Green Remodeling: Alternatives to Adding on

Note: This article was also published in the Fort Bragg Advocate-News

In the desire to enhance our homes, the first impulse is often to add more space. While an addition will indeed “create more space,” it may not, in fact, be necessary. A careful and creative exploration of the alternatives will often show ways to enhance your space within your house’s given footprint.

The following “real-life” examples demonstrate some common strategies that can be utilized in many different situations.

  1. Add light. The most common complaint I hear is from clients who feel like their room/space is too dark. Obviously, adding windows is an option. But another option is to add a “sun tube” or “sun tunnel.” These small diameter “skylights” have a highly polished tube that can bring a tremendous amount of light into dark rooms or hallways while being economical to install.
  2. Rearrange the walls. Often, we don’t need an addition as much as we need to rearrange our current layout. For example, one recent client had three equally small bedrooms, but wished for a “real” master bedroom. By removing the closet in one bedroom, we were able to create a larger master bedroom. The small adjacent bedroom became a very large walk-in closet. This transformed the space, but required only a minimal amount of destruction and construction.
  3. Open up your kitchen. The design of many older homes deemphasizes the kitchen, often relegating it to a small and dark corner of the house. Often, removing part of the wall to an adjacent room will open up the space and bring more light into the kitchen. Creating sightlines that pass through multiple rooms also enhances the sense of spaciousness.
  4. Repurpose a space. How many of us have garages chock-full of less-than-priceless items? Clearing out the garage makes way for an infinite number of alternative uses—an office, art studio, additional bedroom are all options. Likewise, if you have a formal dining-room that is seldom used or appreciated, it may be repurposed to a room more dear to your heart.

By using the spaces that we have, we are following one of the primary goals of green remodeling: to reduce our use of resources.


Cynthia Sharon with Dancing Dog Design Build is a general contractor specializing in energy-efficient construction on the North Coast.

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