A new wing blends right in to a century-old house
This quaint 1908 Craftsman had an outmoded kitchen and broken asbestos shingles in need of renovation.
In many ways, the cozy, century-old Craftsman cottage, nestled in a lovely, historic neighborhood in Fairhope, Alabama, was perfect for Jackie and Dennis Frodsham. The 1,800-square-foot house, built in 1908, had a view of Mobile Bay and a park directly across the street. That made it easier for the Frodshams to overlook the dreary asbestos-shingled exterior and obsolete kitchen and baths. They paid $380,000 for the house and figured that the cost of a new great room/kitchen addition wouldn't be astronomical, especially since they were going to do much of the work themselves and reuse a lot of the vintage materials from the house.
The result of this thoughtful renovation includes a gabled great-room wing that is well concealed behind the newly extended wraparound porch.
Disguising the New Addition
Jackie and Dennis hired Fairhope architect Lea Verneuille to design their addition, with one stipulation: "We wanted it to look as though it had been there all along," says Jackie. Verneuille suggested the new kitchen/great room extend the full two stories on the bay-view side of the house. Jackie and Dennis loved the idea, since they were planning to tear off the old bathroom bump-out on that side anyway.
In his design, Verneuille paid strict attention to scale, repeating the existing house's window shapes and extending the roofline to the dormered wing. He also continued the home's ample front porch so it wrapped around the great-room wing.
Inside, the great room was connected to the rest of the house by a wide entryway, which also serves as a new dining room. In fact, Jackie and Dennis and their architect found themselves rejiggering rooms and their uses all over the house. The old dining room with its prime views of the water became the new master bedroom suite, a downstairs bedroom became the new study, and the old kitchen and an adjoining closed-in back porch contributed space for a new master bedroom.
The wide screened-in porch wraps around the new addition and serves as a second living room where the homeowners can kick back and relax.
A Scavenger Hunt
Dennis, who is a commercial real estate agent, tackled most of the demolition on weekends. After ripping off the home's asbestos shingles, he discovered old heart-pine siding. "When we saw how pretty it was, we thought it would be great to use it on the exterior of the new addition," says Jackie, a former teacher, who was on-site every day from sunup until after dark. "She kept the carpenters organized, turning the backyard into an assembly line to clean, sand, and stack every splinter of salvageable heart pine," says Dennis proudly.
But because the new wing required more siding than they had, Jackie and Dennis decided to use it elsewhere. Removing the siding allowed them to insulate their home without disturbing the interior beadboard walls, and carpenter Dennis Hermecz jumped at the chance to use the siding to build the kitchen's Craftsman-style cabinets.
In extending the dining area into the great room, Jackie and Dennis didn't try to blend new material with the original beadboard ceiling. Instead, they carefully removed the 3/4-inch-thick clear heart-pine boards and created the great room's new gleaming floors by turning the material over. "We love finding new uses for old things," says Jackie. "Renovating this house was like a scavenger hunt."
The couple, who had been collecting odd pieces of salvage for years, knew that their "new" kitchen cabinets demanded countertops that were equally special. Remembering an old timber they'd pulled from the bay five years earlier, they had the 18-foot pine piling sawed into wide boards and finished. The focal point of the room, an antique window accented with stained-glass panes, came from a Mobile salvage yard. Even the pine library ladder that glides along the floor and provides access to the great room's high display shelves is a salvage find. "It was made in 1908, the same year our house was built," says Jackie. "It came out of a country store in Selma."
Recycled wain-scoting, a vessel sink, and a vintage mirror give the bathroom a period feel.
Halfway through the project, Dennis and Jackie got hit with some bad news. Termite damage had rotted the old back porch. "We had to tear it off, rebuild, and rework the master bedroom plan from scratch," says Dennis.
The good news in starting over was that they could use the old porch foundation to create a rear addition in the same footprint. Half the space became a large master bath; they turned the other half into a laundry room and a powder room. Because of its steep roof pitch, the rear addition also provided attic space for an upstairs bedroom and an enlarged bath. "That blew our budget, but we're glad we did it, because we ended up getting more rooms," says Dennis, who estimates that for what they paid for the total renovation they could have built a new house.
But then, Jackie and Dennis recognize the intrinsic pleasure of living in a historic old home. "We like the feel of living with the past, but we also love our big modern kitchen and great room," says Jackie. "When guests visit, they think we simply opened up an existing room to the second floor. They don't realize they're standing in a brand-new addition."