The challenge: Update a condo in a St. Paul rowhouse while honoring the history, style and materials of the 125-year-old building.

The designer: Charlie Simmons, Charlie & Co. Design, Minneapolis, 612-333-2246, www.charlieand


Whole-house makeover: Simmons, who is also the homeowner, bought the two-level, 1,500 square-foot unit in an 1880s Italianate brownstone that is on the National Register of Historic Places. His plan was to gut the dated interior and transform the main floor into one big open space with three defined functions -- cooking, dining and lounging.

Jack-of-all-trades: Simmons was the general contractor, demo guy, drywaller and painter. "The day of closing, I walked in the door and started demolishing the walls," he said.

Limestone sleuth: The building's exterior is clad in limestone. So Simmons tracked down the quarry and bought similar limestone panels and glued them to the dated 1970s brown brick on the fireplace surround. "I brought the same material from the outside to the inside," he said.

Lucky find: Simmons guessed that the wall between his unit and his neighbor's was brick. But during demolition, he discovered plaster covered with what probably was original hand-stenciled wallpaper. He kept chipping away until he hit a stone wall. "I was incredibly happy," he said. "Now there's a juxtaposition of smooth honed limestone on the fireplace with the rustic rubble stone wall in the dining room."

Design sensibility: "Warm transitional with Asian influences and some contemporary elements," said Simmons. "Asian architecture is very clean and light looking, and the use of layering is interesting."

Floor effect: Simmons put an ebony stain on new red oak floors. "A dark floor encourages you to look at the art, architecture and furniture," he said.


Candle drama: He turned the textural stone wall into artwork by nailing up an arrangement of votives set inside metal brackets that he found in a scrap yard. "They create a nice effect when people are over," he said.

Kitchen magician: The new kitchen is a smaller galley-style to give more space to the new dining room. Simmons lit the glass-front cabinets on one wall because that's the first thing you see from the front door.

Color wheel: Neutral browns and tans with pops of blue. In the kitchen, "the blue glass pendants from Italy create a nice sculptural glow," he said.

Repeat elements: Simmons used warm walnut for the fireplace mantel, cocktail table, living-room cabinets and kitchen peninsula.

Personal touch: Simmons sketched the geometric pattern, and his father made a translucent stained-glass window for the kitchen.


Missions accomplished: "This is my first home and I wanted to express who I was, but also pay homage to a really interesting historic building in St. Paul," he said.


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