The renovation of this 1,129-square-foot cottage on Long Island Sound came with more than a few constraints. The existing home’s high flood hazard location subjected the project to stringent FEMA requirements, and its nonconforming footprint encroached on street and side-yard setbacks. On top of that, changes in the Connecticut state health code prohibited an increase in “heated, year-round occupied” square feet. Therefore, no chance of expansion, right?

Wrong. The ingenious solution, conceived by architects Sandra Vlock and Glenn Arbonies? Raise the roof.

Merit Award

Category Whole-house makeover or significant addition
Entrant/Architect Arbonies King Vlock Architects, Branford, Conn.
Builder Neighborhood Builders Construction, Branford
Landscape architect Landscape Specialties, Centerbrook, Conn.

Staying within the confines of the original footprint, the revised structure bumps its heated space (kitchen, living area, and bedrooms) to a second floor, placing an open-air covered porch at ground level. Passive solar gain keeps this unconditioned entertainment space comfortable in most seasons (thanks to its south-facing orientation), and large retractable doors allow it to spill onto a wrap-around deck.

Up above, stacked windows, transoms, and French doors flood the second-floor interiors with natural light. The combination of high ceilings and abundant glazing provides panoramic coastline views and makes small spaces feel larger than they actually are.