An extensive remodel remains true to character and modernizes living spaces
This extensive remodel of a historic Minneapolis home dramatically expands and modernizes the living spaces while remaining true to its original character.
Located on Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, this Tudor revival is one of only a few private residences designed by famed architect Franklin Ellerbe, who made a name for himself in the middle of the 20th century for his work in healthcare, government and higher education.
“The house is built like a tank,” Architect Christopher Strom said, nodding to Ellerbe’s influence, whose inclination toward building structures designed to last is evident in the home’s robust design. 9 ½” thick walls and concrete floor on the main level are further proof of Ellerbe’s staunch institutional leanings.
In short, the home has history, which Strom wasn’t interested in revising. The goal of the remodel was to honor the home’s past with thoughtful updates intended to complement the active contemporary lifestyle of the family.
Strom’s respect for the home’s architecture and history is exemplified in his keen attention to detail throughout, but especially with respect to the windows. While most homes built in the early 1900s had double hung windows, this one had push-out-style French casements with leaded glass.
To create cohesion with the existing windows that didn’t require replacement, Strom selected Ultimate Casement Push Out windows, which closely matched the originals in both style and operation.
“On this particular project, there really wasn’t a better match that I knew of,” Strom raved about the new Marvin windows.
To further mimic the look of the existing windows, Marvin was able to deliver ⅝” muntins to match the original leaded glass, a small detail that helps preserve the home’s character. Going above and beyond in the name of tiny details like these is one of the things Strom loves about remodeling historic homes versus new construction.
“One great thing about remodeling architecturally significant homes is that it justifies going the extra mile with the level of detail. To be true to the house,” Strom said.
Because of the thick walls, each window is recessed in stucco by 2 ½”, a detail that helps to embellish the home’s stout, muscular look. To make the new windows work, and again to match the originals in appearance, Marvin had to build custom sills deep enough to account for the setback.
“Jeff Hoffman, who is a Marvin APM, was immediately able to give us CAD details showing the depth and size of the subsill so we could order windows that would fit, even with all these custom details,” Strom said. “The level of service was instrumental for this project.”
Perhaps the most dramatic, transformative result of the remodel is the third-floor attic space. What was once a dark, dusty, unfinished attic is now a bright, airy rec room for the homeowners’ two sons. Not only did it add functional space for the family, it completely altered the look of the home on the outside, thanks to three lake-facing dormers.
“Adding those dormers on the roof lifts your eye past the eave line, and really give it another level of detail and animation to the façade that the house really benefits from.” said Strom.
Of course, adding the dormers to a home of this age and pedigree wasn’t as easy as cutting a hole in the roof. Because the home had been balloon framed, the entire roofline needed to be rebuilt. This allowed Strom to add a giant ridge beam and the necessary insulation as well. It required a little extra elbow grease, but in the end was worth it.
From the light-filled attic conversion down to the English pub-inspired basement, this is a fine example of how to do a historic remodel the right way. Honoring its past, sweating the small details, getting the little things right, and going the extra mile to preserve as much of the home’s history as possible.
“The extra work always seems to justify itself in the name of history,” Strom said.
Architect: Christopher Strom
Photographer: Alyssa Lee Photography