The challenge: Turn the cramped, boxed-in spaces of a 1950s rambler into updated, cohesive connecting rooms.

The team: Architect Bruce Knutson of Bruce Knutson Architects (, Golden Valley, and contractor Frank Greczyna, owner of Pineview Builders in St. Paul.

The solution: The homeowners planned to stay in their Edina house for many more years and wanted to make modern improvements, yet keep the ranch-house style. "The couple also wanted visual and vocal connection when one was cooking in the kitchen and the other was in the porch," said Knutson. His main-floor remodeling plan included tearing down some walls and raising the ceilings in the kitchen and porch to visually open up the rooms.

Kitchen connection: Knutson first removed a wall between the U-shaped kitchen and a small den, which was closed off from the rest of the house. That allowed him to integrate that den space into the newly remodeled kitchen and create a casual eating and laptop work area. With the wall gone, it also opened up the kitchen to other rooms and expanded views of Minnehaha Creek out the windows. "We were able to gain visual depth and volume very inexpensively," he said.

From uninviting porch to relaxing sunroom: The three-season porch felt detached from the rest of the house and was rarely used. Knutson removed the entry wall and sliding-glass door between the porch and the house, turning the porch into an extension of the other living spaces.

"We took out a major bearing wall and put in a simple transfer-beam system, which is stronger," he said. He also vaulted the porch ceiling, put in a new cork floor and a cost-effective heating and cooling unit so it can be used all year long.

Staircase barrier: Knutson also tore down a staircase wall adjacent to the kitchen, gaining "25 percent visual space," he said. Then he replaced the wall with a new stair-rail half wall, accented with horizontal iron spindles chosen by the homeowner for a modern twist.

From cut-up to cohesive: After he knocked down the walls, Knutson used walnut flooring, lighting, paint colors and other materials to unify the kitchen, living and dining rooms.

The result: "Tearing down walls accomplishes the current preferred lifestyle, which is for open, flowing multi-use spaces," said Knutson. "Families are more connected today, and parents want to see what kids are watching on TV and doing on the computer."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619