls and see the possibilities, so don't be shy with your wish list!  Our free in-home consultation is a perfect first step toward seeing your homes full potential.  Who knows, you may already be walking through the doors of your dream home!


Inspirations

The Marvelous Mud Room!
You won’t find a more forgiving room in the house than the mud room.  What makes the mud room so great can be summed up in one word; expectations.  As the front line between the grass and the hardwood floors, the mud room is expected to take a cleanliness hit.  Here is where dirty shoes and dripping umbrellas find a judgement free home. 

Before I lose the tidy, I’ll add that just because this room is expected to get dirty, doesn't mean it should stay dirty.  And there is a vast difference between the entry hall and a mud room. The last thing anyone should see is a mess when entering a home, so be realistic.  If the traffic often comes through the front door then plan accordingly.  But if you want to successfully redirect the ‘dirt draggers’ to your helpful new space, make sure they have consistent access and a clear a path to their new entry.  This might mean getting a garage door opener with an access code, but a room like this is too good to waste!   Do whatever it takes to make the room work for those, who will ultimately, make it work for you.
 
Now that the traffic flow is addressed it’s time to move on to design.  Think of the mud room like a place to prepare the occupants for a cleaner environment.  Almost like a decontamination area that engulfs its visitors with a burst of white cleansing mist.  But take away the magical mist and you're basically left with people entering a walk through closet.  Which is still great but needs proper planning.

Designing smaller spaces takes extra thought because efficiency is key, so take your time.  Also, understand that this area is far too casual to encourage good behavior so don’t expect everyone to follow the rules.  Instead address individual challenges head on!  For example, choose hooks over hangers, baskets instead of shelves and bench seating to comfortably take on and off shoes.  Maybe even a hamper.  Since the bench seat takes up prime real estate, put it to work.  Have the seat open up for added storage or install drawers sturdy enough to catch what is thrown its way.  For the fuller home, consider a locker-like style where you have several identical vertical sections.  This can give the users ownership of their individual area and less finger pointing when time to clean. 

As for the flooring, tile is the way to go because it’s durable and easy to clean.  And believe it or not, white actually works well here.   It opens up small areas and offers a crisp look, but black grout is a must!  The contrast makes the white tile pop and the dark grout is MUCH more forgiving.

Lastly, this addition can be a great opportunity to free up some closet space or bring in an often used toolbox from the garage.  And how about a new or more accessible place for seasonal decorations or crafts?  No room?  Put extra wall space to work with high shelves and a collapsible step stool.  Ultimately it's all about your needs.  But no matter how you chose to use your mud room one thing is clear, it’s a hard-working space that is sure to make life a little easier!

The Bonus Room; More than Just Added Space!

Need more space but torn between an extra bedroom, a play room and an entertaining area?  Consider a bonus room.  

Sure, a bonus room might simply be what you call a room with more than one purpose but is that so wrong?  After all, most of us are many things to many people so why not have a space where we can hang our many hats?  

The biggest 'bonus' of this type of addition is the freedom to make it what you want or need.  Think past a plain rectangle room that holds extra toys and a blow up mattress, this is an opportunity to upgrade your lifestyle as well as your home!

For obvious reasons, people host more often when they have an attractive and functional space to entertain, and life's too short to not have good times with good friends.  So, if you’ve always wanted a pool table and a bar but don’t have the space, make the space.   Add a game table, a sleeper sofa and a big screen TV at the and the opposite end and the whole family wins.  This could potentially be everyone's favorite hangout with the added bonus of bringing loved ones together in a way that separate rooms cannot.  

Again, this is your chance to upgrade so don’t forget about built-in shelves, bench seating, ceiling beams, an accent wall, etc.  Adding these types of design items during the construction process is the easiest and most cost effective time to install. 

If you have all your wants and needs and still have room in the budget, consider adding a bathroom.  There’s a reason why the number of bathrooms is listed next to the number of bedrooms when selling a home.  It has the added benefit of keeping the foot traffic to the bathroom down the hall to a minimum as well as a night time convenience for the potential couch crasher.  


Master Your Bath! 
“Just relax” ...  Has spouting those words to anyone ever really worked?  Decidedly not.  But a nice warm bath - now that can do some good.  So why don’t more of us indulge in the silky, warm and bubbly waters that are sure to decompress even the toughest of days?  Perhaps we need a more temping tub.
 
Truth is, few spaces evoke an emotional response like a spacious and sparkling clean Master Bath.  If you’ve ever been to a high-end spa then you understand the impact of these beautifully designed spaces.  You can almost hear the angels sing upon entry!  Surely, I jest.  But it’s fair to say that the bathroom is the most intimate of all rooms, and the cleaner the better!  Unfortunately, outdated baths never seem to feel quite as fresh regardless of effort.  So why not make a change?  You would be amazed at how much larger a well-designed Master Bath can look and feel. 

...Picture if you will, waking up and walking into a spacious, beautifully designed master bath with a claw foot tub and a freshly tiled shower that hosts an over-sized rainwater fixture.  After the steam clears, you grab a fluffy robe and glance into the perfectly lite mirror while turning on the water of your new vessel sink.  Which rests beautifully on your sleek quartz vanity top.  Now THAT’S worth waking up for!

But wait, there’s more!  Consider the privacy of a separate toilet room.  No longer will your toothbrush be held hostage in the mornings.  Splurge for the taller throne with an elongated seat and everyone wins.  Add plush white towels and a scheduled cleaning service and you'll feel like royalty!  

So, are you ready to change the way you live?   If so, call Jennifer Benson Architecture for a free in-home consultation. 

You be glad you did!

The 400 sq ft Guest or Pool House

Call it a Guest House, Pool House, Cabana, Villa or even a Casita but don’t call it out of reach!  These detached domains aren’t just for the financially fortunate, they are for anyone ready for an upgrade.  Think of them like a well-equipped hotel room rather than an additional home.  But don’t be shy with your wish list, you would be amazed at what a good designer can do with 300 to 600 sq. feet. 

Why choose an additional building instead of adding on to your existing home?  Several reasons, those being the three most important issues in real estate, location – location – location!

Location #1, the placement.  Sometimes the footprint of a home doesn’t afford enough room in the yard to place the addition where you had hoped.  Considering an alternate area on the lot is a way to keep the dream alive. 

Location #2, the flow.  This is linked to the former.  Where you find room for your addition needs to make sense with the “flow” of your home.  For example, you don’t want to have to go through a bedroom or laundry room to get to a guest suite.

Location #3, the “retreat”.  Whether time apart is for your comfort or the comfort of your guests, you’ll find no judgment here!  Although I’ve heard it said that guests are like fish, they start to stink after a few days, this is not the only reason why a separate roof is preferred.  Most hosts simply want their guests to feel comfortable and their own space is a sure way to deliver.  


Wondering if a second structure is a wise decision?  Well, as with all new construction projects you must first answer a few questions.  The most important being, what do you want or need from your addition?  If you have a home-based business, then office space is priority and accommodating guests is secondary.  A small kitchenette will suffice for both, but a full bath is a must for guest.   Beyond that it’s all in the furnishings.

Perhaps you want to put your investment to work as an Airbnb?  If so, outdoor lighting and a more secluded entrance may be in order.   Or if you want to ensure that your home is the neighborhood hang out, then a pool with a pool house is a great draw.  In this case, keep the bathroom close to the front door to prevent wet travelers from making a slippery trail.  Consider bar stools and a pool table over a comfy couch in the main room, a great option for bad weather.  Add a covered patio or deck to any of the above and your home is not only a great place to visit, it’s a great place to live!