As a professional chef, Steven Brown had lots of ideas for what he wanted in his home’s recent kitchen remodeling. An overhang at the end of a center island was right up there with the six-burner Wolf range and vast expanses of countertop work surface.
“It’s where I roll pasta for cacio e pepe,” said Brown, a James Beard Award semifinalist and co-owner of Minneapolis restaurants St. Genevieve and Tilia, where the pasta is a signature dish — and a favorite in the Brown household.
The chef’s kitchen is one part of a two-story addition that Brown and his wife, Stacey Kvenvold, built onto the back of their 1920s foursquare in Minneapolis’ Linden Hills neighborhood.
It’s a striking example of how 785 square feet can dramatically improve a home’s flow, while creating a much-needed mudroom and a powder room. The couple also have a comfortable owners’ suite upstairs.
The design, by architects Mark Larson, Sarah Nymo and Anders Matney of Rehkamp Larson Architects, also seamlessly merges new with old, staying true to the home’s original character and charm.
Brown and Kvenvold bought the foursquare in 2011 to be closer to their daughter Sonia Brown’s school and to Tilia in Linden Hills.
But when they were house-hunting, the house they ultimately bought was “dead last on my list,” said Brown. “It was bright pink on the outside, and the drapes matched the wallpaper on the inside.”
But Kvenvold wasn’t deterred. “The home has great bones,” she said, noting the full-length French windows and handsome oak woodwork, which had never been painted.
She also was charmed by Linden Hills, with its village-in-the city feel and proximity to the lakes. “There were lots of kids outside, riding their bikes,” she said.
After moving in, the couple agreed that their outdated cramped kitchen, with its shallow cabinets and minimal countertop surfaces, had to go.
“It was this little square room where you couldn’t even fit a refrigerator,” said Kvenvold.
“We were hungry for more work space,” added Brown. The only bright spot was a cute breakfast nook.
Initially, the couple had planned to just tear out an old screen porch and bump out the back of the house to expand the kitchen. “But a simple bump-out turned into a puzzle,” said Kvenvold.
That puzzle included a problematic staircase off the kitchen, impeding the design of the bigger version the couple hoped to build.
Larson’s solution was to “take a switchback staircase and make it into a straight run,” he said. “Modifying the staircase was one of the key pieces that made the new floor plan work.”
The couple decided to go with that new floor plan, which included two new levels stacked atop each other, for a total of 785 additional square feet.
The extra space also allowed them to add a fourth bedroom, two more bathrooms and a must-have mudroom with heated floors, cabinets and a bench.
Larson’s deft design for the chef-friendly galley kitchen maximized every square foot. “I don’t cook food at home the same way as in a restaurant,” said Brown. “We focused on making this kitchen functional, fit the space and our lifestyle.”
The center island is 24 inches wide rather than the standard 36 inches, said Larson. For the top, Brown opted for indestructible distressed stainless steel — a staple in a restaurant kitchen.
Kvenvold chose gray-veined Carrara marble for the perimeter countertops. “It’s a beautiful stone,” she said, “but you have to be careful because it can stain.”
The blue-gray painted traditional inset cabinetry is accented with modern brushed-nickel pulls. The oversized white subway tile’s gray grout picks up the veining in the marble countertop.
On the other wall, a floor-to-ceiling furniture-style cabinet doubles as a bar for parties.
Finally, Brown splurged on a 42-inch-wide SubZero refrigerator to hold all the ingredients for the fabulous dinners he prepares at home when he’s not at the restaurants.
Off the new kitchen is Kvenvold’s favorite space, the new light-filled eating nook, which has become the heart of the home.
She requested bench seating wrapped around the farm table because “it’s so casual and invites people to cozy up together,” she said. Plus the benches lift up to hold more kitchen necessities. A hammered-metal pendant over the farm table repeats the industrial motif visible in the new spaces.
“I spend a lot of time there — reading, working and eating,” said Kvenvold, who often uses the nook as her office to do administrative work for the restaurants.
The new kitchen and eating nook have quadrupled the amount of storage that the family had before. “I wish I had this much storage in my restaurants,” said Brown.
As part of the evolving project, it also made sense to remedy the “dead end” living room. Larson carved out a new doorway at the rear of the room that opens it to the kitchen, and improves flow and circulation.
“It’s a great pass-through that leads to the new back door and ties the house together,” said Kvenvold.
The new “straight-run” staircase leads up to the second-floor owners’ suite, which boasts all the amenities typical in a new home, such as a walk-in closet and spa-style bathroom retreat.
Larson even added French doors, which can be opened to a small rug-shaking balcony. “I really like how we can bring the outdoors in,” said Kvenvold.
For the project’s overall design aesthetic, Larson took inspiration from the home’s period blueprint — from the archways and piano windows to the coved moldings.
Now completed, the renovation “has the warmth of the traditional original home,” Larson said, “but with a little bit of an industrial edge.”
For the busy chef, the new kitchen makes cooking at home more fun and efficient.
“I feel like I can breathe,” said Brown, who now has plenty of room to whip up a dinner of duck breast, a St. Genevieve specialty, for his family. “And the new flow really works.”