University City Smaller is Better Addition

Location: West Philadelphia

Building type: Victorian Rowhome

We had fun with this design as it turned out to be a great study on small additions and efficient use of space. In keeping with some of the best aspects of the Small House Movement, we began early with conversations about how we could explore multiple uses for this space. Because it was the last room of the flow through the first floor, we ended up deciding to view it as a foyer to the outdoor space.

An Original Open Porch Reimagined and Renovated

The off-kitchen laundry room and reading nook was the client’s dream for years. Original to the house, the entire space had been an open porch until the 1970s when a portion of the space was enclosed for a cramped laundry room. We tore down the entire structure to the brick and as we found the brick to be in good shape, decided to keep it exposed. We found the original porch floor structure to be intact and built a new floor above the old so that the floor of the small addition would be nearly flush to the kitchen floor. In the end we built the addition as all new starting from the original porch footprint. We added plenty of windows to the new structure in order to satisfy their desire for a light filled space. The clients worked with our design team to develop a connection to an outdoor area of the yard that was itself in need of a renovation and to accomplish this we had to remove plenty of dirt. We installed a glass door to maintain the visual connection and to help with some of the likely heat loss in the small addition (due to the large amount of window area). 

Cottage Style Design Detailing

The interior finish material selection of pine beadboard and simple farmhouse style casing created the cottage style appearance that they wanted and the cathedral ceiling made for a beautiful sense of height in the small space. Although the rest of the house was early Victorian, the sense of this space as a lower finish utility space at the rear made it work wonderfully.

Without a zoning application, they were limited to the same footprint as their old porch, but our clients wanted to maximize natural light and to allow for views to their rear yard. To that end, we added three large casement windows and a full-lite door. Our design team also decided to raise the shed’s roof line for a more attractive connection to the main structure.

New Tiny Deck Combined with Brick Patio

The clients wanted a small deck landing to transition to the outside. We added a railing and a turn of the stairs to direct the flow into the larger open area. They considered the option to install a larger deck but through the design development process, we arrived at a brick patio solution that would help dry out the yard to reduce mosquitos and invite people in the kitchen to enjoy the outdoor dining option. Although more complex than meets the eye, this addition remodel turned out to be a natural and it looks like it was always there.


  • New casement and awning windows
  • Exposed brick
  • Beadboard panels
  • New patio with recycled brick pavers

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