Home Improvements

HVAC system/climate control

For almost the entire life of the structure, Stratton House relied on lake breezes to keep her cool. The exceptionally thick terracotta and brick walls contributed to this function and worked well. However, over time, as homes were built and trees grew up between Stratton House and Lake St. Clair, these breezes dimished. We lived in the home for two summers before deciding to upgrade the HVAC systems to add air conditioning. We needed to control the climate and humidity not only for personal comfort but also for that of the integrity of the art we collect and the structure itself. Seasonal shifts of humidity and dry winter air were taking a toll on the home’s interiors. The cracking and warping of wooden cabinetry, floors and surfaces needed mitigation to ensure Stratton House had a healthy and comfortable path forward.

Stratton House is heated by a hot water boiler system. This fact, coupled with many other structural aspects of the home, made cooling it an interesting feat. The thick walls that insulate and add so much to the architecture weight in fact made it impossible to install a conventional AC system. Relying of European cooling technologies, the contractor installed several internal units throughout the home as well as a forced-air system in the master suite floor. Armed with professional guidance from a leading heating and cooling company acquainted with historic structures, we set upon regulating the internal climate seasonally. It most assuredly has made the humid August nights very pleasant inside the home.

Ongoing Storm Window Restoration and Rebuilding

Over the course of our tenure, we have systematically addressed the deteriorating storm windows and doors. Some required minimal restoration while others were completely rebuilt utilizing the original glass and hardware. Over the decades prior, some storm glass was replaced with plexiglass. We are in the process of addressing these windows and replacing them with glass.

Interior Plumbing

The tedious task of updating the aging plumbing system began during the Morison’s tenure and is further being addressed by us. Each bathroom will be tackled over time.

The Roof Above the Library

Re-roofing the library with a membrane and copper flashing system was completed during the fall of 2020.

Interior and Exterior Sump Systems Installed

Immediately upon moving in, we were faced with an overburdened and aged drainage system. The natural topography of the land on and around Stratton House drains down towards the lake. The watershed on the land can be intense. Over the decades, soils redirected water towards the garden level entrance to the basement. After consulting with hydrologists and plumbers, we set upon correcting the issues. A sump pit in the basement was tied into existing drain tiles surrounding the house. This new system alleviated pressure on the original, internal drainage system. An exterior sump system was installed to store and pump excess water towards the rear garden watershed. This system safeguards the kitchen garden from flooding and keeps the basement bone dry.

Kitchen Renovation

Ayers and Marylin Morrison undertook the kitchen restoration in the early seventies. Ayers meticulously recreated sections of the cabinetry to accurately reflect the kitchen the Strattons had designed. At this time the yellow Pewabic tile counter tops were removed and stored in the basement. Steel edged, Formica counter tops were installed to update the renovation. Our recent remodel of the kitchen included removing the Formica, which we replaced with walnut to return the kitchen to a 1920s aesthetic.

The cabinet drawings from Ayers’ hand show the detail of the boxes and panels he recreated. Our kitchen renovation in 2017 followed his lead in maintaining the historic nature of a working Arts and Crafts kitchen. Layers of vinyl were removed from the floor. Although vinyl was originally used on the floor, the decision to paint the wood boards was made to continue the feeling from elsewhere in the house. To modernize the kitchen, Sub Zero and Wolfe appliances were installed into the existing layout, maintaining the integrity of the original kitchen. The bank of cabinets above the cooking surface was removed and stored for archival purposes. This opened the space allowing room for the exhaust hood.