Arts & Crafts homage in Minneapolis

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 30, 2011 - 10:10 AM

A smartly designed 250-square-foot addition gives a Minneapolis couple the cook-centric kitchen and Old World fireplace they always wanted, while preserving the home's original Arts and Crafts character.

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Andre and Carol Bergeron wanted a new kitchen, closets and a main-floor bathroom big enough to accommodate a shower. And they really wanted a fireplace. But staying true to their home's architectural spirit was an even higher priority when the Minneapolis couple decided to put an addition on the back of the 1923 house.

"It was more important for us to have lots of details in a smaller footprint than just a large room with little character," said Andre. The couple's new space is loaded with period-style elements. Their well-equipped kitchen boasts old-fashioned soapstone counters and seeded-glass pendant lights, which are operated by push-button switches.

Just off the kitchen, the couple unwind in a cozy inglenook that looks right at home with the original Arts and Crafts-style interior, shaped by green-glazed handmade tiles and oak built-ins. There's even room for their antique secretary in a compact corner office. Best of all, the Bergerons were able to accomplish their mission by adding only 250 square feet.

"We only wanted to go 12 feet out so it didn't look like a big suburban addition," said Andre.

Dysfunctional four-square

When Andre and Carol were house hunting in the early 1990s, their "must-haves" included character-rich woodwork, a fireplace and functional kitchen. They settled for one out of three when they decided to buy a modest-sized four-square a block from Lake Nokomis. "There was no fireplace, the kitchen was ridiculous, but it did have beautiful woodwork," said Andre.

They made the best of the 8-by-8-foot kitchen, with its pull-down Murphy table that served as a work space and 1970s-era Menards countertops and cabinets.

But after 18 years of having to hustle down to the basement to retrieve canned goods, and climb onto the counters to reach the top cupboards, the couple were ready for a home renovation.

"We were committed to staying in this house for a long time," said Carol. "What could we do to make it live longer?"

The Bergerons intended to spend their money where it mattered most to them -- replicating the home's original Arts and Crafts spirit in every improvement they made.

Andre had already done some of his own restoration, including stripping and refinishing woodwork, replacing 1980s ceiling fans with period light fixtures, installing button light switches and scraping the textured ceilings.

To gather ideas for their next project, Andre and Carol toured homes on the Twin Cities Remodelers Showcase. They admired a 1970s split-entry transformed into an Arts and Crafts beauty by SALA architect Joseph Metzler and contractor Vujovich Design Build in Minneapolis.

"It was a 'wow' home," said Carol. "Ours would be on a much smaller scale, but we wanted that attention to detail." So they brought in Metzler and Vujovich to execute their Arts and Crafts-inspired updates, as well as make the home comfortable and functional for the future.

Seamless expansion

Metzler designed a one-story addition off the back of the house, meticulously matching the exterior stucco and stone foundation to the original. Since the home had only a side door leading to the back yard, he also created a new back door with steps down to a patio.

Inside, Vujovich gutted the old kitchen, and repurposed that space for a hall pantry and a subway-tiled bathroom. It's outfitted with a shower in case the Bergerons are faced with limited mobility in the future.

Inside the addition, "we added a kitchen for the serious cook, and also incorporated a fireplace that is sympathetic to the Arts and Crafts style of the home," said Metzler, who collaborated with SALA architect Jared Banks on the project.

To make the interior as seamless as the exterior, carpenters painstakingly matched the white oak wood grain and stain in the original floors and millwork to the new sections.

The showpiece of the home -- the tiled inglenook warmed by a gas fireplace -- took some tweaking to fit within the limited-size addition. Metzler designed the inglenook as a separate space defined by two built-in cabinets just steps from the kitchen island.

"Inglenooks were common in Arts and Crafts homes at the turn of the century," said Metzler. "But typically they were in a little alcove off the living room."

Andre now spends hours experimenting with recipes at the spacious kitchen island and is glad the inglenook is close at hand. "It works as a functional and beautiful boundary," he said. "It keeps people out of the kitchen when I'm working, but they can still come in and chat."

Carol escapes to the inglenook bench at the end of the day. "I knit, sip wine and watch Andre cook," she said. "What more could you want?"

For their renovation project, the Bergerons plotted every detail to stay true to the home's early 1920s roots. But they also placed their personal stamp on the house to be appreciated by the next generation of owners. That stamp is a yin-yang symbol cut from marmoleum, which was inlaid in the hallway's hardwood floor.

"We placed it at the seam point where the old and the new meet. It symbolizes balance and harmony," said Andre. "It's also a good place to wipe the dog's paws when he comes in from the snow."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619

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