Contemporary condo gets an Old World makeover

  • Article by: KIM PALMER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 4, 2012 - 5:16 PM

Clean, simple lines didn't work for Dennis McGraw after he moved into his Minneapolis condo -- because they clashed with his traditional furniture.

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Dennis McGraw's Minneapolis condo on July 25, 2012.

Photo: Joel Koyama, Star Tribune

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The challenge: Clean, simple lines and wide-open spaces are considered desirable by most homeowners today. But those attributes didn't work for Dennis McGraw after he moved into his Minneapolis condo -- because they clashed with his traditional furniture. "It didn't make any sense," said McGraw, of the juxtaposition between the modern condo and the cherry-wood Queen Anne-style pieces he brought with him from his previous home, a 1920s Tudor near Lake Harriet. He wasn't comfortable in his new home or entertaining friends there. "I didn't invite anybody over."

The solution: McGraw lived with the mismatch for about year before deciding to retrofit the condo with architectural details that would give it more of an Old World look. "I refused to give up my lifelong furnishings collection," he said. "My goal was to make everything match the period of my furniture."

'Strict budget': McGraw was able to transform his condo on a "strict budget" of $10,000 by using some salvaged pieces and doing most of the work himself. The decorative columns that now anchor the corners of his living room came from a former showroom of Desq, the office furniture company McGraw founded. They were sitting unused in a warehouse. He also installed decorative molding, bought from local building-supply stores, and an electric fireplace with a traditional wood mantel. "There's a tremendous amount of detail that didn't exist before," he said.

Kitchen makeover: The condo's former kitchen had a contemporary look, with flat-front oak cabinets. McGraw had them refaced, in darker hickory with raised panels, doing the installation himself. He also added a ceramic backsplash and a pass-through to slightly enclose the formerly wide-open kitchen.

Warming it up: The decorative columns had been painted in a faux stone finish, so McGraw used that as the starting point for a new color palette, painting walls and woodwork in a warm, neutral hue instead of the "white on white on white" color scheme that was there when he moved in. He also changed the dining-room lighting, from spotlights to a traditional metal chandelier anchored by a decorative dome medallion, another piece salvaged from the former Desq showroom.

The result: "I love the space -- it's everything I wanted," McGraw said of his revamped condo. "It's a pleasure now to have people in."

Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784

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