The Nepp family was spending most of their days in the worst part of their Craftsman-style home. Dan and Lisa and their two children mostly cooked, read, played games and unwound in the family room and kitchen, the two spaces that sorely needed cosmetic and functional improvements.
Both rooms were the result of an ill-conceived addition and remodeling from the 1980s that never fit with the rest of the home’s Arts and Crafts aesthetic.
The Nepps bought the 1911 three-bedroom home in Minneapolis’ Lynnhurst neighborhood in 2004, with plans to improve it. “It hadn’t been so badly remodeled that we couldn’t undo it,” said Dan, an architect at TEA2 Architects in Minneapolis. “The core integrity was still there.”
Lisa was charmed by the lovely diamond-pane windows, dark rich woodwork and a classic Arts and Crafts arched brick fireplace surround.
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The home’s stucco exterior would require some refreshing, but it was mostly well preserved.
The back of the home, however, generated daily frustrations for the Nepps, especially after they added two children to their family.
The family room was cold and drafty. “We had to bundle up when we used it,” said Lisa.
The adjacent kitchen had an awkward layout and was “ugly, dark and dysfunctional,” said Dan. “It was embarrassing to have people over.”
Dan was ready to keep his promise to Lisa to redesign the entire back of the home. Then the housing market and economy crashed in the late 2000s recession, affecting the firm’s business. “We had to pause until 2015,” he said.
Dan’s new floor plan design includes an expanded family room and kitchen facing the backyard, emphasizing design elements to create a seamless connection between the new and old parts. The result is casual, comfortable rooms with a cohesive flow, he said.
He took cues from the original parts of the home to recreate the warmth and spirit of a classic Craftsman, from dark-stained oak millwork to the diamond-pane windows. “I let Dan go with it,” said Lisa. “Luckily, we have similar tastes.”
Dan also tweaked the original spaces to draw in light and integrate modern updates, while honoring the rich Arts and Crafts character.
Simply widening the two doorways into and out of the formal dining room — and replicating the old woodwork — created an easy connection from space to space.
The final floor plan added about 1,000 square feet over three levels — including a TV/playroom and guest bedroom in the basement and an enlarged owners’ suite with a new bathroom on the second floor.
“I was also thinking sustainable design for the long term,” said Dan. “I wanted to ensure that the next owner will love it — and then the next one, too.”
The new kitchen was bumped out about 2 more feet, doubling its size and adding more counter space and storage cabinets. The island’s quartersawn white oak base is topped by a slate slab holding a Wolf cooktop.
“We replicated the texture and depth of the cabinetry from the period,” Dan said.
The counters are Aqua Grantique, made from gneiss, a rock similar to granite, characterized by distinct bands. The backsplash is an Arts and Crafts-inspired Northern Prairie Tileworks green-blue subway tile.
Dan moved the double oven out of the kitchen to an adjacent hallway in order to have more windows and wall space. And since the kitchen is open to the new casual dining area and family room, the dishwasher is concealed behind a panel, and the microwave is hidden in a nook to avoid the appearance of a stark utilitarian working space.
For the new family room, the Nepps tore out the old 1980s addition and rebuilt a new expanded space, bumping out about 9 feet to the west and 6 feet to the south.
The room’s mocha-hued wood ceiling beams echo those in the formal dining room, but were also a practical solution to hide two structural beams, said Dan.
On the south side, he added high diamond-pane windows above a wall-length entertainment cabinet to draw in light, while providing privacy from the neighboring home.
A design trick was inlaying mirrors into the top of the cabinets to bounce light deep into the family room.
Finally, the soft glow of mica lamps enhances the home’s Arts and Crafts vibe. “It’s so warm back here with the sun streaming in,” said Lisa.
The classic Craftsman boasted a big front porch — but the door swung open directly into the living room.
So the Nepps repurposed about half of the front porch by enclosing it and creating a larger, gracious entry foyer that’s big enough for their piano.
But workers had to sledgehammer through four different kinds of porch flooring, installed over the decades, “So it wasn’t as simple as you’d think,” said Dan.
The couple salvaged and reused the early 1900s windows and front door, and matched the foyer’s red oak floor to the original flooring in the living room.
“People can’t figure out what’s old and new, but it doesn’t matter — it’s simply just a house,” said Dan.
Oak tree lives on
One of the biggest challenges of the renovation was saving a century-old massive bur oak outside the kitchen window.
“We had to do a lot of gymnastics to preserve that tree,” said Dan, who got advice from an arborist.
During construction, the crew cut the tree’s roots with a saw, and wrapped the exposed roots in a bag of peat moss until they could be backfilled with soil. Today the corner kitchen wall is held up by a post so it doesn’t disturb the tree’s root system.
The Nepp family had to move out of their home for 10 months during the extensive renovation and construction. As a client on his own project, Dan gained a new perspective on the design-build process and managing a budget.
“It’s human nature to wish and hope for more,” said Dan. “It’s always a struggle to balance that.”
Today the Nepps’ renewed and improved Craftsman gives their family the best of both worlds. The project’s seamless design received a 2016 BLEND award and a 2017 Minneapolis Heritage Preservation award.
“The old character has integrity and detail but we still want that sense of openness, lots of light and a contemporary living sensibility,” said Dan. “It’s a wonderful combination.”
ABOUT THIS PROJECT
What: Old and new spaces flow together in this thoughtful remodel and addition on a century-old Arts and Crafts-style home.
Size: Original square footage was 2,150 square feet; new square footage is 3,150 square feet over three levels.
Design team: Architect Dan Nepp with Jonathan Mason, Ann Carlson-Yunga and Ruth Foster, TEA2 Architects, Minneapolis, 612-929-2800, tea2architects.com.
Builder: Jack Carter, Über Built, Minnetonka, uberbuilt.com.