AIA Home of the Month: Past perfect

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 2, 2012 - 9:27 AM

Homeowners loved their vintage city house but not its 1980s addition -- until they reinvented it with Craftsman character and modern ease.

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Lisa and Nick Brezonik realized they were true city people only after they bought a house in suburbia.

"We liked a place where we knew the dry cleaners, and missed the sidewalks," said Lisa. "We moved [to Minnetonka] in the summer and didn't meet neighbors until Halloween. It's a wonderful area, but not for us."

So the couple started hunting for an older home in a tree-filled urban neighborhood that reminded them of the places where they had grown up.

In 2004, Lisa and Nick narrowed their search to Minneapolis' Tangletown neighborhood because it was close to the school they wanted their children to attend.

But that was in the days of the real-estate boom, when every desirable home was snapped up before it was listed, or sold after a bidding war. To get a jump on the market, the couple's agent sent flyers soliciting potential sellers.

It paid off. The Brezoniks soon had an appointment to see a 1913 Arts & Crafts two-story in the perfect location.

"I walked in the door and said to Nick 'This is the house,'" said Lisa. "It felt like a place where we could raise a bunch of kids and call it home."

The Brezoniks also were attracted to the finely crafted interiors embellished with classic Arts & Crafts architectural elements: hardwood oak floors, built-in cabinets, chunky oak millwork and even picture rails. And with 4,000 square feet, the house offered plenty of room for their growing family.

But like many old houses, theirs had undergone some modifications over the years.

"We walked from a 1913 dining room into a 1982 addition," said Lisa. A previous owner had expanded the original footprint to build a family room decked out in shag carpet and popcorn vaulted ceilings and a kitchen with yellow walls and green Pergo floors.

Five-year wait

Lisa and Nick bought the house intending to remodel the addition someday. After five years of saving and gathering ideas, they enlisted architect Todd Hansen of Albertsson Hansen Architecture in Minneapolis.

"We wanted to update it with a modern sensibility but keep the integrity of the original house," said Lisa.

Hansen's design, which played off the home's strong Craftsman framework, involved the renovation of three spaces -- the family room, kitchen and one side of the dining room.

Hansen widened and moved doorways to open up and improve the flow between spaces. He also removed windows on the wall adjoining the dining room and family room to gain an unbroken expanse where he built bookcases and an entertainment center. The new doorway is outfitted with a period-style pocket door to block the sound of kids playing Wii while adults visit in the dining room.

Hansen tied the new and old spaces together with oak floors, Arts & Crafts horizontal wood banding and a new white oak built-in buffet that you'd swear had always been there.

"I've seen a lot of bad Arts & Crafts remodels that try to represent the period," said Hansen. "We wanted to reinterpret the new rooms in a subtle way, so that it still feels fresh and modern."

Family-friendly kitchen

The highlight of the project is a new kitchen that combines a modern Wolf cooktop with architectural period details. Lisa and Nick, both avid cooks, dreamed of an appealing sunlit space -- with lots of counter surface -- to fix meals for their four children and to entertain friends.

"There was plenty of room in the old kitchen," said Hansen. "But it was cut off from the rest of the house, and the family didn't feel comfortable cooking and gathering there."

Hansen gutted the old room and created a cohesive new space organized around two islands topped with black honed basalt. The 4-by-9-foot central island seats six for casual family meals, while a compact island at the entry functions as a bar and buffet table for parties.

The style and stain of the rift-cut white oak cabinets were inspired by the home's original doors and fireplace built-in.

"We looked at photos of old Arts & Crafts kitchens and brought in some of those connotations," said Hansen. "Like the crackled subway tile from the floor to the picture rail."

Now the Brezoniks feel their renovated home offers the best of both worlds: a city house steeped in character while boasting a modern cook's kitchen straight out of an HGTV show. The new spaces help the family of six stay connected.

"I love how we can be together, and it's truly created more family time," said Lisa. "We cook and play games at the table. We jokingly call our kids the Von Trapps because they sing and dance while we cook."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619

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  • ABOUT THIS PROJECT

    What: An updated kitchen and family room remains true to the home's Arts & Crafts style.

    Size: Home is 4,100 square feet; remodeled area is 800 square feet.

    Design team: Architect Todd Hansen, principal, and Laura Cayere King, project manager, Albertsson Hansen Architecture, Minneapolis, www.aharchitecture.com,

    612-823-0233.

    Contractor: Choice Wood Company, St. Louis Park.

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