Laurie Riekmann likes to sit high among the trees, enjoying a second-story view over her backyard. “We feel like we’re up in a tree house,” Laurie says. “You can see all the leaves surrounding the room.”
It’s a vantage point with all the comforts of their home. About two and a half years ago, Laurie and her husband, Glenn, lopped off the home’s original, walk-out deck and built an addition with windows on three walls. It’s an almost seamless extension of their 16-year-old home on Rochester’s northwest side. “I think the whole goal was to create more living space, and I think we created that, indoors and out,” Laurie says.
Constructed in late spring and summer of 2012, the room with the view now offers a comfortable living and lounging area for the couple, their son, Justin, their dog and several cats.
A LESS FINISHED BEGINNING
A fully finished addition was not the first idea the Riekmanns brought to their contractor, Master Builders Inc. of Rochester, a specialist in major residential remodeling. “We were going to have them originally replace the deck,” Laurie explains. But she also had a twist in mind. She wanted to construct a pergola on the deck to lend a little bit of shade and personality. “I’m all about being different,” Laurie claims.
However, when the couple crunched the numbers from the cost estimate, Glenn says, “We could put on a room for this [cost].” So they raised their sights to a three-season porch and, finally, chose four seasons of use with a fully finished space. John Lindahl, president of Master Builders, has seen that type of transition before. Once you enlarge beyond the deck, “it’s not that much more expensive to [build] something you can use all year long,” he says.
UP ON STILTS
The Riekmann expansion was a second-story job on the back side of the house. After analyzing the design, Master Builders was able to support the addition from beneath with 6-by-6-inch lumber columns, much like those that hold up decks. You might suspect that a four-wall addition would be much heavier than a wooden deck. But, Lindahl explains, “There’s not a lot of extra weight there.”
“We felt confident about the whole ‘putting it on sticks’ thing,” Laurie says. The space tucked under the addition also has grown into a favorite family spot for relaxing, gathering and grilling. Cool breezes flow through it in summer, and the addition overhead provides shelter from rain and hot sun.
Lindahl offered one note, though. The Riekmann house has taller-than-normal ceilings in the lower level, and that allows enough headroom for a useful patio. That may not be true with other homes.
A SEAMLESS CONNECTION
Making the addition look like it belonged was an important goal for the homeowners and contractor. “When we build an addition, we want it to be part of the house,” Lindahl says.
Many times, the coordinated appearance comes from details. For example, the company’s staff designed an arched window in the new room expressly to match an existing arched window in the living room of the 3,200-square-foot house. “They were pretty good at suggesting how to make it look good from the outside,” Laurie says.
Splicing a new roof into the existing roofline was among other challenges encountered at the Riekmann house. It had to be tied into a couple of different jogs in the roofline. Indoors, the construction crews removed a sliding glass door and reshaped the doorway into the addition. The change allowed unblocked views from the kitchen through the dining room into the new space. “It made the dining room feel bigger,” Laurie says.
They extended the same walnut-colored flooring from nearby dining and living rooms into the addition. One built-in centerpiece for the Riekmann’s addition is a gas fireplace with a stone-look facade. The room also is the spot where the homeowners often go to watch television, not to mention the beauty in their backyard.
The home’s furnishings and decor reflect Laurie’s eclectic tastes, which, she says, tend to be “antique-y.” She describes herself as a flea market junkie. “If it makes me smile, it goes in my house.” A letter “R” with embedded lights stands on the mantle. A coffee table, once probably used as a shop hand cart, sits in front of the sofa. Painted in script on the side is: “Nutting Truck, Faribault, Minn.”
Inside or outside, the view is comforting. The addition has become a room that “makes us happy,” Glenn says.
Bob Freund is a writer based in Rochester.