AIA Home of the Month: A reinvented rambler in Golden Valley

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 2, 2013 - 1:50 PM

A couple reinvent their 1960s rambler, infusing it with character and color, after it was destroyed by a fallen tree.

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A thunderstorm with straight-line winds dramatically changed Jen and David Schmeichel’s home-improvement plans for their Golden Valley rambler.

In 2009, the couple bought the modern flat-roofed home for its big windows, sound structure and long-term potential to be transformed into a comfortable home for their growing family.

“I love how midcentury modern architecture is different and stands out,” said Jen, who had admired the house when she lived a few blocks away.

Soon after buying the house, the couple replaced old carpet with hardwood floors, painted some rooms and did other typical cosmetic upgrades. They were contemplating remodeling the dark dated kitchen and building a master-bedroom addition. Those major, costly projects would be undertaken gradually, they decided.

But the damaging storm, which blasted the Schmeichels’ home in June 2010, pushed their long-term goals into overdrive.

Jen and David and their toddler daughter had rushed home from dinner that night amid blaring sirens, ominous black clouds and drenching rain.

They were in the basement watching TV weather updates, when they heard an ear-splitting boom. David ran upstairs and found that a 100-year-old oak tree had crashed into the roof of the kitchen.

“Five seconds later, we heard water rushing in,” he recalled. Jen can still remember the sound: “like someone took a super high-pressure hose and sprayed it on our house.” The couple scrambled for towels and a wet-vac, trying to sop up water that was flowing through the light fixtures and into the basement. Overwhelmed, they finally gave up at midnight and moved to a friend’s house.

The next day the insurance company assessment revealed that water had soaked into drywall and insulation. The roof, of course, was destroyed. “It was the perfect storm to take down our house,” said Jen.

The couple’s goal was to make the waterlogged home livable again, while remaining true to its midcentury style. They enlisted architect Kerrik Wessel, of Wessel Design in Roseville, for the job.

“Many of his projects were a colorful, modern Danish style that we like,” said Jen. “And we saw a lot of nature incorporated in the designs.”

Wessel jumped on the opportunity to redesign a home with a midcentury modern aesthetic and to experiment with color and materials. “We didn’t want the design scheme to be drab modern,” said Wessel. “We tried to have a little fun with it.”

Within six months, the home had a new roof, cedar and fiber-cement siding and a rebuilt main floor that included a new kitchen and dining room within the existing footprint. The new open living spaces are surrounded by three walls of windows to draw in light and bring the outdoors in.

Wessel also streamlined the rambler’s “clunky” exterior by removing faux stone and reducing the depth of the eaves from 2 feet to 10 inches. One of the colorful fun elements: aqua blue acrylic panels across the front of the home.

The Schmeichels also decided to go forward with a master-bedroom addition, because “the timing was right,” said Jen. “They were already trashing our yard.” Plus the couple would need a third bedroom if they had more children.

“We just added a boxcar off the back of the house,” said Wessel, referring to the 400-square-foot addition, which included a bathroom and clerestory windows matching the new ones on the front facade.

For the clean-lined interiors, the Schmeichels called interior designer Cy Winship, who had collaborated with them on a previous home-decor project.

The revamped rambler’s design is “clean, modern and calm with witty moments,” said Winship. “The croc-textured fireplace, orange wall and light fixture, and blue hanging cabinets make simple, bold statements.”

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  • Kerrik Wessel’s exterior makeover included cedar and fiber-cement siding, new windows and blue acrylic panels. He reduced the width of the eaves for a clean, modern look.


    What: Extensive renovation and updating of a 1960s rambler after a tree crashed through the roof.

    Size: 3,500 square feet includes a 400-square-foot bedroom addition and finished basement.

    Design team: Architect Kerrik Wessel with Heather Sexton, Wessell Design, www.wessel, Roseville, 651-484-9190.

    Interior design: Cy Winship, Cy Winship Design,, Minneapolis, 612-379-4070.

    Contractor: Reuter Walton Construction, Minneapolis.

    View more photos of the Golden Valley home at

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