Before & After: A Glass Bridge Links an Alabama Midcentury to a Strategic Expansion
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Before & After: A Glass Bridge Links an Alabama Midcentury to a Strategic Expansion

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By Lucy Wang
An award-winning renovation and addition breathes new life into a run-down home for a growing family.

When a couple with an eye for midcentury modern design saw a 1950 home for sale in Mountain Brook, Alabama, they snapped up the residence—never mind that the house was dilapidated and far too small for their growing family of four. 

Convinced of the home’s potential, the couple turned to Atlanta–based Surber Barber Choate + Hertlein Architects to resurrect the post-and-beam structure and add a sensitive extension to double the footprint to 3,600 square feet.

The Harrison House received a 2019 AIA Georgia Award in the category for residential projects built for under $1,000,000.

The Harrison House received a 2019 AIA Georgia Award in the category for residential projects built for under $1,000,000.

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Dubbed the Harrison House, the restored and enlarged abode makes a clear distinction between old and new. To respect the original building, the architects placed an open courtyard between the existing single-story structure and the new two-story extension. The extension is connected via an elevated bridge and an open-tread stair that descends through the roof of the original home. 

"New versus old can be decoded where the original yellow brick is exposed and seen in contrast to new cypress siding and white stucco surfaces," note the architects. "The black color of the original wood, post-and-beam structure is extended to the new, exposed black steel."

"New versus old can be decoded where the original yellow brick is exposed and seen in contrast to new cypress siding and white stucco surfaces," note the architects. "The black color of the original wood, post-and-beam structure is extended to the new, exposed black steel."

Before: Front Facade

Before: The old carport tacked to the front of the existing 1,800-square-foot house was an eyesore that blocked views from the kitchen.

Before: The old carport tacked to the front of the existing 1,800-square-foot house was an eyesore that blocked views from the kitchen.

Before: a view from the entry-side facade of the 1950 house, which was considered a style pioneer in the area for its time.

Before: a view from the entry-side facade of the 1950 house, which was considered a style pioneer in the area for its time.

After: Front Facade

The architects removed the carport to improve views of and from the house.

The architects removed the carport to improve views of and from the house.

Before: House Rear

Before: The rear of the house was defined with a wall of windows that the architects wanted to preserve. Outside the window wall was a concrete slab patio edged in with a short concrete block retaining wall.

Before: The rear of the house was defined with a wall of windows that the architects wanted to preserve. Outside the window wall was a concrete slab patio edged in with a short concrete block retaining wall.

During construction: The roof, posts and beams were reframed. New concrete site walls can be seen beyond.

During construction: The roof, posts and beams were reframed. New concrete site walls can be seen beyond.

After: House Rear

A new courtyard with a pool separates the existing structure from the new addition. The concrete retaining walls were finished with integrally tinted stucco.

A new courtyard with a pool separates the existing structure from the new addition. The concrete retaining walls were finished with integrally tinted stucco.

Before: Living and Dining Area

Before, the open flow of the living area was obstructed by protruding closets and a built-in closet and cabinetry.

Before, the open flow of the living area was obstructed by protruding closets and a built-in closet and cabinetry.

The architects selectively removed the built-in laundry closet and the closets to articulate the living area as a long and open rectangular space.

The architects selectively removed the built-in laundry closet and the closets to articulate the living area as a long and open rectangular space.

After: Living and Dining Area

The Great Home flows seamlessly from the living and dining area to the family room at the far wall.

The Great Home flows seamlessly from the living and dining area to the family room at the far wall.

Before: Extension

To expand the home, the architects built a small concrete plinth and topped it with a larger steel-floor addition to house the bedrooms and bathrooms.

To expand the home, the architects built a small concrete plinth and topped it with a larger steel-floor addition to house the bedrooms and bathrooms.

After: Extension

A view from the new detached garage towards the renovated 3,600-square-foot Harrison House. The new addition comprises a large, cypress-clad volume atop a small concrete plinth that houses a studio space.

A view from the new detached garage towards the renovated 3,600-square-foot Harrison House. The new addition comprises a large, cypress-clad volume atop a small concrete plinth that houses a studio space.

"The main living space’s long window wall was oriented to the east, largely turning its back on the harsh afternoon sun," explain the architects. "As the sun arcs in the southern sky, the detached forms cast interesting, ever-changing shadows on the ground plane throughout the day, transitioning into evening when the lights come on and the building becomes transparent, linking inside and out."

"The main living space’s long window wall was oriented to the east, largely turning its back on the harsh afternoon sun," explain the architects. "As the sun arcs in the southern sky, the detached forms cast interesting, ever-changing shadows on the ground plane throughout the day, transitioning into evening when the lights come on and the building becomes transparent, linking inside and out."

The living space of the original home is connected to the extension via a glass-walled bridge and an open-tread stair suspended through the roof of the existing structure.

The living space of the original home is connected to the extension via a glass-walled bridge and an open-tread stair suspended through the roof of the existing structure.

The stairs are located opposite the renovated kitchen that overlooks views of the front garden. New slate tile flooring was installed throughout.

The stairs are located opposite the renovated kitchen that overlooks views of the front garden. New slate tile flooring was installed throughout.

Harrison House floor plans

Harrison House floor plans

More Before & After:

An Italianate-Style Brownstone in Brooklyn Rises Above Years of Ad-Hoc Remodels

An Artful Update Streamlines a Portland Midcentury

A 19th-Century Row House Becomes a Boho Newlyweds’ Nest

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Surber Barber Choate + Hertlein Architects 

Builder/ General Contractor: Classic Renovations & Contracting LLC

Structural Engineer: Bennett & Pless, Inc.

Landscape Design Company: Endless Summer Landscapes & Jenny Carpenter

Interior Design: Alchemy Design

Cabinetry Design/ Installation:  MDM Designs