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Continued: Pictures from the past: An architect restores her own century-old home

  • Article by: SHANNON PRATHER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 20, 2013 - 5:50 PM

To help define space and add a bit of sophistication to the newly opened floor plan, Ryan installed two salvaged columns between kitchen and dining room. The house originally had decorative columns between the living and dining rooms, Ryan learned.

“That was nice to know because adding them here was keeping in character with the house,” she said. Ryan, who loves to cook, splurged on top-of-the-line appliances in her kitchen, yet used cabinetwork to camouflage all of them except for the gas range. The kitchen also has a large center island that adds work space and storage. Ryan chose black soapstone for the countertops and added new French doors that lead to a back-yard patio, making the kitchen feel bright and open.

Off the kitchen, Ryan added a mud room and first-floor powder room.

Upstairs, she tore down walls to create a large master suite with a walk-in closet and room for a future master bath. There are also two additional bedrooms, a main bath and a laundry room.

While most of the renovation is complete, Ryan is still obsessing over details. She continues to search for the perfect dining-room light fixture. Meanwhile, a simple brushed-nickel schoolhouse fixture that matches the kitchen lighting acts as a placeholder. Her third-floor office is a work in progress.

Being her own client

Ryan discovered that she enjoyed having herself and her husband as a client. His background is in commercial and industrial design, so he left most of the decisions up to her. “It was more my project than his,” she said. “Anytime I wanted a second opinion, he chimed in.” With a shared architectural background, both understood the importance of staying true to the house’s original style, she said. It meant some sacrifices: Ryan would have enjoyed a raised hearth so she could sit by the fire, but that would have looked out of place in a 1906 living room.

“You have to stick with that style and not put everything in the blender and have each room a little different,” she said.

Ryan’s attention to detail paid off in a home that feels completely their own. She hand-beveled every plank of the new hardwood floor, laid the mosaic tile herself, and prowled scrap yards for the perfect woodwork and trim.

“I love living in the project I designed,” she said. “It has everything I want in a house.”





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  • Photo provided by Leah RyanAn architect restores her own century-old home.

  • Leah Ryan

  • Salvaged columns, top, a new-but-traditional mantel and other details help preserve the home’s vintage character.

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  • Architect Leah Ryan's mud room floor detail in Minneapolis, MN. Leah Ryan designed her century-old home to accommodate modern living. Novenmber 28, 2012. ] JOELKOYAMA‚Ä¢

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