It’s not often that one can step back in time to the early 19th century, but that is exactly what FairWyn Ltd. did in the Fall of 2015.
The project was a whole house remodel for two longtime families of Belvidere Park – Fontana, WI. An oasis of Victorian cottages built around the turn-of-the-century, these 25 homes sit just an arm’s length between each other and dot a 3-acre parcel on the water’s edge of Geneva Lake.
Our project home last saw recent updates sometime in the early 1950’s when the toilets were added to the once seasonal cottage. An avid outdoorsman was the previous owner as noted by the large moose trophy head, which had adorned the fireplace incrusted with a lifetime of soot. Many rooms were filled with fishing tackle, hunting gear and even a minnow hatchery in the basement.
Time had stopped in the interior of this home. From head to toe, it had original everything; caramel-colored bead board that covered the porch ceiling, a double-legged ceramic kitchen sink and ornate lighting fixtures.
Electricity must have been added sometime after the cottage was originally built, as seen by the pole and wire switching on the interior walls. Portions of the walls and crawl space had been set directly on dirt floors as part of a “handyman” addition at some point in the home’s history.
We needed to transform this turn-of-the-century cottage, standing a stately 21’ wide by 60’ deep, into an energy-efficient home for two families to enjoy their summers at the lake in. This would involve a complete remodel of the interior of the home—the exterior elevation wouldn’t be touched.
The challenge for FairWyn Ltd. was how to transform this cottage, with its balloon construction exterior walls and over 27 windows, into a 4-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom summer home for these families to gather in. Work would have to be done after Labor Day and completed before the following Memorial Day, which meant a winter project.
FairWyn Ltd. began on the second floor by removing all the interior walls. Tie beams were installed to ensure structural integrity at the roofline. Four simple bedrooms and two bathrooms were carved out of the nearly 1000 square feet of upper floor space. The trick was that none of the original windows were to be eliminated, moved or replaced with new, energy-efficient vinyl windows. The staircase to the main floor was opened up, allowing the upper hallways to be less confining in the homes slim 21’ wide waist.
Preserving and Repurposing
The homeowners wanted as much of the original character of the home retained as possible. So, walls with buried shiplap were left exposed. Old doors’ carefully maintained patina were preserved and added as a “barn door” closer to the small half-bath on the main floor.
Other original doors were kept and rehung whenever possible. The bead board ceilings also remained, along with an old fishing pole closet. An open-concept first floor was attained through the addition of enhanced and decorative, structural beams to allow for a modern, custom kitchen and dining area.
Even a small pantry/laundry room was carved out for convenience. Wood floors replaced the nearly 2.5” plum floors to create one seamless transition from the original cottage to the back kitchen addition. A complete redo of exterior siding was done as well, but not without painstaking effort to leave the original Victorian brick & bract that remained in place.
In the end, the home took 6 months to complete during the winter of 2015, but it was finished in time for the Memorial Day weekend festivities at the lake. The American flag once again adorns this beautiful Victorian home. The moose head hasn’t returned as of the project’s completion, but it may just find it’s way back inside someday.