Stockbridge, MA Private Residence,
Ranch house renovation
Completed Fall 2002
The owners of a simple ranch home in Berkshire County faced a dilemma: should they purchase a new home or building site, or renovate their home to better suit their needs?
Their home is a regular weekend destination for family and friends. They loved their property and believed that its landscape character and location would be difficult to duplicate, particularly given the dramatic increase in property values regionally. Their decision to renovate was the most feasible option.
Opportunities and Challenges of the Site
The existing deck, though large, was southwest-facing, uncomfortably hot in
summer, and shading the yard space below. As a result, the lower space, which
provided access to basement family and guest rooms, was moldy, mossy, damp,
The goal of this project was to make the lower floor prime usable space while strengthening the link to the private south yard. Constrained by a modest budget, interior and exterior intervention needed to be carefully integrated.
The resulting concept was to “dig and mound.” The first
step was to remove the existing deck.
Then, by excavating a broad, open and gently ramped space adjacent to the
basement, a sunny, airy outdoor room was created. The grading eliminated
the problem of standing water and poor drainage, while providing light
to the basement family room.
The excavated earth was used to build a retained mound that created both a link
to the adjacent woodland and an anchor for the new deck.
A catwalk connected this deck to the main level living room. The narrow profile
of the catwalk virtually eliminated the visual interference of railings
seen from the living room, and the entire composition resolved the
integration of architecture and landscape.
Lessons for similar sites
The elements of success achieved in this project can be applied
to other modest homes. They include:
• Creating an airy outdoor room at the lower level of the home
• Using all the soil and other materials existing on the site, eliminating costly disposal and transportation charges
• Skillfully integrating the deck and stair structures into the landscape
• Creating a dynamic, pleasing composition based on alignment, form and junctures.
• Converting a flat yard into a multi-leveled and more intricate space.
• Using inexpensive materials such as boulder and prefabricated concrete unit walls, designing simple but well-constructed decks, transplanting native species existing on the site and the woodlands
walls, designing simple but well-constructed decks, transplanting native species
existing on the site and the woodlands.
The result is an integrated rear yard that provides intimate, functional links
between the upper and lower floors of the home as well as between the home and
the adjacent woodland. At a cost of approximately $15 per square foot for the
project area, this is a model for similar efforts. Modest funds spent in a strategic
manner can contribute exponentially to the value of the property.