Traditional Building Portfolio
Palladio Awards

Project: Residence, Dexter, MI

Architect: Architectural Resource, Ann Arbor, MI; Michael Klement, AIA, principal in charge

Contractor: Home Renewal Inc., Manchester, MI; Donald Huff, owner


Sympathetic Addition
Winner: Architectural Resource

Italian Lessons

By Nancy E. Berry

"My clients didn't want to be known as the people who screwed up the beautiful old house by the river," says architect Michael Klement, AIA, principal of Ann Arbor, MI-based Architectural Resource in regard to the expansion of a ca. 1860 brick Italianate, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Klement is well versed in old houses, having worked with the historic restoration specialists Architects Four after graduating from the University of Michigan.

For the Italianate residence, which is located in Dexter, MI, Klement says the firm went through more than a dozen iterations of the design before finally getting the proportion and scale just right. "I've wanted to win a Palladio Award since this firm began in 1991," he says, "and I'm thrilled on this project we were able to flex our design muscles."

As the client's family was growing, they wanted more functional space in the home, including an addition that would provide a breezeway/mudroom, guest quarters for in-laws, and a two-car garage.

"We wanted the addition to blend seamlessly with the house," says Klement, "but were conflicted with following the Secretary of the Interior's Standards, which states that 'The new work shall be differentiated from the old and shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale, and architectural features to protect the historic integrity of the property and its environment.'"

Understanding their roles as stewards of this historical building, the owners were sensitive to the character of the home as well as the legacy it represented in the community. "We really wanted to respect the home, but adding on to a graceful old house is never easy," says Klement. "Aside from making the addition look beautiful, we also needed to make sure the pragmatic and functional issues were addressed. The solution was to replace an old porte-cochère with a hyphen that would act as the 232-sq.ft. breezeway, linking the old house to the 1,296-sq.ft., two-story in-law suite and garage." (Klement had already designed a conservatory on the opposite side of the house, and that design would be the model for the new breezeway.)

The massing and proportion were very carefully studied so the addition would complement and support the existing home, particularly from the curbside view. "The two volumes essentially had to hold hands so to speak," says Klement. "Details were teased from the older structure into the façade of the new."

Yet there is delineation between old and new – the new addition is subordinate to the existing building. For instance, the original arch-topped windows are echoed with an arched molding detail over a square-topped window in the conservatory and in the breezeway. These small details pay homage to the original design, while making the new addition distinct. "We used the same details and motifs," says Klement, noting that decorative brackets and trim detailing were faithfully emulated and incorporated in the new addition.

Also imperative to the success of the design was the choice of windows – achieving a balance was crucial, according to Klement. For instance, a tripartite window in the stairwell leading to the guest suite offers natural light – and echoes the house's original cupola.

Key suppliers for the project included Kohler, WI-based Kohler (plumbing fixtures); Pella, IA-based Pella Windows and Doors; New York, NY-based Restoration Hardware; Chelsea, MI-based Chelsea Lumber (paneling); Milwaukee, WI-based Brass Light Gallery; and Valley Forge, PA-based CertainTeed Roofing Products.

Contractor Donald Huff of Manchester, MI-based Home Renewal reached out to mason Ron Davis, who searched high and low for the right brick, and ended up sourcing a tumbled brick that was a match. Color consultant Rob Schweitzer of Ann Arbor-based Historic House Colors was brought in to develop a historical color scheme for the hyphen and trim.

On the north side of the house, which faces a major tributary of the Huron River, Klement added a Juliet balcony off the guest suite that offers breathtaking views. "The railing design of the balcony came from the owners, who saw the railing on another Italianate during their travels on the East Coast," says Klement. It is just one element of the award-winning addition, which speaks the Italianate language fluently.  


Nancy E. Berry is the editor of New Old House magazine and the author of two books on design. She lives in Yarmouth Port, MA.



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