Add or create from scratch? That was the question Lou Rohman and Karen Astromsky were asking themselves when they wanted to expand their house in Edina.
The former couple-turned-neighbor were planning to move in together in the one-and-a-half-story house on Beard Avenue in which Rohman had lived for 20 years. However, they wanted more square footage and, now empty nests, needed a space that would suit their lifestyle.
“We love the neighborhood so much that it made sense to stay here rather than go somewhere else,” Rohman said.
They were torn between the two options. If they renovated, they wondered if there would be enough space for their essentials. Or they could rebuild, as many of their neighbors had done. In the end, they decided to raze the 1950s house and build from scratch. They brought in Albertsson Hansen Architecture to lead the charge.
“A modest increase”
When building a new home, the top priority was to design something that would complement the land and homes in their neighborhood in Chowen Park. Rohman said the neighborhood has evolved into stark contrasts between house types, from one-and-a-half floors to “McMansions.” They wanted a house that found a balance.
Albertsson Hansen Architecture kept them to that. When the couple wanted 9-foot ceilings as opposed to the original house which had 8-foot ceilings, architect Christine Albertsson had a better idea.
“Christine said ‘Let’s go to 8 feet 4 inches,” Rohman said. “It worked better because it looks bigger than the norm, but it doesn’t look cavernous and disproportionate.”
The downscaling seemed subtle, but mattered a lot.
“We were able to design a house that was much more respectful of the scale and character of the existing neighborhood,” said Albertsson. “If you make 9 foot ceilings on all three floors [the basement, the main level and upper level], soon it means that the house is very high. Having nice proportions and a modest raise can have a dramatic impact compared to being so tall that it no longer fits into the neighborhood. “
Defy the trends
The couple challenged residential building trends in other ways – they didn’t want a formal kitchen island or dining room. And while they wanted separate living spaces that flow together, they didn’t want those spaces to be too big.
The result is a modern take on a colonial house with a central hall.
“Each space has different characteristics and boundaries, but you can easily switch between spaces,” Albertsson said.
The couple also made sure to incorporate modern amenities such as top-notch appliances, large closets, plenty of storage, a cloakroom, and a full-size laundry room.
Windows have become an important part of the home flow.
“There are very large windows in this house,” Astromsky said. “No matter what room you are in, you feel connected to the outside. There is so much natural light.”
The outdoor spaces have also been redesigned.
“What we did was tie up the garage in the back and create a basketball court with the locker room as a link,” Albertsson said. “It served two purposes – it downplayed the importance of the street garage. And it created a backyard where Lou can play basketball with his grown sons, which they do a lot.”
A covered terrace has been added at the edge of the basketball court so that spectators can join in the fun.
“It’s one of my favorite things around the house,” Albertsson said. And “despite the narrow and difficult terrain on which the house is located, we have also made an adjoining garage and a passable driveway. “
Flexibility for the future
When designing the house, the architects also made sure to create flexible spaces.
“We built it with the idea that the house could be transformed in the future,” Albertsson said.
In the kitchen, a wall where small appliances are located can be removed to accommodate a central island if desired.
And while the two-story house has three bedrooms, it has the option of having up to five. The boudoir, which is directly opposite a bathroom, could easily be converted into a bedroom.
“If the day comes and we want to have the option, it’s there. But when you cross over, you’d never know it’s designed for a walk-in living,” Rohman said.
The basement also houses spaces that can be changed. 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 which meets their needs today and gives them flexibility for the future.
“We didn’t want a big, sprawling suburban home, or something so big that it stood out so much,” Rohman said. “It’s the perfect mix of the two.”
About this project
What: A new construction replacing a 1950s Edina house aims to adapt to the scale of the lot and the neighborhood.
Cut: Old house, 1600 square feet, 1½ stories; new construction of 3000 square feet, two floors.
Design company: Architecture of Albertsson Hansen.
Group project: Christine Albertsson, AIA, CID; Mark Tambornino, AIA; Emily Pressprich, Assoc. AIA.