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The CraftsZen Home

Eager to bring new life to their 1924 Craftsman home, a Minneapolis family of five wanted to update their exterior to:

  • modernize the look while preserving the original Craftsman feel
  • create the feel of a beautiful zen sanctuary, incorporating stylistic elements that had inspired them during their travels in Asia
  • include as many natural elements as possible, such as wood, water, stone, and light

Entrance

The family wanted to expand the portico to feel more like a temple entrance–something elegant, beautiful, and welcoming that makes people feel like they’re entering a sacred space.  

Inspired by Asian architecture, their new timber-framed entrance features graceful cuts of cedar wood.  The steps are formed from Indiana limestone and concrete stamped with a slate imprint, and the copper entry light is custom-made by a Balinese artisan.  

The rainwater catchment system was an exciting design challenge.  In search of both form and function, we found the perfect combination in a Japanese design of rain chains and stone, which are traditionally used as decorative downspouts for temples and homes.  Two copper rain chains hang from the front corners of the portico, guiding the cascading water from the roof into stone basins, which catch and channel the water into an underground drainage system.  

The roof perimeter is bordered by half-round copper gutters and downspouts, adding a touch of old-world charm.

Wood Features

The owners wanted to incorporate wood into the design, but they also wanted to reduce the maintenance of real wood as much as possible.  We used all-natural cedar wood on the two locations that are most visible to the eye: the timber-framed entrance in front and the bump-out in back.  Using wood for the bump-out also offered a great opportunity for a splash of color and textural contrast on the back of the house.  We also added decorative rough-sawn cedar brackets at the roofline to build visual interest above.

We found three more locations to incorporate the feel of wood: the trim boards were custom-finished to mimic real wood; the steel garage door was given a color-matched wood grain look; and the fireplace chimney was refinished with an exterior layer of board-formed concrete, providing a durable material that’s nicely softened by the wood-grain imprints.

Stone

The family had a stone flower pot they loved that was used for inspiration.  Hand-cut slate stone was individually stacked piece by piece along the perimeter of the house foundation.  The stone has a soft, organic feel to it, creating a foundation that’s a balance of durable and beautiful.  

Challenge: Laying up the stone, due to the small dimensions of each individual piece.  

Solution:  The masons installed one foot up at a time, to maintain the wall’s integrity while the mortar set.

Taking a naturally hard surface such as stone and making it feel elegant, soft and flowing was well worth all the hard work that went into this detail.

Lap Siding

Most lap siding is installed in even rows, but we felt that would be too harsh for this home.  The aesthetic of Craftsman architecture was a response to the Industrial Revolution, emphasizing traditional, handmade craftsmanship.  We felt we could preserve the Craftsman spirit by installing the siding in a pattern that feels organic–both randomly structured and completely cohesive at the same time.  We used various sizes of James Hardie cement siding to help mimic the natural sediment layers of earth.  

Challenge: The siding couldn’t be installed in just any random pattern, because it would have caused uneven angles and gaps between the pieces.  

Solution: We created a formula that carefully positioned each row so that it maintains a proper seal over the row below it while still appearing random to the eye. 

Windows

The original house had an old, unused porch in back, with four stationary windows around the lower perimeter.  The backyard was sloped up to the middle of the basement.  The family wanted to make the lower level feel brighter and more spacious, and they were eager to jettison the porch in favor of an elegant patio space to host family gatherings.  

The exterior update is part of a more extensive interior remodel involving the whole lower level: we removed the porch, excavated and terraced the soil away from the home, built a patio, and transformed the basement into a lower-level walkout, allowing the family easy access and connection to the backyard.

New Marvin windows of varying shapes and sizes were installed on the lower level.  Like the lap siding, the windows were placed in slightly random but carefully planned locations so they would feel organic.  The windows offer unique perspectives of illumination to the interior and connect it gracefully to the exterior.  

On the upper level, trim boards were added to all the windows to echo the design and tone of the entrance.

“We’re thrilled!  It feels so peaceful and beautiful, and it’s exceeded our wildest imagination.  We love all the details, rich colors and textures throughout. Our new front entry and backyard access have transformed our experience of home and have created a lovely setting for outdoor gatherings of friends and family.  It’s a huge change from where we started and we couldn’t be happier!”

– Homeowners 

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