MINNEAPOLIS — The challenge: Frank Fitzgerald and his partner, John Evans, love their 1909-built foursquare in Minneapolis’ South Uptown neighborhood, where they’ve lived since 2002. But they didn’t love their smallish kitchen, minimal storage and lack of a main-floor bathroom. And they wanted a bigger, better back porch.
The solution: A 10-by-16-foot addition off the kitchen lined with built-in cabinets, plus a half-bath and a large covered porch just outside.
The team: Fitzgerald, a landscape architect, designed the addition. The builder, Next Level Renovation, rendered his design in 3-D (“which helped my partner visualize things,” said Fitzgerald), then brought the project to reality. Artist/painter Jeff Biggerstaff created finishes that seamlessly blend old and new woodwork.
Period character: Fitzgerald strove to keep the new spaces in harmony with the original ones. “This old house has a lot of character. I wanted to respect that,” he said. Period style can better stand the test of time than a more modern makeover, he noted. “Anytime you do something, it looks good at first, then it looks out of style. Then it gets old and past being out of style — a little beat-up but with a patina. You like it then.”
Pantry times two: The house had an original butler’s pantry with cabinets made of old-growth Douglas fir. “It’s really charming to have an old pantry,” Fitzgerald said. “And it still works. It has flour bins that we now use for recycling.” But the dark wood finish was “tired,” and many of the old drawers rubbed and scraped. Adding gliders would help, but there wasn’t enough depth in the drawers. And putting the old fronts on new boxes wasn’t an option that Fitzgerald was willing to consider. “I’m not going to be the guy who got rid of 100-year-old boxes,” he said. They kept the original boxes but with new bottoms to accommodate the gliders.
They also added a second pantry in the addition, with cupboards designed to hold spices, a second oven, small appliances, other kitchen paraphernalia and even a pullout shoe rack. “We hid everything,” Fitzgerald said. “We wanted all wood.” To get new wood that blended with the old, they chose Southern yellow pine, which has a similar grain to the old-growth fir. Biggerstaff finished the new cabinets and refinished the old ones to match. “I was most concerned about where the old pantry met the new pantry,” Fitzgerald said, so he sought out hardware that looked like it belonged in a vintage kitchen. “The new cabinets have hinges inside but also hardware hinges on the outside. It’s amazing the difference it made.”
Vintage-look kitchen: The 11-by-13-foot kitchen was refreshed with new materials with a classic look, including Carrara marble on the countertop and the top of the built-in table (which has storage drawers underneath). New maple flooring was feathered in and stained to match the original wood. There’s a farm sink and a backsplash made of flat subway tile of unglazed porcelain from Clay Squared to Infinity. Decorative cast-metal grates and vintage-look light fixtures with a dark bronze finish complete the kitchen. “I looked online all over until I found what I was looking for,” Fitzgerald said.
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A bathroom with character: The new half bath showcases a vintage-looking stained-glass window, designed by Fitzgerald, that lets in light while screening the house next door. “I wanted something you didn’t have to cover with a blind,” he said. Hex-tile flooring, also from Clay Squared to Infinity, adds to the Old World look.
A proper porch: The new porch echoes the style of the house, with dentil molding, a beadboard ceiling and a ceiling fan with a leather belt attached to the motor. “The fan keeps the bugs away,” said Evans. “We were going to have screens, but with the fan we haven’t needed them,” said Fitzgerald. Along the steps from the kitchen, the porch has a metal pipe handrail. “The first time John saw it, he asked, ‘Is that temporary? It looks like we ran out of money,’?” Fitzgerald recalled. But he chose the pipe because he wanted something vintage-looking that didn’t appear “too heavy.” Painted the color of the house, the railing disappears visually. The couple often host small dinner parties on their porch during the summer months, and being there is enjoyable even during rainstorms. “It’s deep enough not to get wet.”
The result: The $200,000 project was a major investment but worth it, Fitzgerald said, because he and Evans plan to be in their home a long time. “We could have bought Ikea cabinets, but it wouldn’t have matched the way it does now,” he said. The addition was built to last, including a semi-foundation that added cost to the project. “With our harsh winters, we felt we needed it,” Evans said. And the new spaces have enhanced the way they live in their home. They entertain more, and their new kitchen is up to the challenge. “Everyone always ends up in the kitchen, and the kitchen was so full before,” Fitzgerald said. “Now we can put the appetizers on the kitchen table, which is counter height” for easy grazing. “It’s more pleasant entertaining,” said Evans. “And with a bathroom on the main floor, guests don’t have to traipse upstairs.”