Refreshing the '70s: Makeover mantras

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 25, 2013 - 3:20 PM
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Sherry O'Donnell's 1970s Shorewood townhome was stuck in a time warp.

Photo: CARLOS GONZALEZ cgonzalez@startribune.com,

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Open with care

Remodeling projects often involve knocking down walls to gain the open floor plan everyone wants today. “But they can feel like barns — too tall and cold,” said architect Mark Kawell. He suggests changing ceiling heights and using pilasters, built-ins and ambient lighting to visually define spaces.

Update a split

The 1970s were the heyday of split-level and split-entry homes, said architect Jeremiah Battles of Acacia Architects and co-author of a book on remodeling splits. “They were a reaction to the dark, full basements in ramblers,” he said. “Splits gave you a more light-filled lower level that was only half underground.”

The home style typically has a tiny foyer. If a front-entry expansion isn’t feasible, Battles suggests updating the flooring, the staircase and front door to transform the appearance of the foyer. “Replace carpeted stairs with wood and add a transom window over the door to bring in more light,” he said.

Celebrate quality

Consider tearing out rustic ceiling timbers and popcorn ceilings. Replace carpet with hard-surface floors and laminate countertops with stone. Replace windows and doors for improved energy efficiency and a fresh contemporary look.

But don’t get too down on your ’70s-style house. One big plus from this era is the quality of construction, said contractor Jack Williams. “Stricter building codes and modern building materials resulted in better-built homes than in the ’50s and ’60s,” he said.

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