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Project Reveal: pop the top

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas Pop the top

When you love your neighborhood, but hate your house...what do you do?

This is the problem our clients were struggling with when they reached out to us. Their house was in an amazing location in a desirable neighborhood with awesome schools for their 3 kids. BUT the house was lacking in the function department. And the aesthetic department. And, therefore, the happiness department.

We took on the ultimate challenge with this 1979 single-story Far North Dallas home. It had a layout so bizarre, it could make your head spin: gloomy rooms, a closed off circuitous layout, a pair of atrium light tunnels (huh?), not to mention the breakfast nook that gave off more pub vibes than cozy coffee mornings (and not in a good way).


As a busy family with 3 kids, our clients needed their home to be working for them and not against them. We just live differently than families in the 1970's. Choppy rooms with no visual connection, a total lack of storage, and lack of lighting isn’t doing anyone any favors.

This house wasn’t working for our clients, but with interest rates being what they are, and home inventory the lowest we’ve seen in decades, we needed to create a newer home feel without actually building a new home.

It was time to Pop The Top (that’s insider speak for “add a second floor”)!


We had a few key goals to transform this home:

  1. To create a bedroom and bathroom for their oldest daughter to free up a bedroom for guests. This meant adding more square footage.

  2. Open things up. We would describe the floor plan before as a bit Over The River And Through The woods, with far too much winding to get from Point A to Point B. Particularly in the Kitchen zone, which for most families is the most heavily traveled room in the house. Hello, traffic jam. We also wanted to relocate the humongous fireplace to open up some views (and bring in much needed daylight) from the backyard. Oh, and get rid of the weird atriums. More on that in a minute.

  3. Add more function. Our client works from home full time, but his office was in the dining room with no acoustic or visual privacy. Not ideal for Zoom meetings with 3 kids at home. The kitchen cabinets were original and not maximizing space, and the small pantry wasn’t suitable for a family of 5. To get things out of sight and out of mind (and help everyone maintain their sanity), we needed to add storage in the form of built ins and a mudroom.

  4. Update the Master Bathroom and fix the (surprise, surprise) awkward layout and worn-out finishes.


Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas renovation plans

The biggest change is obviously ADDING A SECOND FLOOR. After designing a few second floor options, we enlisted the help of an Architect and Structural Engineer to make it happen. The new plan has a playroom, bedroom, and bathroom in the new X SF addition.

The atriums that were on the ground floor before actually popped up in the front of the house to make an almost second floor (you can see that in the last before image, above). We used that as a starting point, captured some attic space, and increased the height to give us the clearance we needed. We extended the new 2nd floor over the existing Living Room to create some much needed additional square footage.

The second story might be the flashiest part of the addition, but the real meat happened on the first floor. We opened up the whole entry situation, eliminated the unused atriums, and created a wider hallway from the front door to the living room. We also enclosed the dining room to create a proper office (with doors!). Then we created a new dining area adjacent to the kitchen, and opened up that whole shebang to the living room.

Oh, and we cleared up the whole Master Bath layout nonsense.

Without breaking a sweat.

Okay, we broke a little bit of a sweat. This was a space planning challenge to say the least, but the impact was HUGE.


Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas pop the top exteior

The exterior looks surprisingly similar to the before, since there were already 3 squatty windows pretending to be a second story. We raised them up to give us the head clearance we needed without dramatically altering the street view of the house. No odd Frankenstein McMansion standing out in the neighborhood and enraging all the neighbors!

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas entryway
Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas entry way coat closet

With the odd atriums removed, we now have a lovely wide entry hallway that now has space for a coat closet and entry table.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas entry way
Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas entry way

Even better, we now have a view into the Living Room and Back Patio. We’ll head there in a minute. But first, let’s swing over into the kitchen...

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas open inviting kitchen

A MUCH better view from the entryway into the now NOT dark kitchen. The odd cooktop peninsula, strange wall placement, and corner pantry are gone, and we now have a big open inviting kitchen.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas additional window kitchen

We added an additional window (something most people fear is way to expensive but in reality is not to difficult or costly at all) to bring more natural light into this space.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas bold cabinet color light counter backsplash

That extra light allowed for us to go more bold with the cabinet color. We kept the countertops and backsplash light to keep the blue from overpowering the space.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas new office dining room

Looking back toward the entryway you’ll see that the former dining room is now an office (with doors!) and frosted glass to still allow light through, but keep the office visually and acoustically private. Now the kids can come get a snack in the kitchen without making a cameo on Dad’s Zoom calls.

Look next to those doors and you’ll spy...

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas full height pantry cabinets

Full height pantry cabinets. This wall of storage is a POWERHOUSE, holding all of the food and dry goods this family of 5 needs. Cabinet pantries can be far more efficient than a standard pantry room when done right, with drawers that pull out allowing for you to maximize the 2' depth and still be able to reach everything. Hallelujah.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas u shaped kitchen

Without all of the junk in the way (tall ovens, random walls, corner pantry) we now have an uninterrupted efficient U-shaped kitchen with uninterrupted countertops. So much room for activities!

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas 48" wolf range

Our clients big wish-list item - this 48" Wolf range. We love a freestanding 48" range for a lot of reasons. One, I mean, look at it. But two, it’s an efficient double oven combination. One large oven for turkeys and whatnot, but a hard working smaller oven that is sized perfectly for cookie sheets and 9x12 baking dishes. Most of our clients use that smaller oven 10x the large one, as it heats faster and is more efficient.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas sleek simple vent hood 8' ceilings

We opted for a sleek, simple vent hood. The original plan had a much more eye-catching chevron wood hood, but ultimately we felt that it would compete too much with everything else going on, mainly due to the 8' ceiling height. We wanted to elongate the walls and make them feeling taller than their standard height. By keeping the hood white, we didn’t draw big-fat-attention to the lower ceilings.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas appliance garage water spout coffee pot

Coming around the corner, we have possibly my favorite feature - the appliance garage WITH a water spout for filling the coffee pot right inside. Did it take a boatload of drawing and math to figure out the exact right height that would work in the cabinet and make the filler work? Yes. Did we lose sleep over it worried we might be a half inch off? Also yes. BUT IT WORKED. As the saying goes, measure and draw 27 times and cut once.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas countertops no appliances

See how pretty and sleek the counters are without all the countertop appliances?! Lovely.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas kitchen island trash recycle

On the working side of the island, we have our typical mix of trash/recycle pull out, drawers for dishtowels, sink, and dishwasher. We’ve got this sizing down to a science. We always like to locate the trash at the end of the run (but still close to the sink) so that people can come in and out of the kitchen to throw things away without being all up in the chef’s grill (literally and figuratively).

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas combined dining room kitchen

The dining room and breakfast area have been combined into one beautiful and hardworking space. Having your dining table within this range of your kitchen increases the likelihood that you’ll use it roughly 287% (unscientific not quote me on this).

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas dining room built in storage

Behind the table is yet another wall of functional storage. This includes things you’d normally find in a dining room cabinet (placemats, platters) but can also include handy things for families like arts and crafts supplies for hanging out at the table.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas raise ceilings dining area

One unexpected and welcome surprise - we were actually able to raise the ceilings in the dining area! Once we took off the roof and began framing for the 2nd story addition, our contractor (Tejas Remodeling and Custom Homes) let us know that we had room to raise the ceiling another 2'. Pro tip - if this ever happens to you, TAKE THE EXTRA HEIGHT. Yes, it costs more, but there’s almost nothing that you can do in a home that compares with the impact of that extra height. It makes the space feel more spacious and creates serious wow factor.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas new stairs closet reinfornced tornado shelter

Around the back of the kitchen you’ll find something that wasn’t there before - STAIRS! We stole some square footage from the former living room (which was huge) and unused wet bar to carve out this stairwell. We added a closet below the stairs (Team No Wasted Space) and reinforced it as a tornado shelter. Because Texas.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas kitchen open to living room kitchen

Now onto the living room. You can see that we now have a connection between the living and the kitchen (hoorah).

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas move fireplace accordion glass patio door

The biggest change in here comes along the back wall. Before there was a behemoth of a dark brick fireplace that was blocking 90% of the view to the beautiful backyard. We pulled that out and replaced it with an accordion glass door that spans the width of the opening. Now on nice weather is nice, the living room can open fully to the screened back patio.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas  relocated electric fireplace

We didn’t want to lose the fireplace entirely, so we relocated it to the side wall. An electric model takes up less space than the wood burning fireplace and fits perfectly in the (now smaller, due to the staircase) living room.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas living room built ins

Opposite the fireplace, a new wall of built ins with loads of closed storage at the base and open shelving above for display.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas living room built ins surround sound painted wall color
Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas living room built ins surround sound painted wall color

If you look realllllllly close you can spy the speakers above and beside the television, painted to match the wall to help conceal them. A handy trick when you want surround sound (him) but don’t want to see it (her).

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas connected kitchen living room dining room connected

The connection to the entryway, kitchen, and dining are so much better now.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas revamped master bath

Just beyond the living room is the revamped Master Bath.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas his hers vanities remove tub master bath
Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas master bath his her vanities remove tub

Before, the space was extremely tight, and had an unused tub that was taking up valuable real estate. We maintained separate his and hers vanities (once you’ve had your own, it’s tough to go back). Hers has a makeup area and his is maximized with storage.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas remove tub add linen towers
Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas remove tub add linen towers

We straightened things up and expanded her closet by relocating the small shower to the tub area, allowing us to make a much larger shower nook and create space for two (count them TWO) linen towers and a full-length mirror.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas shower blue variat
Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas shower blue variat

Inside the shower we went bold with a blue variated tile laid in a herringbone.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas new second story playroom

Let’s head upstairs! In this newly created second story, we added a large open playroom.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas new upstairs playroom built in desks

We outfitted the back wall with built in homework and craft desks for the 3 kids, with a mix of closed storage (craft supplies, toys) and open storage (display).

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas new upstairs bathrooom kids playful hexagon tile

In the eldest daughter’s dream come true, she now has her own bathroom that she doesn’t have to share with her little sister. A hexagon tile on the floor and wall is a mix of timeless and playful.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas timeless hardware new upstairs bathroom

The finishes and fixtures in here are timeless, and will work for her well past her kid years and not date itself as she moves into her teen years.

Tara Lenney Design Dallas Texas project reveal

We hope you've enjoyed touring our latest project and getting a glimpse behind the scenes into the making of this renovation. Embarking on any home project (especially one of this magnitude) can be daunting, so please know that we're here to help. Whether you're considering popping the top for a second story, a renovation, or a furnishings project, we've got you covered.

If you have a project up your sleeve, let’s chat and see if we’re a good fit to bring it to life!


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