Elizabeth McDonald can see her house from an airplane — it’s the one in Linden Hills with the red roof.
The house, constructed in 1903, melds the character of its construction period with modern accents. Walls are knocked out to create a spacious kitchen, and a chimney is converted into a closet.
At least 200 people took a peek inside during Linden Hills’ recent Little Homes Tour, which showcased homes of about 2,000 square feet or less that use design to maximize space and preserve the character of the neighborhood.
Attendees included Peter Sussman, a local historian.
“We’re appreciating the value of existing homes, and appreciating the pressure that they face,” he said.
At McDonald and Heather Merk’s Sheridan Avenue home, stormwater feeds into a raingarden. Since moving in two-and-a-half years ago, the women have planted 400 plants on the property.
The house is 1,250 square feet.*
“We don’t need any more space,” McDonald said.
Down the street, the Orstad family house was constructed in 1905 and remodeled in 2013.
“We think this house was originally two boxcars put together,” said Tanya Orstad.
Her family wanted to remodel and stay in the house, but they also liked the original character of the home.
“We really tried to maintain that,” she said. “It’s hard to be the person after 108 years that’s started to tear into it.”
They converted a deck into a sitting room, and added a second story with four bedrooms. The finished remodel added up to just under 2,000 square feet above ground.
Over the course of four decades, architect Daryl Hansen and his wife Kathryn had a hand in designing every corner of their Thomas Avenue home, from the low-rise dining room table, to the rug designs hand-knotted in Nepal, to the paintings on the walls and the passive solar addition. Daryl used the shop at Southwest High School to make new countertops for a kitchen that didn’t have much counter space. He spent a summer building a screen porch and deck with a vine-covered trellis.
“We’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Kathryn said. “We’re committed to green strategies.”
Trees shade the home’s glass-walled solar addition in summer, and sunlight shines through in winter. Glass in the solar addition stretches down to the basement, where a concrete slab stores energy and circulates it back through the house.
“I tried to make each space work as efficiently as I could within the footprint,” Daryl said.
All of the rooms are multipurpose. In the previously unusable basement, a bench seat pulls out to provide a guest bed, the same room where Daryl bases his architecture office and paints artwork. He lowered the floor a few inches and hid away a new high-efficiency furnace to maximize open space. A sliding door in the bathroom reveals a single appliance that serves as a high-efficiency washer and dryer in one machine.
During a remodel of the attic, Daryl removed some of the floor boards to provide another connection between levels.
“It enhances the openness of a small house,” he said. “…We don’t have any doors, except for the bathrooms.”
Following the Little Homes tour, the Hansens received tulips on their doorstep in bright oranges and reds (matching their color scheme), with a thank-you card from grateful guests who loved the house.
“We try not to leave the house too much — we’re forced to daily, but we like our house,” Kathryn said.
*Corrected square footage