The challenge: When Lane Christianson bought his house 20 years ago, its location sealed the deal — a quiet dead-end street near a wooded walking trail in Roseville. But the house, a 1970 split-level, had room for improvement. “It was really dated,” he said. “A diamond in the rough.” Over the years, Christianson improved his house indoors and out, saving the kitchen, with its avocado-hued stove, popcorn ceiling and peeling linoleum floor, for later. He wanted to create a warm, welcoming space — big and open enough to accommodate entertaining.
Planning ahead: As he tackled other projects at his home, Christianson kept his future kitchen in mind. Several years ago, when he replaced his roof, he also installed a skylight above the kitchen — even though there was no current opening for it inside the house. “It sat for five years until I opened it up and framed it,” he said.
Gathering ideas: Whenever he visited someone else’s home, Christianson always made it a point to check out the kitchen. “I’d go to people’s houses and see what they had,” he said. His scouting missions sold him on the merits of practical enhancements, such as a utility garage for tucking small appliances out of sight, and soft-close doors and pullout drawers for cabinets.
First things first: When Christianson was finally ready to begin his kitchen makeover, he started with the layout. Like most homes of its era, his house had a segmented floor plan. The kitchen was small and separated from the adjacent living room and tiny dining room by a full wall. Christianson wanted to remove the wall to create an open-concept floor plan. First he consulted with a friend, an architect, who informed him that the wall was load-bearing. Tearing it out would require adding a support post. “It had to be in just the right spot,” he said. But the result would be one big open space on the main level of the house.
With a lot of help from his friends: Christianson’s remodeling project was primarily a DIY effort, but he did get a lot of assistance from handy and knowledgeable people he knew. “I leaned on my friends,” he said. Christianson did a lot of the hands-on work himself, including laying tile for his new backsplash, installing ash flooring, crown molding and new custom cabinets of rustic alder, built by Rum River Cabinets, and he made a few mistakes along the way. “I installed one [cabinet] upside down — and had to redo it,” he recalled with a laugh. Christianson did hire experts for some specialized work, such as HVAC modifications and installing a stone-veneer accent wall to delineate the living and dining sections of the room. He also tackled a few jobs that most experts advise amateurs not to undertake, such as electrical work. “It was challenging,” he said. “I had minimal experience, but a friend helped.”
Rustic look: Christianson was seeking a rustic European ambience for his new kitchen. “I wanted a French countryside thing,” he said. To help him select a color palette for his walls, he consulted interior designer Jaimie Nelson. “I wanted Tuscan red,” he said. But when he showed her the shade he had in mind, she cautioned him that it was too intense, then guided him to a more muted terra cotta, accented by sage and caramel. “I love the color scheme and the warmth of this room,” he said. “At night, it’s fantastic!”
Custom hardware: To get the rustic look he wanted, Christianson turned to VanMadrone Metalworks of Minneapolis, for elongated, wrought-iron pulls enhanced with a fleur de lis pattern.
A place to gather: A two-level center island, with a beadboard base and topped with black granite, helped created the party-friendly gathering spot that Christianson wanted. “When I entertain, it is so nice,” he said. “Everyone gathers around the island. You can cook and talk. Now I can have cooking classes. I’ve hired a chef and had two sushi parties. I wouldn’t have had parties like that in my old kitchen.”
Budget-friendly: By doing a lot of the work himself, Christianson was able to complete his new kitchen and refresh the living and dining spaces for less than $28,000, including the professional help he hired and all materials. That doesn’t include the many hours of labor he and numerous friends contributed. “I couldn’t have done the project without the help of my good friends,” he said. “It’s amazing how much you can save if you do it yourself.”