HOME #8: Rapson refined

Starting point: Ralph Rapson, architect of the original Guthrie Theater, designed the 1985 contemporary-style home, which faces Twin Lake in Little Canada, for Maryanne and Charles Lo.

 The remodeled light-filled kitchen is Maryanne Lo’s favorite laptop work space."It was pure luck that we were able to work with him," said Maryanne, noting that a friend had referred them. "I told him I like modern design as long as it feels warm."

The home had served the family well for 26 years but with the couple's children grown, the aging empty nesters needed more light to see. Plus their kitchen cabinets were crumbling.

Design/build team: Laun Sanderson, owner of Sandcon, Plymouth, www.sandcon.biz, 763-551-1917; interior design by Kathryn Johnson, Plymouth.

What they did: "The Los wanted to bring the home into the 21st century but still respect Ralph Rapson's architecture," said Sanderson.

He tore down a playroom loft above the kitchen where the Lo girls once played Barbies and removed a wall between the kitchen and dining room, opening up the rooms and drawing in more light. Sanderson reconfigured the new space to hold an oversized quartz island and a wall of cherry cabinets, then added bigger windows above the kitchen sink to take advantage of the lake view. The adjacent family room's new stone surround and hearth were inspired by Rapson's original limestone version.

Family affair: "When our kids come over, the nice long counters are where we prepare the big meals," said Maryanne.

Porch project: Sandcon updated the original screened porch, refinished the railings and replaced the wood floor with low-maintenance composite decking.

Rapson relationship: Until the architect died in 2008, the Los would visit him on holidays. "He was mild-mannered," said Maryanne, "but very creative."

Advice for newbies: "Hire good professionals for the job," said Maryanne. "We were really lucky we had a good architect to start with."


HOME #30: Rambler redo

The starting point: For Jacquie Boyer and Scott Hillstrom, their 1958 rambler in Bloomington had everything they needed except an adequate kitchen. "It was a great opportunity to create the kitchen  The homeowners gave up a formal dining room, but gained a bigger modern kitchen in this Plekkenpol Builders project.we wanted," said Boyer, who loves to cook.

Design/build team: Craig Plekkenpol, owner of Plekkenpol Builders, Bloomington, www.plekkenpol.com, 952-888-2225.

What they did: Plekkenpol Builders knocked down several walls to create one big long room. "They gave up the formal dining room to have two eating areas in the kitchen," said Plekkenpol.

The large, light-filled, crisp-white kitchen has space for five people to dine on a round table that balloons out from the end of the quartz-topped island. A built-in banquette with more seating is tucked into a corner. Plekkenpol also added built-ins, a new ceiling and maple floors in the adjacent home office/family room.

How it's changed the way they live: "Now the kitchen is the centerpiece where we all gather and talk to each other," said Boyer.

Reality check: "Watching too much HGTV can affect your expectations," said Boyer. "A real kitchen remodel takes longer and costs more."


HOME #6: Outdoor connection

Starting point: Kirk and Susan Vadnais bought their 1980s Shoreview multi-level for its back-yard pond and wildlife area -- but they could barely see them from inside the home.

A new deck with a built-in planter connects the home to the outdoors. Why remodel: The kitchen was decrepit, dark and outdated, and an adjacent three-season porch blocked light and outdoor views.

Design/build team: Margaret Griffith, designer with Building Arts Sustainable Architecture + Construction, St. Paul, www.building-arts.net, 651-222-8750.

What they did: Tore out the old kitchen and three-season porch and rebuilt a new kitchen, nearly twice the size, with a generous center island that also serves as a casual dining table. Big picture windows open to the back yard. They also increased the size of the mudroom within the new space. "We didn't change the size of the house," said Griffith. "We just changed the spaces they already had."

Creative kitchen garden: The couple pick tomatoes from a vegetable garden in a long concrete planter built into the new deck off the kitchen.

Added bonus: Building Arts enclosed an existing lower-level screened porch and turned it into a temperature-controlled plant room where Kirk cultivates orchids and overwinters tropical plants.

Best part: "Now we can sit at the island and see the rose garden and wood ducks swimming in the pond," said Kirk. "And we cook a lot more."

Any regrets? "We wish we would have done it a lot sooner," he said.

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619