About five years ago, builder John McGary and his wife, Jillian, were looking for a home they could remodel for themselves when they found a 1955 rambler. The house was small, just 900 square feet, and in need of updates, but it was well-constructed. “It had good bones,” said John, owner/principal of Lucid Builders.
The location sealed the deal. The rambler was set in Deephaven, a tiny bucolic city near Lake Minnetonka, just blocks from the lake and a large park.
“Deephaven is amazing, like a Norman Rockwell hamlet,” Jillian said.
The couple made some initial improvements, including cosmetic updates and a modest kitchen makeover. Then their first child was born, followed by a second in 2012. Now the once-cozy rambler felt cramped. The couple decided it was time to expand by adding a second story and a mudroom.
“We had felt, naively, that we were ‘rambler people,’ ” John said.
But after tiptoeing around the house so as not to wake sleeping children in the next room, they could see the merits of having bedrooms on the second floor. And expanding up was more economical than greatly expanding the footprint, he added.
The couple was committed to saving and reusing as much of the original house as possible. “We didn’t want to demolish the whole house and throw everything away,” John said.
Saving and reusing is a way of life for their family, Jillian said. “We don’t like to waste things — we use cloth diapers and compost our food scraps.”
Their remodeled home includes more than 60 percent of the original foundation, walls and hardwood flooring. The McGarys also found ways to repurpose materials they already had on hand. An original retaining wall made of Fond-du-Lac limestone was dismantled, washed and reused for the fireplace, the exterior and a smaller retaining wall. “It was like having a quarry in your back yard,” John said.
The kitchen cabinets they’d installed just a few years earlier were repurposed in the new laundry room, while the granite from the kitchen island now tops an antique mahogany dresser, found on Craigslist, to create a vanity in the powder room, which has walls decorated with barn wood that was collected from the farm where the family lived during the remodeling. In the kitchen, scraps of leftover travertine that John had saved from other projects were crafted into a custom backsplash.
Energy efficiency also was a high priority for the couple, who used spray-foam insulation, high-efficiency windows and LED lighting for their three-bedroom, three-bathroom house. While they tripled the square footage of the house, they pay less for utilities than they did before the remodel. The house is Minnesota Green Path-certified, and the project won a Remodeler of Merit Award last year from the Builders Association of the Twin Cities.
“We never built this to sell,” Jillian said. “We built it for our needs. It’s really practical and functional.”
But they found a property they couldn’t resist, just a few blocks away in Deephaven, on the lake. “We can’t pass it up,” Jillian said, although she has mixed feelings about leaving the home that now works so well for them. “I’ll miss the function and flow,” she said. “Life is easy here.”
Contact John McGary, 612-207-8265, firstname.lastname@example.org. (The house, at 18870 Lake Av., Deephaven, will be open noon-3 p.m., Feb. 2.)