Our clients found the perfect tranquil, wooded spot for their dream home. The problem? It contained a small, 1958 ranch-style house that didn’t fit their lifestyle. (And, in case you thought we got our files mixed up: Yes, those “before” and “after” photos really do belong to the same home renovation project.)
The Challenge: Remake a 1950s Sears Home in Central Indiana into a Modern, Minimalist Marvel
As so often happens in our work, our clients for this project found a lot they loved — with a house they didn’t. The 1950s Sears kit brick home had certainly seen better days. Its original footprint was only 1800 square feet, with a small, walk-out basement. But the beautiful 3 1/2 acre lot in Zionsville offered good schools, a great community, and a tranquil, tree-filled setting for our clients’ dream home. So the family moved in and resolved to live in the tiny, old house until they were ready to renovate. Then they called us.
The original foundation was solid, so rather than raze the house and start over, we worked with conceptual designer Gary Nance to re-envision its use and incorporate it into a home renovation plan that would allow our clients to entertain their friends and family in a style that not only made use of their natural surroundings but also reflected their lifestyle. The task of more than doubling the living space meant building out from the existing home and expanding as well as updating all of its utilities.
Our remodeling goals:
- Expand the footprint to create more space for entertaining and the needs of growing children
- Showcase the natural beauty of the surrounding mature trees while blurring the line between inside and out
- Modernize not only the home’s design but all its utilities and amenities
- Replace the existing garage with an attached one that made better use of the space
- Create the minimalist dream home our clients had been patiently waiting to realize
The Solution: Perform an Extreme Home Makeover
Seamlessly incorporating an existing foundation with a new footprint
In addition to carefully listening to our clients’ desires for their renovation, planning, coordination, and effective communication are critical components of every home renovation. For this project, the complexities of preserving the land’s mature trees and using the existing house’s foundation as a starting point for remodeling required taking our combined skills and experience to new heights.
Because we intended to use the existing foundation and first-floor subfloor, we had a draftsman draw up the home’s original floor plan to use as a basis for the new design. Gary Nance and I then worked with our clients to design the expanded footprint.
The property was central to the design, so we took many of our cues from the gently rolling terrain and its surrounding natural beauty. The expanded foundation followed the slope to the right of the construction, allowing us to tuck the garage slightly out of sight and focus the eye on the clean lines of the home’s living space. Rather than replicating the one-level design of the original ranch house, Gary Nance added visual interest by bumping out and varying the heights of different sections of the floor plan to give the remodeled home a more balanced, organic feel. This approach also sparked interesting ways of optimizing the space, such as using a fireplace to divide the kids’ rooms from the main living area while also providing radiant heat to both spaces and applying a split-level design for the master bedroom above the garage.
Transforming the kitchen with a focus on entertaining
As avid entertainers, our clients wanted a living space that flowed easily from kitchen to dining room to living room, which required an open floor plan connecting the spaces and allowing guests to move freely from one area to another. Opening the space also meant keeping clutter out of sight, so we layered the kitchen into two parts: the front area, which keeps commonly-needed items within easy reach, and a “dirty” kitchen, where the heavier food prep and cooking can be hidden. The result aligns well with the minimalist lines of the rest of the house. The kitchen’s common area provides casual counter seating, a modest food prep area, and a sink, with a mini-fridge, small microwave, and a few cabinets nearby for essentials.
Behind the sink is a gas cooktop, and behind that wall we tucked dirty kitchen, with full-sized appliances, more extensive food prep areas, and pantry space. The dirty kitchen also contains a mail-sorting station, where the family can charge their devices. The division of the kitchen maintains a feeling of clean openness while providing a family-focused space where things can be a little less pristine and more relaxed.
Bringing the outside in with custom materials and finishes
The renovation design’s minimalist approach relies on texture as its palette, replacing color as the driver for visual appeal and creating harmony with the surrounding landscape. It also gave us an opportunity to blur the lines between indoors and out by pulling materials through into the living spaces. The rich, neutral tones of brick, limestone, Dryvit, and cedar accents highlighted the natural setting while preserving the home’s modern aesthetic.
One of our favorite engineering challenges was creating an indoor echo of the limestone we used on the home’s exterior. Sliding glass doors lead out to the new covered porch that sits atop a massive wall of limestone, and behind that stretches an entry gallery. The gallery’s long wall uses the same limestone as that on which the porch was built, but to avoid having to reinforce the interior wall to exterior proportions, we constructed the wall using thinner slices of stone. The stone then wraps around the wall and is incorporated into the fireplace wall in the living room on its opposite side. We custom-cut shelving to follow the lines of the stone around the fireplace, subtly interrupting the smoothness of the white surround with end of one of the shelves to enhance the organic feel of the design.
Maintaining clean modernity with deliberately-designed details
We work with our designers and craftspeople to ensure that every detail of our renovation projects not only delivers quality but delights the senses. This project was no exception, and our team’s attention to the small details underscores the care we took with the overall construction.
For instance, the home’s new roof was canted to direct rainwater to the back of the building so we could hide the gutters and downspouts from view and maintain the elegant lines of the home’s face. The only gutters out front are over the entryway, which is separate from the rest of the roof. We disguised them as trim and kept the downspouts tight against the side of the entry bump-out to minimize their visibility.
Inside, we minimized the use of visible doors, opting instead for custom pocket doors with top-quality hardware to allow our clients to smoothly and easily close off or open up portions of the home as needed.
And why just hang a TV in the master bedroom when you can make it a beautiful extension of the design? Our partners at RST Woodworking built a gorgeous, walnut-finished, built-in surround to make the television feel less obtrusive and more like furniture.
We value our relationship with our clients and truly love going the extra mile to ensure their home renovation reflects our values of quality and craftsmanship, even with the smallest details. This family’s patience with their old Sears home paid off in the end, rewarding them with a mind-blowing modern marvel of a home that supports their lifestyle and enhances the lot they just knew would one day surround their dream home with its natural beauty.