With an arts and crafts exterior and Victorian details inside, this old Atlanta house—built around 1905—wooed Jennifer Kjellgren and Jonathan Freeman right from the start. “From the second we walked into this house in 2003, we fell in love,” says Jennifer, an Atlanta Realtor with a lifelong affinity for older houses.
“We both grew up in newer, planned subdivisions, but we have an aversion to things ‘cookie cutter’,” she says. “We love authentic materials, things that are unique and old with a little bit of quirk.”
A previous owner had painstakingly restored the house’s stained glass windows, pocket doors, and heart pine woodwork, but the house was cramped by today’s standards. “We needed to renovate to make it a forever home,” says Jennifer. Tiny bathrooms meant the couple had to split up to get dressed in the mornings. There was very little closet space, and don’t even get Jennifer started on entertaining in the original kitchen—which she often vented about on her blog at ouratlantacraftsman.com.
Finally, after 11 years of living in the home, the couple—now married with a daughter—launched a major renovation. In addition to updating the systems and modernizing a few rooms, they essentially cut off the back of their house, dug a big hole, and doubled their square footage. “We saved as many of the old materials as we could and reused them,” says Jennifer. She, Jonathan, and their builder, Ryan Locke (also a neighbor), aimed for a seamless transition. “We also sought out some vintage materials (like old heart pine flooring for the addition) to blend the new with the old.”
Jennifer and Jonathan now have a spacious master suite, a professional-style kitchen with a six-foot-wide French range, and folding wood doors that link the new family room to a screened porch. They even carved out a basement-level wine room (“aka Jonathan’s man cave,” Jennifer quips) with stained concrete floors and a wall of riddling racks made of wood from an 18th-century Kentucky distillery and a 19th-century Georgia cotton mill.
Interior designer Scott Laslie made sure the rooms paid homage to the home’s historic roots, but without being too serious or heavy-handed. “The main goal of the house was to be comfortable and colorful,” says Scott. “We wanted to preserve as much of the character and as many of the details as possible while adding a few surprises along the way.”
With porches on the back and front, and hardwood trees providing a canopy over the streetscape, Jennifer and Jonathan are often coaxed outdoors. The lifestyle along their street, which is lined with historic houses, is a big part of the appeal: Block parties with like-minded neighbors and cooking competitions are just part of the fun. Says Jennifer, “I call it ‘Mayberry in Midtown.’”
This article originally appeared in our Fall 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.