By Clare M. Alexander
By the time Todd Noteboom and his then-wife toured the Mediterranean Revival house that would eventually become their home, it had already scared off countless other prospective buyers. “Our real-estate agent told us that many folks who had considered buying pulled up front and wouldn’t even do a walk through,” he remembers.
It’s not hard to see why: While the façade still boasted its original cream-colored stucco and red clay tile roof, it had been marred by the 1980s-era addition of a sunroom that would have looked more at home on a fast-food restaurant than it did on the 1926 house. But Todd was so charmed by its location—across the street from a busy channel on Minneapolis’ Lake of the Isles—that he was willing to overlook the house’s conspicuous cosmetic flaw.
Sunny Side Up
Despite its incongruous appearance, Todd had to admit that the sunroom had its perks. “When our kids were really young, we filled it with toys—they loved it,” Todd says. Plus, the heated addition looked out on the lake, allowing the family to commune with the outdoors even during Minnesota’s frigid winters.
Still, when they embarked upon a restoration six years after moving into the house, Todd imagined jettisoning the sunroom in favor of an expansive terrace—until architects Tom Ellison and Andrea Peschel Swan of TEA2 Architects, whom he hired to oversee the project, suggested reworking the space into something more appropriate for the house’s age. “We’re in Minnesota, where you can only use a terrace three months of the year,” Tom points out.
The final design combined the best of both ideas: A new sunroom with a bank of nine-over-nine double-hung wood windows rests on the footprint of the old one, while the existing terrace, which sits between the sunroom and main entry, was enlarged and made more accessible with the addition of glazed doors in the living room. “The sunroom is my favorite place to go sit in the morning with a cup of coffee and the paper,” says Todd. “In the summer, we live out on the terrace.”
The architects also made some other small but significant tweaks to the home’s façade, extending the roof and balcony over the front entrance, beefing up the front door and entry porch, and converting an unusable balcony off the guest bathroom into a flower box. “The house was so flat,” says Andrea. “The only depth you got was from that solarium—we took it a little further and added some dimension.”
Several rooms inside the house, which had likewise been updated in the ’70s or ’80s, got a facelift as well. In the living room, the architects replaced an overbearing brick-and-plaster mantel with a graceful limestone one that’s more in line with the style of the house, adding additional support in the basement to shore up its weight.
In the study, which sits on the opposite side of the entryway, they added a new built-in cabinet. The guest bedroom and bathroom situated over the living room also were reconfigured with a more efficient floor plan and period-appropriate materials.
Finally, the architects turned their attention to the front yard, where they put in a retaining wall at the street level to give it a gentler slope, making it a more usable space for the kids. Combined with the new sunroom, living room, and study, the overall effect is a friendlier, more approachable house. “When you bring living spaces to the front of the house, you create a more active and open participation with the community,” observes Tom.
Todd has definitely noticed the change: “Neighbors that we hadn’t met before would walk up the steps and compliment us on the house,” he recalls, “and thank us for what we’ve done for the neighborhood.”Published in: Old-House Journal April/May 2013