Builder beige was the hue du jour when Eric Fan and Rachael Lu's home was built in Plymouth.
But Fan and Lu like bold colors and contrasts. They bought their 1993 rambler intending to give it an extreme makeover.
"The only thing I liked about it was the outside, the view," said Fan. The home's backyard overlooks woods and wetland, and beyond it, Hollydale Golf Course. "I didn't like the interior at all."
Enter Jaque Bethke, lead interior designer with Pure Design Environments, Eden Prairie, whose style is characterized by colors, textures and details that make a statement. The couple contacted Bethke after discovering that she had been the designer for their previous house, a builder model just a mile away.
"We love it," said Fan of that home's distinctive finishes. "So we found out who did that."
That house had served them well, but their family had recently expanded with the arrival of their son. "When we had a little one, we wanted to upgrade to a larger house," said Fan.
The growing family also needed space to accommodate extended visits by the boy's two grandmothers, both of whom live in China. "Our tradition is for grandparents to look after the grandchildren," said Fan. "They want to be with us."
The Plymouth rambler had plenty of space but it was chopped up into segmented rooms. A wall separated the kitchen from the dining room, and a large peninsula separated the kitchen from a small breakfast room.
"The house was very compartmentalized," said Bethke. "The biggest thing we could do is open it up" to create the floor plan that many families now prefer.
Fan and Lu were on board. Working with contractor Boris Gumeniuc of GBS Exterior, Coon Rapids, Bethke transformed the main floor, creating an open-concept layout with integrated spaces for cooking, dining and living. There's a large L-shaped island in the kitchen with two tiers — one for food preparation and one for casual meals, and the dining area holds a large round table for traditional Chinese dinners.
No fear here
Fan and Lu also wanted to punch up and personalize the home's color palette.
"Most people are afraid of color," said Bethke, who believes the lack of it in many Minnesota homes leaves their owners feeling lackluster about their surroundings.
"People live in neutral spaces but are never in love with them. They're starved for color," she said. "But if you love a color, you're always going to love it."
Lu, in particular, loves purples and pinks, so Bethke made lavish use of them in the couple's interiors. The dining area, for example, features upholstered purple chairs and a rich purple accent wall with lighted shelving. The wall's eye-catching finish comes from seven layers of colors, topped with varnish, then manipulated with a rubber-bristled brush to form a textured wavy pattern.
"The amount of texture you put in creates excitement," said Bethke. "Not just on walls but on the ceilings," she added, gesturing upward, where a recessed panel featuring the same paint treatment anchors the chandelier.
A floating soffit with changeable LED lighting adds to the ambience. "We do a lot with lighting, and it makes such a difference, here [in Minnesota] especially," she said. "There's so much cloudy gray environment. With light, I can trick that. And they [Fan and Lu] were fabulous in embracing it."
Because they love Bethke's style, Fan and Lu were comfortable letting her pull out the stops. "I trust Jaque for her vision," said Fan. "We told her what we like. She laid it out, and we said, 'Just do it.' "
In the living room, Bethke used color to create a cozy vibe, despite the room's high, barrel-vaulted ceiling. "It felt kind of like a barn," she said. "You'd never hang out in there." So she had the soaring ceiling painted a deep blackberry hue. The dark color contrasts with the light flooding in through big windows overlooking the backyard. "What I wanted to accomplish was to bring a big room down to human scale."
The furniture, too, is bright and bold, including a pair of fuchsia velvet chairs and a long console with a burled wood top and a fuchsia front. "I had the drawers taken out and painted to get a pop of color," Bethke said.
The coffee table — two circles that can be stacked or rotated apart — was designed to be family-friendly; the round shape was chosen with the couple's toddler in mind. "We tried to eliminate edges," said Fan.
A main-floor office that the couple share also got a bold treatment. The walls are finished with LusterStone, a metallic plaster embedded with mica sand, which gives it a sheen, in a citron hue.
"It blends in with the natural colors [visible outdoors]," said Fan. Bethke chose the vivid yellow-green with Fan's job in mind. His work requires him to communicate frequently with people in China, so he's often using the office in the middle of the night, because of the time difference.
"If you have to be up at night, you need good energy, and yellow-green is a good color for keeping you awake when you have to work," Bethke said.
When it's time to play, the house is now ready, with a glam lower level designed for entertaining. Bethke transformed the wet bar and fireplace to create a dynamic Vegas-inspired look. Unfinished storage space was converted into a dramatic theater with a 110-inch screen, plus an adjacent room with a pool table. "Eric wanted a man cave," said Bethke. "His wife loves karaoke." There's even a girlie "selfie station" — a built-in circular seat covered in pink velvet.
No room in the home was left untouched, including a new spalike guest bath for the visiting grandmothers. Even the baby's room was transformed: A door that opened into the foyer was closed, creating a wall to accommodate built-in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. When she visited the couple's previous home, Bethke observed that they owned a large book collection. "Books and education are important to them," she said.
The ambitious whole-house remodeling took nearly a year to complete. "Five months' planning and five months' working," Bethke said. "My philosophy is the planning should take as long as the execution."
There were a few bumps along the way, such as when the tile ordered from Italy for the lower-level bar had to be reordered. "It took 14 weeks to get here. Then four boxes broke in shipment, and we had to wait another 14 weeks," said Bethke.
But now that the project is complete, "I feel like it's the house they belong in," she said.
Fan agreed. His family won't move in until after the Remodelers Showcase next weekend, he said, but already, "it feels like home."