Q: How do you turn a 1,152-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-bathroom home, built in the Fulton neighborhood in 1927, into a 3,467-square-foot, five-bedroom, four-bathroom home, with strong energy efficiency?
If you said “tear it down,” that would be a common response — but not a necessity. In the words of the designer-builder who is renovating a property at 5057 Ewing Ave. S., it’s about “getting creative with the floor plan.”
What Michael Anschel and his team at Otogawa-Anschel Design+Build realized is that, by extending the south and east ends of the house, they could add what they needed while preserving the floors, the arched alcove fireplace and most of the structure.
It’s a dream project for Anschel, principal owner of OA, who is not constrained by a client’s budget, style preferences or weak structural issues. His company bought the house in December and intends to have it ready by March 30 as a showcase in the Remodeler’s Showcase and Minneapolis St. Paul Home Tour. The company lined up several suppliers willing to donate or offer discounts for the showcase project.
He doesn’t call this project a “flip,” because that, he said, “feels like doing the minimum to make a buck.”
“This was more of an opportunity to breathe new life into a home that deserves 200 more years,” Anschel continued. “Decisions were made not based on a square foot resale price, but what was best for the house and the future families that will occupy it.”
Eventually OA will sell the house to a family that appreciates its new mudroom, the potential wine cellar in the basement, a wet bar added partly for visual style and an original fireplace now fueled by natural gas.
OA has tended to shy away from open floor plans; for this house, the design adds hidden nooks and corners, Ancshel said, “to slow things down visually, to create spaces not immediately revealed.”
“It’s about being smart to create a sense of mystery,” he said.
A property leap, not flip
Anschel’s journey to this property “leap” was unexpected and quick.
In mid-October, a real estate agent asked if he knew a developer who might be interested in purchasing the Fulton home and doing renovations for a profit. OA hadn’t been in the market to re-develop a property. But it was a new opportunity for Anschel, an adventurous designer-builder who spent much of the 1990s living in China and Japan before returning for a degree in art from the University of Minnesota. He has both a love of smart building science as well as a zeal for architectural detail. He is as likely to get excited showing off the detail of a reveal in an indented corner as the thickness of his new insulating product.
Being able to design a remodel with his team has been a gift.
“Some people focus on the visual details, but forget the building system,” Anschel said. “Others are obsessed with the system and efficiency, but create something visually not very exciting.”
With this project, he’s been able to do both to his team’s specifications.
OA’s first step was to take off the stucco siding and remove the back wall. Enhanced weatherproofing was added over the face of the house with Zip System R-sheathing, a two-inch foam insulation wall panel product by Huber that is quick to install. A ventilated rain screen by Benjamin Obdyke went over the top.
Anschel said the overall effect is like giving the house “a down jacket” topped with a rain slicker.
“No water gets into the assembly,” he said. “Rain physically drains to the ground with a 3/8-inch gap at the top. It’s the pinnacle of resilient construction. It can’t fail.”
Triple-paned Sierra Pacific windows with a high energy rating were installed throughout. OA typically avoids PVC products, but this project uses a new cellular PVC window trim, impervious to moisture, with a strong lifecycle assessment and no off-gassing in the production process.
Kohler offered new plumbing fixtures not yet on the market. Golden Valley-based BonTon Designs made customized ceramic tiling. Puustelli Miinus cabinets will be used in the kitchen — fully recyclable, no-formaldehyde frames that use less wood than most. The new walls also use less wood, with two-by-four lumber instead of two-by-six. A reclaimed post from Manomin Resawn Timbers was added in the living room.
Moving the staircase from the front to the back of the house was part of the new design. Keeping the structure of existing second-floor bedrooms while removing first-floor walls required enhanced basement to pick up the load. A 30-foot steel beam was added to facilitate opening up the interior, carrying yet another beam in the ceiling; 14-inches of exposed steel will remain as a design element.
Cutting a hole into the 18-inch poured concrete foundation for extended space was a particular challenge. It took an experienced crew two days to cut out an entry.
The end result
Anschel expected the heating costs of the house to drop dramatically.
A home of its size built only to code would need a 175,000 Btu furnace; this house needs only a 24,000 Btu furnace. That translates to an annual heating bill of just $600, down from as much as $4,200.
In the end, the primary goal was to create a house whose new owners — whomever they might be — will be able to appreciate its livability.
“The flow of a room is important, feeling good in the space,” Anschel said.
Midway through the completion of his grand experiment, Anschel confidently declared that OA would “look for more opportunities like this one.”
“It is our chance to go in and do something awesome for the neighborhood, the community, and the future occupant,” he said.
Anschel said he is proud that neighbors have stopped by, expressing their gratitude that this did not turn into another monster house rebuild.
“Development should be about improvement on something more than a cosmetic surface square-footage metric,” he said. “Developing community is a richer, deeper thing.
“The residents who have stopped to say hello compliment us on the smart design and scale. That satisfies our desire to be seen as a community advocate who cares about the relationship between the built environment and the occupant.”
5057 Ewing Ave. S. product line
- Kohler — plumbing fixtures
- Zip R from Huber — insulated wall panel with integrated weather resistant barrier
- Benjamin Obdyke — ventilated rain screen
- DOW Building Solutions — rigid foam insulation
- Samsung – Smart Things — Smart Home system, all appliances
- Broan — ventilation equipment
- Panasonic — bath fans
- Icynene — spray foam insulation
- Sierra Pacific — windows
- Puusetelii Miinus — cabinets
- Royal Building Products — Zuri decking, Celect cladding
- Hirshfields — coatings
- Big Ass Fans — ceiling fans
- Manomin Reclaimed Timber — Douglas fir post
- Universal Spray and Drywall — architectural corner details
- BonTon Designs — handmade tile
- Paramount Granite — stone fabricator
- Amsum & Ash — stone supplier