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Creating a cottage

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 1, 2009 - 2:22 PM

A well-planned redesign transforms a blah bungalow into a charming cottage with room for a family of five.

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CHRIS AND JULIE BEUTZ wanted to turn their ugly-duckling home into a swan but weren't sure exactly how to do it.

In 2001, the couple bought the boxy 1940s bungalow for its location, location, location on the tree-lined streets of Edina's South Harriet Park neighborhood, not for its plain Jane looks. In fact, the exterior had so little character that they considered the home an eyesore compared with the quaint Cotswold cottages around it.

The interior wasn't much better. Chris called it a conglomeration of "strange spaces," including an inexplicable double hallway and an enclosed staircase that blocked the front entry. The living room was dark and closed in, and there was no easy way to get to the back yard.

Still, they saw "the possibilities to improve the home," said Chris, who had some experience remodeling another house. So, after spending two years living in their lowly bungalow, the Beutzes enlisted architect Dan Nepp of TEA2 Architects in Minneapolis to reinvent it. He did so by integrating cottage-style details that made the home fit better with the neighborhood and by redesigning the rooms to function better for the family of five.

Going for gables

Topping the Beutzes' wish list was improving the attic. That's where the family's bedrooms were and they were tired of maneuvering around the rooms' slanted walls. They wanted bigger bedrooms and bathrooms. Nepp came up with a design to solve the space problem and change the home's flat facade.

"I wanted to do something that was transformational rather than just doing an addition and adding trim and detail," Nepp said.

That transformation included a complete facelift, tearing off the roof and doubling the square footage of the second floor by raising the roof 5 feet and adding two gables, which accommodate three generously scaled dormers.

The former attic now includes two bigger, better bedrooms, two bathrooms, ample closets and an "owners' suite" with a sitting area and fireplace, which has become a favorite morning hangout for the kids. One of Julie's favorite design details is the old-fashioned window seat in every bedroom. "The kids read and play there and it's also storage space for toys," she said.

On the exterior, the shake-shingled dormers are tucked inside the steeped pitched roof to diminish their scale and appear proportioned to the rest of the house, said Nepp. He "swept out" the front eaves to add depth and provide shelter. A custom-built canopy over a gracefully arched doorway is much more welcoming than the former entrance.

"The canopy is like something you might see on an old Craftsman home," said Chris. "And we like the look of the flared roof."

Connecting inside and out

Nepp's challenge on the main floor was to design a functional, durable and attractive staircase that led from the foyer to the second-floor bedrooms. To do that, he had to tear down the old staircase. The new, open one boasts contrasting mahogany-stained treads, white oak newel posts and Craftsman-inspired detailing on the oak balusters. "It's inviting and open and connects the main floor to the upstairs more elegantly," Chris said.

The Beutzes also wanted an unimpeded view from the dining and living rooms to their back yard. Chris, president of Green Horizons, a St. Louis Park lawn care company, had planted trees and gardens bordered by terraced stone walls and a gurgling fountain.

"With Chris' landscaping, we could put in a wall of glass without worrying about privacy issues," Nepp said. He chose four-panel, sliding French doors for the long wall facing the yard to connect the indoors to the outdoors.

Initially, Chris and Julie had wanted the renovation to include a family room, but an addition would swallow up the treasured back yard. Instead of adding on, Nepp converted a main-floor master bedroom into a family room.

From the beginning, the Beutzes had planned to renovate the home and retain its 1940s flavor instead of starting from scratch.

"What they did can be a great blueprint for others," said Nepp. "They didn't tear it down but figured out how to make it better and live in what was here."

The project turned out so well that it's going to be featured in the Oct./Nov. issue of Better Homes and Gardens Remodel magazine.

"It's easy to live in," said Chris, whose favorite spot is by the living room fireplace, where he can see the gardens.

As for the kids?

"They really like the easy access to the back yard," said Julie. "They run in and out with the dog all day long."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619

  • 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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