How many times had I passed by this house growing up just a few blocks away? The new owners, a young couple with small sons, asked me for the usual addition on their standard six room ranch: a family room off the back with an area to eat, or what might commonly be referred to as a great room. Also, I was asked to renovate the subpar kitchen, making it accessible from while feeling like a part of the new family room.

Great rooms aren’t always that great.

So besides showing my clients a sketch of the duly expected gabled wing glommed onto the back of their house, I showed them a livelier alternative. The tall room with an asymmetrically pitched roofline on the outside was inspired by a barn I admired in a painting that hung in my parents’ entry hall. With a little coaxing, I convinced my clients that, not only was a little barn that sidled up to their house a better response to their corner lot on the outside, the saltbox profile would yield dramatic results inside.

For one, it allowed me to make the fireplace the focal point of not only the family room but the adjoining living room as well. I located the fireplace at the end of the living room’s extended long axis, thereby creating a view from front to back, old into new. Under the lower pitched ceiling of the family room, a dining table sits near the kitchen whose back wall was blown out to connect it both visually and physically to the new room. Essentially, the renovated kitchen functions as a cozy alcove off one corner of the family room. For more elbow room in the kitchen, I extended a bank of its cabinetry into the addition and installed a breakfast bar whose advancing angle gives the distinct impression that it’s rounding the corner to make its way into the family room.