Archive for June, 2010

shop and garage

Author: Travis Kinney

There’s a house that was featured in Portland magazine last month that I have always wanted to do work on. I was recently hired by new owners to help them design an attached garage and free-standing shop. I won’t be doing any work on the house, but at least I get to work on the property! The property has great views of the Casco Bay islands and the owner’s shop will be oriented to take advantage of those views. The site is challenging as there’s a 50-zoning setback off the road (which is typical), but on the ocean-side, there’s a 75′ setback from top-of-bluff. This setback is more strict that if we had to comply with a 75′ setback from high-water. The reason for this new top-of-bluff regulation is to keep people from building to close to unstable slopes, risking unnecessary property and building damage. The realtor has solicited the services of John Sevee of Sevee & Maher Engineers to determine the top-of-bluff location so we could have an accurate building window for the new work.

It turns out that we have just enough room for the shop, but there is only 16′ of space between the 75′ setback and 50′ road setback for the attached garage. The zoning code allows 30% expansion of non-conforming structures within a shoreland setback or resource protection setback, such as the top-of-bluff setback. In my design, I will need to conform to the 50′ setback, but I can build a portion of the garage within the new 75′ resource protection setback so long as it does not exceed 30% of the existing building volume or square footage (which ever is more strict) currently within the setback. To complicate things further, the 75′ resource protection setback cut diagonally through the house.

It used to be a royal pain to calculate the existing square footage and cubic volume, but now I model the existing structure in the computer 3-dimensionally and slice it where the setback occurs and the computer tells me the rest – thank goodness.

In summary, the shop is under construction and I need to make a site visit to measure the existing building so I can create my model and figure out my allowable 30% expansion amount that can be used to create the attached garage. Many homeowners would have thought that an attached garage would not be possible, but with a little research into the Town Codes and doing some calculations can often help a homeowner build what they want.

I have a lot of experience building and renovating houses along the coast and find this work very challenging and enjoyable.

This first sketch shows the view of the existing house to the far left, the attached garage and the detached garage to the far right. The top-of-bluff is the wavy line along the bottom of the sketch. There’s a steep slope down to the water’s edge where the owners have a dock, float and mooring.

view from the water

Here’s an aerial view of the site plan. Dotted in, is where there’s an existing old driveway.

partial site plan

Here’s a rough sketch showing the attached garage. The “attached” portion is an open air porch. The entire house is white clapboard and I though the attached garage should stay the same. I’m advocating that the detached shop should be different…..more barn-like.

attached garage

Here are a couple of the many quick color studies that I showed the owners while discussing the shop design.

green trim

red siding

red doors

gray siding

Here’s two elevations from my construction drawings showing what the shop will look like. The horizontal windows are located just above workbench height and they are awning operated windows that can be left open even if it’s raining out. I’ve seen shop windows like this at the Bath Maritime Museum boatshop, and have always liked them.

shop drawings


Author: Travis Kinney

Seems like most of the houses I design have some sort of pantry. Typically, this is because the kitchen is open to other spaces in the house and have extensive views of the water or gardens, limiting the amount of upper cabinet space available. Over the years I designed various pantries, that range from large rooms with lots of open shelving to butler style pantries with decorative glass doors to full-height pantry cabinets. Following is a small selection of pantries I have designed.

This is what I call a step-in pantry. There are continuous base cabinets with a variety of pull-out shelves and bins, calacatta honed marble counter that matches the kitchen counters and open shelving above. The wood on the shelves is gunstock grade walnut that matches the island counter top in kitchen. The walls are random width shiplap board. There’s a series of outlets at counter height for appliances. The room is located behind a french door and has a glass transom over the door that matches similar transoms nearby.

pantry closet

This is a similar pantry with base cabinets and lots of open shelving. The thick counter in this pantry was milled from mahogany. Notice the limited number of adjustable shelf holes. I don’t care for hundreds of holes being drilled in the side panels, when in reality you’ll rarely, if ever, adjust the shelves. Three or four holes at each shelf location is typically enough. The left of this pantry is a mirror image of this right hand corner. There are two matching historical school-light ceiling fixtures. This pantry is located behind a pair of antique french doors that the owners purchased and wanted me to work into the design.

medium size pantry

My quick snapshot photo does not do this pantry justice and I hope to get a better photo of it. This walk-through pantry is located behind the range wall of the kitchen. Across from the porcelain farm sink is a doorway into the kitchen, and behind where I was standing to take this photo, is a doorway that opens to a short hallway that connects the mudroom to the kitchen and across this doorway is an exterior door to a screened in porch. Great circulation flow where you might need to carry stuff from the pantry to the screened-in porch and also a short walk from mudroom and garage to pantry for putting away groceries.

large pantry

When space is limited and you can’t fit in a pantry room, then a pantry cabinet is the way to go. Often, you just can’t fit another room into the scheme and you’re still limited as to how many upper cabinets you can get into the kitchen. When this occurs I like to find a location for one or two full height units where there are lots of pull-out shelves hidden behind cabinet doors.

pantry cabinet

Nice Kitchen

Author: Travis Kinney

Here’s a kitchen I designed and just recently took photos of. This kitchen is a drastic improvement over the old kitchen. I’m going to have to dig through my old files to find the “before” images. A kitchen renovation was long overdo.

New Kitchen


Author: Travis Kinney

Here are some sketches and a couple finished photos of a sunroom that I designed in Cape Elizabeth.

This first photo shows what was existing. There’s a wood deck and large black locust tree covered with vines in front of it. It was very hard for the homeowner to lose that large black locust for this project and we tried various sketches where we keep it. The fear was, that even if we made the best attempt at saving it, it might get damaged along the way, or hate the new addition and end up dying. In the end the homeowner agreed that it would be too much risk to build a new addition based upon that one tree. We ended up having logs from it milled for a large dining room table. The boards are air drying for over the summer.


The following sketch shows the tree in place. I wanted to design a sunroom that look vintage and almost English conservatory-like.

schematic design

Here’s the plan idea I had. I was hoping to open the new sunroom up to what was (and unfortunately still is) a dining room that is too small. I also wanted to create a step down into a mudroom area near the door and build in a large closet which is really need (and unfortunately didn’t make it to the final design).

schematic floor plan

Here’s on of many drafted elevations I created. I LOVE the look of this scheme. The two windows to the left of the entrance are actually stepped back and there are large decorative brackets that extend out to support the roof. This would have looked awesome.

drafted elevation

Here’s a quick sketch I did showing brick steps. I really wanted the stone steps, but knew that was the most expensive. In the end, even the brick steps had to go.

brick stair

Here’s a photo of what we ended up with. Still came out great and does keep the look close to what I wanted.

corner shot

There are handrails that are to be added to the stairs and the landscaping is not complete. There’s a beautiful standing seam copper roof, but because of the angle, you can’t see it. I was pushing for a black metal roofing, thinking that copper would be great, but you won’t see it.

after photo

Here’s one interior shot. The owner just couldn’t get to the point of losing all that old brick in order to open the sunroom up to the dining room, giving her a larger area for dinner gatherings. Since the room was not going to be connected to dining room, I stepped it down from the house in order to get closer to the grade out front. The flooring in the sunroom is Old Port blend bricks with radiant heat.


Here’s the view looking toward the entry door. The owner didn’t want to lose windows by putting in a closet. An unfortunate balance between use of space and desired aesthetics. This does not make for a great mudroom as a result. Love the look, but I know the function is not there.

new entry

no wood

Author: Travis Kinney

Here are recent photos I took of a house in the Cross Hill development that I designed. The client did not want the upkeep of wood siding and trim so the clapboard siding, shingles and trim are cement board. The recessed side porch board-n-batten is all Azek and the columns are fiberglass. I am very pleased at how well this project came out without the use of wood siding. Hope to have the house professionally photographed once the landscaping is complete this summer.

front porch

side of house

side porch