Jason and Heather Bristow bought a handsome early 1900s Tudor Revival in Minneapolis, intending to fine-tune it for modern family living, but also infuse it with nods to their backgrounds and passions.
Mission accomplished. Their remodeled kitchen evokes a turn-of-the-century chemistry lab, complete with a perimeter of mini storage drawers.
The dark concrete basement was transformed into a lively English pub to honor Jason's heritage. And an unfinished attic was morphed into a cool Xbox game-room getaway for their boys, Lleyton and Callum.
"We preserved as much history and original features of the house as possible," Jason said. "At the same time, we put our mark on it."
The original owner, Everett Ward Olmsted, could never have dreamed of this dramatic transformation of his home.
A century ago, the University of Minnesota professor commissioned architect Franklin Ellerbe to design the gracious three-story residence across from Lake of the Isles.
In 2014, the Bristows were living in Seattle, and Jason, who grew up in Eden Prairie, was planning to move his family to Minnesota for a new job.
The couple loved older homes and were hunting for an excellent candidate for smart, functional modifications. They had narrowed down their search to neighborhoods near Breck School in Golden Valley, where they planned to enroll their boys.
After the Bristows had scrutinized 34 houses, and Heather was to fly back to Seattle the next day, they finally struck gold.
The six-bedroom, three-story stucco Tudor was empty, and had just been listed that day. It overlooked the east side of Lake of the Isles and was only a few blocks from Uptown.
Heather loved the Tudor arches and the pristine chunky oak woodwork around the doorways, windows and paneling on the fireplace wall. Massive pocket doors and push-button lights were still intact. Only the kitchen had been remodeled — likely in the 1980s.
"The 100-year-old house was untouched," she said, "in a good way."
But the best part was the unfinished rafter attic and concrete basement, both of which the Bristows could convert into family-friendly hangouts.
"The house is built like a tank," said architect Christopher Strom, referring to its thick walls and concrete floors. Strom and Jason had been friends since they were kids, and he designed the extensive project encompassing more than 4,000 square feet.
"It involved careful historical renovation of existing rooms and the creation of some new spaces for this family of sports fans," Strom said.
The maid's staircase climbs up to the third-floor attic, where Strom advised the Bristows to "do it right by adding dormers to bring in light and get that beautiful lake view right across the street." Strom worked with a structural engineer to restructure the sloped roof for the three new dormers and high-performance insulation.
Jason's initial idea was to turn the attic into a gym for the boys. Strom learned that it would be too costly to reinforce the floor and do soundproofing because the master bedroom was below.
Instead, the large attic is a comfortable TV and rec room with a big flat screen to play video games and watch sports, along with a Ping-Pong table and a wall of built-in bookcases.
A home-automation system on the wall has an intercom so parents can tell the boys that dinner is ready when they're in the kitchen two stories below.
"If they don't come, we can turn off the TV with the iPad," Jason said.
Photos of turn-of-the-century chemistry labs inspired the design for the kitchen's unique bygone style. To double the size of the cramped existing space, Strom tore out a back servants' staircase and a wall.
Heather, who did all the interior design, had seen many similar-looking kitchen photos on Houzz and was searching for a different approach. "I wanted to follow a theme," she said, "but not be silly."
Strom came up with the theme — old school chemistry labs. "When you cook, it's like chemistry," he said.
Heather gathered many historic photos and illustrations for ideas. "Chemistry labs had lots of drawers," she said, and so does the new kitchen's perimeter, each with a numbered label.
She chose a chunky reclaimed elm slab for the massive island, which doubles as a kitchen table for meals and watching sports on a wall-mounted TV.
"The island had to be solid-looking, like the home's original millwork," Strom said. But instead of high school lab Fireslate, the countertops are made of more durable black honed granite.
Jason was on board with the chemistry lab aesthetic, but since he's the cook in the family, he wanted to make sure it was functional for meal prep and entertaining.
A BlueStar range with eight burners, a Sub-Zero refrigerator built into a wall niche, as well as a big walk-in pantry, fit the bill. "It worked really well when we hosted a year-end baseball party," Heather said.
A taste of London
The finished basement, reminiscent of an old English pub, is dedicated to playing games and sipping a pint. Jason's family is from England, and he wanted to recreate that vibe from the pubs he had visited in London.
He furnished it with a refurbished 1880s pool table placed next to wood drink rails.
Dark rift-sawn oak paneling across the walls echoes the Tudor woodwork upstairs. The cold concrete floor was replaced with easy-care Coretec wood-look planks. The illuminated mirror above the bar reflects rows of glass liquor bottles.
Heather even carried the pub theme into the lighting above the bar. She asked the tile installer to cut off the bottom of uniquely shaped gin bottles, and clipped them into a lighting track in the ceiling.
The Bristow pub even has a "Cheers"-style entrance — an original door and steps lead down to the basement from the driveway.
"Dinner parties always end up in the pub," Jason said. "It's the best place to shoot pool and watch sports."
Other interior improvements include tearing out an old rear screen porch and, in its place, adding a main-floor mudroom and powder room.
Strom seamlessly blended the new parts with the old by matching the original millwork and wood flooring, and integrating period architectural details. The new kitchen island legs even replicate the columns on the home's front entry.
Heather bought unfinished brass door knobs, dimpled each one with the tip of a screwdriver and hammer, and used Jax to age the brass so the new knobs look like they have always been there.
On the outside, Strom designed a new garage, which complements the home's Tudor Revival architecture.
The Bristows also put in a brick patio facing Lake of the Isles to better connect with neighbors and "watch the world go by," Heather said.
The renovation took 14 months, and the Bristows had to move out for part of the time. But now the 100-year-old Tudor will easily meet the needs of modern families for decades to come.
In the past, kitchens were merely work areas for servants, but today's incarnations are the hub of daily life.
At dinner time, Lleyton might be working on Spanish homework at the table while Callum plays with a Rubik's Cube and Heather marinates chicken, all watching "Arrow" on TV. Soon Jason will be home to grill.
"It's a multipurpose room where we can all be doing something different, yet be together," Heather said.