Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography
On a quiet, picturesque street near the Fargo Country Club, you’ll find a Mediterranean-styled home that’s recently received a contemporary overhaul. A beautiful home with great bones, the homeowners worked closely with Dan Elton of Chris Hawley Architects, to fuse the original home’s style with their own more contemporary style. Revamping the layout meant creating a space that would be a perfect fit for their family of five.
Four years ago amidst plans to build on a lot in West Fargo, realtor, Erik Hatch reached out to the homeowners with this pocket listing on the Par 3 course of the Fargo Country Club. They had once told Hatch of their desire to live in this neighborhood, but at the time they were planning their build; nothing had been listed.
At first glance, it was a beautiful home that was clearly well-built but designed in a Spanish villa style they were not accustomed to. Beneath the Spanish facade, the homeowner’s husband had a vision for renovation and he soon convinced his wife that this could be their forever home. With beautiful, mature trees and plenty to do with the kids, right in their backyard, the home was hard to pass up.
With the original home’s exterior having a Mediterranean flair, the homeowners made subtle changes for big curb appeal. They replaced the original dark wood with a more contemporary, Cor-Ten steel near the front door. Cor-Ten starts out as silver, then naturally rusts for a unique look. The landscaping was updated by taking out the old paver stone and replacing it with a natural stone sidewalk and stairs. Additional updates included a new garage door, new house numbers, and exterior lighting.
Wanting to create a transitional style melding Mediterranean, craftsman and contemporary, the homeowners reached out to Chris Hawley Architects to carry out their vision. Architects Chris Hawley and Dan Elton were tasked with figuring out a new floorplan which would fit the lifestyle of their family of five.
After purchasing their home, and while coming up with a renovation plan, the homeowners lived in the original space for a few months before moving to a two-bedroom apartment in Downtown Fargo so the demo and renovation could get started. Demo was done on the entire home at once, stripping the main and upper levels down to the studs. The entire renovation then took about 12 months to complete.
The home had really good bones and good flow, it was a great space for entertaining,” said the homeowner. “It’s an older house, but had the open floor plan we were looking for. My biggest worry was whether we could make it work for our family. My husband recognized the potential and Chris Hawley and Dan Elton helped us create a home that was both beautiful and functional. Dan did most of the interior drawings, with Chris helping out with some with the interior floor plan and exterior elevations.”
“This project had some interesting challenges,” said architect Dan Elton. “We had plenty of room, so an addition wasn’t necessary nor possible on the small lot. But we were faced with a 70’s interior done in Mediterranean styling. Our goal was to update the house to better match a modern family lifestyle, yet retain some of the existing Mediterranean flavors, because it needed to stay connected to the exterior style.”
“Enlisting the help of an architect was probably the best decision we made on this project,” said the homeowner. “We knew what we wanted out of the home and what our style was, but didn’t know how to make it all come together. Dan and Chris did a great job understanding our needs and coming up with a design plan that was perfect for our family. I knew in my head what I wanted our home to look like, but it’s amazing when they do the drawings how it all comes together and you can see those ideas on paper. The whole architectural process went really smoothly and we appreciated their patience with us. The best part was the design work that Chris and Dan did, it gave us a lot of reassurance that we could really turn this house into our home.”
For the homeowners, the great room was one of their bigger challenges, due to the position of the fireplace. To lend more function to the space, they changed their focus from sitting around the fire to designating a sitting area on one end, then chose a position for the piano as the transition to the dining room. “We found this old piano at Schmidt music, someone had traded it in. We loved the worn, matte finish and it fits perfectly in the corner of the great room,” said the homeowner.
“That’s the original 20-foot-high, wood ceiling and one of the reasons why we bought the home,” explained the homeowner. “There was darker wood on the cross beams, so we replaced them with painted drywall to lighten up the room. Changing the windows also made a big difference. The original windows were quite a bit lower so you could see right into the neighbor’s house.”
“We added upper windows in the living room to bring in more daylight, removed the Meditteranean, red tile flooring in favor of warm wood-scraped oak, and re-built the dated stair to give a fresh, modern touch to the center of the house,” said Dan Elton. “The fireplace got a face-lift, yet the structure remained in place.”
Beyond the beams and impressive hearth, a stand-out furniture piece is the 6-foot-long, matted, wood coffee table built by the homeowner over the course of four days.
A massive focal point in the great room, the home’s hearth was once comprised of stucco all the way up with a red brick around it, so it was one of the major factors creating the Meditteranean styling. The original walls were plaster and they were painted red, with orange, ceramic tile for the flooring. To give the hearth a style update, the homeowners worked with Elton to rebuild its facade. The homeowner searched Hebron Brick’s scrap lot for the smaller, remnants of Montana stones. Larger pieces were then found to match and used as a sitting area in front of the fireplace.
The homeowner built the wood mantel himself, learning the craft from his dad and using timbers his dad had collected at the lake. Plans to switch it back to a wood-burning fireplace is a goal for a later date.
To update the original baseboard heat, they contacted Straightline Design to fabricate more contemporary registers throughout the home. “That was one of the hardest things to figure out,” said the homeowner. “You just can’t buy registers like this, the replacements we found all looked like they should be in an office building.”
With the high ceilings and the expansive great room connected to the dining room, this space called for an equally impressive chandelier to balance the space.
Creating a dining table to fit their space to-a-tee, the homeowner spent one week building the eight-foot-long, wood table.
The kitchen probably needed the most work,” said Elton. “With new cabinets, floor, appliances and lighting, it went from an awkward, dark, uninviting space to an efficient showplace.” They also worked to change the layout, moving the patio door around the corner and widening the door to the kitchen to create more usable space. The newly designed space featured two islands and a larger perimeter counter space. The high-end range is one appliance the owners kept from the original home. “I really like the idea of two islands because the kids can be doing homework, while I’m cooking and using the one island for prep. The kitchen and living room are favorite spaces for us, this is really where we live. The open floor plan allows me to be in the kitchen, but still keeping an eye on the kids in the living room and be a part of what they’re doing,” explained the homeowner.
For the kitchen finishes, new granite and white cabinetry replaced the original honey maple cabinetry. A smaller subway tile backsplash and vintage lighting in a transitional style, tied in both the existing Meditteranean and newer contemporary stylings. “Having a Spanish-style house, we felt like we couldn’t be too modern with our style. We wanted it to still work as well as it could with the exterior of the house,” said the homeowner.
Just off of the kitchen, the owners opted to keep the sunken layout of the living room, creating a casual den and TV room. “For this space, we just wanted everything comfortable and cozy, with usable space. We didn’t want a room that nobody sat in, all of our space gets used.” The homeowner’s husband built the unique, wooden coffee table from a timber that was once 15-feet long to fit the room’s laid-back style. Since the family room had baseboards all around, the homeowners opted for wall-hung built-ins, creating an entertainment center just off of the kitchen area.
With the master bedroom located on the main level, this was a great selling point for the homeowners. “We changed the layout in the master a lot. The hot water heat registers make positioning furniture difficult, there were also existing doors and a window that we had to work around,” explained the homeowner. “The previous owners had the bed on the opposite wall, but we wanted to be able to see out the door if the kids were coming in. One of the unique challenges is making the design work within the confines of the existing space. We ended up positioning the bed partly under the window and I made a collage of pictures to try to balance the wall and provide some symmetry.”
In the original home, there was a long, narrow hallway coming into the bathroom, so this area was reworked for better flow. Now, entering from the master bedroom, a sleek, custom closet welcomes them to their master bath. Lightening the space, the homeowners replaced the dated, ceramic tile and dark cabinets. For the new, updated space, the homeowners chose heated flooring, Quartz countertops, and a Quartz soaking tub surround with chrome fixtures and lighter tones.
“They just had a single sink in here, so by moving the door, we were able to put double sinks and a center linen cabinet in the master bath,” explained the homeowner. “Before there was a single shower and a little vanity sitting where the tub is now.”
“Upstairs, we re-organized and modernized the bathrooms and closets to better fit the kid’s needs and added a small laundry,” explained Elton. “From there, the homeowners did a great job lightening the color palette and choosing materials, cabinets and fixtures that fit the overall theme. This was a fun upgrade for a fun family.”
Upstairs, each of the girl’s rooms had a huge closet. There were two bathrooms and one of the rooms had its own bathroom. Revamping the space from the closets, they were able to carve a bathroom for the girls and create the smaller closets for each side.
Keeping the staircase in the original location, the homeowners contacted Straightline Design to fabricate a new railing. What was once a Mediterranean-styled, metal staircase that was not up to today’s code, was now a sleeker, more contemporary version that would be safer for their three, young kids. Finishing the styling, the homeowners added new wood and carpet to the stairs.
With the country club’s pool nearby, the homeowners have noticed that the kids come in the patio door and throw their wet things down near the kitchen and family room. To eliminate this, the homeowners are currently working with Chris Hawley Architects to create a screened-in porch which can also function as a drop zone for their three kids.
Find the Finishes
Architect – Dan Elton, Chris Hawley Architects
Contractor – Radiant Homes
Landscaping, front sidewalk, and stairs – Natural Environments Landscaping & Outdoor Living
Exterior house numbers – Eco Chic Boutique
Kitchen and bathroom granite – Northern Stone
Wood flooring – Carpet World
Hearth stones – Hebron Brick
Dining room chandelier – Restoration Hardware
Great room side tables – Pottery Barn
Custom registers and stair railing – Straightline Design
Faucets, fixtures, and appliances – Ferguson
Chris Hawley Architects
2534 South University Drive, #3, Fargo, N.D.