Having a fourth baby on the way sparked a fire under Megan and Casey Collins to finally tackle the extensive renovation they had contemplated since they moved into their Minneapolis house in 2009.
They were attracted to the 1907 farmhouse-style home for its perch on a hill in the quaint Linden Hills neighborhood close to city lakes. And Megan couldn’t resist that vintage built-in buffet in the dining room.
“When we first walked in, the house just felt good,” she recalled.
At first, the couple focused on cosmetic updates within their budget, such as removing old wallpaper, painting all the walls and woodwork a fresh gallery white and replacing brass light fixtures with recessed ceiling lights.
But over the previous 100 years, earlier owners had done quirky modifications and additions. “The front of the house was always cold, and we all huddled in a tiny room in the back with the heated floor,” said Megan.
The kitchen had minimal counter space and just enough room for a small table. But the Collinses wanted to live in the home awhile and “take a break before jumping in,” said Megan.
The couple walked around the neighborhood admiring other remodeling projects, zeroing in on Rehkamp Larson Architects’ designs for their seamless blending of old and new.
Megan and Casey met with architect Mark Larson to explore options — from simply remodeling the kitchen, to a major overhaul to create a better-flowing floor plan. And there was always the option to tear down and start fresh, an increasingly popular choice among some buyers in the high-demand neighborhood. The Collinses are preservationists, so they nixed the teardown scenario, said Megan.
“I had a connection to this house and I wanted to continue the relationship,” she said, noting that previous residents have knocked on their door and asked to see inside.
“For them, the history and character were more important then making it brand new,” said Larson.
However, the current iteration could not sustain a family of six for the long term. There wasn’t room for a kitchen table big enough for all, and the kids were playing sports and had more gear to store. “We wanted a version of this house that would live well until the kids leave,” said Megan.
The final plan was “to rebuild the home from the inside out and keep the geometry and architectural details of the original house,” said Larson. A few days after the family moved to a rental house in 2015, baby Joe was born.
The expansive project entailed tearing down awkward additions on the front and back, renovating existing square footage and building a 460-square-foot addition for a kitchen and family room on the main level and a 255-square-foot addition on the upper level.
At the same time, the Collinses requested a cohesive flow between the old and new elements to “make the house look like its best self,” said Megan.
They discovered that the original house once had a front porch, so Larson designed a welcoming wraparound porch, beneath a sheltering deep overhang, with various seating areas connecting the inside to the outdoors. “The porch is an architectural feature that looks classic,” said Megan, “and we use it all the time.”
The new entry opens to a central corridor, or “the artery,” which connects the front of the home to the rear kitchen and family-room addition. They saved the unique split staircase and diamond-shaped leaded-glass window, but added white shiplap on the walls for texture and character.
The dark mocha-stained oak floor has an “anchoring” quality and fits the period of the home, said Larson.
In the living room, the couple replaced the old wood-burning fireplace with an energy-efficient gas version. A vintage-look surround is shaped from old-style plaster to give the fireplace more visual presence from the entry. Larson added larger windows flanking the fireplace to draw in more light.
The handsome built-in buffet, which is both decorative and functional, is the authentic centerpiece of the beamed-ceiling dining room. Larson echoed the “dogbone” design from the buffet in wood paneling under windows to tie the old and new spaces together.
“I like the classic farmhouse look, but there’s a little bohemian side to me,” said Megan, “so we added some quirky colorful moments.”
Two examples are the playful “floating bubbles” ceiling light fixture and yarn artwork evoking sunbeams by designer Kevin Kramp.
They also added new French doors that open to the wraparound porch. “Now it’s easier for the kids to run to the back and front yards,” Megan said.
The family’s spacious new white-on-white kitchen, punctuated by brushed gold hardware, has plenty of seating space, thanks to a wall-length bench covered with faux leather in the eating nook.
The multipurpose island and counters are topped with “the whitest Silestone we could find,” said Megan.
And with the smartly designed, roomier kitchen, Casey is cooking more often. “He likes to be a chef in there,” said Megan.
The kitchen flows into the family room where the kids can read, play games or watch TV. Megan uses the new computer desk for her freelance writing (under her maiden name Megan Kaplan) and to run her nonprofit, The Wildling, live storytelling workshops and events for middle-schoolers.
She was excited to carve out space for a mudroom, outfitted with storage lockers and bins, in the addition. She covered the walls with tropical palm paper. The heated floor provides a warm transition from the detached garage in the winter. “Every Minnesotan needs a mudroom,” she said.
Upstairs, Larson reconfigured existing spaces using the 255 additional square feet to create four larger bedrooms, and expand the master and children’s bathrooms. Megan had the floors painted farmhouse white to “create a clean and fresh backdrop,” she said.
The Collinses’ durable family-friendly farmhouse now boasts a modern kitchen, a retreat-style owners’ bathroom and that homey front porch. But it’s simple things, like the whole family being able to sit around the kitchen table, that make the difference, said Megan.
“We got all the things that really matter — but we didn’t overdo it,” she said. “There’s enough space for the kids to become teenagers, and we can live there for the long haul.”