AIA Home of the Month: A farmhouse refreshed

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 5, 2011 - 9:10 AM

A rural family homestead gets updated for the next generation while staying true to its roots.

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Terry Johnson grew up on a farm a few miles from Hastings in the 1960s and '70s. When he was 18, he moved into town, but "my dream was always to come back and take over the farm," he said. "Once a farmer, always a farmer."

Twenty-three years later, he reversed roles with his parents. They built a new house in town, and Terry and his wife, Jan, bought the 220-acre farmstead, which included the 1950s farmhouse, from his parents.

Jan shared his dream. "When I was a girl, I loved going to my grandmother's farm in Wisconsin," she said. "I wanted my grandchildren to have some farm time, too."

Terry was happy to take over the planting and harvesting of corn, peas, soybeans and wheat on their 181 acres. But the couple are also avid cooks, and the cramped farmhouse kitchen, once used by Terry's family of six, was stuck in an outdated, dysfunctional 1970s remodel.

"When I was a kid, I don't remember it being that small," said Terry. "But Mom did all the cooking back then."

After living in their farmhouse for 10 years, Terry and Jan started tackling improvements in phases -- first a new roof, siding and windows. They also converted the front room into a retreat to read and watch TV. "We always knew we wanted to remodel the kitchen; we just weren't sure how we would do it," said Jan, who had been gathering photos of kitchens she liked for years.

But the two architects in the family eagerly offered their ideas. Jan's son, Todd Hansen, is married to Christine Albertsson, and they're partners in their business, Albertsson Hansen Architecture in Minneapolis.

"During dinner, we would think about new configurations that would open up the space and let in more light," said Hansen, who took on the remodeling project.

Hansen's final design includes a remodeled kitchen and dining room and expands the back of the home with a modest addition to hold a mudroom/laundry room and bathroom outfitted with a shower.

"Terry and Jan preferred quality over quantity, and we wanted the addition to fit the scale of the house, " said Hansen. "We just needed 90 square feet more to make it all work."

Kitchen with a view

Before the remodeling, the kitchen's walls were covered in floral wallpaper and dark oak cabinets that sucked up all the light, said Hansen. A peninsula partially blocked the entrance to the kitchen, hindering the flow.

Hansen eliminated the peninsula, connecting the kitchen to the dining room in one continuous space. He removed coat closets on one wall to widen the kitchen's footprint.

"The goal was to create a hardworking kitchen that had timeless appeal and fit my mother's clean, simple and understated sensibility," said Hansen. "Without being kitschy, it's also a bit rustic and influenced by farmhouse style."

Hansen designed the long island, covered in butcher block, with open legs on one end to provide for seating on three sides. "I like when the butcher block gets beat up and the way it ages," said Jan. "In the old days, they would butcher the hog right in the kitchen."

The white enameled cabinets are simple face frame with full inset doors, accented with modern stainless-steel square handles. Jan and Terry chose oversized fresh white subway tile for the backsplash and old-fashioned black soapstone for the counters. Rustic white oak peppered with knots covers the kitchen and dining-room floors. A farmhouse-style apron front sink is under the kitchen window.

"I like the clean lines of a really good restaurant kitchen, where everything is very functional and within reach," said Jan, referring to the many pull-out drawers, which slide like butter.

The new design also draws in more light and opened up the views to the farm fields beyond. Now that the kitchen and dining room are one large space, daylight flows in, traveling from the east to the west, reflecting the passing of each day on the farm.

"The home is like a prism during the day," said Jan. "It catches the light from every direction as the sun moves around."

With minimal upper cabinets, Jan and Terry have many more wide-open views of the fields as they change throughout the seasons. "I love to watch the corn grow, out the kitchen window," said Jan.

Upscale mudroom

Just inside the back door in the expanded entry, Terry has a traditional farmhouse bathroom where he can come in from working in the fields, take a shower and toss his soiled clothes in the washer. But it's definitely an upscale version, with an Italian ceramic floor, tiled shower and cabinets. The adjacent mudroom is outfitted with a washer and dryer and his-and-her closets to hang farm work clothes.

Hansen fulfilled Jan and Terry's wishes to improve daily life on the working farm, but still stay true to the home's rural roots.

"What works so well is that it's completely new, and at the same time there's continuity with the family life that's gone on there for 40 years," said Hansen. "And it's well positioned for the next decades."

For Jan, it takes her back to a simpler time when her grandmother sat in a rocking chair and peeled potatoes.

"This house has the comforting feeling of going to my grandmother's farm when I was a girl," she said. "My grandmother would think it's too fancy, but it's perfect for me."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619

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  • star tribune/aia home of the month Home of the Month appears in the Homes section the first Sunday of every month. The program, a partnership between the Star Tribune and the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects, features architect-designed houses selected by a jury of experts. The houses represent a range of prices, styles and locations. star tribune/aia home of the month Home of the Month appears in the Homes section the first Sunday of every month. The program, a partnership between the Star Tribune and the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects, features architect-designed houses selected by a jury of experts. The houses represent a range of prices, styles and locations.
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