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Tradition with a twist

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 7, 2010 - 9:03 AM

A century-old Colonial Revival is transformed into a functional family home that's also a good fit for entertaining.

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This was one Colonial Revival that badly needed to be revived.

Over the years, the walls of the Minneapolis home had been stripped of the original light fixtures and woodwork, then covered in unsightly floral wallpaper. Several amateurish, ill-suited remodeling jobs left the home with a 1970s-style solarium, a cedar-paneled family room addition and a sleeping porch that had been converted to a bedroom -- without adequate insulation.

The current homeowners -- a family with three boys -- lived in the house for five years and came to the conclusion that it needed a major overhaul. Architect Todd Hansen of Albertsson Hansen Architecture in Minneapolis signed on to the project and got his marching orders.

"The family wanted an updated home that would be comfortable and nicely scaled for daily life, yet in the same space be ready to accommodate much larger groups for entertaining," he said.

Once he dug into the project, Hansen discovered that the home also had structural issues. Some of the construction was substandard, there were sloped floors and an upstairs bathroom leaked into the kitchen. Instead of trying to apply band-aid fixes, Hansen decided to tear off the back of the house and rebuild it from scratch, while staying within the existing footprint of the home.

"The owners didn't want to add space," he said. Rather, they just wanted to "make what they had more efficient and enjoyable."

The two-story renovation that Hansen masterminded includes a new kitchen, mud room, family room, powder room and an upstairs master suite. In the end, he did add on, but only 66 square feet to make room for a window seat and new door to the back yard.

To give the home a more cohesive look and feel, Hansen also remodeled the old parts of the home, dressing up the living room and dining room with crown molding, adding a fireplace with a handsome oak surround and built-in buffet that matched the home's turn-of-the century character. He also designed a wide-paneled doorway to link the old-style dining room to the clean-lined contemporary rooms in the rear. And he stained the hardwood floors a deep mocha to match the home's original alder floors.

"The new part uses traditional elements that are reinterpreted to have a more contemporary feel," said Hansen. "The old part reflects the style and period of the home."

Entertaining with ease

Hansen took special care in the kitchen, creating a focal point with a Carrera marble center island that provides plenty of prep space for cooking as well as seating for casual meals. To make up for the lack of storage in the old kitchen, he installed floor-to-ceiling cabinets on one wall. And he softened the room's contemporary styling by adding period details such as bin pulls, vintage-style light fixtures and inset cabinet doors.

He also reintroduced an old-fashioned room -- a scullery, for party prep and cleanup -- to make it easier to host large social events, using the original kitchen as its space. Other entertaining amenities are "hidden in plain sight," he said. Wall-to-wall built-in benches allow for plenty of seating for guests and extra-wide paneled doors make it easy to move from room to room.

Although it may seem ironic, doing a whole-house renovation gave the homeowners the opportunity to make their century-old Colonial environmentally friendly.

"By tearing down and rebuilding, we could make it energy-efficient and sustainable," Hansen said.

Green features include spray-foam insulation, more than 40 energy-efficient windows, a new chimney and fireplace insert and locally sourced materials such as fireplace tile from North Prairie Tileworks.

When the homeowners told Hansen that their first post-renovation party was a winner, he knew he'd made a 21st-century success.

"The house is working well in its current incarnation," he said.

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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