Transforming an aging but distinguished example of midcentury modern architecture from eyesore to showcase requires a special talent for thoughtful, restrained renovation. The owner of such a property in Shreveport, La. found his transformation maestro in Scott Payne, AIA, LEED AP and principal at Farmer Payne Architects of Jackson Hole, Wyo. and Shreveport, La.

“The home had a dated, Kawneer commercial storefront system, a clunky look,” says Payne. “The roof had horrible orange fiberglass shingles. The windows were single-glaze and bled energy. It was an eyesore.”The project was a challenge for Payne and his team, who were tasked with the home’s full renovation. The experience offered seven lessons in the art and science of residential makeovers:

  1. Think Like a Builder. “We design buildings that push the envelope but are always buildable,” observes Payne. This big A-framed home tested that ethic with a grid system of glulam beams and steel columns that prevented easy updates. “The windows, for example, were frameless,” explains Payne. “It was impossible to remove them without disrupting intricate stonework. The idea of welding steel windows to the steel column superstructure was ruled-out as too costly. I pushed for wood-clad windows. I knew we could stain the window interior and get the desired thin profile. The aluminum exterior cladding could be coated bronze for the steel look the owner wanted.”
  2. Think Like an Owner. Most owners live and work outside the world of construction. What may appear simple and straightforward to the layperson, may represent an enormous design or construction challenge. “I’ve never worked with an owner who understood how difficult construction is, how dirty the process really is,” admits Payne. This project proved no different as Payne had to carefully explain to the owner the renovation complexity.
  3. Keep It Real. Farmer Payne Architects prizes the use of natural materials, free of manmade effects. “For timeless appeal, you have to use real materials. The second you introduce an artificial material, you date the project,” Payne explains. New stone would never match the existing stonework and coating the stone to make old and new stone uniform in appearance was aesthetically unacceptable. That ruled out replacing existing stone. The replacement flexibility of wood-clad windows offered a way to tweak the window frame to conform to the stonework window openings.
  4. Little Things Do Mean a Lot. While the home’s layout remains materially unchanged – no big-room addition, no structural demolition – the new windows and roof had a startling effect. “Aesthetics transformed the look,” Payne says. “This was a house no one ever looked at. It was a real eyesore. Now everyone is talking about it.”
  5. Place Boots on the Ground. Payne says all requirements pointed at Marvin Windows and Doors as the best window choice. The brand was market-appropriate and affordable according to Payne. It also came with a must-have plus: unmatched local support. “We acted as a design-build shop. I trusted our Marvin rep to hire skilled finish carpenters. We took the old windows out piece by piece to protect the stone. It was very tricky,” reports Payne.
  6. Work with A-Listers. “I always tell owners we’re only as good as the weakest link,” Payne says. “Marvin is always a big player in our Louisiana projects. They ‘get it.’ With other window reps, I quickly discover I know more about their business than they do. Marvin is the exception.”
  7. Trust Your Instincts. In spite of assurances, the owner remained skeptical. So when he walked through the finished renovation, Payne was doubly gratified by the owner’s enthusiastic acceptance of the changes. “He was totally blown away” Payne recalls. “The renovation totally changed their quality of life. You name it. Daylight. Quiet. Energy. Aesthetics. It’s a complete transformation.”
  8. It worked out very well for Farmer Payne, too. “I get phone calls all the time for new projects. They always ask about this project,” says Payne. For more information, visit here.