Newly Built Bungalow Feels Right at Home in St. Paul Neighborhood
This new bungalow slips seamlessly into its St. Paul neighborhood
Too often, existing homes torn down in traditional neighborhoods are replaced by out-of-scale construction lacking both architectural integrity and community context. Mary and Michael Cole made certain their new St. Paul bungalow would not be one of them.
When the empty nesters decided to move from their large home on Summit Avenue to be closer to their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren (with their blessing, of course), they were keenly aware of the need to build a house that would blend in. Their list of requirements for Meghan Kell Cornell of Kell Architects and Ben Olin of Olin Construction, both in St. Paul, included honoring the neighborhood. “We didn’t want the neighbors to be angry about what we built,” explains Mary Cole.
But there was more: “We wanted a front porch we could use in all seasons; a dining room that could also be a conference room (because we both work at home); an exercise room for Michael; lots of windows, most of which would open; and a bedroom on the first floor that would accommodate a king-size bed and bathroom that I can roll my walker into when the time comes.”
Above: The front porch combines the feel of a traditional front porch with sleek black windows and bright, happy colors and patterns.
One more thing: No more earth tones. “Mary really wanted to get away from the rich earth-tone colors she’d used in their other house,” explains Kell Cornell. “Instead, she asked for a muted gray contemporary palette.” Plus, says Mary, since the Coles are business consultants in the salon industry, “we can get away with more than most people think they can.” After all, purple is her husband’s favorite color.
While the design team began with a palette of grays, whites, and light blues, Lucy Penfield of Lucy Interior Design, really made the interiors sing. From the purple tile and cabinets in the downstairs bath, to the bright raspberry, orange, and aqua accents of the first floor, the interiors are full of life. There’s even a pink floral light fixture in the entry hall. “That’s my tribute to Whoville,” Mary laughs.
First, however, Kell Cornell had to determine how to insert a 2,500-square-foot bungalow into an existing urban lot. “Structure is key to the most efficient use of space,” the architect says, employing several design sleights of hand to make the house appear smaller than it is. The sunroom is scaled so that the main house steps back from the sidewalk, and steps down inside to allow for tall windows, a sense of spaciousness, and more connection to the neighborhood. Black trim helps the window mullions disappear and adds a layer of punch on the inside.
Reversing traditional sash order in the sunroom—clear glass is on top and divided glass is on the bottom—brings additional light into the home’s upper level. A lofted area, where Michael likes to meditate and read, is open to the living room and adds volume to the first-floor spaces. The south-facing upper-gable windows also help the home feel bright and airy, and bigger than it actually is, Kell Cornell explains. From the outside, the house looks like a story and a half, but it’s actually almost a full two-story.
Above: The open kitchen and living room share finishes and a neutral palette brought to life with vibrant accents.
While the main level features a mostly open floor plan, rooms are delineated with casework so the spaces don’t feel out of proportion with a traditional bungalow. In the living room, bungalow-like built-ins provide plentiful storage. Similar elements tie the living room and kitchen together: The gas fireplace surround and backsplash are marble mosaics; the hearth and countertops are Cambria; and the brushed stainless chimney above the fireplace matches the Wolf range hood. Kell Cornell purposefully positioned the kitchen at the back corner, which is lined with windows to expand the feeling of the house and stretch the eye to the outside. Upper cabinets are white like the walls so they disappear, while the lower gray-painted cabinets ground the kitchen.
Above: A marble mosaic backsplash accents the Wolf range hood and Cambria countertops.
Adjacent to the kitchen is the “creative room,” which also serves as the dining/conference room. A sliding barn door allows for privacy, while the built-in buffet (above which are plentiful outlets for charging electronics) provides storage. Both are painted dark gray to coordinate with the sunroom windows and the back door leading to the outdoor porch.
Above: The dining/conference room includes built-in storage and a sliding barn door.
The staircase to the spacious second level features nooks and landings. Kell Cornell, with help from Dan Wallace, designed the chunky, crafted railing that’s a more modern take on a traditional bungalow-style guard rail. In the Coles’ upstairs bedroom, several elements are cunningly tucked below the gable ceiling. The headboard built into the low end of the gable pulls the bed away from the sloping ceiling, Kell Cornell says. It was also carefully constructed to provide a comfortable incline when Mary and Michael sit up in bed reading. Likewise, two closets are fitted beneath the eaves. The built-in side tables have small windows above to bring in light.
Above: Built-in side tables and headboard add ease and storage in the master bedroom.
In the large bath upstairs, Kell Cornell separated Mary’s vanity from the bathing and toilet areas, which can be closed off with pocket doors. The milk-glass tile in the shower is reminiscent of vintage dishes, while the tile’s historical hexagonal shape is repeated throughout the house, from the stair carpet to the mirror in the downstairs bathroom. Also throughout the house are black walnut floors, a material Mary chose, she says, “in honor of my father, who loved that particular wood.”
Some design magic—or something equally as intangible—is required to slip a new bungalow into a traditional neighborhood so seamlessly that passersby assume the home has existed forever. “I believe a house has a spirit,” Mary says, “and I think we built that into this house: a spirit of love and joy and peace.
By Camille Lefevre
Photos by Spacecrafting