During the winter, Martha O’Hara often worried about slipping on icy stairs. To reach their detached garage, she and her husband, Steve O’Hara, had to walk down a staircase on the outside of their home.
“It could be treacherous,” said Martha, an interior designer and owner of Martha O’Hara Interiors in St. Louis Park. “Steve got up early to put salt on the stairs so I wouldn’t fall in my high heels.”
The couple’s need for safer, easier access to the backyard helped drive the recent renovation of their Georgian-style stucco home in south Minneapolis. The project included a back-entry addition accented with a curved staircase, as well as a stylish kitchen makeover. On the second floor, the O’Haras reconfigured bedrooms to add a laundry room, and also updated three bathrooms. As a final flourish, many of the rooms have been restyled with new furnishings and artwork.
You can gather ideas and inspiration from the O’Hara home, and eight others, at the Midwest Home Luxury Remodeling Tour on Aug. 15-16 and Aug. 22-23. The upscale projects have budgets of $300,000 and up and include whole-house renovations, master-suite additions and state-of-the-art gourmet kitchens.
For her home redo, Martha switched roles and became the client. She gave interior designers on her staff “carte blanche” to pick out materials, surfaces and furniture that would jell with her design aesthetic.
“I lean toward contemporary,” she said, “but I can go traditional in a second.”
In the living room, for example, designer Carrie Rodman mingled an iconic Knoll Platner metal easy chair with comfy upholstered sofas, reflecting Martha’s fondness for traditional, with “a bit of a modern edge,” said Rodman.
Next weekend, tourgoers — and Martha — will be in for a few surprises; all the rooms won’t be finished and styled until a few days before the tour opens. Last week, workers were still hanging De Gournay silk wallpaper hand-painted with a wisteria pattern in the dining room.
“I haven’t seen all of the furniture,” said Martha. “I’m totally excited and I can’t wait.”
Home highlights: Designer Martha O’Hara’s revitalized residence.
The house: A 1922 Georgian-style designed by architect Ernest Kennedy in south Minneapolis.
The team: Builders John and Jeff Kraemer of John Kraemer & Sons, Edina. Jeff Murphy of Murphy & Co., Buffalo, designed the addition. Interior designers Kristy Conlin and Carrie Rodman, Martha O’Hara Interiors, St. Louis Park. Landscaping by Yardscapes, Bloomington.
The starting point: In 1992, the O’Haras stepped inside the foyer and knew the stucco home was a keeper. The foyer’s rib vault ceiling “appealed to my Southern formality,” said Martha, who grew up in Tennessee and still has a distinct Southern drawl.
In the 1990s, the O’Haras did the typical kitchen and bathroom updates to better suit their family, which included two children.
Now as empty-nesters, the couple were ready for the next phase of interior updates and devising more functional spaces — while solving the problem of the treacherous outdoor staircase. “This remodeling turned out to be much grander,” said Martha.
Wonderful west entry: Builders John and Jeff Kraemer constructed a 1½-story light-filled entry on the back of the home. The 250-square-foot addition is seamless inside and out, with exterior stucco and double-hung windows and interior wood millwork matching the home’s original design elements.
Instead of the icy concrete stairs, Martha now glides down a dramatic curved staircase, which “feels Southern and genteel and makes the room a little more grand,” she said. The new entry is also functional with a bench, tall storage cabinets and drop spots, and is right off the kitchen.
The interior designers chose a crisp black-and-white palette infused with splashes of citron in pillows and other accessories. A Turkish vintage overdyed rug from Fay+Belle covers a floor of charcoal and white lace-patterned tile.
“When I walk in the back door,” said Martha, “it makes me smile.”
Cook’s kitchen: The builder tore out a servants’ staircase and an old brick chimney to widen the space, which was gutted and remodeled from top to bottom. “The added 50 square feet gave us room for more storage and a huge center island,” said John Kraemer.
The center island is painted a vibrant French blue to break up the white-on-white surfaces, including floor-to-ceiling subway tile and painted cabinets. Along a wall is a built-in bar for morning coffee and evening wine service. Above the island, Martha chose modern glassless lanterns to keep the sightlines open.
Steve, an amateur chef, had input on the appliances and the kitchen layout, which includes two prep sinks. “I can have two or three friends in here cooking, and there’s plenty of space,” he said.
Fashionable foyer: The O’Haras have preserved the Gothic-style architecture of the alluring octagon-shaped room, adding “edgy and funky” art and accessories. Martha’s favorite new piece is the mod reflective crystal and steel Bradley chandelier. “It’s the star,” she said.