An 1890s home gives up its back basement entry to gain a picture window and door — creating garden views and access to a back-yard terrace.
The challenge: Jane Graupman and her late husband, Tom Raya, bought their 1894 Gothic Revival on St. Paul’s Summit Avenue 16 years ago. “It’s a very solid house built with bricks and steel beams,” said Graupman. The house had a breakfast room but it was rarely used because it felt disconnected from the kitchen, and there were no windows for gazing out at the back-yard gardens and fountain, which the couple had added after moving in. “We had such a lovely garden — and we couldn’t see it from the kitchen,” said Graupman. The back of the house had only two narrow windows that looked onto the garage roof.
The design team: Architect Bryan Anderson and intern Courtney Kruntorad, Minneapolis, 612-379-3037, www.salaarc.com. The contractor was Buck Brothers Construction, Minneapolis.
The solution: Anderson’s plan was to make the new breakfast room brighter and more inviting, with easy access from the kitchen, as well as a connection to the outdoors. On the exterior of the home, Anderson tore out the enclosed brick back entry that led into the basement. Then he replaced it with a steel bulkhead door. Above that, he inserted a new picture window. Inside, a window seat with a deep, built-in bench expands the seating area around the oval table. The new window gives the family a view of the back-yard gardens in addition to drawing in more natural light. Anderson also put in a new door that opens to a newly built terrace on the roof of the tuck-under garage. “We eat out there a lot,” said Graupman. “And it’s a nice spot to have coffee and to read the paper.”
Thick brick: The home’s three layers of brick walls were utilized to create the deep window seat and a doorway threshold that steps out to the new terrace. “But it wasn’t a simple feat,” said Anderson of carving out the new openings. “You need a skilled mason, and have to make sure you support the brick.” He intentionally exaggerated the new window and door frames so they stood apart from the original window frames on the house. “They highlight the depth of the century-old, thick brick walls and create modern ‘portals’ to the terrace and garden,” said Anderson.
Design details: Anderson repeated the home’s exterior black trim on the new window and door, but with “modern crisp clean corners,” he said.
Better breakfast room. As part of the kitchen makeover, Anderson elevated the breakfast room a few steps up from the kitchen and inserted a sleek gas fireplace. The raised room creates a more panoramic view of the yard out the window. “It brings down the scale in the eating area, and gives better sightlines out the window,” he said.
Cool warmth: The gas fireplace surround is black zinc, a theme also carried to the planters on the terrace. “It’s an age-old material used in a modern way,” said Anderson.
The result: The revamped room is a light-filled, comfortable space that the family uses all day long. Graupman often finds her daughter stretched across the window seat reading. In the winter, the remote-control fireplace is especially appreciated. “I make tea, press the button and have a fire,” said Graupman. “I feel like I’m in a boutique hotel.”
Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619