Add to or build from scratch? That was the question Lou Rohman and Karen Astromsky posed when wanting to expand their Edina home.
The former neighbors-turned-couple planned to move in together — into the 1½-story home on Beard Avenue that Rohman had lived in for 20 years. However, they wanted more square footage and, now empty-nesters, needed a space that would fit their lifestyle.
"We love the neighborhood so much it made sense to stay here versus going elsewhere," Rohman said.
They were torn between the two options. If they remodeled, they wondered if it would be enough space for their must-haves. Or they could build anew, as several of their neighbors had done. Ultimately, they decided to raze the 1950s home and build from the ground up. They brought in Albertsson Hansen Architecture to lead the charge.
'A modest increase'
When building a new home, the main priority was to design something that complemented the lot and the homes in their neighborhood in Chowen Park. Rohman said the neighborhood has evolved into stark contrasts among the types of homes, from 1 ½ stories to "McMansions." They wanted a home that struck a balance.
Albertsson Hansen Architecture held them to that. When the couple wanted 9-foot ceilings in contrast to the original home that had 8-foot ceilings, architect Christine Albertsson had a better idea.
"Christine said 'Lets go 8-foot-4-inches,' " Rohman said. "It worked out better because it feels bigger than the norm, but it doesn't feel cavernous and out of proportion."
The scale-back seemed subtle, but counted for a lot.
"We were able to design a house that's a lot more respectful of the scale and character of the existing neighborhood," Albertsson said. "If you're doing 9-foot ceilings on all three floors [the basement, the main level and upper level], pretty soon that means the house is very tall. Having beautiful proportions and a modest increase can have a dramatic impact versus being so tall that it doesn't fit into the neighborhood anymore."
The couple defied home-building trends in other ways: They didn't want a kitchen island or a formal dining room. And while they wanted distinct living spaces that flowed together, they didn't want those spaces to be too large.
The result is a modern version of a center-hall Colonial home.
"Each space has different characteristics and boundaries, but you can easily move from one space to the other," Albertsson said.
The couple also made sure to integrate modern amenities such as top-rated appliances, big closets, lots of storage, a mudroom and a full-size laundry room.
Windows became an important part of the flow of the home.
"There are super large windows in this house," Astromsky said. "No matter what room you're in, you feel like you're connected to the outside. There's so much natural light."
Outside spaces were reimagined, as well.
"What we did was attach the garage in the back and create a basketball court with the mudroom as the link," Albertsson said. "That served two purposes — it downplayed the garage from the street. And it created a court in the back, where Lou can play basketball with his adult sons, which they do a lot of."
A covered seating deck was added to the edge of the basketball court so spectators can join in on the fun.
"It's one of my favorite things about the house," Albertsson said. And "despite the challenging narrow lot that the house sits upon, we also achieved an attached garage and workable driveway. "
Flexibility for the future
When designing the home, the architects also made sure to create flexible spaces.
"We built it with the idea that the house could transform in the future," Albertsson said.
In the kitchen, a wall where small appliances are located can be removed to accommodate a center island if desired.
And while the two-story home features three bedrooms, it has the flexibility to have up to five. The den, which is just across the hall from a bathroom, could easily be converted to a bedroom.
"If the day comes and we want to have the option, it's there. But when you walk through, you'd never know it's set up for one-level living," Rohman said.
The basement also houses spaces that can be modified. A room that serves as an office for Astromsky, a life coach and yoga and meditation teacher, and Rohman, a certified public accountant, could be turned into a bedroom.
The duo are enjoying their new home that works for their needs today and gives them flexibility for the future.
"We didn't want a big sprawling suburban house, nor did we want something that was so tall it stood out so much," Rohman said. "This is the perfect blend of the two."
About this project
What: A new build replacing a 1950s Edina home aims to fit the scale of the lot and neighborhood.
Size: Former home, 1,600 square feet, 1½ stories; new build 3,000 square feet, two stories.
Design firm: Albertsson Hansen Architecture.
Project team: Christine Albertsson, AIA, CID; Mark Tambornino, AIA; Emily Pressprich, Assoc. AIA.