Joe and Jennifer Coe faced the choice last year of looking for a more spacious home or keeping their efficient 1,300-square-foot rancher in Whitpain, Montgomery County.
They decided to stay put and add on to the house in the township’s Graystone Manor section because they loved everything in connection with it: their neighbors, their daughter Jaelyn’s school, even the dogs that their Boston bull, Kona, fraternized with.
What they didn’t like was having to unfold a table in the living room when they had company over for dinner or trying to find a space for their daughter and her friends to have play dates.
But the Coes also did not want to spend a lot of money on a renovation project.
“We love to travel in the summer,” said Jennifer, a high school guidance counselor. “In the past few years, we have been to Iceland, Portugal, France. It is important to us to do this every year. Buying a larger house would interfere with our travel.”
Despite their hesitation about moving, Jennifer and Joe, a landscape surveyor, began looking for bigger houses, but they couldn’t find anything that could compete with their present house, built as part of a mid-century modern development in 1951. It has three bedrooms and plenty of room outdoors for gardening and picnicking on a patio adjacent to the kitchen.
Finally, Joe contacted Paul Macht of Macht Architecture in Rydal, who not only helped the couple design a 300-square-foot addition but also completed the project in about three months.
“Paul obtained the variances we needed, brought us four designs so we could choose what we liked, and started in October of last year and finished in January of this year,” Joe said. “We could use the room in December, but the exterior of the building, including storm overhangs he designed, had to be finished.”
The addition adds a space surrounded with windows that forms an “L” with the original living room and dining area. A gas fireplace in the corner of the new space shares the heating job of the entire area with an older, large wood-burning fireplace in the original living room area.
“We use the gas fireplace to heat the addition and use the wood-burning fireplace when it is needed,” Joe said. “We have gas heating, but the fireplaces are necessary, particularly in the addition.”
Jennifer said her daughter and her friends love the new window-encircled addition.
With the new space serving as a living room, the former living room became a dining room. Joe and Jennifer moved a camel-colored sofa they bought in Portugal into the addition. That left space for a dining table for eight, which means no more folding tables for dinner parties.
A high, slanted ceiling over the former living room area and horizontal beams make the dining room space seem larger than it is. Original parquet floors stand out in the older area.
“The best thing is that we don’t have to move,“ Jennifer said.
Because of the expense of the addition, Jennifer said, there will be no international trips this year. But the family is making plans for the following year.
“Jaelyn really wants to go to Paris," Joe said, “and I think that and the area of Europe near France will be our next trip the following year.”
In a few years, the Coes hope to tear down the wall between the kitchen and the original living room and create a great room with a new kitchen and an island separating it from the dining room.
Macht said he was glad to have worked with the Coes. “I like it when a family with modest means can obtain a design to improve their house. I really enjoyed working with them.”