Tonka Bay kitchen makeover inspired by home's midcentury modern roots

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2014 - 2:00 PM

A kitchen update is inspired by a home’s midcentury modern roots.


Kitchen makeover by Traci Dokken Designs.

The challenge: Interior designer Traci Dokken was hired by an investor to refurbish a 1950s midcentury modern house so he could sell it. “Within a month, I was in love with the house,” said Dokken. “It captured my heart.”

The home was designed and built by architect Jackson Griswold in 1956 on a wooded bluff in Tonka Bay. Griswold raised his family there and stayed until he died in 2008. “The architect was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, and put in lots of glass,” said Dokken.

She bought the solidly built rambler, intending to restore and update it to reflect her style. Among the many projects was an outdated, well-worn kitchen, which needed a complete renovation. Since Dokken “cooks every single day” and often entertains, she also wanted to add top-of-the-line modern appliances and gadgets.


Design team: Traci Dokken, Traci Dokken Designs, www.traci­, 612-998-6691 and Jeff Danberry, Danberry Building Corp., Tonka Bay.


Goodbye, spiral staircase: By tearing out the staircase that led to the lower level and rebuilding it elsewhere, Dokken gained space to create a wider L-shaped kitchen. Now there was room for a prep sink, more cabinets, refrigerator, commercial stove with two ovens, microwave drawer and a beverage refrigerator. A new peninsula provides a work and seating area. “It’s amazing how a few more feet can make a difference in a kitchen,” she said. “It has every gadget you could want.”


Triple granite: Dokken combined three different types of granite and color patterns for the countertops to make each area unique. A honed finish is on the prep sink and perimeter counters to complement the mahogany cabinets. “The polished granite on the peninsula in reds, black, cream and browns is the ‘wow’ piece,” she said.


Clean and simple backsplash: “The kitchen has a lot going on, so I went with a simple textural white marble backsplash,” she said. “They look like Chiclets [gum].”


Creative cabinets: The kitchen’s upper cabinets are a mix of glass-front styles, plate racks and open display shelves to ramp up visual interest. “It’s not a boring bank of wood upper cabinets,” said Dokken. “They’re different sizes and looks.”


Cork fan: The natural cork floor is a “good commercial grade that’s indestructible,” she said. “It’s soft, and complements all the other hardwood in the house.”


Honor the period: Dokken chose flat clean-lined mahogany cabinets, butcher-block countertop near the prep sink, and kept the wood ceiling beam as a nod to the home’s original midcentury modern aesthetic.

“How to blend current style with the existing structure can be a challenge,” she said. “We achieved that with a balance of materials, wood, colors and textures. You don’t want to throw a white enameled stainless-steel kitchen in this house.”

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  • Designer Traci Dokken’s kitchen makeover balances materials, colors and warm woods to blend with the 1956 rambler’s original midcentury modern charm.

  • Kitchen makeover by Traci Dokken Designs.

  • Traci Dokken

  • CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: A long galley area provides more space for cabinets and counters; white marble backsplash contrasts with black honed granite; the kitchen before the renovation by Traci Dokken.

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