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Clean and green

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 7, 2010 - 1:22 PM

An Orono couple's whole-house renovation is in harmony with their eco-friendly lifestyle and modern sensibilities. See it for yourself at the Homes by Architects tour this month.

Jen and Scott Hanson expected to do routine cosmetic fixes to the Orono home they bought. They never expected to gut the shell and start over.

"After living there for three years," said Scott, "we realized we had to do a lot more."

When the Hansons settled into the multilevel home on Lake Minnetonka, it was a mash-up of 1960s architecture and ill-conceived 1980s remodeling projects.

A wall blocked light and outdoor views from the cave-like kitchen. There was mold in the basement and mice inside the walls. And they had to watch fireworks from the upstairs bathroom because that was the only high window that faced the lake.

Even worse? The Hansons just didn't feel good living there.

"It was an unhealthy, disorganized space that didn't flow," said Jen. "We wanted it to feel clean and open and more functional."

The couple turned to a friend of Scott's from Hopkins High School, architect Tan Nguyen, of Nguyen Architects in Minneapolis.

Nguyen's plan kept the original footprint of the 4,000-square-foot home intact, but by gutting it and reshaping rooms, he created uncluttered, clean-lined spaces that feature the latest materials, products and finishes. (Scott, an electrician, rewired the whole house.)

"We call it warm modern," said Jen. "A lot of modern design can be sterile with lots of metal. We added warm greens, blues, grays and wood. The walls are a pale yellow instead of white."

Nguyen also capitalized on the one-acre wooded lot, which offers glimpses of Lake Minnetonka's North Arm Bay. By opening up the spaces and strategically placing windows, Nguyen was able to give many of the rooms -- including the kitchen, master bedroom and upstairs loft -- priceless views of the lake.

Going green

The extreme makeover also reflects the couple's environmentally conscious values.

"We've always had the mind-set of living green and conserving water and energy," Sott said.

Nguyen and the contractor, TJB Homes, followed the Minnesota GreenStar program's construction guidelines to receive certification for the use of green building practices, materials and products.

To reduce energy loss, they installed spray foam insulation, energy-efficient mechanical systems and new double-pane windows with low-E glass. Dual-flush toilets and specialty appliances help conserve water. And instead of trashing materials from the demolition, they shipped them to a recycling company.

For healthier indoor air, they used low-VOC paints, formaldehyde-free cabinet boxes and installed an air exchange and heat recovery system. Most of the flooring is Lyptus wood, considered an environmentally friendly alternative to old-growth woods such as oak, cherry or mahogany. "It has an exotic, wood feel," Jen said.

Kitchen style

Green features inside and out were a high priority for the couple, but Jen called the kitchen her "baby."

"I'm from Louisiana, and it's about eating and cooking down there," she said. "I fretted over every little thing."

To cover the peninsula that divides the kitchen and dining room, Jen chose soapstone for its textural, leather-like finish. The vertical-grain African mahogany cabinets complement warm reddish-brown Lyptus flooring. But the most dramatic improvement is that Jen can look at the lake through massive picture windows while she chops veggies.

Upstairs in the master suite, Nguyen reversed the original layout and moved the bedroom to the lake side of the house and the bathroom to the road side. The bathroom's showpiece is a mod cube shower made of glass.

The creative bedroom redo caught the eye of HGTV producers and will be featured on an upcoming episode of "Bang for Your Buck."

The home that went from a fixer-upper to a complete overhaul includes three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a TV loft, an office and a close-to-being-finished lower level for entertaining.

Jen said she feels a little guilty about having such a large house for just the two of them. However, the size of their family is expected to double by winter. "We'll need it for the twins," she said.

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619

  • about this series

  • The Home of the Month program is a partnership between the Star Tribune and the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It features architect-designed houses selected by a jury of experts. The houses represent a range of prices, styles and locations.
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    Tuesday September 7, 2010

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