Cultivating history

In recent years, the Texas Hill Country town of Fredericksburg has become home to a notable collection of art galleries and wineries. In fact, in January, Wine Enthusiast magazine ranked Texas Hill Country among the world’s top 10 wine destinations for 2014. A formerly Dallas-based couple with a love of wine found a residence within walking distance of Main Street inside Fredericksburg’s national historic district, but the house itself was small for the couple’s entertaining preferences. They hired local Laughlin Homes & Restoration Inc. to more than double the size of the 1,723-sq.-ft. home.

Richard Laughlin, owner of Laughlin Homes & Restoration designed the remodel with great respect for the home’s historic stature. “The 1936 homestead is an original example of Craftsman Style Architecture with little alteration over time, so it earned an “A” rating within the historic district. For an A-rated structure, all original wall heights and details on the elevations have to stay true to form,” Laughlin explains.  “Maintaining the historic integrity of these homes really reflects throughout our town and creates continuity.”

Reoriented space

The house was on a double-sized corner lot and faced a street that had become very public and busy over time but the side street was only two blocks long. Laughlin started by reorienting the home’s entry to the more peaceful character of the side street.

The old structure had separate kitchen, dining room, living room areas as well as three bedrooms and one bath. To open the space and create new rooms, Laughlin’s design removed interior walls. The walls bore the roof structure, however, so the crew shored the roof from beneath, removed the walls, put new beams in place, and then removed the shoring. The design located all the beams in the attic to conceal them from the living spaces. The roofers then added a new standing seam roof crafted with hand-turned ridges to match the original.

The team also had to conduct lead abatement on all exterior siding and abate the old ductwork, as asbestos was discovered in the old air conditioning.

Room for plenty

Rearranging the bungalow’s floor plan meant the living room became one guest room and the former entry and front porch became a second guest bedroom with a small balcony. The owners enjoy entertaining and are avid wine collectors, so the rest of the existing space became one combined kitchen/ dining/ wine storage/living room with outdoor access to covered porches at the new south entry and opposite backyard. The major focal point of this large combined space is a curved island.

“I design to reflect the owners’ personality and, as a result, I’ve never done the same floor plan twice in 30 years,” says Laughlin. “The owners sometimes entertain up to 120 people in their home and I didn’t want sharp edges in a bustling space so I curved the island. Although the style is more modern, it works well with the design.”

The island’s unique shape is approximately 5½ ft. at its widest section and just more than 11 ft. at its longest dimension. Laughlin specified the island in Absolute Black granite, but it was larger than any contiguous piece of black granite that Laughlin could acquire. He was able to find a 6x10-ft. piece and decided to split it lengthwise and insert white Gray Goose granite in between the two black sections to achieve his desired profile. The monolith weighed 2,800 pounds and took 14 crew members to move it into place. The Gray Goose granite insert blended well into its environment, as it was the same material used in the kitchen’s backsplash.

Accommodating the owners 600 bottles of wine was another challenge. “I went to the NAHB International Builders Show in 2013 and saw a glass walled wine vault in The New American Home 2013 – NAHB’s show home – that fit my vision. I created a wine vault space that holds 1,000 wine bottles and sectioned it off with 3/4-in.-thick glass so we could condition the space separately,” recalls Laughlin.

Laughlin located the remote conditioning unit in the attic, which keeps vault space at a constant 56 degrees and controls humidity.

New features

The addition increased the home’s square footage to 4,512 sq. ft. at a renovation cost of $780,000. The original ceilings were 9 ft., 4 in. and Laughlin’s crew raised the interior ceilings to 10 ft. while maintaining the original plate heights on the exterior to meet historic requirements. The additional 8 in. in height made a big difference in the open feel to the space. To break up the expanse of flat ceiling in the combined space, Laughlin added a box tray that reaches up into the attic space by 12 in. in depth. He also added a similar box tray in the master suite.

The addition included a large entry, a new powder room, study, hallway gallery area, and a master suite with adjoining master bathroom, walk-in closet/dressing room and laundry room. The master suite’s bathroom toilet and shower access the back porch and can be used by those in the outdoor pool area. A screened outdoor shower directly off of the master bedroom is commonly used by the owners thanks to central Texas’ accommodating climate.

Salvaged materials

During demolition, the team salvaged and cleaned the original white Oak floors. Laughlin specified new white Oak flooring in the same width and then blended the original planks in with the new flooring.

Many of the surrounding buildings are constructed of limestone dating back to the town’s beginnings, but Laughlin points out that the bungalow was from a newer period. “When these bungalows were constructed, they were made of wood and bricks; the whole construction process had changed.”

The team used antique Chicago brick to maintain a historic feel and incorporated it around new UL-rated Isokern fireplaces, and on the walkways and banister.

In the back, Laughlin added 14-ft.-deep porches, a fireplace, TV, full outdoor kitchen and built-in gas heaters. A new pool was added and the coping on the pool is 3/4-in.-thick Lueders limestone with chipped edges for a natural look. All flat surfaces on porches and driveways are rock-salted concrete.

When the project was complete, the owners benefitted from the design’s modern styling, but the period-correct remodel and addition blended seamless into Fredericksburg’s national historic district.