Residents of LaGrange, Ill., recognize that a notable 155-year-old Victorian home underwent significant improvements, but the transitions are so deftly accomplished most can’t pinpoint where the 3,750-square-foot vintage house stops and the 1,420-square-foot remodel begins. The owners were committed to this uniform appearance to preserve the integrity of the home outside and in, for themselves and their architecturally historic neighborhood.
With two teenage daughters and a young son all sharing one small bathroom, the owners realized they needed more functional accommodations for their children. In addition, they were interested in a new master suite with modern conveniences for themselves. The existing detached garage was in very poor condition, so it made sense to create an attached two-car garage and leverage the space above.
The second story atop the garage includes the new 14- by 20-foot master bedroom with two walk-in closets, a steam shower, whirlpool tub and new cabinetry with an adjacent 11- by 17-foot den/exercise room. The heated garage has an adjacent mudroom with custom cubby shelving and direct access into the pre-existing family room and kitchen. Each level of the addition connects to the existing home, so the floor-to-floor ratios had to exactly match the historic home’s 10-foot-plus ceiling heights.
According to Troy Pavelka, design manager for Normandy Remodeling in Hinsdale, Ill., working on the house was the opportunity of a lifetime. “The owners were intent on preserving the home’s character, and it’s rare to see the level of detail found on this home. From replicating the corbels to stone foundation to the wrought-iron cresting and turret detailing on the roof, it’s truly a special project.”
Reclaiming an Era
On the exterior, the trim had rotted and the roof needed replacement. Normandy Remodeling’s carpenters matched the rich exterior woodwork. The craftsmen replicated the dormers’ keystone detailing, chamfered edge on the corner trim and pediment above the windows. Thirty-six custom wooden corbels were fabricated to simulate the existing corbels. The team used split-faced block to match the foundation stone applied in a 1930s addition, and skilled stucco work concealed the seams between the renovation work, the addition and the existing structure.
In keeping with the existing architecture, 7-foot-tall windows were added in the addition. French doors inside the master suite open onto a small European balcony with an iron railing that overlooks the back yard. The balcony creates a new connection to the outside and filters in daylight.
Armed with a keen love of nostalgia and archives of newspaper articles and historic photos of the house, the owners decided to reclaim an original feature of the home that had been lost during the past century: an elegant turret. Round windows were set into an 8- by 8-foot square turret, which is clad in copper with intricate cornice work. Because the windows were aluminum, Pavelka worked closely with the window supplier to create plastic barriers between the aluminum and copper to ensure the copper would not come in contact with the aluminum and oxidize.
The striking feature is more than a decorative landmark. Rather than close it off inside, Pavelka wanted to bring the natural light down into the space and allow occupants to see up into the vault. “Opening up the vault from below really created a ‘wow’ factor on the interior. The family and their guests become cognizant of the turret while inside, so it’s more than an exterior detail they see solely upon arriving home,” Pavelka says.
Contemporary Feel, Victorian Flair
To help the new space feel like a historic home, Pavelka designed a spiral staircase in the mudroom that rises into the upstairs den. Its wrought-iron railings with brass detailing and oak stair treads are reminiscent of the 1850s. With the first-floor ceilings so tall, calculating the vertical measurements between each stair tread and landing the staircase at the exact height of the second floor took careful planning.