The "before" front exterior of the Hatcher Stevens house in Deephaven.

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Coming home

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD
  • Star Tribune
  • June 6, 2010 - 4:57 PM

Lisa Stevens left the nest decades ago with no intention of going back.

So, when her mother passed away in 2003 and she inherited her childhood home in Deephaven, she intended to put it on the market.

"I had already lived there once," said Stevens, who moved to New York after college. "And I wasn't really into 1950s colonials."

She was more into the 1870s Shorewood farmhouse she owned with her husband, playwright and screenwriter Jeffrey Hatcher, and son, Evan.

But something changed when Stevens went to the house to clean out her father's workshop. To her surprise, she felt drawn to her childhood home -- and to the idea of raising their son in the same neighborhood she grew up in.

Hatcher, who had always loved the home, was immediately on board.

"Jeff said 'Let's move in,'" recalls Stevens.

Before they did, they enlisted Dan Nepp and Petra Schwartze of TEA2 Architects in Minneapolis to help them make the house their home.

"I appreciate my mother's sense of style," said Stevens, "but I didn't want to live in my mother's house. I wanted to make it my own and reflect my life. And still have respect for its history."

The home already had the basics: good structure, nice proportions and a deep lot, said Schwartze. The architects devised a three-story, 1,500-square-foot addition that would allow for a larger, more efficient kitchen, a luxe master suite and even a writer's studio for Hatcher. The addition also brought in much-needed natural light and offered views of -- and access to -- the yard.

"We just gave new life to a dated 1950s colonial that needed to move forward 50 years without losing the character and beauty of the original architecture," Schwartze said.

On the level

A three-story addition was a major undertaking, but Nepp and Schwartze made sure its scale was proportionate to the existing home.

"With the size of the back yard, there was lots of room to expand without turning it into a hunchback of a house," Hatcher said.

The lower level holds Hatcher's studio, with walls of bookcases and an arching window to draw in abundant light. There are two steps leading into the area, which means the ceiling has a height often lacking in basement offices. The steps also create an unintentional mini-stage, where Evan and his friends sometimes put on impromptu shows.

"I love my office," said Hatcher, who works from home. "They somehow managed to combine lots of light with that cave-like feeling writers often want."

The middle level encompasses the main living areas: the remodeled kitchen, a breakfast room and family room. A textural coffered ceiling and detailed traditional millwork define the spaces and give the large rooms period character.

The kitchen is a clever combination of new and old. The furniture-style mahogany center island is topped by Brazilian soapstone and surrounded by white oak flooring reclaimed from a tobacco factory. In addition to the new Thermador cooktop, Stevens insisted they keep the original brick charcoal grill, in part because she remembers her dad cooking steaks on it.

Even when she was a child, Stevens recalled, it wasn't easy to get to the back yard. That's why the renovation included a new family room with French doors that lead to a bluestone terrace surrounded by gardens.

Inside the top level is the couple's comfortable master suite, covered in vintage William Morris wallpaper and furnished with antiques. French doors open to a romantic balcony overlooking the back yard and beyond.

By not extending the third story the full width of the addition, the architects created a sense of seclusion; it "pulls back in height and scale to create the private retreat," said Nepp.

"I feel like I'm on top of Brideshead," said Hatcher. "I'm out in the open but no one can see me."

Stevens also kept her mother's dressing table and mirror; it has a place of honor in the barrel-vaulted master bathroom, which has crown molding and furniture-style cabinets.

"My mother always wanted a more luxurious bathroom," said Stevens. "It feels like a 1920s Minneapolis house on Lake Harriet, where she grew up."

For the long run

Because Stevens and Hatcher intend to stay in the house for a long time, they asked Nepp and Schwartze to make other cosmetic and mechanical system improvements to the timeworn colonial. They also added crown molding to existing rooms, installed recessed low-voltage lighting, replaced the double-hung windows and built a piano bay in the living room for the grand piano Stevens always wanted.

Finally, they performed what Stevens called "cosmetic surgery" on the home's modest facade.

"The back was gorgeous," she said. "But the front was still the 1959 colonial."

Schwartze's solution was to build a portico that replicates the tall, fluted pilasters and other architectural details of the existing exterior. It gives the home history and provides some shelter from the rain.

"The portico makes it feel like the Colonial Revival homes from the 1930s that had character and detailing," Schwartze said.

And Stevens feels that her mother, who was a decorator, was guiding her through the almost two-year process. "She would have loved the changes we've made," she said.

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619

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