Feature

Bringing Up Bungalow

How two local Realtors made their historic house on Seventh Avenue perfect for today

December 2007

The yard was too small, the cost was suspiciously low, and Realtor Amy Bachelder didn't really like bungalows. Still, the Arts and Crafts-style home on historic Seventh Avenue Parkway caught her eye as she jogged past on a sunny day three and a half years ago. She loved the tree-lined neighborhood, with bikers, strollers, and pets bustling by, and she thought the imperfect property had potential. Bachelder immediately called her partner and fellow real estate agent Carol Freyer to tell her about the house.

As co-owners of PorchLight Real Estate Group, both Bachelder and Freyer had strong opinions about what they wanted in a home. The challenge was to mesh their two disparate visions. Bachelder longed for a very social neighborhood, while Freyer wanted a home base for their two dogs, Lucy and Otis, and growing family (Freyer gave birth to their first son, Eli, this October). Bachelder liked traditional construction with "character," while Freyer preferred more modern and contemporary touches. With the right kind of remodel, they realized, the bungalow on Seventh could become all these things.

"We were looking at houses that were twice the price, and they weren't what we wanted at all," says Freyer. "And so we found a location. We found a good house, and we said, 'Let's make it what we want.'" They decided the exterior of the home would stay intact. But inside, they would break out of the Arts and Crafts mold with bigger living spaces, bold color accents, and contemporary furnishings.

They started by redoing the layout, and with a design from Doug Walter Architects began knocking down interior walls to open up the restrictive floor plan. Over the next 19 months, the old home was stripped down to the studs and rebuilt. On the first floor, three rooms were consolidated into a large kitchen with a sunny breakfast nook. Digging out a new section of the basement added 300 square feet of living space. And instead of popping the top, they used two dormers to expand the master suite and add space for an expanded bedroom and bath on the second floor.

With a bigger slate, Bachelder and Freyer sat down with interior designers Kristi Dinner and Beth Armijo of Company KD to puzzle out ways to think beyond the traditional Mission-style look, so often seen in bungalows. Glass tiles inspired by rainforest colors, modern art, and chandeliers with cascading glass spheres were just a few of the design team's ideas. "We asked them, 'What will bring this project into modern day?'" says Dinner. "And they were really good at telling us what they did not like," adds Armijo.

Bachelder and Freyer made it clear that they did not want anything "fussy," and the designers ultimately settled on a watery palette of exquisite blues and pale greens to set a fluid, yet quiet environment. A coat of creamy-white paint on the traditional wood moldings brought classical elements into the 21st century. Dinner and Armijo handpicked sleek granite slab countertops, with tactile names like "Verde Waterfall," to match the scheme. With the furniture and accents, they went for splashes of vibrant color—bright oranges, rich reds, and ebony wood stains—as a contrast to the soft background colors.

Still, even with contemporary furnishings like Ted Boerner bar stools and a Berman Rosetti sofa upholstered with Donghia fabric, Dinner and Armijo weren't about to turn their back on the home's history. The steam heat radiators on the first floor stayed. A set of French doors was salvaged, re-stained, and set on a door track to save valuable floor space. When Dinner suggested they use Douglas fir (which has gotten a bad rap as being "cheap") for the kitchen cabinets, the architects were taken aback. "At first they thought we were a little crazy," says Dinner. "But it's very Denver to me. I grew up here, and I see a lot of old homes here. It's a natural material here."

For the home's staircase, Dinner and Armijo drew upon the early 20th century designs of architects Charles and Henry Greene—the brother design duo whose "ultimate bungalows," like the Gamble House in Pasadena, defined American Arts and Crafts style. The design team created the staircase with a complex cherry banister that connects each level of the house. "The actual design is not something we took verbatim from [the Greenes], but it is definitely a reference to our research into their design—a nod to them," says Dinner.

The finished remodel is a fusion of style and design that fits both Bachelder and Freyer's specific tastes. It's also a home that fits their lifestyle. Today, Eli's crib is nestled in that expanded second-floor bedroom. Lucy and Otis (the dogs) watch passersby from the new back porch. Amy takes long runs through the neighborhood. And Carol hangs out with the baby in her favorite part of the house, the new downstairs media room. "We found this great blank canvas," says Bachelder. "I think the process is what made the house perfect. When we went into it we didn't know what was perfect, but as soon as we were given the options, we knew."