Three-Season Screen Room

With its combination of rustic finishes and discrete modern amenities, the new screen porch on this Minneapolis, Minn. bungalow provides its owners with a functional indoor/outdoor retreat that complements the century-old home's simple architectural style and meets their entertaining needs at the same time.

April 30, 2008
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Take a Master Plan Approach

The wood-burning fireplace, which features a battered design, was a high priority of the homeowners. The fireplace serves as the focal point for the new indoor/outdoor room and provides texture and interest to the home's rear elevation.  After photos by John Reed Forsman

REMODELER AND ARCHITECT: TreHus Builders, Minneapolis
AGE OF HOME: 95 years old
SCOPE OF WORK: Add a screened porch that could be used most of the year

With its combination of rustic finishes and discrete modern amenities, the new screen porch on this Minnesota bungalow is designed to provide the home’s owners with a truly functional indoor/outdoor retreat that complements the century-old home’s architectural style and meets their entertaining needs.

A natural stone hearth fireplace serves as the focal point for the 260-square-foot addition that directly connects to the main house’s family room via a set of French doors. Floor-to-ceiling screen panels ensure that, when the weather is mild, the homeowners will be able to enjoy the sights and sounds of their young family at play in their back yard. Storm windows are designed to replace the screens during the fall so the family can use the space throughout the year.

The simple, almost cabin-like character of the screen porch belies the complex planning that went into its design and construction, says Meriwether Felt, project architect for the Minneapolis-based design/build firm, TreHus.

The first thing Felt addressed with her clients was the best location for the new room.


“The homeowners originally intended the addition to be an extension of their kitchen,” says Felt. “They had done extensive landscaping in their rear yard five years earlier and had installed a bluestone patio next to their family room that they did not want to disturb.”

This location, however, proved to be a poor option for two reasons. First, the two existing gables, kitchen porch roofline and a second-floor bedroom window on the back of the home made the option architecturally challenging.

“It just was not going to work there aesthetically,” she says. The other drawback to this location was that the team would have to reposition the children’s play space to the yard's shady and damp north side of the home.

Ultimately, the homeowners recognized the sense of Felt’s solution. And the patio pavers that were removed to make way for the new living space were used as a terrace surrounding the screen room and a pathway leading to the garage.

A natural palette of materials adds rustic charm to the screen room addition on this early 1900s bungalow. This includes clear cedar trim, Chilton stone for the fireplace and a bluestone terrace.

In addition to its direct connection to the family room, the screen room also has its own transition to the existing porch off the kitchen, which makes sense architecturally and functionally for the family. Felt modified the original kitchen porch with similar cedar detailing as the new space for continuity.

Felt’s next challenge was to design a space that combined a rustic character with modern conveniences.

“Our clients wanted to enjoy all of the same modern amenities in their new outdoor room as they had indoors,” she says. This included electricity, low-voltage lighting, a plasma television and surround sound.

“But they also really wanted to capitalize on the feeling of being outdoors at the same time,” she continued. Felt faced the challenge of incorporating electrical outlets, wiring runs, lighting and speakers that were convenient, unobtrusive and sheltered from the elements.

“With the room’s oversized wall screens there was really no simple way to run the electricity around the space without impacting its open-air character. There just was no good place for the electrical outlets.”

Her solution was to incorporate the electrical runs for the room into the space beneath the floor and use 4-inch by 6-inch hinged-cover electrical outlets which were recessed into the flooring planks to conceal the outlets. Similarly, she hid the wiring for the overhead lighting in the room’s ceiling beams, the speakers for the surround sound system were mounted in between the ceiling joists where they are barely noticeable.

They chose the materials based on durability, quality and beauty, says the architect. “The clients wanted finishes that would last a long time and age well. The extensive detailing that they were looking for made the project slightly more expensive in terms of budget than they were expecting but, ultimately, they were really happy with the way everything turned out. We gave them the space they wanted and one that they will continue to enjoy for years to come.”


Products List

Doors: Simpson Fireplace: Majestic Lighting fixtures: W.A.C. Paints & stains: Benjamin Moore Windows: Marvin

Take a Master Plan Approach

Architect Meriwether Felt recommends that remodeling projects always be considered in the context of a “master plan” for a home even when some elements of that plan may only be hopes and dreams of the homeowners.

“Not only does the client achieve the best overall results this way,” she says, “but it can actually be a much more economical approach for them in the long run because you are getting them to think in terms of remodeling as part of a program in progress. This makes it possible to build upon what has been done and not to work backward by having to redo areas that have already been addressed.”

Felt, the lead architect of design/build firm TreHus Builders in Minneapolis, says that during the initial planning meeting with new clients she always begins by asking them about their intentions not only in terms of the immediate project but also about their future plans for their home.

“Not only do I ask them what they want to do, what they hope to accomplish,” say says, “but I ask them ‘Is this the last project you are planning? What would you like to do in the future?’”

But what happens when the architect's vision is different than the client’s?

“Remember that the client is the very most important element of every project,” she advises. “We are doing all of this work for them, and the goal is to give them what they want.”

She starts her design process by guiding them to think about what will best suit their needs. She then offers suggestions on how to accomplish that.

During her schematic design meeting with a client Felt says she typically offers three or more options. This encourages them to explore the possibilities and merits of each and opens a valuable dialogue.

“Usually a light bulb goes off in their head at this point,” she says, “and one or two really good options will emerge that we can go forward with.”

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