Split-Foyer Transformation

by | Aug 23, 2019 | Creative Design Solutions

Do We Move or Stay? Question Leaps Barrier at Couple’s Heart

“It was spectacular,” Gini says. “We had an ugly house, and it was as nice and ugly as it could be, but spectacular because it had the proper number of bathrooms to support 200 people at our reception.”

 “We’ve made the decision to stay in this house until we die.” In 1990, Bob and Gini Mulligan celebrated their marriage on their front lawn. 

There was a tent for the September wedding. The sky was knockout blue.  “We wanted to have our 20th anniversary here, and have a ‘do-over,’ but it didn’t happen,” says Gini. “I think we might wait for our 25th, because that’s coming up. And we now have a magnificent home.”

But it started out, well, less so. Probably all that looked magnificent were the homes Gini kept viewing online, remodeled split foyers—and she looked for years. Over and over. The Mulligan home boasted good bones, but lots of walls and narrow hallways. The home didn’t take advantage of the lush, wooded setting on its generous ½-acre tract in Fairfax, Va. The load-bearing wall dividing the split foyer literally split everything. “It was like walking into a brick wall,” Gini says. “The house was tired, dreary.” They added a massive deck across the back, which drew them out more than in. Then Bob, who races Porsches, had a 62-by-34-foot, six-car garage built with a lift, a loft, and a bath-and-a-half, with heated floors.

“That was my stake in the ground,” Gini says. “When he finished, I said: ‘Hehehe—we’re remodeling the house.'”

Technical Marvels

An artist, she started drawing. She avoided major moves. She wanted the kitchen and the three baths in their original space. She drew dormers across the front of the house. But she was sweating where the stairs should go. Working on design with Craig Durosko, founder of Sun Design, along with the Sun design team, they raised the roof to add a third floor for Gini’s art studio, a bright space where she could paint.

The challenge was creating a light-filled, airy studio with treetop views while also addressing point loads and structural considerations and adding heating and cooling to make the room comfortable year-round. Using trusses and ridge beams to carry loads to all three floors, the Mulligan team at Sun Design resolved the problems of that vaulted third floor of the house and ran a trunk line along the ridge beam to pump hot and cool air into the space. The loft was connected visually with the same hardwood flooring used on the other floors. Heated tile floors in the baths matched that of the bathrooms on the lower floors.

They decided the stairs had to be the focal point. They placed them within the same footprint at the center of the house, a technical feat that matched the prowess of the raised roof and a 16 ½ foot vaulted ceiling in the kitchen. There in the vaulted kitchen, a glass wall suspended by steel I-beams, creates a breathtaking effect as you walk into the room, a “tree house effect,” since the main level sits off the ground almost two stories, nestling the room in the woods. The non-bending steel I-beams prevent wall wracking, and allow double the windows of a framed wall, exceeding new Fairfax County building codes for storm loads. “It’s just stunning when you walk into the kitchen,” says Craig.

Gini and Craig, along with his team, planned a new master suite on the main level above the garage. After enjoying heated floors in the garage for years, Bob asked that all the new bathrooms have heated floors, with thermostats and timers. In the basement, a repurposed wet bar made of hickory cabinets from the old kitchen.

The nine-month remodel was carried out after the Mulligans moved out, removing almost every wall on the first floor.

Digging In

“We were able to refine all the elements they wanted, particularly the front porch Gini loves, and get comfortable even with the budget,” Craig says. “The ‘do we move or stay?’ question went away. We helped them envision how their future home would look and feel.”

“One of my favorite elements is that you can run your hand up the stair rail, from the basement to her third-floor art studio, taking in open views of each level as you go,” Craig says. “You’d never know this home was originally built any other way. It was during design when they realized they could stay and be happy, because the house would be connected, not disjointed as additions often appear. A true testament to this plan is that we’ve had hundreds of online requests for this home design—more than any other remodel we’ve done. It’s awesome. It just works.”

“I said, ‘If we do this, I don’t want it to look like a remodeled split foyer,” Bob says. “That was my thing. When we were done, I didn’t want this to look like ‘it’s just been changed.’ I wanted it to look like it was designed from the original house plan. I have to say, I drive up to it now, and I’m happy to be home.”

“We’ve made the decision to stay in this house until we die,” Gini says.

Just like the wedding on the lawn, for the Mulligans, the universe aligned. Everything finally was perfect. “In February, when it stops freezing, I have these electric throws and I’ll get up in the morning and when my husband goes to work, I take a pillow and the throws and go out there on the porch with my coffee. I have my WiFi, my books, all of my dogs and cats. It’s one of the best feelings … it’s just heaven.”

She feels like she “hit a homerun.” But only now, when she pops on the WiFi and searches for remodeled split foyers, she sees a gorgeous home … her home. She smiles. It’s a work of art. And the artist in her likes it that way.

For over 30 years Sun Design Remodeling has been transforming homes in the Washington Metropolitan Area, building great relationships along the way. Visit our Events page to see the next time you can take a Remodeled Home Tour of a clients’ home we have transformed to get a better understanding of what modifications your neighbors are making to their homes or join us for Remodeling + Design Seminars in our office to share what designers are seeing as trends. You can also plan for a Design Consultant to come out to your home and get a personalized free consultation.

About the Author:

Craig Durosko founded Sun Design Remodeling in 1988 with one simple philosophy- helping people with their homes. He has been instrumental in growing a one person sunroom repair and deck building shop into a successful architectural design-build firm with more than 50 employees.

Over the years, Craig has worn almost every hat in the organization. His true passion has always been the role of building and maintaining Sun Design’s culture that is based on providing a great experience for clients as well as employees, vendors and trades people.

“After 30 years I still look forward to going into work each day. I enjoy the culture we have built here at Sun Design and the people I work with. I enjoy our clients and love to see them light up when their vision comes to life. They can see how our work has improved the way their homes function for their families. I enjoy seeing the awards our designers get for their creativity and the awards our entire staff gets for growing a successful business based on serving our clients,” says Craig.

Craig’s certifications include: CR, Certified Remodeler, and CAPS, Certified Aging in Place Specialist, from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI); and CGP, Certified Green Professional from the National Association of Home Builders. He has been on the NARI’s Metro DC chapter board and has served as its education chairperson for a number of years. Craig has received two Image Awards and the President’s Award from NARI.

Craig enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters, keeping a healthy mind and body, and mountain biking.

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We were thrilled with the work performed by Sun Design. We had used a different contractor to build a porch and it was an awful experience with long delays, so we were cautious. The Sun Design team listened to all our needs, presented multiple options to meet those needs at different price points, and delivered on time and on budget for our first floor renovation. They are exceptional at communicating with their clients on what to expect during each stage of the journey and carry our strongest recommendation.

Brendan Mahon



10/10 would highly recommend Sun Design. We found our kitchen layout was too small and wasn't working for us. We told Sun Design what our issues were and what was important to us, and their amazing design team created the kitchen of our dreams. It turned into a whole first floor transformation, moving kitchen, dining room, and living room around to a configuration that worked best for us.

Ashley Norman



I am a HUGE fan of Sun Design! The first time that we worked with them was over 15 years ago. We were ready to have a deck built, but not just any deck, and of course, Jeremy was the designer at that time and I remember how he went about designing it so that it looked like "part of the house" - It is beautiful. We recently refurbished it, and it looks absolutely beautiful!

Josie Zamolyi Caldwell



Sun Design transformed our "cookie cutter" house into a spectacular, unique home. Working with Ericka was a delight - her confidence and fun personality made the process enjoyable. Ours was a complete remodel - kitchen, family room, powder room, upstairs bathrooms, and some primary bedroom work. We loved working with Sun Design so much that we will be working with them again in the future when we are ready for an addition that will add a garage and in-law suite. Highly recommend!

Patti Ahlstrom



SunDesign came up with a creative design for our screened-in porch that beautifully fits into our existing landscape. Project was executed on budget and their craftsmanship is superb. Their responsiveness to a warranty issue we had with the door was immediately addressed. We highly recommend SunDesign — their teams are awesome to work with.

Gisela Ulmschneider



We had a fairly big project to build out part of our house. Sun Design has done a phenomenal job so far. We are getting close to complete. The design process was very collaborative and the execution of the build has gone well so far. Every part of the experience has been top quality and the team we are working with is amazing. The team is expensive but they are able to walk you through where every cent goes and why and they will look at different options to try to help reduce cost. They are well worth every penny. I would want to use Sun Design for any future projects and I highly recommend them.

Jen Navarro



Maryam and Jeff from Sun Design home care department are great to work with. Maryam is very responsive and attentive to all my inquiries. Jeff is my to go guy whenever I need work or maintenance in my property, very professional and thorough with his work. I have been a satisfied customer for 2 years now.

Brigitte Siegall



Sun Design handled the renovation of our large basement several years ago. We finished our laundry room and added two walls of built in cabinets, reconfigured a storage room and run-down kitchen into a guest room and sitting area, and finished a large rec room. Everything was redone - the floors, walls, ceilings, electrical work, etc. Sun Design did a terrific job - the rooms look wonderful. Our house was built in 1962 and we had a number of glitches along the way. But Sun Design made sure that, at the end, everything looked and worked properly. I highly recommend them.

Susan Louis



I have been working with Sun Design for over 15 years. They are a great company to work with, very friendly and professional staff. They are very clean, responsive, respectful of your property and I have nothing but the great things to say about Sun Design.

Goran Zukic



This review is to introduce you to Sun Design services and to recommend them for your next project. We used Sun Design for a deck – sunroom redesign, and the end result exceeded our expectations. Sun Design is easy to work with, thinks creatively, and effectively communicates ideas to enhance projects, and thus Sun Design has my highest endorsement. The staff is knowledgeable, courteous, and friendly. They truly care about every aspect of the projects they do. They arrive on time and leave the place spotless when the work has been completed.

H. Milton Richardson

Our experience with Sun Design has been nothing short of wonderful. From our initial meeting with Craig to working closely with Morgan & Emily, every stage of the design process has been refreshingly easy despite the fact that our kitchen restructure was complex. With thoughtful consideration to our 124-year-old home, Sun Design presented plans that maintained the character of our farmhouse & resolved issues with functionality & form— all while respecting our desired budget & overall objective.

Sarah & Erkan Orman

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