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Through to Fruition!

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To me it is all about the process, but nothing compares to the completion of an arduous project. The Franklin House proved to be one of those projects that became its own entity. It was the will of the structure that became the control of the project and we were the catalyst for the design and reconstruction. How do you put into words the feeling of accomplishment, failures, and successes of the true change that took place on a thirty eight foot by one hundred and thirty seven foot parcel? It has been such an amazing experience. It would be too easy to take all of the credit, but in reality the transformation is attributed to the microclimate of the community. Olde Towne East is an amazing place with awesome residents and an appreciation for American residential architecture. A wide variety of subcultures inhabit an even wider variety of architectural style. I cannot say enough positive things about the community!

There were several times throughout the process when one could think that the project would consume those involved and cripple production. For example when you could see from the second level into the basement during demo…

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Or when we had to rip the front façade off completely due to the amount of rotten wood and scabbed repairs….

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Or when replacing the main load bearing beam on an extremely windy day. The same day a building under renovation came down on the corner of Oak and Ohio….

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Reframing a one hundred and thirty two year old house is no small task. But it was a learning experience that I will never forget. Once the house was structurally sound the new floor plan shined through after several unexpected turns. After all new utility systems were strategically installed, and passed inspection, all new windows were installed, the house was insulated, and the drywall was installed. The exterior of the house was an interesting challenge. To keep the original aesthetic alive we tried to preserve the historic look using modern materials. I am all for the preservation of historic architecture when it is possible, though I am more interested in sustainability. I think the design of the front porch and use of materials accomplished an overall appearance that nods to the vernacular.

It was very important for me to reclaim and reuse as much of the original parts of the house, like all the interior doors and transom windows, newel posts on the staircase, lath on the kitchen island, and the serpent cresting on the ridge of the roof. Also the installation of new period correct materials, like the interior trim, as well as modern materials to create a seamless blend of the old and new was very important to the overall composition. Natural materials mixed with handmade materials is also very important to the composition. From the hickory hardwood floors transitioning to the porcelain tile in the wet functional areas, to the exposed brick chimneys to the concrete countertops, there is a real feeling comfort in continuity of materiality.

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One of the most important aspects of the new floor plan design is the circulation pattern. There are several stories being told as one travels through and experiences the space. Set up for entertainment on the first level one can imagine how different events throughout the year, daily functions, and individual growth might be affected because of the open relationship between the programmatic elements. The arrangement and openness of staircase leading to the second floor creates a definite separation between the public and private spaces of the house all the while keeping the experience fluid. Natural light at either end of the second level corridor draws you in and comforts a forlorn feeling as one navigates the spaces. The second set of stairs gives a feeling of excitement and mystery as one travels to the third level. Architecture should always be about the experience and the way spaces are set up for us to live.

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Third Floor

 

It was a personal goal of mine to make sure that the house had the possibility of sustaining another one hundred and thirty years. I am happy to say that with the proper maintenance this structure will outlive all of us. I have learned much more than I could have ever thought that I would have at the beginning, and I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to be a small part of rebuilding this historic district. Even though we have seen the process of rebuilding “The Franklin House” through to fruition, the house will never be finished. It is now taking on a new life with its new owners!

There were a lot people involved in this project that deserve many thanks, and you know who you are, Thank you and God bless you!

Burned out… but have to finish strong!

I am sure everyone who has had a small taste of success has felt this way. Anxious, inspired, confused, determined, in your own head constantly, a little insane, positive, struggling, and invested in an idea. I guess they would say there is beauty in the struggle. There is also a realization that it is one thing to have a good idea, and it is another to turn the idea into reality. But, what if that idea was your dream. Not just one of those strange dreams that happen one night after one too many, but one of those reoccurring dreams that sticks with you.

Roof Garden Installation

When I was younger I heard about the land bank dollar property program and was insistent that I would find an old house and fix it up. Some how at that time I knew what I wanted to do… fix up old houses and build new ones. What are the steps that have to be taken to fulfill this desire? What must one do to achieve a goal? Although we did not buy the Franklin House through the land bank, we bought the property and I was officially living the dream! The dream then turned into reality… design, logistics, expenses, scheduling, hiring, firing, systems, construction, lead time, competition, headaches, questions, alcohol, sobriety, coffee, hard work, Whats Next? “Do, don’t try.” Make a deadline. That will help!

As much as I like to rant, there must be a point to this post… ? … Oh yeah I am feeling a little burned out and I am now able to admit it. I don’t think it is because of the project, or the social implications that I now realize, or the connections that I have made with everyone involved and everyone impacted, or the fact that there is probably going to be zero monetary ROI or possibly a loss… I think it is more the angst from the unknown.

What positive impact will the result have and what opportunities lie ahead. I have a couple potential clients interested in my design capabilities, we are looking for the next house to fix up and a vacant in-fill lot to build on. But is it enough to fill the void after seeing the dream to fruition? Do I have to take time to dream more? Should I go back to school so I can actually call myself an architect? Can I afford that? Will any of this pay off? Does anyone understand? ” Hold it together man…”(slap)

The mind is an amazing piece of the puzzle that we all take for granted at a given point in time. Sometimes we become so self involved that we cut other people off in their journey through life. It is a hard truth about the human condition… but other times we care deeply about an idea, cause, and other people… look now he is a philosopher.

What is a house?

We started the project of the Franklin House strong and I intend to finish it the same way. What ever comes next will happen in due time. I have to tell myself every morning to “Roll with time” it is a saying of patience (the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset, thanks Google). I hope that my work spreads a positive message of sustainability and love. I want people to see beauty in reality… maybe that is the dream?

Big News! I am a Real Estate Agent!

I am so excited to finally share my big news with you! I got my real estate license!!!! I am now a real estate agent!

Cue hilarious picture….Geri's Business Photo

Haha! All joking aside though, I am really happy to have made this professional leap forward. As most of you know Peter and I are really passionate about houses. Actually, we are really passionate about HOME. We love that the sense of home creates so many amazing and positive feelings. Warmth, comfort, safety, love, health and happiness are the words that come to my mind when I talk about home. I can help other people find their perfect homes now. I get giddy thinking about it!

I Have joined the team at Carleton Realty here in Westerville, Ohio. I am very happy with this choice. Carleton Realty is a locally owned family business which is important to me. They have top-notch training and a super support system. I couldn’t be happier.

I am still VERY involved here at Larsen Dwellings, Inc. but now we have more services to offer you! If you know someone who needs a real estate agent’s help or even just advice on their building or home please don’t hesitate to call me! You can E-mail me at gerilyn.larsen@gmail.com or call my dedicated real estate phone at 614-975-2487.

Thanks for reading about my big news guys! YAY! HOMES!

A Usonian Home

Last fall Peter and I got married. And the thing to do when one marries an architectural designer in the midwest is honeymoon with Frank LLoyd Wright. We booked two nights at Polymath Park and stayed in The Duncan House.  This is one of the Usonian homes designed by Mr. Wright. Located in the Laurel Highlands in southwestern Pennsylvania this property is only a hour or so from Fallingwater.

Duncan House
The Duncan House exterior.

This house is only 1 of 7 Frank Lloyd Wright designed homes that you can actually stay overnight in. Built elsewhere, this house was moved to this site and reassembled. Wright designed these usonian homes for the “everyman”. They are chock full of Wright’s architectural philosophies. From the outside this home is nestled into its landscape and takes advantage of its gorgeous surroundings. It has the large hearth that is centrally located in the home and the car port this is indicative to Wright’s designs.

Back of The Duncan House
The back of The Duncan House.

Much of these Usonian homes are made of concrete block. This was an inexpensive building material that could be left as it was or covered with a stone to make it more fancy.  One of the design features of these homes was the horizontal lines throughout that draw the eye around the structure. These houses had large windows in the back to bring the outdoors in and take full advantage of the sun.

Usonian Kitchen
The Kitchen of the fifties!

The homes had a small kitchen with plenty of storage space. Mr. Wright believed that built-in storage was necessary to keeping clutter away. This kitchen had the original red formica counter tops and the push button cooktop! Very space age!

Usonian Dining
The dining room built ins.

This view from the kitchen into the dining room shows the built ins and shelving that is definitely indicative of Frank Lloyd Wright design.  Also notice how the horizontal lines continue throughout the interior of the home as well.

Usonian Fireplace
The massive fireplace!

The centerpiece of any Wright design is the massive fireplace. In his philosophy the hearth is the heart of the home. This beauty is covered in a locally sourced stone ut originally it was left in concrete block. This draw back to this fireplace design is that it is not very efficient.

Usonian Living Room
The living room . The velvet furniture was down filled!

The living room is a large light filled space. The windows give it the indoor/outdoor feel. This is where the family would gather and spend most of their time since the Wrightian idea was that bedrooms were for sleeping and storing one’s clothing.

Usonian Hallway
The hallway was filled with more built ins.

This hallway leads to the three bedrooms and one of the  bathrooms in this home. Mr. Wright didn’t feel that this was a place to spend much time so the hall narrows to “push” you through it. Many more built ins here to store one’s belongings.

Usonian Bedroom
Master bedroom. This bed was one of the most comfortale that I have ever slept in!

This is the master bedroom. Its small size was due to the fact that all you were supposed to do in here was sleep and change your clothes. There is a small bathroom around the other side of the bed. It still had its fifties tiles (with fish!) and accessories. So cool.

We really enjoyed staying on this awesome property. We suggest if you are going to see Fallingwater that you spend a night in Polymath Park too!

 

 

Discovering Original Paint Color

When discussing the exterior paint scheme of a historic home there are a few ways to go about determining what colors you would like to go with. You can pick your colors scientifically, in which you find a remnant of colors hidden somewhere on the house. You could choose your colors in a historically accurate palette, picking colors that were available at the time your house was built. Or you can go boutique and just choose colors that you love and that speak to you.

That being said, please please PLEASE never paint your house purple and brown. It is not very attractive.

Why purple and brown?

When we started tearing apart The Franklin House we wanted to know the scientifically accurate exterior paint colors. They could be beautiful! We could bring the outside back to its former glory! But I did not think we would find those colors. I also did not think that if we found them that I would like them. I believe that we can paint this home in a contemporary paint scheme that nods to its Victorian past. A tasteful group of greys with some pops of red and mustard perhaps.

Original siding

Then we found this wall. Behind the drywall in between the old addition and the original structure was this siding. Holy cow! The original paint color was black! A slightly greenish black! This falls into the grey paints that I think would look great on this house. But low and behold…..

This was dirty

That black was……dirt. Actually soot, over a light green paint. Pete had scrubbed this piece of siding with a Magic Eraser (truly MAGIC those erasers) to reveal this original color. The paint is a little yellowed and faded but you can see the rather attractive light mossy green at the top edge where the boards overlapped. The exterior trim WAS originally black though.

So this discovery causes us to ask ourselves….do we bring back this original paint color? Or do we go with our first plan? Leave us a comment and tell us what you think!

The Franklin House Design Inspiration

Pete and I love design. Personally, though we take a lot of risks in our design and make style choices that are very “us”. The Franklin House design inspiration comes from us trying to design a space that functions well and appeals to a wide range of people and life styles. We also had to take cues from this home’s history. Modern Industrial Victorian was just the right combination of all the parts that make the house unique!

Queen Anne

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We are keeping all the exterior details that make the Queen Anne style of this place so charming. The cresting and fish scale siding are awesome detailing that we are planning to showcase but we are choosing some great modern colors to keep it from feeling too fussy and “granny”. We are having to replace some of the rotten fret work on the home and are taking that opportunity to add those Victorian details back with a sharper more modern edge.

One of the places on the exterior that we really want to add that cool modern feel is in the addition on the back of the home. We plan on using a metal siding or board and batten that has strong vertical line that will contrast well with the 3 inch slat horizontal siding. We really love the juxtaposition of old/new, modern/historic, and fussy/clean and the exterior of the house is going to be a perfect place to showcase that.

Metal Siding

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On the interior of The Franklin House design inspiration was found mostly on Pinterest (Follow us!). Once we knew that modern Victorian was the feel we wanted a simple search for those terms resulted in a ton of images! Once we had browsed through those a specific color palette and finish style emerged. We were then able to inject some of that “Larsen Dwellings Style” with the industrial touches that feel  “city” to us.

Shelf Bracket

 

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The most important part of the design to us is the way the house functions. After much discussion and gnashing of teeth we landed on a layout that we loved. It had to encompass modern home function like a master suite with bathroom and walk-in closet, second floor laundry, and common bathroom. We wanted to bring in the open floor plan that people love and a great kitchen for entertaining. Trying to put all of these things into a choppy old floor plan was a true test of Pete’s creativity and design chops!

Our color palette needed to be really fresh and clean for this house. We had already found a few great neutral grays when we painted our bathroom in our own home. It is hard to find grays that are not too warm or too cool. The grays allow us to go with black and white as accents. This can become way too cold if you are not careful so we are bringing warmth back in by exposing the FOUR brick chimneys that are in the house. We will be adding some different wood tones to warm it back up too.

Living Room

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We had to add that historic charm back in once we had the other bits chosen. This comes in the form of bright white subway tile and adorable little penny tiles. We are reclaiming and reusing as much of what was in the house as we can. We will reuse the awesome French doors that were in the home when we acquired it for the master bath and laundry room. We are going to use some of the old lath as interesting wall treatment. Hopefully we can find a place to reuse some of the old hearth tiles too! The transom windows are another of those old pieces that has to stay with the home as well.

Bathroom

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The industrial touches are pretty simple and understated. Mostly the lighting that we chose has this style. The exposed brick also adds to that loft feel. In the kitchen we will have exposed shelving over the stove with an industrial style bracket.

So that is The Franklin House design inspiration. Thanks for following along. Check back soon for more of Pete’s ramblings on changes we made in the layout of this space!

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Before and After _ South Elevation

Hi all! Its Pete here. I do not have as much time to post as I would like, but I have a spare moment to give a brief update on the Franklin House.

So we are a stones throw away from being able to begin the re-construction process. But first things first, we are acquiring our building permit. The City of Columbus Building and Zoning allows a start permit in order to demo. This really helps with the design process. Because the floor plan was so chopped up from multiple renovations and modifications over the years it was somewhat difficult to visualize the space for what it is. It was imperative with this project to remove all of the finish materials in order to measure the true shell of the structure… This is the part of the blog where I would normally spout out a bunch of technical jargon and get accused of rambling, so let’s do something fun. Does any one remember the “what’s different” images in the old highlights magazines? I could never stop looking at them until I found all of the differences. Well the last page in the Franklin House drawing set is the before and after elevation of the south facade. What can you see that is different?

Before and After

 

Well it is back to the drawing board I am putting the finishing touches on the HAVC and Electrical Plans today, then it is on to the load calculations for the new LVL beam spans… I won’t bore you with this. Next time I have a second to post, I will show the before and after floor plans where you can see how important the relocation of the staircase is in order for function to… get with the program! I’m such an architecture geek.

Have a great week!

The Demo Pictures “The Franklin House”

There is something amazing about a house that has been stripped completely. Every flaw has either been removed or exposed. These demo pictures show us exactly what has been done to this place over the years.

Demo View from Door

The first floor from the door. This place has great bones. The many fireplaces give us great opportunity for exposed brick.  And the 130 year old studs, joists and beams are rock solid. You can see where things have been moved before. There is new framing on the ceiling where the second floor unit staircase was added in and removed. There is evidence of a door behind the stair case. When the drywall was removed from the ceiling the cast iron pipe from the gas lights, the knob and tube from the original electric and the modern wiring were all still there!

demo front to back

It’s interesting to see the new wood framing colors versus the old! The landing room was always there. I did some research and found out it was perhaps a small sewing room or a closet for the maids. If you know differently please comment and tell us!

cut beam

The former parlor looking into the dining room. When the HVAC was put in they ran it up right next to the main chimney stack in the center of the house. The duct work didn’t quite fit there so they cut through the load bearing beam to fit it. Same with the other side! No wonder this place is a little tilty.

Main Stack

The main stack in the dining room has a tiny issue. Nothing a little elbow grease won’t fix. You can see where the wrap around windows were covered up in the parlor. I bet these were beautiful when this house was new. I hope that we can bring those back to their former glory.

Demo Kitchen

The kitchen must have had a leaky sink for years. The boards underneath are completely rotten. A large window was replaced with a much smaller (and cheaper) window.

Original Siding

This is an awesome view straight through to the front of the house! The black wall is the original siding and house color. This was a very early addition I think. The poor chimney has a ton of water damage and is super crumbly. I hope that we can save it.

Servants Stairs

This view shows the two windows that were in the dining room but have been covered over due to the house next door being soooo close. When this place was new the morning light that must have come through those would have been amazing.

Second Floor

The second floor makes me a little nervous right now. Though it is completely safe and sturdy the views through the walls to the floor below triggers with my fear of heights. I have not even tried to take third floor pictures. I will do a seperate post on the third floor and basement.

Reclaiming tile

The second floor being open really makes us excited for what this place can be. We plan on moving the staircase around to open up enough space to add some modern amenities like a master suite and second floor laundry. I love this picture of Peter working hard to reclaim those awesome antique hearth tiles.

Front to back

The view from the front of the house straight through to the back on the second floor. You can see the new framing where the stair case cut through to the landing here. You can also see where we had to put scrap wood on the floor to cover up the holes from that terrible bathroom that used to be there.

Addition

And finally the view back into the addition. Much bad framing in here and many windows covered up. We have some interesting ideas on how to bring some light back into this space and retain privacy.

Reclaimed trim

We are big on reclaiming. This pile is all of the old doors, transom windows and trim from this house. We are excited to use this stuff in the remodel.

Dirty Pete

The demo was a dirty and dangerous experience. There was asbestos and lead paint behind some of the drywall. Pete and George had to suit up! And SO MANY NAILS. The boys pulled nails for 3 full days.

Next up will be the fun part! We have a great design in mind for this house and can’t wait to share it with everyone!

Found In the Walls!

One of the many awesome things about working on a historic building is….in a word…treasure. We joked about finding something in the walls (gold bars mostly). And while we did NOT find gold bars there were a few things we found in the walls.

While tearing the old drywall off the studs in the attic George found a stash! A previous owner had the amazing foresight to put some of the home’s original bits and bobs away for an owner that would completely renovate the home. We were really excited to find these Victorian ceramic fireplace tiles (even if they weren’t gold bars)!

Victorian Ceramic Tiles

There are a ton of great examples HERE

We also found 2 more of the iron register covers that match the one that was in the wall (that was painted white, unfortunately). We also found one other vent cover that is a different shape and style. It is very cool as well!

Register Covers

Single Register Cover

And the last thing that we found in (on) the walls is my favorite! If only we could save it. I would totally bring it home and install it in my living room (Pete would never allow that).

Polka Dot Wall

We can’t wait for the next round of treasure!

The Franklin House…The Exterior Before Pictures

 

As soon as we saw the exterior of the Franklin house we were excited. Despite the faded purple and brown color scheme we loved the Queen Anne details on the façade. These exterior before pictures show both the details we love and the damage we don’t.

Queen Anne Exterior Front

 

As you can see this home was divided into two units at one time in her life. The extra steps show that there were 2 front doors. I am guessing that there used to be a more centrally located window on that side of the house. It was probably gorgeous leaded glass. Sigh. Unfortunately this is also not the original porch. The porches on houses of this time period were usually wood frame and very decorative. This concrete porch is just a smidge too shallow to be of good use and we think that this small lopsided gable is awkward and ugly. We will certainly be bringing this feature back to a more historically accurate aesthetic.

The detail that we love the most on this home is the serpent cresting on the ridgeline. These are original to the home and appear to be made out of metal. There are a few “humps” missing and though I have looked I can’t seem to find ones that match. Ours have little rosettes in the center and are really cool! The fish scale siding on the upper gables is indicative to Queen Anne architecture and we are excited to show off this feature with a great paint scheme.

Queen Anne Side Exterior

 

This side of the house has a ton of character as well! This chimney is a bit tilty but has great redeeming features. The field stone triangular pieces have hand carved swirls at the bottom. There are also field stone blocks adding a decorative element to the niche area on this chimney. We are not sure if this has always been bricked in because the bricks are a slightly different color.

The 3rd floor gable on this side has faux balcony that adds a wonderful bit of personality to the house. The wood on this part of the building is extremely rotten but that gives us the chance to have it match the front porch.

Queen Anne Rear Exterior

 

The backside of the house is an early addition. This space housed the kitchens when this was a duplex. The siding on this part of the house is in terrible shape and we have a little something different in mind for this section. There is another chimney on the back of the house and has extensive damage and may need to be removed. The 2 level back porch is extremely rotten. This eyesore will need to come down also.

The last side of the house is hard to photograph due to the neighbor’s home being very close. This side of the house has two more chimneys! These chimneys are in pretty good shape though they have ivy vines growing on them. There are some spaces that used to be windows at one point in this home’s life. They were covered over with particle board and just left that way. Very classy.

That’s the outside of our Franklin House. We will be sharing the first floor before pictures with you next week. Thanks for checking our “little” project out!