PUBLICATION: Alexandria Port Gazette Packet
WRITER: BOB REED
PHOTOGRAPHERS: Jose Santa Cruz
DATE: October 3, 1991
PAGE NUMBERS: 18
|With a little California dreamin’, some Texas brabado, and a lot of hard work, Belinda and Mike Lake have transformed and undistinguished Sears bungalow into a chic and sophisticated ranch house.
The recently completed renovation at 12 E. Alexandria Ave. is a nearly total makeover of a 1920s vintage cottage. The house is in a little know, tucked-away neighborhood of Alexandria called Brenton, which sits between Rosemont and Del Ray. It’s a quiet old neighborhood containing many houses ripe for renovation.
To supply their requirements for space and light in the cramped cottage, the Lakes, a young couple in their early 30s, added on a lofty new living room, dining room and kitchen wing. The addition matches the exterior lines of the old house so faithfully that it looks as though it has been there from the beginning.
The Lakes (she’s from Texas, he’s from California) wanted to bring some of the nostalgic charms of the West to their Alexandria ranch. By choosing some materials seldom used in Alexandria construction, they were able to create a fresh and distinctive dwelling that looks as though it belongs more in Napa than in Brenton.
Because the old house sat on a generous 70-by130- foot lot, they had the space to add on their wing at right angles to the old house, creating an imposing new façade.
The new L-shaped house frames a secluded courtyard, set off from the street behind a tall wall. The courtyard is one of the most intriguing qualities about the newly reshaped bungalow. From the street you get only a tantalizing hint of what lies behind the wall. It’s like a secret garden; you want to know more about it.
With the help of architect Gaver Nichols, Belinda and Mike built on a fresh and airy addition that meets their needs for frequent entertaining and graceful living.
Nichols kept the roofline of the new wing at the same height as the old house, but built it low on a slab to create lofty 15-foot ceilings inside. And he opened up the walls with big picture windows and French doors so that daylight washes through like a fresh mountain breeze.
Since the Lakes wanted their addition to match faithfully the architecture of the old bungalow, Nichols duplicated the gently pitched gable along with the deep overhanging eaves. He also used the narrow 2-inch clapboarding so characteristic of the existing house, Nichols added transoms, which also serve as an additional light source.
To reinforce the Western ranch imagery in their renovation, the Lakes used cobblestones to face the foundations of both the old and new wings, rather than the more traditional Alexandria red brick. The material they chose is actually concrete, cleverly shaped into panels that look like the real thing and which can be easily cemented directly onto wallboard or brick surfaces. The patented material, which the Lakes saw at a country fair in the Shenandoah Valley, looks so much like real stone that they also used it to pave walks in the courtyard and to face the thick piers that support their courtyard gate.
Inside, the Lakes have rearranged the space of the old cottage with considerable imagination. Because the house was filled with small, cramped rooms, they completely gutted the interior and converted it into a bedroom wing. To make extra space for closets, they extended the east wall two feet, moved old window sashes around, and converted the old screened porch on the front of the house into a luxurious bath. They converted the former living room into a master bedroom, and added a central hall and two guestrooms in space formerly occupied by the dining room, kitchen and two tiny bedrooms.
Although the exterior of the house retains much of its romantic country-cottage charm, the Lakes’ interiors are far more urbane and dramatic. For additional design interest, they created a separate sitting room adjacent and open to the living room, marked off by four 15-foot columns, which add an ironic touch of grandeur to the Texas imagery.
For continuity, all the door and window casings in the new wing match those in the old cottage. ” We didn’t want the addition to look new inside or out,” said Belinda.
To help with the budget, Belinda raided her mother’s house in Corsicana for furnishings that would re-create the flavor of her upbringing. The result is a captivatingly original interior of Texas flavor.
On the floors throughout much of the new wing Belinda and Mike have used warm, clay-colored terra cotta tiles (ordered inexpensively from Texas). There are also chandeliers from home, an old Jacobean library table now used for dining, a mellow pine mantel, Old Texas quilts tossed around for accents, a Remington cowboy sculpture, Western paintings, deer skins as rugs and throws, and moose horns and deer heads mounted high on the walls. Near the front window Belinda has placed an elegant pine harpsichord build by her grandfather.
“It’s comforting to have memories of home,” said Belinda.
“Since the Lakes wanted their addition to match faithfully the architecture of the old bungalow, Nichhols duplicated the gently pitched gable along with the deep overhanging eaves.”
“Although the exterior of the house retains much of its romantic country-cottage charm, the Lakes’ interiors are far more urbane and dramatic.”
Mike and Belinda Lake