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  • Article by: JIM BUCHTA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 4, 2006 - 8:52 AM

Our latest Home of the Month selection demonstrates how a new center island can carry an outdated St. Paul house into the 21st century, and why it doesn't always make sense to make the new part of the house match the old.

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Like many pre-World War II houses, Mark Gilbert and Vicky Moreira's St. Paul house was designed at a time when Mom cooked alone, the family ate around a dining room table and the kitchen was merely an appendage on the back of the house.

Not an appealing plan for this food-loving family, which prefers to entertain the way Moreira's family does in her native Spain. Food preparation, she said, is a group activity.

"My mom cooks and cooks very well, but the tendency is for everyone to bring something or to help with the preparation," she said.

With their first child on the way, the couple turned to architects Richard Lundin and Mike Bader of Three Studios Inc. to transform their behind-the-times St. Paul house into one that better suits their family lives today.

ISLAND-INSPIRED COOKING

A more functional kitchen: This 7-by-7-foot workstation is a model of efficiency. Along the base are cabinets and drawers that hold cooking essentials, including pots and pans, spices and utensils. Under the center of the island, which would normally be wasted space, there's a secret door that opens into a storage space for rarely used items.

In a corner of the kitchen, a beverage nook includes a cabinet with counter space for the espresso maker, and cabinets for wine bottles, glasses and cups and saucers. And on one of the walls opposite the island there's a baking station with space to the store ingredients, a slab of Italian marble that's perfect for kneading bread, and enough counter space for a cookbook stand and a mixer.

MAKING A PLACE FOR THE TUBE

Where to put the TV? European houses often reflect the many generations that have lived in them through the many additions, modifications and changes that have been made over the years. Rarely do homeowners try to disguise those changes.

"Rather than trying to mimic anything, we accepted the fact that this was something new," Bader said. "I believe in interpretation rather than replication, but it also boils down to what are the needs of the client and the restraints of the house."

Gilbert and Moreira wanted to embrace that philosophy, so while the original part of their house has all the hallmarks of an early 20th-century design: oak wood trim, divided-light windows and arched openings, they didn't want to make the new part of their house blend into the old one.

"To my eye, there wasn't anything that needed to be played off of to make the house feel like it had continuity," Lundin said.

The TV cabinet, made from honey-colored quarter-sawn maple like the rest of the new millwork, marks the first transition between the house and the new addition, and it provides a sensible place to keep the TV.

BACK TO THE FUTURE

Indoor/outdoor connection: The only connection between the house and the backyard was a tiny back entry and an even smaller window in the dining room. Gilbert and Moreira rarely used their back yard.

So the architects added a 6-by-12-foot addition to the back of the house that includes a bright new foyer with a bench and a row of windows that flood this narrow space with light. There's also a bathroom and a coat closet -- standard first-floor options in most new houses today. Next to that addition there's a new 14-by-14-foot screened porch with a pair of sliding barn-style doors.

 

Jim Buchta • 612-673-7376

  • about this series

  • The Home of the Month program is a partnership between the Star Tribune and the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It features architect-designed houses selected by a jury of experts. The houses represent a range of prices, styles and locations.
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