We recently restored a mid-century modern attached garage addition on a Madison area home. The project gave us a chance to exercise our extensive historic preservation skills, engage a more closely with Madison’s local connection to the Frank Lloyd Wright legacy, and remodel a historic home to make it more functional for its current inhabitants. It was a great project to be a part of and a win/win as far as we’re concerned.
TDS has been involved in quite a few mid-century modern renovations through the years, as part of the range of historic restorations and authentic preservation projects that we do. These projects are such a joy to be a part of—they stem from our deeply held conviction that architectural history, cultural heritage, and a sense of place are the foundations that support vibrant communities. We love lending our support, our expertise, and our work to creating that cultural vibrancy.
A Shorewood Hills Stunner
The original house was built in 1950 and designed by Taliesin student Jesse Claude (Cary) Caraway. Cary Caraway was an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright’s at Taliesin in Spring Green for seven years. His wife was another Wright apprentice, Frances Fritz—sister of well-known architect Herb Fritz. Caraway is probably best known as the architect of the Usonian Inn in Spring Green, and also as one of the apprentices who witnessed Frank Lloyd Wright drafting Fallingwater in a matter of hours. After his apprenticeship, he stayed and lived in the Spring Green area.
Caraway only designed a few homes in his career, many of which are in the Madison area. This 3,600 square foot house has 4 bedrooms and 3.25 bathrooms and sits on a 0.34-acre lot in the historic village of Shorewood Hills. Given that few Caraway homes exist, we were intent on ensuring that the original character and intent of the architecture was preserved and that our new addition would draw out the originality and aesthetic beauty, all the more for the elements added.
Historic Preservation with Modern Users in Mind
For this project, the brief was to transform the home’s original open carport into a two-car garage that would fully attach to the home, providing direct access to its interior.
The transformation would entail removing the original open carport and enclosed storage area and building a sensitively designed, fully attached, two-car garage with direct access to the interior of the home. The original entry was very tight, and upon entering the front door, there was no place to put coats and shoes, so the brief included an update to the entryway that would allow for a more comfortable transition from exterior to interior. Overall, the client was looking for a design that updated the garage’s functionality to align more seamlessly with the current needs of the space.
Preserving Caraway’s Design Intentions
The new carport design completely captures the essence of the original house design, fully complementing and respecting Mr. Caraway’s design. The exterior materials and color palette blend thoughtfully with the original house, and some original exterior trim was salvaged for reuse.
We started by demolishing the original carport to make way for a fully attached two-car garage, then got to work on the new construction.
The carport roof we designed is more or less flat, with a slight taper toward two scuppers that drain water from the roof. The scuppers and roof tapering eliminated the need for exterior mounted unsightly gutters and downspouts, which were not present on the original design. This slight taper made for a very challenging structural framing operation, but our team carpenters maneuvered this design challenge expertly.
A small entry was designed along with the garage, designed to provide a both functionally and aesthetically seamless transition from exterior to interior. The interior entry now has a stained concrete floor and trim to match the existing elements.
When it comes to building an addition to a historic structure, the conventional wisdom is generally to design the new feature with the explicit intention of making it look different from the original structure in notable ways. In this case, we had to think outside that convention, in order to truly do justice to the original architecture. For this particular home, the garage area is a very prominent focal point on the landscape; and given the home’s compact horizontal lines and squat elevation, that meant that anything short of matching the original design as closely as possible would have taken away, visually, from Mr. Caraway’s vision.
The fact that we were able to salvage some of the original exterior trim for reuse, and were able to blend the exterior color palette and materials with the original house, helped reinforce this decision we made to lean more heavily toward matching the original design. It helped us frame the project even more emphatically as an act of preservation—a gesture of reintegrating and recirculating the architecture’s original elements.
This thought process speaks to how we see our role working in the art of historic preservation. Honoring the incredible craftsmanship and artistry of previous generations of builders means cultivating both familiarity and respect toward these rules and conventions that have gotten us by over the years in the construction business.
But we’ve also learned how important it is to use our skills, intuition, and experience to be able to know when the conventional wisdom enough—when what’s called for is creatively and thoughtfully solving a design problem in a new way. At TDS, it’s our expertise, and the experience we’ve gained over the years designing and preserving homes in the local landscape, that have given us the confidence to make those design calls, both creative and sensible.