You have an open invitation to visit more than 50 remodeled homes in two cities over two days.
The Minneapolis St. Paul Home Tour next weekend offers an inside look at how resourceful homeowners added some of today’s “must-have” amenities to older housing stock. The projects range from small-scale enhancements — solar panels installed on a roof — to whole-house renovations. You also can ask homeowners nuts-and-bolts questions about their projects, as well as explore different Minneapolis and St. Paul neighborhoods.
“We love living in the city,” said Karen Soderberg, as she stood in the spacious kitchen of her transformed 1940s Cape Cod, which is open for tours. “And now we have a light-filled airy house, too.”
Meet some of the owners and their projects on this year’s tour.
The house: 1889 Gothic Revival-style house that was built as a twin home in St. Paul’s Uppertown neighborhood.
The owners: Jason and Katie Swanson and son Lochlan.
The mission: The couple fell in love with the 3,000-square-foot home’s rich character, including a two-story curved oak staircase. “I asked Katie if she wanted to look at the rest of the house or write the offer now,” said Jason.
The 1880s home also provides a fitting backdrop for their collection of Renaissance Revival antique furniture and musical instruments. But when they bought it, much of the house had undergone a 1980s “modernization,” complete with country-cottage decor. “We wanted to restore it as much as we could, but still have a modern flow and functionality,” said Katie.
Refresh and revive: “The day we closed, we knocked down a bedroom wall to open up the dining room to the living room,” said Jason. Over the years, the couple, along with help from relatives and friends, did extensive cosmetic upgrades, such as tearing out carpet, refinishing hardwood floors and scraping and sanding painted woodwork. The Swansons also replaced 1980s light fixtures with period-appropriate refurbished models found at auctions and antique stores. “There’s not a corner of the house we haven’t touched,” said Katie.
Piece de resistance: Katie hung an antique mirror above the living-room fireplace’s carved oak mantel and green glazed tile. “We had to strip it clean because it was caked with soot,” she said.
Generous size: The Swansons also turned the unfinished third floor into a master bedroom, using design ideas from the James J. Hill House. There’s even room for Katie’s business, Tellach Photography, and rehearsal space for Jason’s band.
Kitchen art: “The 1980s kitchen updates were poorly done,” said Jason. So after stripping the rooster wallpaper, they added new appliances, put in a butcherblock countertop and island and hardwood floor.
“I always liked the look of tin ceilings,” said Katie, who made the unconventional choice of using tin tiles for the backsplash. But with a tight budget, they couldn’t replace their despised white laminate cabinets. So Katie tapped into her creativity and decoupaged her collection of vintage wine labels on the top and bottom cabinet doors.
On to the next adventure: The Swansons plan to downsize and raise their family on a houseboat on the Mississippi River. Their St. Paul home is on the market for $259,900. “We love this house and feel good about passing it on to the next family,” said Katie. “The home tour seems like the perfect goodbye.”
DESIGNED TO STAY
The house: 1948 Cape Cod in Minneapolis’ Bryn Mawr neighborhood.
The owners: Karen Soderberg and Stephen Harvey.
The mission: For 18 years, the couple talked about modifying and improving their outdated 1 ½-story Cape Cod. They loved the home’s location, nestled between Theodore Wirth and Bassett Creek parks. But the two passionate cooks often got in each other’s way in the cramped, cut-off kitchen, and the side staircase blocked light and flow. They also dreamed of turning unheated attic storage space into a luxe master bedroom.
“We always had a vision of a dramatic transformation,” said Soderberg. “But we were both in school and knew for our budget, we would have to put in a lot of sweat equity.”
“Aha” moment: The couple saw the remodeled home of builder Joe Davis of Davis & Davis Design Build. “I had no idea you could take off the top of a home and put on a new second floor,” said Soderberg. “It opened my eyes to what you can do to a small house.”
Major makeover: First Davis gutted the main floor, retaining the exterior walls and foundation, because it was less costly than razing the home and starting from scratch, he said. Then he relocated the staircase from the side to the center of the house, to open up the main floor. “We created open spaces with nice sightlines — but every room still has a sense of identity,” said Davis.
An efficient 250-square-foot addition off the back gave the couple a new dining room, powder room, laundry and mudroom, which can be accessed from a new back door. “As we age, we wanted to make sure we could live on the main floor if we had to,” said Soderberg.
Upstairs upgrade: A full second-story addition with dormers houses a master bedroom outfitted with a big walk-in closet and spa-style bathroom four times the size of the one the couple used before.
Kitchen magic: Just by moving the staircase, Soderberg and Harvey gained a kitchen three times the size of their old one. They chose a breakfast bar over a center island so their large dog could sit in the middle of the kitchen and watch them cook. The open, light-filled space boasts a colorful vibe with wine-colored quartz countertops, red onyx tile accents and a Marmoleum floor.
Biggest splurge: Thermador cooktop with six burners. “Spend money on things you really like to do,” said Soderberg.
Savvy DIYers: The Cape Cod renovation was a three-year work-in-progress because the couple did a lot of the jobs themselves, including demolishing the main floor and attic. They also painted walls, sanded and applied polyurethane to woodwork, even the staircase. Davis built only a shell on the second floor, and the couple finished it on evenings and weekends, since they both have full-time jobs. YouTube videos and community-education classes were their teachers. “Now I know how to install a heated floor,” said Harvey. They have no regrets about giving up so much of their free time to their DIY project. “It probably saved us $50,000,” said Soderberg.
Not reality TV: Tiling the slanted-walled bathroom shower proved to be one of the biggest challenges. “Don’t believe you can crash a bath in two days when you see it on TV,” said Soderberg.
All worth it: Soderberg and Harvey are proud of their accomplishments and want to show tour-goers that “you can do a lot of this yourself,” said Soderberg.
The house: 1952 rambler in northeast Minneapolis’ Waite Park neighborhood.
The owners: Nick and Rosie Heille.
The mission: Contemporary art collectors Nick and Rosie have filled their rambler with original works by local artists and want to share their finds with tour-goers. “We are cleaning our house so it sparkles,” said Nick. “Because we want people to see what kind of art you can buy in Northeast.”
One-of-a-kind: The Heilles search artists’ studios and shows for what’s “original and new,” said Nick. “If we’ve seen it before, we don’t want it.” They just bought a pencil drawing of a goldfish by Holly Tappen at an art show in a Northeast beauty salon.
Some favorite pieces: Three-dimensional metal sculptures by Kyle Fokken and acrylic paintings by Pete Driessen. “We like to hear the stories about what inspired the artists,” said Nick. They painted their rambler walls gallery white to showcase more than 100 artworks.
Art champions: “Many artists have told us that we’re on par with New York collectors Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, in terms of being involved in the local arts community,” said Nick, who grew up in Northeast and is one of the organizers of Art-A-Whirl, an artist-studio tour May 17-19 in northeast Minneapolis. “People know me as Arthur-a-Whirl.”
Buyer philosophy: The couple collect affordable art that complements their modest home. “I believe artists need to create work that can fit in a bungalow, not a museum,” said Nick.