This Yale Avenue Craftsman renovation included the master suite, family room, kitchen, garage and home exterior.
Location: Harvard/Yale, Salt Lake City, Utah
Originally Built in: 1925
Aaron and Carolyn weren’t in a rush to get started. They had lived in their 1924 craftsman-style bungalow for about a decade and had made several small changes that kept the space livable. But while they knew they should probably do a major remodel, they were content to spend lots of time thinking about it but not much time working toward it.
“We knew from the time we moved in that we were going to remodel this bungalow, but it was just the two of us, and it was hard to get motivated,” Carolyn says.
But when their daughter came along, they needed more room and they wanted to make the home safer for their child. So they knew the time had come to move from dreaming about a remodel to getting the craftsman style home remodeled. Their home was built by Carolyn’s grandfather, and it was the home in which her mother was raised. So there were plenty of sentimental reasons to keep the craftsman bungalow while modernizing it for a growing family.
They engaged Renovation Design Group to help them figure out how to do that. Architect Annie Vernon, using her own ideas and those brought by the couple, took them through several options for updating their home. The couple decided on a plan they loved and moved forward. But after engineering evaluations, they could see that the original masonry walls would not meet code and would require extensive reengineering to make the remodel work. It would be an expensive process with no guarantees. So they had to make the painful decision to teardown grandpa’s bungalow—an option they had not entertained. “It was a hard decision,” remembers Carolyn. But since reinforcing the old walls “just didn’t make sense” in the end, they went back to the drawing board and began planning for a tear-down and rebuild.
If they couldn’t keep the original house, they were definitely committed to keeping grandpa’s spirit. “We liked the style of the house, and if we were going to have to rebuild it, we wanted to keep the original bungalow style,” says Carolyn. So with Annie’s help, they designed another craftsman style bungalow. The original home had once had a large bungalow porch, so they brought it back in the new design. They also kept thematic elements from the original bungalow design and incorporated them into the new house, such as a half wall and pillars separating their living, dining room, and new craftsman style bungalow kitchen, as well as lower ceilings in portions of the house to maintain the cozy bungalow cottage feel.
Aaron and Carolyn also salvaged materials from the old house and reused them in the new house. The moldings around the windows are either the exact wood used in the original craftsman bungalow home or an exact replica. They also reused glass block for a living room window, adorned new doors with old knobs, and kept the fireplace mantel. And the exterior brick of the old craftsman bungalow was meticulously preserved, cleaned, and re-laid.
Renovation Design Group has established excellent working relationships with local contractors. When Renovation Design Group recommended the couple use one of thier referred contractors, it was a no-brainer for the couple.
“While they were working on a nearby house, they happened to frequent Yanni’s Greek Express for lunch,” recalls Aaron. “I also used to go there everyday for lunch, so I actually met a lot of the guys while they were working on that project.”
But knowing someone over Greek food is very different than letting them build your dream home. What they discovered was a contractor and sub-contractors who cared as much about their dream home as they did.
“You would have thought this was their house. They were so invested in it, they would bring people by to see it,” says Carolyn.
Aaron recalls a time when he and Carolyn had inadvertently painted a portion of the exterior the wrong color, and the contractors were horrified. “The contractors came up to us and said, ‘What have you done to my house?!’” Aaron remembers. “‘Now we can’t bring people by!’”
“This is something Ann (Robinson) once told us while we were in a meeting with Renovation Design Group that was great advice; she told us not to be in a hurry in the design phase,” Aaron recalls. It was advice they took to heart.
They had been thinking about how to update their home for almost ten years, but once they had committed to remodeling, they were still glad they had gone through a thorough design process before they lifted a hammer.
“We actually spent longer working on the plans for the craftsman bungalow remodel than it took to build the house,” says Aaron. “But if you can work out a lot of the quirkiness and bugs on paper, you can save yourself a lot of money.”
“Once we started building,” adds Carolyn, “we knew exactly what we were doing. We didn’t have to rethink everything. It’s that preparation that we would really encourage people to do. It really pays off.”
And for that they thank the architects at Renovation Design Group. The couple had a decade to think about their house and came to the table with some pretty strong opinions. But having an architect who helped them articulate their ideas, offered her own, and helped them design their new old dream house was invaluable.
“They were perfect,” says Aaron. “They were flexible. They gave us all the attention we needed. They had everything on time. We never had to tell them the same thing twice.
They were all just great to work with.”
They also thank their contractor. When the plans were all in place and the building was underway, their contractor allowed them as much personal involvement as they wanted—from laying tile to doing the carpentry finish work. They were also impressed with the quality of sub-contractors engaged by their general contractor, and they feel they have an immaculately built home.
While they anticipate their new house standing for at least as long as grandpa’s house stood, they would use their general contractor again in a heartbeat, and they would highly recommend them to anyone else starting on a remodel.
“They met the perfectionist standards we had,” Carolyn says.