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Residential Reincarnation, Vol. I.

Join us as House Dressing Company updates a beautiful, historic home to meet the changing demands of a young family.

The Welsh’s prospective house in St. Paul was a charmer:  a classic and sturdy 1920′s two-story design with a clay tile roof, a beautiful yard and incredible views of the Mississippi and downtown Minneapolis.  The home had been well preserved by all of its previous owners.  The kitchen had been recently updated.  A family room and 3-season porch addition provided extra living space.  And, most interiors were in very good condition with handsome wood floors and trim work.  For the right family, the home was move-in-ready, and the location was just what the Welsh family was looking for.

But, the Welsh’s realized, beyond the beautifully-preserved finishes of the home, the house was built and still organized for a family that lived many generations ago, back when live-in maids and chauffeurs served the home-owners’ needs, and mud rooms, eat-in kitchens, 2nd story laundries and media and exercise rooms were not top-of-mind.

The Welsh’s knew this would be a perfect project for House Dressing Company who had worked with them on their previous home in Minneapolis – providing new legs and considerable value to their old house in the Kenwood neighborhood.  They knew House Dressing Company’s vision and experience working with historic homes could transform this new home into one that would truly work for the needs of their family – all while respecting the integrity of the home.  (To hear what Tim Welsh has to say about his experience with House Dressing Company, CLICK HERE.)

A Great Plan

Confident after visiting the home with House Dressing Company, and discussing the possibilities the home presented, the Welsh’s completed the purchase of the home and a series of meetings were scheduled to draft plans for the reincarnation of their new, old house. With project architect Lee Meyer, a set of distinct needs were identified:

  • Enlarge the kitchen and open it up to the family room to create a “family hub” for daily activity
  • Create a mudroom and new rear entry direct to the garage
  • Add a bedroom, additional office and bathrooms to the 2nd floor
  • Enlarge the master bedroom bathroom and closets
  • Add a bath in the basement and create a media room and play room area

Here’s how the plans have developed and how work has progressed to-date.

First Floor

KITCHEN – The previous kitchen design was consistent with designs from early in the 20th century, with a small butler style door leading to the dining room – preventing guests from seeing the mess of the working kitchen. While the recent remodel of the kitchen was comfortable for the previous owners – with updated appliances and cabinetry, it was not quite large enough for the Welsh’s larger and younger family, and they preferred a more casual eat-in kitchen design that could be opened up to the family room and serve as the “hub” of family activity – a place for living, entertaining and homework as much as just cooking.

The redesign plan completely removed the wall between the kitchen and the existing formal dining room – creating a wide open kitchen and family dining space  in which the beautiful views of the Mississippi could now be enjoyed throughout.  A larger center island – more than double the size of the previous – would allow for both meal preparation and consumption, and additional pantry cabinets replacing an awkward short staircase added the storage space they needed. Combined with a wider opening to the large existing family room, and new cabinets and columns, the once-separate spaces would become one integrated living space.  The previous formal living room with fireplace would undergo simple refinishing and become the formal dining room in the new home.

Typical of early 20th century designs, the small butler-style door connected the kitchen to the dining room.

The new kitchen and family dining area will be one open space, with great views out the front of the house.

REAR ENTRANCE – The existing rear entrance to the home lacked the closet space the Welsh’s needed and was connected to the garage only via an outdoor covered walkway.  To enter the garage one would need to step out into the elements – not ideal for the modern family in Minnesota relying on their vehicles for commuting and transporting busy children to and from school and activities.

The redesign would repurpose what was once the maid’s quarters into what Lee Meyer refers to as “the mother of all mudrooms.”  A new indoor entrance area from the garage would lead to a generous boot bench and cubbie shelf area with additional cabinetry, a “to-go” counter, cell phone drop zone, and two new, spacious closets.  The existing powder room would be retained and refinished.

The previous maid’s quarters’ bathroom has been removed to make room for the new rear entry to/from the garage.

Second Floor

BEDROOMS – The previous design had a master bedroom with a 3/4 bath, sitting room, office, plus two bedrooms that shared a two-doored “Jack & Jill” bathroom.  Again, while this was a good fit for the previous owners, it was not quite enough space for the Welsh’s three young children, their overnight guests, and the office needs of Mr. & Mrs. Welsh – both professionals hoping for their own office spaces.

The redesigned second floor would take advantage of the space above the main floor family room and three-season porch (previously a flat roof deck) to replace the “Jack & Jill” bathroom, add another full bath, and add a bedroom and office.  Using the space of the former sitting room, the laundry would be relocated from the basement and multiple smaller closets unified into one generous master closet. The master bath would be enlarged to include a tub and the previous master bath vanity re-utilized in a new bathroom. Plus, the stairway would be re-routed and the existing office space would gain a private entrance.

The flat roof above the family room presented an ideal opportunity to enlarge the second floor.

The same view of the space above the family room, now roughed-in for a new bedroom, bath and office.


The basement, which was used for laundry, storage and as family and rec room spaces would also undergo significant updates.  The laundry would be moved to the 2nd floor.  A 3/4 bath would be added.  New cabinetry, a sink and “recycled” refrigerator from the original kitchen would be added into what would become a Play Room, and the family room would be wired for a state-of-the-art home theater and media system.  Doorways and openings between rooms would be enlarged to open up and integrate the somewhat dark spaces, and a “Dorothy Door” and stairway would be replaced by an egress window to increase safety and further increase daylight in the space.  All finishes and floors would be updated to reclaim the space and bring them up-to-date with the rest of the house.

The Process

On this project, House Dressing Company was able to work through the construction plans with the client while the previous owner prepared to move out, so that demolition and rough-in work could begin immediately following the close of the sale of the home.  The project is expected to complete within a five month timeline – with the Welsh family comfortably in their new home before Christmas.

The rear view of the home the day of closing.

Within just a few weeks, the rear facade of the home has undergone significant change with the addition above the family room.

Stay Tuned

We look forward to posting new in-progress shots and providing updates on other key components of the project as they progress -the clay tile roof, new built-in cabinetry, trim details, and how many materials from the original home are being re-used or recycled in the project are all worth a closer look.

We hope you enjoy seeing the work unfold and look forward to sharing the completed home both with it’s owners, the Welsh’s, and with you.  More to come.