How do you add a bedroom, family room, laundry room, mudroom, and two bathrooms to an old house—without adding a single square foot? That was the arithmetic required of the daring souls who bought this circa-1875 Gothic Revival Victorian in Boulder’s Whittier neighborhood, a historic district where rigorous building regulations (meant to preserve the area’s charm) make altering a home’s exterior nearly impossible.
“We knew we wanted something old, with character,” the homeowner says of her house search. “When we found this Victorian, we thought, Wellll…there’s no master bedroom.” But, propelled by a can-do attitude, she and her husband bought the house anyway and hired Boulder’s Elton R. Construction and Denver-based JM Kitchen & Bath to embark upon an innovative, yearlong renovation that added loads of functionality (and yes, a whole new master suite and kitchen) for their young family of four—without pushing an inch over the existing 3,000-square-foot footprint.
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The design eye that brought it together belongs to Lindy Williams, principal and creative director of Boulder’s Westward Foundry design firm. Says Williams of the project: “[The homeowners] were excited about being in the historic district, and they wanted to do it right and honor the history of the house.”
The renovation came together in phases, starting with the second floor, which was reconfigured to include the master suite, laundry room, and two kids’ bedrooms—changes that required approval from the City of Boulder’s Landmarks Board. Next, it was on to the ground floor, where the team borrowed some underused square footage from the existing attached garage. Converting the slab-foundation garage on sandy soil into livable space required creative problem-solving (and excavation) when it came to necessities like plumbing and a gas line, but the resulting kitchen and family room have since become the hub of the house.
Driving the design of each reimagined space was the family’s need for storage. With two young kids and no basement or playroom to accommodate their stuff, built-ins (see: family room and kitchen) were essential—and carefully designed. “We did not want a huge house; it’s moderately sized,” the homeowner says, “but we managed some great storage. That wall of cabinets [in the kitchen] is like a built-in hutch; we love it because we can hide everything. It makes the house feel so much more efficient.”
For all its practicality, the house exudes warmth and a polished eclecticism that’s rooted in the homeowner’s nuanced tastes—and was executed with Williams’ help. “I like to take a lot of risks; Lindy was great support for that,” the homeowner says. “‘Yes, paint your kitchen blue!’ she said.”
Combined with red brick, white marble countertops, and brass fixtures, that daring blue cabinetry lands somewhere between modern farmhouse and classic Victorian on the style spectrum. But, as risks go, the floor-to-ceiling mural that enlivens the dining room was perhaps the biggest—and yielded a huge payoff. Created by artist and Colorado native Naomi Clark, the bold floral motif provides a whimsical focal point that riffs on the warm brick tones and pops of blue that make appearances throughout the home.
The whole design scheme, in fact, feels inspired and imaginative. “With old homes, you don’t just put in brand-new furniture,” Williams says. “The homeowner has an eye for vintage furnishings, and she had some great family pieces.” Heirloom rugs anchor both living spaces with warm, rich color, for example, while cooler hues and mixed patterns (see: the striped ottoman and herringbone-tile fireplace surround in the family room) add a style that’s smart, but never precious. “They wanted it to have a collected look,” Williams says of the design. “They didn’t want anything to look too perfect and pretentious.” The result: an old home polished up for a new century.