Putting down roots
The starting point: Margaret Lulic and Bob Timpane bought their house, a 1921 foursquare with Craftsman details, in 1978. They’d been looking for the right house for a long time. “We were trying to buy a house we could stay in,” Lulic said. “We wanted to be able to pay the mortgage off early — we don’t like debt.” They were getting discouraged because they couldn’t find anything within their budget. Then Lulic spotted a house on a corner with a sale sign in front of it. “I said, ‘That’s my house.’ ” The couple fell in love with their southwest Minneapolis neighborhood, with its proximity to downtown, Southdale, the Chain of Lakes and Minnehaha Creek. “We had a friend from New York visit, and she said, ‘I thought you lived in the city.’ We said, ‘This is the city, Minnesota-style.’ ”
Growing pains: When the couple’s daughter, now an adult with two small children, was about 10, the family thought seriously about moving. Lulic and her daughter wanted more space. But with the mortgage paid off, Timpane thought it made more sense to stay put. They compromised by deciding to invest in their house “beyond just practical improvements” and make it the home they wanted. About five years ago, Lulic had a painful bout with rheumatoid arthritis, which also influenced their remodeling decisions. While she’s able to live without medication now, “it gave me a taste of the future as an aged person,” she said.
Remodeling in stages: About two years ago, the couple embarked on a major two-stage remodeling project. “We thought, ‘Now’s a good time, before we retire, to finish things on the wish list,’ ” Lulic said.
First they doubled the size of their sunroom. “It makes the house seem a lot bigger,” Timpane said. “Before, we could only get two people in there.” Last year, they redid their kitchen and added a first-floor bathroom, working with architect Joe Metzler of SALA, Roger Hanstad, Skip Rude carpentry and Rosemount Cabinets.
“We wanted to get a bathroom on this level, to have as we age and when elderly relatives come to visit,” Lulic said. The only space available was in the kitchen, so they reconfigured it, removing an L-shaped peninsula and a broom closet.
To maximize storage, they installed a shorter closet, with drawers beneath for gloves and hats, and a pantry inside a decorative column. Other cabinets have built-in dividers and pull-outs for easier access to stored items. “The kitchen feels twice as big even though it’s smaller,” Lulic said. “I don’t love to cook, but I like it a lot more in this kitchen.”
Homespun wisdom: Lulic, a consultant/philosopher who coaches individuals and organizations on making long-term decisions, has defined views on lifestyle, aging and home. She’s written a free e-book, “Living Your Fullest Life After Fifty” (available at www.mlulic.com) and a traditional, bound book, “Home Inspired by Love and Beauty,” about making a house a home, including creating spaces that foster conversation. “I won’t allow TV in the living room. I like people to talk,” she said. She’s also a big fan of quality over quantity. “You can have a great home without a lot of space,” she said. “We have a love affair with this house. Our daughter was married in the back yard, and she wants it when we’re done.” The house even has a name: Annabelle. “It feels like we helped bring her to completion.”
‘Healthy way to live’
The starting point: Jean Johnson and Niel Ritchie bought their 1905 house in Minneapolis’ Linden Hills neighborhood about 10 years ago. Frankly, the neighborhood was more of a draw than the house, which at 1,000 square feet was smaller than their previous house. They updated their kitchen and widened its door to the living room, so the space felt more open, but Ritchie still felt cramped.
He wanted to move to a bigger house, but Johnson was adamant about staying within walking distance of her job as a dental hygienist and to local shops. “It’s a healthy way to live, to be able to walk to the coffee shop and the bakery and the hardware store,” said Johnson. “Healthy for your body and your brain.”
The project: Two years ago, the couple sold their lake place and invested the proceeds into updating their house. “We wanted more space if we were going to stay,” Johnson said. “We had no first-floor bedroom, no first-floor bathroom.” And no fireplace. “If I was going to grow old here, I wanted a fireplace,” she said. They didn’t want a future bedroom that they wouldn’t use in the short term. “We wanted a living space that could easily be converted to a bedroom if it needed to be,” Johnson said.
Working with architect Jean Rehkamp Larson and Will Spencer of Rehkamp Larson Architects and Mill City Builder, the couple put on an addition that added 4 feet of width to their dining room and bumped out the back of the house 12 feet, for a total of 400 additional square feet. “We are not in any danger of becoming a McMansion,” Johnson noted. For now, the new room is a den, with French doors on either side of a two-sided fireplace (the doors are 36 inches wide, enough to accommodate a wheelchair). “This is a bedroom incognito,” Johnson said. “If you need to live on the main floor, you’ve got a bedroom — a nice bedroom with a fireplace.”
A closet door was framed in to access the current mudroom closet. Johnson and Ritchie also added a first-floor bathroom with an accessible walk-in shower, a sink that can accommodate a wheelchair and blocking for grab bars in the shower and near the toilet. “All we would have to do is drill ’em in,” Johnson said. They also installed plumbing to accommodate a first-floor laundry room. “We don’t need it now; we’re able-bodied, but it’s marked on the plans.”
Low maintenance: As part of the makeover, the couple also redid their home’s exterior, replacing aluminum siding with Hardie board fiber-cement siding. “We tried to make everything low-maintenance — no paint on wood,” Johnson said.
Best advice: “Build for yourself, the way you want to live. Not for resale,” Johnson said. And don’t overbuild. “Quantity of square footage is overrated.”