With four young children, three cats and one dog, Mae and Josh Tunks have a lot going on at home.
Their house, a Minnetonka rambler they bought in 2009, just couldn’t keep up.
“We had two kids when we moved in, and now we have four [ages 2 to 12],” said Mae, plus all the stuff — toys and clothes and school supplies — that comes with them.
The couple had always intended to remodel the house some day. They’d bought it because they liked its big wooded backyard, the schools and proximity to extended family. Last year, with their roof, windows and siding all needing to be replaced, the couple decided the time was right for a major makeover. They needed a big comfortable room where they could all hang out together. “Our bedroom was like the living room,” Josh said.
And Mae was keen to upgrade their kitchen, which was small and closed off from the rest of the house. “I am a very serious cook,” said Mae, who once worked in the General Mills test kitchen. “I’m cooking all day. That’s how I get my creative energy out.”
The couple reached out to several remodelers and opted to work with Revolution Design and Build. “We just clicked with them right away,” said Mae. Co-owners Sid Levin and Rob Aldecocea came up with three design options for remodeling in phases, as the couple had requested.
None of the options were perfect, so and Mae and Josh struggled to pick one. “We ended up taking a scissors to the plans,” trying to come up with different combinations, said Josh.
Then Revolution suggested a fourth option: taking the house down to the foundation and rebuilding it from scratch.
“We thought, ‘We can’t do that!’ ” said Josh. But after studying the numbers, they found that building new wouldn’t cost much more than all the individual projects they wanted to tackle. “And we’d get a brand-new home,” with all the features they were looking for.
Starting from scratch would allow the couple to make the most of their site. Their old house was dark with few windows, most of which faced the street. “There was nothing on the back looking into the woods,” said Mae.
It would also give them the opportunity to incorporate energy-saving technologies, a priority for Josh.
Casual and functional
The couple weren’t seeking a lot more space, just spaces that better suited their family.
“We didn’t want a huge house, a showpiece formal home,” said Mae, a fan of the “Not So Big House” books by Sarah Susanka. “We have a lot of kids, and we wanted something casual and functional — but pretty.”
Their new home has about the same finished square footage — 2,800 — as their old one, but it’s allocated very differently.
“From a design perspective, there’s not a wasted square inch,” said Levin.
The floor plan is open with a relaxed living area, an informal dining room, an office, a mudroom and a cook’s kitchen, with easy access to utensils, pots and pans.
“I wanted my tools around me, like a workbench in the garage,” said Mae. She has two ovens, one gas and one electric (the better for baking), plus a pantry, an island with built-in storage, a huge refrigerator and freezer, and a “kid zone” in one corner, equipped with a toaster and microwave.
The kids’ bedrooms are upstairs, with a shared bath, including a tub/shower at each end and a double sink in the middle. (Building one large bathroom was more economical than two separate ones because it kept the plumbing in one place.)
In the main-floor owners’ suite, they economized by re-purposing Ikea wardrobes they already had and designing their closet around them. Their bath has a bonus, a small sauna adjacent to the shower.
“After dinner and the kids are in bed, we can come in here and de-stress,” said Mae.
Both Josh and Mae are fans of Scandinavian-inspired design.
“I’m into Scandinavian minimalism,” said Mae, who likes clean lines and unfussy, easy-clean finishes. They used the same materials throughout the house: white quartz for countertops, simple hardware and unstained maple for flooring, with Marmoleum in the kitchen.
A Scandinavian-style heating stove (from Morso) makes a statement and is also practical. “You can heat the whole main level with a couple of logs in Minnesota winter,” said Levin.
Other energy-saving features include triple-paned windows, spray-foam insulation, deep roof overhangs, a high-efficiency furnace and LED lights. The house was pre-wired for solar energy, and panels will be installed this fall.
The family hasn’t lived in the house long enough to see significant energy savings, said Josh. But they’ve noticed other big lifestyle improvements.
“We’re a lot more connected — we see each other more,” he said.
“It’s way more family-friendly,” said Mae. “I’m not closed off in my little box of a kitchen. And we enjoy our yard,” which now includes a deck and a patio made from pavers salvaged from the Nicollet Mall. “We had no deck before. The original deck had rotted and fallen off.”
Even the landscaping was designed for simplicity and sustainability. The front yard is a “prairie in progress,” said Mae, filled with no-mow grass, wildflowers and other pollinator-friendly plants.
“The whole house is a gesture in practicality,” said Levin. “It works like a tool for their family.”