Renee Carlisle feels called to share her home with total strangers.
Specifically, strangers who are in the Twin Cities to do faith-based mission work.
“A lot of people need a home away from home,” said Carlisle, who has gone on international mission trips and serves as missionary coordinator for her church.
While she was remodeling her vintage Minneapolis home, those experiences inspired her to create three guest rooms to provide a homey refuge for visiting missionaries — from individuals to families with children. Her guests stay free of charge and also have access to her brand-new kitchen, as well as her rosewood-paneled dining room, living room and library.
Isn’t it hard to have people you don’t know living in your home?
“It’s amazing!” said Carlisle. “I’ve been blessed so much more to hear stories from around the world.”
The story of Carlisle and her “Faith House” ministry began during a casual conversation at church with Tim Mogck of Design by Mogck.
“I shared that I was a designer and real estate agent and that my area of specialty was finding homes with potential,” Mogck recalled. “Just like those HGTV guys — I visualize what a space can become.”
Carlisle, who watches “way too much HGTV,” was intrigued.
“I knew I wanted a fixer-upper,” she said. But she wasn’t sure how to find the right one and the right people to do the work. Mogck’s expertise was just what she needed. “I said, ‘I was looking to find you, and God just dropped you,’ ” she recalled.
Mogck soon found a prime makeover candidate — a 1926 Italian Renaissance-style house, with much of its original charm and character intact, near the Mississippi River in south Minneapolis. The house had some structural problems, including a sinking second story, with a visible hump in the floor. But Mogck, who also has a construction background, was confident it could be corrected. He could see adding a rental apartment in the partially finished basement, which already had its own entrance.
“Once he started sharing his vision, how I could offset costs with rent, I knew it was right,” said Carlisle. “The house was really in need of a lot of love.”
The 1970s-era kitchen also was overdue for an update. And Mogck thought that the home’s layout could be improved to better accommodate modern living.
“The kitchen wasn’t in the right location,” he said, noting that it was isolated at the back of the house, with no entrance to the outside. There was an informal dining room right next to the formal dining room, which seemed redundant and a waste of space. “It didn’t make any sense.”
Mogck redesigned the main floor, putting the kitchen in the heart of the home, opening it up to the formal dining room, adding an island, and creating a mudroom in the old kitchen, to enhance the home’s flow and functionality.
The upstairs got an even bigger makeover. Eliminating one bedroom created space for an owner’s suite, with a walk-in closet and dream bathroom. Mogck also reconfigured the upstairs hallway to create better access to the third floor. “The only way up was through a bedroom,” he said.
Barton Construction Services of Stillwater was enlisted to tackle the project. “I knew it would be a good fit,” said Mogck. “They’re used to working with turn-of-the-century houses.”
Carlisle’s idea for Faith House took shape during the design process. “I was talking to missionary friends, and God planted that [idea] in my heart,” she said. She decided to add a bathroom on the third floor, as well as remodeling the guest bath on the second, to better accommodate visitors.
“The design is perfectly suited to her ministry,” said Mogck.
Getting the city to approve the lower-level apartment as an accessory-dwelling unit (ADU) was a lengthy process. “There’s a lot of paperwork,” Carlisle said.
Carlisle, a product manager for a software company, took an active role in the project, picking out fixtures, finishes and lighting. “I was involved in every detail,” she said. “I wanted to know where the light switches were going.”
She also enjoyed collaborating with the craftspeople hired for the finishing work, such as blending the new and old wood flooring to create a seamless look. “I did love working with some of the great artisans in Minneapolis,” she said.
Of course, there were a few hurdles that arose during construction.
“As with many remodels, particularly homes that are older, there are a handful of unforeseen things,” said Mogck. “You expect it; you just don’t know what they are.”
With Carlisle’s home, the existing electrical wiring, which provided only 100-amp service, started in the garage, then extended to the house.
Because it would have been expensive to change, Carlisle had to be very careful choosing light fixtures and gas appliances, to ensure that the house could be wired to code without overloading the limited service.
Carlisle took such challenges in stride. “You hear all the horror stories about remodeling, but I don’t have a negative thing to say,” she said. “I just loved the process so much.”
In fact, she loved it so much that she might even do it again.
“I wouldn’t mind finding another gem to restore,” she said.
The California native who has lived “all over the country” is not sure how long she’ll be in Minnesota. “I’m here as long as I’m supposed to be,” she said.
For now, she’ll continue opening her Minneapolis door to missionaries who need a place to stay.
“If I’m blessed with a house like this, how can I not give back?”