When Michael Klement first met with the owners of a landmark 1860s-era Italianate home — a prominent building in the town of Dexter, Mich. — the husband looked the architect in the eye and said, “I don’t want to be known as the guy who screwed up this beautiful house.” But Klement, the principal of Ann Arbor, Mich., design/build firm Architectural Resource, already fully grasped the importance of the stewardship of the home.
The Right Connection
“Our goal was to preserve the architecture of the existing home and let it have its say, but at the same time add the new in a supporting role,” Klement says. “We tried to bring everything together so that these two elements were consistent but that the addition would be consistent in a subordinate way.”
A mudroom with lockers, bins, and hooks wouldn’t have been appropriate for this elegant connection between the main house and the garage. Instead, craftsmen from contracting company Home Renewal, in Manchester, Mich., custom-built handsome floor-to-ceiling cabinets to provide the necessary storage for hockey sticks, boots, etc., for a growing family.
“The mudroom had to do two things,” Klement says. “It had to provide a functional entry to the house as well as the requisite storage. We also wanted this to be a rather elegant space. Most of us sneak into our own homes like servants. We didn’t want our homeowners to feel like they were second-class citizens.”
Just up the small flight of stairs into the main house, tucked out of view, are what Klement calls “drop zones,” places where family members can charge cell phones, drop the mail, and use a small desk filled with nooks and pigeonholes.
Tricks of the Trade
Architectural Resource, a design/build firm, specializes in historic properties, which makes Klement well-versed in what it takes to gracefully add elements to a prized property. “As an architect, we’re trained to understand the language of the house and to respect that language,” he says. “It was exciting to have homeowners who embraced that and understood the importance of being good stewards.”
In place of the undersized, exposed porte cochere, Klement designed a true two-car garage with semi-custom doors from Ridge Garage Doors. Above it is an in-law suite with a large bedroom, full bath, a “Cinderella” balcony, and room for a future kitchenette. The addition, including the hyphen, took the house from 3,200 square feet to 4,700 square feet.
So, how did Donald Huff, the contractor, find brick for the garage/in-law suite that matched the original house? He didn’t. Huff came close but it’s not a perfect match.
“The reason you don’t notice it is because of the hyphen,” Klement says. “When we join new to existing we try to break the plane, turn the corner, to let light work in our favor. We use this technique frequently. Along the plane of a building the light changes, particularly if you turn a corner.” The slight difference in the two bricks’ color tends to disappear.
But there was one element in the addition that Klement and company needed to get absolutely right: the windows. “Obviously, we wanted to emulate the style of the windows in the original building, but at the same time we wanted to be putting in energy-efficient windows,” he says. “We used Pella’s Architect Series, which we are very fond of. The concept here was to think about the proportionality between openings and the opaque or solid wall. A height-to-width relationship was established to match the concept of what was going on in the main house.” The architect paid special attention to the cupola of the main house. “We wanted to pay strong homage to the tripart window in the cupola, which is one of the crowning features of the house. We thought, ‘If we’re going to copy anything, let’s copy the best part of the house.’”