The challenge: Homeowners Carol Kratzer and Mandy French bought their 1½-story Tudor in south Minneapolis more than a dozen years ago, with the long-term goal of remodeling its unfinished attic. “We wanted to create an open, functional space there and turn it into a really cool bedroom suite,” said Kratzer.
The team: Kratzer and French turned to Iron River Construction (www.ironriver co.com), Chaska, 952-442-1762, with whom they had worked on three previous home-improvement projects, and designer Jessica Cook, JLC Interior Design (www.jlcinterior design.com), Maple Plain, 952-994-1124.
The wish list: In their new suite, Kratzer and French wanted space for a bedroom and a seating area, plenty of storage, and a bathroom with a separate shower and tub. Instead of the typical glass-doored shower, they preferred a large, walk-in tiled shower, similar to ones they’d seen on trips to Mexico. “Jessica started to get creative,” Kratzer said. They went through several different designs for the shower before landing on a free-standing circular enclosure with a descending arc at the top. The distinctive shape adds architectural interest. “There are so many straight lines in this space,” said French. “The giant curve is a contrast.”
Tricky tile: Tiling the circular shower and bathroom floor was a challenge. Kratzer and French had chosen small hexagonal “penny tiles,” in classic black and white, with turquoise accents. It took four weeks to install all the tile. “This was not a standard project,” Cook said. In addition to working with thousands of tiny tiles on a curved surface, “he [Dave Karp of Tile Fusion] had to set the white tile first, then remove pieces, and hand-set the accent tile. That bathroom is a credit to his patience, skill and professionalism.”
Tremendous tub: The 1936-built attic was not designed to support a cast-iron tub, which weighed almost 600 pounds, plus another 20 for each claw foot. “There were no trusses,” said Rick Tollerud, senior project manager for Iron River. “The flooring below the tub had to be beefed up and secure, because we were putting all this weight up there.” Getting the massive tub upstairs was another hurdle. “It took six guys,” Tollerud said. “It had a painted exterior, so we couldn’t scratch it. If we had to touch it up, it would show. We didn’t scratch it.”
Built-in functionality. As long as they were remodeling, Kratzer and French chose to make their house more energy-efficient. “They made the investment in spray-foam insulation in walls and ceilings,” said Tollerud. “It had a huge impact on the R-value, and it also has sound-deadening qualities.” To get the storage space the couple wanted, the suite includes 25 feet of custom-built cabinets behind the knee walls.
Distinctive finishes: The attic’s support posts are now clad in vintage Chicago brick, similar to that on the home’s chimney. The 80-year-old bricks came from a neighbor who was removing them from his driveway. The flooring in the suite is dark-hued cork. “It’s earthy and organic, similar to wood,” Cook said, but has a softer feel underfoot. “We like it a lot, and the look is beautiful,” Kratzer said.
Let there be light: The angled-wall space needed more light, but there wasn’t enough ceiling depth to add can lights, said Cook. The solution: LED valance lighting, installed where the ceiling meets the knee wall. “It’s on a dimmer, so it gives a lot of flexibility,” Cook said. “It’s functional and creates a beautiful glow.” Period sconces, in a nod to the home’s original architecture, and a modern chandelier were the final touches.
The result: Kratzer and French’s 850-square-foot suite has become their go-to getaway spot. They’re enjoying its higher vantage point. “It’s fun — a new perspective on our neighborhood,” Kratzer said. Moving upstairs has opened up space downstairs. “We travel a lot, and now we have a guest room on the first floor, so the people we visit can visit us,” Kratzer said.
But friends also have their eye on the new suite. “There’s a waiting list of people who want to stay here,” French said. “They ask us, ‘When are you going out of town?’ ”