Architect Todd Hansen and his new clients were perfectly in sync on what type of home the clients wanted. Hansen’s business partner, architect Christine Albertsson, is from Vermont, and Hansen and Albertsson had spent many vacations there among the rural colonial-style homes. Meanwhile, the clients had visited Cape Cod and hoped to re-create the same spirit of the charming gabled homes they’d admired along the East Coast. But they discovered that their 1960s Colonial Revival in Deephaven would require a lot of fine tuning to get there.
“It was a thinly executed, two-story builder Colonial Revival,” said Hansen, of Albertsson Hansen Architecture in Minneapolis. “It had gables and a roughly center-hall layout — with few interior details.”
The homeowners had bought the residence, on 3 acres of dense woods and wetlands, in 1999. The location was close to a Target store and highways, yet felt like it was out in the country. When their baby arrived a few years later, the couple decided to stay for the long term and turn the home’s basic shell into the gracious New England-inspired home they’d always imagined.
Before enlisting Albertsson Hansen, the couple had completed a long list of Phase 1 projects. They tore off the attached garage and built a detached garage. They upgraded and remodeled the kitchen, and replaced plain wood siding with textural cedar shakes reminiscent of Cape Cod dwellings.
They even added photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, and installed a geothermal system to help lower energy consumption and utility costs in the future.
Still, the house had its shortcomings. Visitors were confused about where to enter. The homeowners yearned for a formal dining room where they could host large extended-family gatherings. And they wanted a quiet getaway room — as well as more closets.
When the homeowners were ready to tackle Phase 2 in 2012, they showed Hansen examples of colonials and interior design elements they admired in books and magazines. “We wanted to create deeply resonant, comfortable spaces for living,” Hansen said. “And to make it feel like it had always been a pre-1920s colonial-style house.”
Phase 2 goals included adding new functional spaces that opened up the sightlines to the clusters of large oaks and maples outdoors, as well as infusing rich character to connect the old and new parts of the house.
Hansen’s renovation plan was extensive, with two additions, a repositioned entry with a bigger foyer, a new screen porch, a remade fireplace, along with detailed millwork and built-ins throughout the home.
First, he reoriented the front entrance so it faces the driveway and is clearly visible as you approach the house. Inside, the welcoming new sunlit foyer is outfitted with benches, hooks and huge divided-pane windows. The foyer opens to a long center hallway, which “reinforces the traditional colonial style,” he said.
That center hall leads to the existing staircase or to the sitting-room addition. This “morning coffee” space is framed by two walls of oversized double-hung windows often visited by deer. “This new room is outward-focused, giving expansive views of the site,” said Ian McLellan, a designer on the project.
The adjacent dark, linear living room was repurposed into a bright formal dining room with enough space to accommodate a table, made from a church’s old wood panels, that seats up to 14 people. Hansen expanded the off-center fireplace 4 feet and redesigned the surround and mantel, but kept the original chimney and firebox. “Now it’s better scaled for the length of the room,” he said.
He tore out the existing screen porch and, in its place, built a living-room addition at the far end of the home. The living room is two steps down in order to create 9½-foot ceilings, which are taller than the rest of the house. A homespun wood-burning fireplace, flanked by two deep window seats, completes the room’s traditional sensibility.
On the second floor, the homeowners put in a new den above the main-floor sitting-room addition. The quiet getaway offers treetop vistas of the lot on three sides.
This old house
Giving the 1960s builder colonial an old-house authenticity was a guiding principle in the design, Hansen said. With that in mind, he added detailing and millwork throughout the renovated spaces.
Two wood-paneled vestibules between the dining room and living room show off the fine craftsmanship in the built-in bookshelves and cabinets. “The lower ceiling and more intense millwork in the vestibules creates a feeling of passage from one place to another,” Hansen said.
He also used a color palette often found in colonial interiors. For example, the vestibule walls are painted a darker pewter color, while the wood trim is a lighter off-white color. In the adjoining living room, the same paint colors were used but in reverse.
Hansen and McLellan didn’t go totally traditional in the millwork style around doorways, cabinetry, fireplace mantel and built-in bookshelves. “It’s a cleaner and fresher modern interpretation,” McLellan said, “and doesn’t feel heavy.”
For the Deephaven homeowners, Hansen’s revisions and enhancements finally completed their New England colonial-inspired work-in-progress. They can fully soak in the wooded setting while living in one of the more beloved styles of architecture.
“Colonial is an American style that feels so comfortable,” Hansen said. “That’s why people keep coming back to it in all different sizes and variations. It embodies ‘home.’ ”