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Liv and Tenner Guillaume's street is no stranger to dumpsters, that sure sign of home improvement projects. Their house on Linden Hills Boulevard was one of the few left on the block to get a significant renovation.

"People have lovingly invested and reinvested in these houses for over a century," said architect Todd Hansen.

However, the Guillaume's sweet 1½-story cottage-style home had been left mostly intact for 120 years, aside from mechanical updates and a kitchen facelift or two. The Guillaumes, who both grew up in the Twin Cities, purchased the home in 2011 after spending a few years in San Francisco.

They had set their sights on the Linden Hills neighborhood because of its walkability and proximity to the lakes. When they first saw the house, Liv said they loved how it looked from the curb, but worried it might feel cramped inside.

"Then we walked in and were amazed that it was so bright and felt bigger than it was," she said.

A growing family

At the time, the couple had one baby and the 2,100-square-foot, three-bedroom house was enough space for them. Seven years, two more children and two dogs later, it began to feel like they were on top of one another.

Liv and Tenner briefly explored moving, but wanted to stay near the kids' school. And although the boulevard has seen its fair share of teardowns, the Guillaumes didn't seriously consider going that route.

"The previous owner told me developers had tried to swoop in and buy the house after the woman who lived there passed away, and the woman's daughter accepted her offer because she promised not to tear it down," said Liv. "That resonated with me. Our house is part of the history of this street."

However, there were serious issues. The porch was falling off, the front door opened directly into the living room and the kitchen was tiny.

The Guillaumes' wish list was typical for a young family living in an old house: Improve flow, expand the kitchen and add a bedroom suite and second-floor laundry. They also wanted to establish harmony between the original house and the addition — so much so that people couldn't tell what was old and what was new. From the front, they wanted the house to look unchanged.

They chose Albertsson Hansen Architecture because of the firm's experience working with the cottage aesthetic as well as older homes.

"We interviewed other architects but felt an immediate rapport with Todd [Hansen]," she said. The project, dubbed Linden Hills Renewal, was named a 2022-2023 AIA Star Tribune Home of the Month winner, a partnership with the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

A seamless addition

It took a few years of planning stops and starts as the family refined what they wanted and saved money for the project. Once underway, the remodeling took about nine months.

Hansen's strategy was to rework the existing floor plan to create new traffic routes and drop zones at the home's front and side entries via an L-shaped configuration. He then designed a two-story addition, which created much-needed space for an open kitchen, breakfast area and family room on the first floor and a second-floor primary suite.

Exterior details such as cottage-style dormers, windows and lap siding softened the mass of the new structure and lent it an "always been there" look. Inside, Hansen paid the same attention to period-specific details, taking cues from the original part of the house and homes of that era.

"Reinterpreting elements from older homes is part of what creates continuity," he said.

In this case, it meant custom built-ins in the dining room, breakfast nook and family room. The addition also included beams in the new kitchen/family room similar to those in the original living room, but widened and spaced to fit the room's scale. A pointed arch on the original fireplace is echoed in the new family room fireplace and a window nook in the primary bedroom.

Hansen took pains to vary windowsill heights to capture the best views. For example, ​those on one side ​in the family room are a little higher to frame the neighbor's pretty garden but block a concrete driveway.

Finishing touches

In the kitchen, Liv and Tenner chose durable quartzite for the island where the family gathers for casual meals and opted for marble countertops on the perimeter, despite its tendency to stain and show scratches.

"I don't mind," said Liv. "We saw an aged version at the showroom and liked the patina."

Flat white paint on the walls and trim are a carryover from the previous owner, a stylist who occasionally used the home for photo shoots. The Guillaumes appreciate the crisp, matte look. It provides the ideal canvas for layering in colorful furnishings, clean-lined fixtures and the kids' artwork.

On the second floor, the children occupy the home's original three snug bedrooms and share a bathroom. Liv and Tenner's bedroom is just down the hall in the addition, which boasts a vaulted, tongue-and-groove ceiling, an en suite bathroom, dual closets and a laundry area.

The Guillaumes said they love their reimagined spaces. For Hansen, the project is an example of how older houses can be adapted and added on to while honoring the era of the home and scale of the neighborhood.

"It's fun that in the middle of the city, you can double your house but not change the charming story-and-a-half look from the front," he said. "This family had the right vision."

About this project

What: This charming house lacked the size needed for today's families. The design solution was to reconfigure the existing footprint while respecting the original character and details, and build an addition entirely behind the original house that was seamlessly integrated and satisfied the owners' requirements.

Project type: Remodel/addition.

Project size: More than 1,000 square feet.

Cost per square foot: $202.

Designing firm: Albertsson Hansen Architecture.

Project team: Todd Hansen, AIA, CID; Jim Kuipers, Assoc. AIA; Paul Harms, Assoc. AIA.

Laurie Junker is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer specializing in home design and architecture.