While there are plenty of advantages to the blank slate of an entirely new home construction project, there’s something to be said for a hybrid project that preserves the best of a historical structure and brings a taste of modern design and living space to the mix.
In McKinney, Texas, the downtown historic district is appreciated for its treasure trove of beautiful, authentic Victorian-era homes, and preservation is very much at the forefront of the community’s aesthetic.
But can the same care and attention also be injected into an authentic modernization project where the host property is a more run-of-the-mill, 1,000-square-foot, 1940s ranchstyle home?
Such was the challenge faced by builder Edward Carel, founder of Integrity Custom in McKinney. He’s spent the past decade working locally on revitalization projects with many of those in-demand, periodauthentic 1890s homes. He’s also discovered that there’s more to downtown McKinney than just Victorian architecture, including one underappreciated midcentury home that needed a lot of work.
“There had been a natural evolution of design in the neighborhood through the years, but because this home is still inside the district, the preservation rules are very stringent,” Carel says. “I bought this home on Lamar Street many years ago and held onto it—and finally a buyer came along. But we still had a very neglected, 70-plusyear- old house, where the original wood had been covered with vinyl siding.”
Carel began his career renovating and restoring both mid-century and historic homes as well as building new home projects in Dallas’ Park Cities and Lower Greenville neighborhoods 20 years ago. He has developed a positive working relationship with the City of McKinney’s Historic Preservation department, which monitors the scope and direction of builders’ renovation plans.
In this case, Carel proposed a significant surgical process that would retain the home’s original character and footprint but expand its under-roof space nearly fourfold. Beyond its expertise in Victorian projects, Integrity Custom has had considerable experience working on projects that aim for a “contemporary farmhouse” look, with an idyllic but functional blend of early 20th-century feel and finishes. Carel reckoned that was the best direction for the Lamar Street property.
The resulting plans called for demolition of almost the entire home, save for the front and perimeter walls, and a reconstruction of the foundation and the patios. Equally important was work to carefully remove and recycle many of the home’s original elements, such as the house’s rafters, which could be repurposed.
“My goal was to create something that fits into the environment but doesn’t look like it’s been renovated, and could also include the original materials,” he says. “We decided to step it back maybe 25 years from its original design and make it look like something from the early 1920s. It really lent itself to a nice, wide-open concept, not overdone at all.”
Carel’s masterfully renovated home now boasts 4,400 square feet of under-roof space, including five bedrooms, and has a new upstairs with workout and storage rooms and a fully renovated mother-in-law suite in the back.
Inside it is indeed a timetraveling experience, as many of the fixtures and treatments look right out of the 1920s, including old-fashioned lighting, cabinetry and period tile. For the most part, Carel was able to source a wide range of suppliers who all specialize in new but oldstyle goods, such as Oregon’s Schoolhouse Electric, which provided the turn-of-the-century gas lamp-inspired lighting in the kitchen.
Those salvaged rafter beams were milled and treated and became dark and luxurious wood accents for the bedroom walls. A well-weathered but solid bannister and rails for the new stairwell was sourced from a 120-year-old home in Shreveport, Louisiana, during one of Carel’s buying
trips, and makes for an appropriately striking centerpiece in the home.
In a similar vein, bricks for the fireplace, laundry room floor and the entry and back patios are authentic Kansas City pavers, reclaimed and well-suited to the home’s feel. Wherever possible, Carel opted for inventive solutions to add distinctive details.
“For the kitchen island, the client loved granite or quartz but also wanted to make a statement, so I was able to use some planks we salvaged from an 1880s foundry and build a harvest table out of them,” he says.
Carel’s plans received a Certificate of Appropriateness from the preservation board. The finished project is a compelling and beautiful blend of eras while being absolutely contemporary in its livability.
Andy Stonehouse is a writer and editor based in Greeley, Colorado, specializing in automotive, recreation and shelter stories. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.