[Restoration in Fargo's Historic Hawthorne]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography
Conquering the restoration of a historic home is never an easy feat; especially when its 1910 bones have been broken beyond repair. After sitting vacant for nearly two years, one young couple stepped over the threshold and fell in love. Salvaged by a pair of talented designers who work in the architecture field, this home in Fargo's Historic Hawthorne neighborhood, has never been happier. See how the homeowners rebuilt its bones, infusing each restored space with light, love and local art.
If These Walls Could Talk...
The exterior's weathered facade called for new wood siding, hand-split cedar shakes, a new roof and a complete rebuild of the open front porch and columns. To find the real wood, prefinished siding, the couple reached out to Cedar Creek out of Aitkin, Minn. From its cedar planked floor to its "Haint Blue" beadboard ceiling, the rebuild was only a slight stray from the home's original design.
"When we bought the house in July of 2015, it was in such disrepair; it had been sitting for two years and somebody bought it with the intention to tear it down. With the historical overlay, they couldn't tear it down, so they instead got approval from the city to build an apartment complex. We were the suckers that came in right before they were about to start their project," laughed the homeowner. "We loved the house and offered to take it off their hands, and they said, 'Absolutely'."
Paint + Patience
Although thrilled with their new house, it would be over two years before they could make it their home. "Our intention was just to paint some rooms and move in, but when we started pulling things back, we saw a lot of rot, really bad insulation and water damage," said the homeowner. "The roof had rotted away and was falling in. There were a lot of broken windows, many of which were painted shut and still had the counterweights on them that had rusted into the walls."
Inside the walls, they found a collection of horse hair, newspaper, and settled cellulose insulation. With the home completely gutted and a foundation that needed reinforcing, the couple temporarily moved into a family member's attic. "Every night after work we'd go to the house and work for six to eight hours, then head back home to the attic; that went on for about a year," explained the homeowner.
From Demo to Distinguished
Even though much of the home had to be rebuilt, the homeowners did not want to change the overall configuration. "We like the compartmental nature of these old houses. Everything revolves around the stair, and every room feels like its own private space," said the homeowner.
Although many of the original finishes were unable to be salvaged, the home's 1910 character remains intact with the original foyer door, the pocket door to the dining room, the oak and maple flooring, restored stair handrail, stair treads and fireplace. The window placement stayed the same in the original areas of the home, but regretfully, they were forced to replace the leaded glass for energy efficiency.
"We have very similar tastes, so we landed on the same finishes, layout, hardware and lighting selections," said the homeowner. "The only thing that we had any debate about was whether or not to paint the fireplace. The Mike Marth art piece above the mantle is something we both loved and knew exactly where we were going to put it."
Many of the homeowner's Mid-century and Scandinavian-inspired furniture pieces were gathered from local estate sales. Items like the living room's leather Safari chairs and the den's rosewood end tables, corner chair, and lamp were said to come from the home of a famous food critic who resided in North Fargo.
The window seat daybed was a collaborative effort. Designed and constructed by the homeowners, trimmed out by local craftsmen and finished by a local painter. The couple selected the fabric for the cushions through McNeal & Friends and had them constructed by an upholsterer in Audubon, MN. Painted beadboard and stained plywood countertops compliment the space with open shelving above.
The TV den has been slightly modified from its original state by reframing the exterior wall that looked out to the former screened porch, adding some much-needed wall space for their art and giving the family an informal space to kick back and relax. Vintage estate sale and Room & Board furnishings pair perfectly with the custom-designed, black plywood counters over floating cabinet media storage.
"It looks like a black stone top, but this was kind of an experiment; we made these out of plywood and put a solid nose on them," explained the homeowner. "I gave them to my friend, Adam Grant, and he stained them in his shop and finished them for us. There are matching ones over by the daybed."
Finding function in a galley-style kitchen, the couple chose cherry cabinetry with a Toffee stain from Cole Papers, then carried the design to full height for maximum storage. They added a clean, plaster-inspired hood, appliances from Rigel's, plumbing fixtures from Ferguson's, and Carrara marble counters designed with a unique back ledge. Mid-century modern light fixtures were found at Rejuvenation and a fresh new stacked wall tile, together with a black hexagon floor tile was installed by the homeowner from Carpet World.
In terms of storage, a pantry was added to the space below the stair by stealing 18-inches from the adjacent den. This space is accessed through a pair of new, arched openings from both the kitchen and the living room. The recessed pantry is also what creates the TV niche in the den area.
The couple relocated the plumbing fixtures of the original powder room in order to design and construct full height utility cabinetry, adorned with sage green cabinet doors. The small space was brightened with painted shiplap and a print by local artist, Kent Kapplinger.
Drawn to the architectural lines of Scandinavian and Mid-century modern pieces at the estate sale, the Fire Walnut dining table is a favorite find with is rich velvet chairs. "Our style is kind of an eclectic mix. We wanted to keep a lot of the old details, but we wanted a modern feel to it," said the homeowner. Scouring One Kings Lane, the couple found the room's vintage 1962 light fixture. The only major renovation in this room was adding a tray detail to their nine-foot, three-inch ceilings to accommodate the plumbing and drains for the master bath above.
Second Floor Sanctuary
Reconfiguring the second floor allowed for a spacious master suite, office addition, guest bath, larger nursery and guest bedroom. With the redesign, they uncovered the original wood floors and restored the stairwell finish. "We took it all the way down and re-insulated it, so at one point, on both floors, you could see all the way through the house," said the homeowner.
Canvassing the Home
With their vision centered around embracing the finite details of their historic home, Designer White walls and trim create a blank canvas for the local art displayed in nearly every room. Many of their art pieces hail from Ecce Gallery in Downtown Fargo and the home features a long list of talented locals; Mike Marth, Meghan Duda, Zhiman Guan, Amber Fletschock, Jay Pfeiffer, Jessica Wachter, Andrew Stark, Kent Kapplinger, Star Wallowing Bull and more.
Mastering the Suite
Since the master suite ceiling had been gutted, the homeowners decided to scrap the original flat ceiling and engineer a more modern, vaulted shiplap version in the same crisp, Designer White. From there, they moved the entrance from the middle of the room to the side, offering more options for furniture placement. Since it was a historical overlay, the new windows were designed to replicate the home's original pattern.
Cozy & Kid-Friendly
"In our son's room, you can see where the wall used to be. Instead of ripping it out and trying to match it, we just decided to run the floorboards perpendicular and embrace the character," said the homeowner. "The two bedrooms are identical but mirrored. We split the difference between two adjacent rooms so that they would each be large enough to accommodate a queen-sized bed.”
Creativity at Work
As a creative application utilizing everyday materials, the homeowner's workspace is comprised of two raw wood doors from Menards, with sawhorses for a base. The flooring embraces simple plywood, while the cedar ceiling uses black plywood backing. The beadboard walls' unique green hue is the result of experimentation and a can of green stain. Up above, the homeowners created a cost-efficient wow-factor with rough-sawn cedar ceiling beams and a fixture found at a Grand Forks estate sale.
The upstairs bathroom had an unusual layout, so they kept the plumbing fixture location, but reconfigured the space to coordinate with the nearby office. "In the area between the office and the porch there was a wall; if you opened a door, you'd be in the bathroom, then you'd have to go through another door to get to the porch. So, we just returned the wall of the bath to the exterior wall, created a hallway and added a glass door to let the light in," said the homeowner.
"It wasn't a typical build; we took our time and would sit on things for a while. With the type of design projects that we're both familiar working on, time is of the essence. It required a lot of drawing and coordination, but the fun part was having the vision and the slow, incremental steps along the way, then seeing those things become reality."
"With a house like this, you have to take a couple of steps back in order to move forward. The fun is when you are left with something that you wouldn't do if you were to start from scratch."
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