Adam Mans and Elizabeth Burnett loved many things about their stone rambler. Its kitchen wasn't one of them.

The galley-style kitchen still had some of its original 1951 appliances. And although the space included a small eating area, it was barely big enough to accommodate their family of five, much less guests.

"We knew the kitchen would be a project," said Mans of the Edina house that he and Burnett bought in 2002.

They and their family lived with their cramped outdated kitchen for almost a decade, eating even casual, everyday dinners in their formal dining room, before finally tackling the space.

They wanted to open up the space so they'd have a more comfortable spot for family meals, as well as room to host big extended-family gatherings, said Burnett. And with a household that included three school-age children and one large dog, the couple also wanted to add today's must-have amenity: a mudroom.

But Burnett, a believer in the "Not So Big House" principles advocated by architect Sarah Susanka, wanted to expand their house just enough -- without adding a lot of costly, unnecessary space.

The couple started talking with design-build professionals, but the proposed solutions were more aggressive than what Burnett and Mans had in mind.

"Some of them wanted to blow out the back of the house with a huge addition," Burnett recalled. "We didn't need a lot of square footage. The square footage was there. We just needed to use it better -- and keep the back yard."

Then they consulted Jean Rehkamp Larson, a principal with Rehkamp Larson Architects of Minneapolis, who understood their desire for a more modest makeover.

"It's about function -- so a project is just the size it needs to be and not more," Rehkamp Larson said. "That's the approach I always take. There are lots of answers to any question, and it's best to explore them to find solutions that add less square footage."

Rethinking the home's space took some back-and-forth, Rehkamp Larson said. "We cycled through a lot of schemes until we landed on the sweet spot."

That "sweet spot" involved bumping out the back of the house about 10 feet. Rehkamp Larson and designer Ryan Lawinger, working with Bloomington builder Quality Home Transformations, then reconfigured the space to include a mudroom and bigger, better kitchen on the main floor and a bedroom and laundry on the lower level.

'50s motifs

The new space includes plenty of 21st-century amenities, such as a desk with three computer stations where the kids can do their homework. But it still has a midcentury aesthetic that blends with the rest of the house, with many design details inspired by the home's original features.

Home additions often reflect "the vogue of the day," Rehkamp Larson noted. "But the existing house always has a vocabulary that's worth paying attention to. This was a nice stone rambler with a little Art Deco influence."

The Art Deco influence appeared in the original fireplace mantel with its rounded corners. "That whole era was sleek and streamlined," Rehkamp Larson noted. "We carried those curved corners into the new space," with open curved shelves and a custom hood in the kitchen. "It hints at diner detailing," she said.

The house still had its original doorknob hardware, a starburst motif that was incorporated into new tile and a cut-metal dog gate in the mudroom for Lucky, the family's goldendoodle.

The new kitchen also features a '50s-inspired color palette of soft green, gray and white, with some hues drawn from the rest of the house.

"There was some original olive green tile in the front entry," Rehkamp Larson said. "We found a version of that for the back entry. A house feels good when it ties together."

The new addition has dramatically changed the way the family lives in their home.

"It's a lot more comfortable to be in the kitchen," Mans said.

"And it's easier to entertain," Burnett added. "Now we can host things and have everybody here."

Their new kitchen is a visual showstopper, but the mudroom with dog kennel and new back entry have also had a big impact, according to Burnett.

"The flow has totally changed," she said. "The front door was the main entrance before, but now we all come through the back."

When the kids come home from school or activities, they can unload and store things in their mudroom cubbies before entering the rest of the house.

"It's not the most glamorous part of the remodel," Burnett said. "But it's one of the most functional."

Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784