A Midtown couple modernizes their historic Foursquare Craftsman

“We saved as many of the old materials as we could and reused them,” says homeowner Jennifer Kjellgren
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Midtown house
Foursquare Craftsman homes were a reaction to ornate Victorian style.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

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.”

Midtown house
“This kitchen was the real reason we went all-out for this reno,” says homeowner Jennifer Kjellgren. “Jonathan cooks dinner every night and we eat at that walnut counter.” A custom Lacanche French range anchors one wall. Pendants are hand-blown.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Midtown house
To improve the flow between dining room and kitchen, the couple added an extra door and moved the original butlers pantry. Local artisan Rustic Trades used reclaimed wood to build a round table that can seat 10.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

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.

Midtown house
Custom furniture from local showrooms Bjork Studio (sofa) and Grey (coffee table) reinforce an Atlanta connection.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Midtown house
“Jennifer is a big fan of color—namely turquoise—so you see pops of it everywhere you look,” says interior designer Scott Laslie. “We also played on the color of the original stained glass windows, such as in the living room, so they too would create harmony within the space.”

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

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.”

Midtown house
Sunbrella fabrics from Kolo Collection add soft color to the swing bed on the screened back porch. “I always wanted a ‘haint blue’ ceiling,” says Jennifer.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Midtown house
“My favorite thing about the master bedroom is the wall-to-wall linen drapery,” says designer Scott Laslie. “I also love the starburst pillow shams from Lee Jofa/Groundworks.”

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

Midtown house
The master bathroom is a calming sanctuary of light turquoise and Carrara marble.

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

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.’”

Midtown house
Jennifer Kjellgren, husband Jonathan Freeman, and daughter Addison

Photograph by Lauren Rubinstein

This article originally appeared in our Fall 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

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