Jan and Rob were in love with their home along the Huron River, but they weren’t in love with their cramped kitchen. Multiple additions and updates since its construction in the early 1900s had compartmentalized several living areas from each other. This, combined with a mid-century approach to home design, had created a cramped kitchen that no longer met their needs.


As cooking partners, Rob and Jan needed a bigger kitchen with more counter space, two sinks and a feeling of spaciousness. The compact kitchen was a cozy space, and the previous builder had employed creative cabinetry to provide abundant storage. But the outdated kitchen was restrictive and multiple circulation routes made it difficult for the couple to enjoy cooking together.

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The small kitchen was adjacent to a wide, under-utilized hallway. Although the hallway wasn’t originally part of the remodeling effort, Giraffe designer Steven Varnum saw an opportunity. He shifted the axis of the kitchen from East-West to North-South, opening it up to the hallway. This eliminated the traffic flow inefficiencies and doubled the size of the kitchen.

This innovative approach also afforded an expansive vaulted ceiling, opening the space and inviting natural light into the kitchen area. The effect created a transformative feeling of spaciousness.


Transforming Small Living Spaces


View of kitchen leading out to the living area

Many of our clients want to renovate smaller rooms to open up more space. The living room doesn’t allow for larger gatherings, or the dining room is too small for all the children and grandchildren. Homeowners are looking to build additions so their homes can function in line with their lifestyles.

However, the ideal solution is often much more elegant than our clients expect. Before committing to building a large addition onto your house, Giraffe’s designers look for inspired solutions to transform your existing space with less disruption and less expense.

Often, the key part of a solution is reconfiguring circulation routes. We look at the whole floor plan and identify inefficiencies in the existing layout. This affords the opportunity to explore ways to make changes that better utilize the space you already have. This approach solves problems as often as adding onto a structure does.


Creative Design Solutions

One couple expected that their home renovation project would require building a large addition to the home in order to create space for a dining room. Their existing dining room didn’t accommodate many guests at holiday meals. Likewise, their kitchen was much too small for their needs.

While we extended the walls by two feet in one direction and three feet in another, we were able to revitalize the space without building out a large addition. The creative approach even opened up solutions to other issues in the home.

The transformation created room to reorganize the kitchen more efficiently, which reconfigured a coat closet that affected the living room’s functionality. All this, while reducing the overall scope of the project and keeping costs lower than a new addition would have been.


Giraffe’s Design-driven Process


View of double kitchen sink looking out the window

The natural outcome of the schematic design process is to uncover as many inspired ideas as possible to solve the problem. Giraffe’s designers look at the scenario from multiple angles and find every reasonable solution we can.

The culture of Giraffe prioritizes design work. We make sure to take the time to do the design work right, rather than push something out the door before it’s ready.

As a result, we are highly selective about the designers we work with. We only hire designers who inspire our confidence and demonstrate an acute ability to listen to clients.

“The importance of a design culture can’t be understated,” Steven Varnum said. “I’ve worked at other build firms that don’t put the emphasis on design that Giraffe does, and it has an impact. It makes a difference, and it affects the level of quality.”

Dreaming of your own inspired living space? Giraffe Design Build is a client-centric, design-driven company motivated by the belief that the built environment profoundly affects people’s lives. Together with our clients, our collaborative team of designers and craftsmen transform existing spaces into healthy, joyful sanctuaries where families celebrate daily life.

Let’s start a conversation about your dream renovations.