John Weise Photography and Design

Square columns to match those on either side of the house, a round bump out in front, and hefty balusters above create a Classical Revival porch for this once-condemned St. Paul house. Condemned and scheduled to be demolished by the city of St. Paul, Minn., this house had just a few days to live. It was pardoned by a decorative painter who lived across the street. He paid the back taxes, put down a down payment, and posted a performance bond on the property to show he planned to save it. With no original pictures of the house or clues from the façade, coming up with a porch that looked original was anybody's guess. The first plan called for a small entryway porch with a triangular gable roof to match the top of the house. But when crews removed the existing concrete stairs and crumbling stucco veneer from the front, they revealed a change from dressed stone to random stone. It was apparent that the original porch was much bigger than the planned addition. Plus, an elderly neighbor remembered "something round" on the front of the house.

Remodeler and designer Steven Madole, Architrave Design and Remodeling, started over and came up with a new design. The hefty square columns along the main area of the porch echo the two-story columns on each side of the house. Classical round columns frame the half-round bump out in front of the door. Above, robust balusters balance out the weighty porch.

The main challenge of this project was that it had to be inexpensive. To that end, Madole and his team substituted low-cost alternatives that didn't sacrifice style. The round columns are synthetic marble, and the square columns were made out of poplar to match. Because ready-made balusters are so expensive, the crew saved money by custom turning recycled timbers from old warehouses and bridges. Bendable plastic crown molding was used for the curved areas, and beaded plywood substitutes for a more traditional tongue and groove porch ceiling.

All in all, the renovated house--and especially the porch--is a grand success. So successful, in fact, that its fitting design and perfect proportions inspired two more homes on the street to follow the neighborhood renaissance.