New Jersey firm Plan Architecture reimagines a traditional Woodcliff Lake ranch with a complete modern overhaul.
By Wendy Larimer
Dan D’Agostino, founder of Plan Architecture in Little Falls, has been working in the architectural world since the age of 16. He was taking drafting classes in high school when a local firm put a call out for interns. D’Agostino went to the interview in his baseball uniform since he didn’t have time to change. “My mother yelled at me for stealing second because I got dirty,” he said.
Despite the dirt, D’Agostino was hired and spent eight years with the firm, crediting that experience for making him the architect he is today—one capable of turning a run-down ranch home into a modern farmhouse that catches the eye of all who drive by it.
A residence on Winding Way in Woodcliff Lake is one of Plan Architecture’s latest projects to highlight the design skill and forethought that comes from D’Agostino and his team.
The homeowners bought the 1960s-era house several years ago and made enough changes so the home was comfortable, but they knew, someday, they would need to do something significant with the property. The ranch house was 1,400 square feet, had a traditional floor plan with divided rooms and a lackluster exterior painted out-of-date green. Plan Architecture was hired to undertake a complete renovation.
To help determine if a home is one that Plan Architecture wants to renovate, the team looks predominantly at how the property receives natural light and if the current foundation can support and balance out any additions. Winding Way met the criteria for D’Agostino and his team to put pencil to paper.
“When analyzing the house, we found the garages on the south side were blocking the light so we flipped the house moving the garages and driveway which made a huge difference. Now there’s an inside room with windows on three sides and an abundance of natural light,” D’Agostino said.
Changing the location of the garage was not the only challenge. Overall, the architects had to make the home bigger, expanding it across the land while being careful not to overbuild. An added complication to the expansion was that while most projects add structure to the back of the house, in this case the backyard was a feature that neither the owners nor the architects wanted to disturb.
After three months of design and a year of construction that included removing most of the interior, and some exterior walls, the challenges were met. Today the custom home is close to 5,000 square feet with four bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths.
“I really love the way the kitchen flows to the eat-in area that flows to the living room and sunroom which sits around a double-sided fireplace—I’m really proud of the natural light in these spaces,” D’Agostino said.
To further enhance the open feel, D’Agostino employed natural elements throughout the home. A unique wood piece serves as the basin for the sink in the half-bath and the master bathroom features marble flooring and walls. Recessed ceilings adorned with wood paneling or beams can be found in several rooms, highlighting not just a natural element but also a traditional feature.
“[People] often think of the ceiling as a design plane that’s often ignored. We make it about the ceiling. In this case, giving something traditional a modern twist,” he said.
To top off the design of the ceiling, unique lighting fixtures have been used throughout from minimalist glass pendants in the kitchen to a sunburst in the living room, and a modern metal chandelier in the master bath. The lighting is a subtle design element of the home.
Winding Way places an emphasis on comfort. Inside, the finished project features a sunroom and living room flanking a double-sided fireplace, a built-in bar in the dining room, and a panel of sliding glass doors leading to a patio designed for easy entertaining.
The home’s curb appeal comes from the mix of slate flooring and wood-paneled ceilings on the front porch which abuts a stone foundation. These natural elements combine with the stark white and black exterior and abundance of windows to fully integrate traditional with modern.
“We are traditional architects that inject a modern twist. We can do anything, but I like to borrow details from traditional architecture with large expanses of glass and open floor plans and try to synergize the two of them.”
*D’Agostino has been successful in bringing old and new together, winning an AIA Gold Medal, achieving the coveted “Best Of” award on Houzz and having recurring appearances on NBC’s “George to the Rescue.” Plan Architecture’s portfolio includes new builds and renovations from single-family homes to mixed-use urban buildings.