Rachel Vogel and Michael Forseth lived in their Minneapolis Tudor for four years before committing to a major renovation. And they're really glad they took their time.

"We had a chance to marinate in the home," said Vogel of the house they bought in 2005. "We could spend time figuring out the best solution, and make sure we did it right."

The couple were drawn to the classic stucco house, built in 1929, for its four bedrooms and big city lot facing Lake Harriet. There was plenty of room for their three kids. "We've always liked old houses," Forseth said. "And it certainly fit the bill."

But inside, the home seemed to possess a split personality. The front rooms were filled with Old World craftsmanship and charm, including leaded-glass windows, dark-stained wood beams and a curved staircase with wrought-iron railings. However, the back of the house had undergone a previous makeover that looked straight out of the era when it was done — the 1970s.

After the Forseth-Vogel family moved in, daily living revealed their home's shortcomings. The awkward back entry that spilled into the kitchen didn't work as a drop spot for coats, shoes and hockey equipment. The cold, drafty kitchen was dark and chopped up — and hardly a welcoming family gathering space.

"It didn't flow with the rest of the house or to the outside at all," Forseth said. And how could they better integrate the original maid's quarters three steps up from the kitchen?

When the well-worn kitchen appliances began to break down, the couple decided it was time to tackle the large-scale renovation the house required. Vogel and Forseth enlisted Rehkamp Larson Architects to turn the back of the house into modern, functional family-friendly spaces that meshed seamlessly with the rest of the 1920s Tudor.

"They wanted to take out the 1970s remodel and convert it back to the Old World craftsmanship that was there," said architect Ryan Lawinger.

The design, by Lawinger and architect Jean Rehkamp Larson, included gutting and renovating 650 square feet of existing space in the back of the house to create a spacious kitchen and walk-in pantry. A 150-square-foot addition on the side of the home holds a mudroom, half bath, staircase and new back entry.

In the 1920s, the upscale lakeside house was designed with servant-oriented features that made sense then, but are obsolete today. To gain more room for the kitchen, the architects removed the old "servant's stair," opening up the space and drawing in more light. They also had to remove a load-bearing wall that was part of the staircase. "We put a new barrel-vaulted ceiling in the kitchen to hide the added structural beam," said Lawinger.

The old maid's quarters, up three steps from the kitchen, were transformed into a bright home office and kids' study area, outfitted with built-in bookcases and a big cushioned window seat. With an added arched doorway that draws in more light, Vogel and Forseth can be working at the computer desk and still see into the kitchen.

"The office space above the kitchen is a neat place for the kids to do homework," Forseth said. "And you don't feel like you're away from the action."

Vintage modern

The old kitchen, which was featured in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, was considered cutting-edge at the time, with its butcher-block countertop, orange terra-cotta tile and cream melamine cabinets. But today's kitchens are typically the hub of the home. So Rehkamp Larson designed a space that is twice the size of the old one, combining state-of-the-art appliances with white painted, old-fashioned inset cabinets, which contrast with the dark-stained oak ceiling beams and floor.

The design of the 4- by 8-foot granite-topped island was driven by Vogel's desire to have seating on three sides, allowing people to face one another for conversation, rather than sit lined up on one side. "It's like the old kitchen table — it serves as an island for preparing food and a gathering spot," Lawinger said.

At first, Vogel had reservations about giving up her window above the sink. "I lost the window because of the addition," she said. "But now the back-yard outdoor space is more the focus."

The kitchen's French doors, which can be flung open for views of boxwood and hydrangeas and to let in breezes from the patio, created a much needed connection to the yard.

"The kitchen is a fantastic family gathering place — and then turns for entertaining easily," Vogel said.

The addition posed a challenge for Larson and Lawinger because they could bump it out only 6 feet, which was the distance between the house and the property setback. "It was like a puzzle to fit all the pieces we needed into the 6- by 24-foot space," Lawinger said.

The narrow addition, which was efficiently tucked into the side of the house, not only created square footage for a mudroom and half bath but also provided an interior link to the existing garage and a new back entry. The addition's newly built staircase travels a half-flight up to the kitchen and mudroom and a half-flight down to the basement.

Lawinger ensured that the addition blends with the rest of the classic Tudor exterior by matching the stucco, slate roof and divided light casement windows.

"The 1970s part didn't have the character to match the caliber of the rest of the house," he said. "This renovation achieved function and period charm."

The couple's first renovation project was a journey of discovery — and infinite decisions — from beginning to end, Vogel said. And even though they had to live in their dining room for eight months, it was well worth it.

"The pieces of the puzzle all fit together," she said. "And it works for our family."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619