Retro showplace

  • Article by: KIM PALMER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 19, 2009 - 5:34 PM

A 'Brady Bunch'-style suburban ranch house in Edina gets a designer makeover to become this year's ASID Showcase Home.

Here's the story ... of a '50s rambler. That was ready for a stylish overhaul. It had nice big rooms and lovely picture windows. And one unwanted wall.

Here's the story ... of a modern family. Who could see the house could be a stunning home. They were eager to bring out its full potential. But that was hard alone.

Til the one day that their Realtor helped them locate ... some designers with a mission of their own. Soon they all agreed that they would work together. That's the way this house became a Showcase Home.

"The Brady Bunch" is an unlikely cultural reference for a designer showcase home. Those annual collaborations tend to be more "Masterpiece Theatre" than '70s sitcom. But this year's house is not a century-old mansion in Summit Hill, but a California ranch-style in Edina. At 4,800 square feet, it's big, but not as enormous as most other recent showcases. And instead of ornamenting it with traditional trims, tufts and tassels, Twin Cities designers have given it a sleek midcentury modern makeover. The look is retro chic, with vintage pieces and reproductions that evoke midcentury design icons such as Ray and Charles Eames, Eero Saarinen and Jack Lenor Larsen.

"It's a different style than we've ever done," said Karen Soojian, steering committee chairwoman for this year's event. "It's more mainstream and attainable -- not over the top."

And in today's economic climate, when people are losing their homes entirely, it's not the time to show off a grandiose mansion, according to designer Bonnie Birnbaum, who collaborated on the master suite. "It's the right house for right now."


It was the right house right now for homeowners Steve and Erin Buss, who moved to Edina last year from a traditional two-story in Minneapolis. With two children ages 2 and 3, it was time for an open floor plan.

"It's much more conducive to family living," Erin said.

While it was close to what they wanted, the house wasn't ideal. The kitchen was small and dark and was separated from the dining room by a wall. The bathrooms were due for an update. And the big screened porch was "underutilized," Steve said.

The couple wanted to remodel, but they wanted to do it in an environmentally friendly, cost-effective way, without expanding the home's footprint. So they chose to live in it for a while first. "Which was good, because we understood the house," Steve said.

They had worked with SALA Architects on previous remodeling projects, but had done most of the interior design and finishing work themselves. This time around, busy with their children, they decided to delegate that as well. "We started to realize we had better results with professional help," Steve said.

The Busses, who were involved collaborators, had several priorities for the project:

Sustainability: "It was important to us to be as green as possible," Steve said. Environmentally friendly features include recycling and recycled materials, low-VOC paints and finishes, dual-flush toilets and some native-plant landscaping to minimize watering and maintenance. The Busses are seeking certification from MN GreenStar, the state's residential green building standard, which is a first for a local showcase house.

Practicality: Unlike many showcase homes, which are designer fantasies created just for show, Steve and Erin had real, room-by-room budgets. "We were very strict," Erin said. For example? "In the family room, the designers' first rug choices were very nice, but budget-breakers," Steve said. "So they went back to the drawing board and found something that had the same look, but was much less expensive." As a result, 95 percent of the furniture in the showcase home will remain after the event is over. "We really are getting what we want," Steve said.

Simplicity: The Busses, both of whom grew up in ranch-style houses, were in sync in seeking a midcentury modern aesthetic. "We wanted clean lines and simple forms," Steve said. "It's a real '50s-'60s color palette. All the designers embraced it."

The finished home is one that designers believe will resonate with other young families, which is one reason this year's admission price has been reduced. "We thought our market was a little different, that we would draw a younger crowd," said designer Suzanne Goodwin, who collaborated on the family room.

But even traditionalists will find much to appreciate, she said. "There are a lot of finely carried out details; the craftsmanship is still really high. It's not traditional, but it's not a stainless-steel New York loft. It shows that modern can still be warm and inviting."

Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784

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    What: The 13th annual showcase home by the Minnesota chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. More than 40 designers, architects and contractors collaborated on this year's showcase.

    When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed.-Sun. through June 14.

    Where: 4904 E. Sunny-slope Rd., Edina.

    Tickets: $20 at the door, $18 at and $15 at ticket outlets (list available at Proceeds benefit Second Harvest Heartland, Jeremiah Program, Junior League of St. Paul and Cornerstone.

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