Rocky Mountain News
June 2006

Doube Take
Capitol Hill duplex reborn in eye-catching renovation.
In 2002, Denver architect Wayne Johnson saw a "for sale" sign and lots of potential at the site of a chopped-up apartment house on Capitol Hill.

He jumped into the bidding war, offered more than the asking price and lost. Johnson then negotiated with the new buyer, eventually purchasing what is now his home.

"The whole place just resonated with me," he recalls. "It had been built as a duplex, with such unique style and street presence, and its bones were so good. I loved the original flat roof, brick pediments and ornamental metal work."

Wanting to know more, Johnson wrote to OLD HOUSE JOURNAL, hoping to learn more about the architectural

influences on his home. The magazine responded by publishing his query with a photograph and an answer by Denver historian and ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS columnist, Tom Noel, detailing its architectural heritage as a Foursquare, with touches of Mission Revival, Spanish Colonial and "Art Nouveau-ish stained glass."

Johnson worked with Chris Withers, owner of Old Greenwich Builders of Denver, to gut his house and restore it to two single-family attached units. New custom-made windows, sized to match the originals, were installed.

A detached, divided four-car garage was built. A courtyard with separate patios adds to the quality of outdoor urban life. It was augmented with the planting of more than 700 bulbs by James Iles, Johnson's partner.

Unlike a typical mirror-image duplex, the house was redesigned into two contemporary condominiums, each with its own feel. Johnson sold the west-facing side to a friend, Mark Hinson, designing the interior to suit Hinson. Johnson and Iles occupy the south-facing unit.

The project garnered a 2006 Restoration for Living Award from Historic Denver in the Exterior Renovation category.

Awards for other homes were given for Sympathetic Additions (an addition within the scale of the existing structure using the same materials), Kitchen Renovations and Additions, Bathroom Renovations and Additions, and Interior Rehabilitations.

Projects eligible for the annual contest include those

within the City and County of Denver, completed in the last five years on structures at least 50 years old, that enhance contemporary life. Projects must respect the historic character of the house, says  Historic Denver resource development manager Laura Libby.

"What stood out about the duplex exterior was the owner's incredible respect for the existing property," she syas. "It wasn't a tear-down; they took careful steps to enhance the beauty of the structure, and its value contributes to the streetscape and neighborhood."

Johnson, an architect with Exclusive Resorts, says no detail went unnoticed, inside or out. "We began by identifying everything we wanted saved - wood-work, stained glass, decorative metal on registers and anything old - in order to refurbish," he says. "We gutted and started rebuilding. There was a lot of tuck pointing - reconditioning the brick and replacing a missing pediment on the 10th Avenue side. We also replaced 1960s-era metal porch railings with new wood railings made to look old."

In each unit, space was maximized for modern living. The second floor was made into a generous master suite with large closets and a bath. Second floors have balconies; the main floors have covered porches. Previously unusable basements were transformed into media/guest rooms with full baths, laundry, utility rooms and storage.

"We really opened it up by hiding beams in the ceiling and adding new heating, plumbing and wiring systems," Johnson says. "It's a new house inside an old house."

The original formal living rooms never had fireplaces. Johnson installed English reproduction fireplaces. The dining rooms open to kitchens with cherry wood cabinets with chocolate glaze, slab granite counters and cast-iron sinks. New oak flooring was installed throughout, as were marble bathrooms. Each unit now has 2 1/2 baths.

Decor on both units is an eclectic mix of antique and contemporary. The best surprise, Johnson says, was discovering a pair of mahogany columns buried in a wall added when apartment

were created. "The original columns are on our side of the building. They're beautiful. We replaced the capitals and had the columns faux-painted. Now they're flanking the entrance to the living room.

"I love the overall feeling of history and the fact that this house was gutted and designed for the way I live. It's the best of both worlds, and a day doesn't go by without someone stopping to appreciate it."