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Renovation Solutions: Sugar House bungalow transformed into city-style loft

The little bungalow near 1500 East and 1500 South looks like any other home in the neighborhood from the street.

"It is very deceptive," says Barbara Schovaers, owner of the newly remodeled home. "On the outside it looks just like a Sugar House bungalow, but when you walk in, it looks like a New York City loft."

Schovaers always wanted to live in a downtown loft but she has a dog.

"It wouldn't be fair," she says. "I have a black Lab. I guess I could have walked him down to Liberty Park everyday, but I like having my yard. So, I thought, why not turn my bungalow into my loft?"

And that is just what she did.

She gutted the house and opened up the floor plan. She replaced the roof, trading the bearing wall with a steel I-beam to support the structure. Corrugated steel panels are now fastened to the 13-foot ceilings and all the floors are exposed concrete.

"Everything is metal and glass," she says. "It is an extremely industrial/contemporary design."

Glass garage doors open two adjacent walls to the outside patio — one opening from the kitchen and one from the bedroom. With these unique garage doors, the patio becomes an extension of the house and a perfect entertaining area.

"I love to entertain," she says. "I have had three parties besides the open house already."

"The idea for the garage doors really inspired the rest of the remodel," Schovaers says.

"I saw the idea in Dwell magazine years before, and knew I had to have that in my house someday. From there we pretty much skyrocketed."

Schovaers says she has no disappointments or regrets.

"This is exactly how I envisioned it," she says. "It was my little creation. And with the teamwork between the builder, my architect and myself, I created my dream house."

Schovaers was a decisive client who knew what she wanted when she walked into our office.

"I knew what I wanted because I had done years of research online and in books and magazines," she says. "But an architect comes with a lot of knowledge, education, and expertise that adds a lot to a project. Mine clearly came up with ideas related to space that I couldn't see."

Schovaers' transformed house exemplifies many architectural principles that contribute to good design: There is a strong feeling of three-dimensional space in her house due to her choice to vault the entire ceiling.

This was a bold move that required removing the existing roof completely so the new structure would be clean and open. Schovaers also splurged to use steel beams, though wood beams would have worked, because the steel adds to the aesthetic she wanted.

Light is another critical element in her home. Because of the urban setting on a narrow lot, glass block was used in the windows on the side walls.

The window openings were enlarged on the south side, so light pours in generously without having the feeling that the neighbors are looking in. She added several large, clear skylights that save the metal roof panels from feeling oppressive, allowing sun to stream into the middle of the home.

Order is evident in Schovaers' home in the clean, exposed structure, as well as the built-in cabinetry.

You get a feeling that everything has a place; the lack of clutter gives a feeling of peace and serenity.

Schovaers made every decision intentionally so all the details and finishes add to the total loft look. The hardware on the sliding glass doors, the kitchen faucet, the concrete countertops and the sleek tile in the bathroom all fit the overall theme.

She left nothing to chance. And she didn't stop at the back (garage) door: The patio has the same concrete floor as the interior of the home, and the furnishings, light fixtures and small fountain all blend seamlessly with the interior design.

Schovaers splurged on some items, but balanced this out with killer shopping skills in other areas.

After receiving a $9,000 bid for a sail cloth roof for the patio from a local company, she got busy on the Internet and found the material for $200. Not faint of heart, she recruited her brother and the two of them figured out how to attach the sails, which resulted in an area that functions as another room in her house.

Schovaers' contemporary design doesn't fit everyone's style, but it doesn't have to. "It is definitely not for everyone, but I love it and I think people at least appreciate it for what it is."

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the founding principals of Renovation Design Group, www.renovationdesigngroup.com, a local architectural firm specializing in home remodels.