When Melissa Oszustowicz moved from Hawaii into her house in Edina, she wasn’t thinking long-term.
“I didn’t even know what it looked like when I started renting it,” she recalled of the 1969-built two-story. But the house ticked off all her must-have boxes: It was in the Twin Cities, in a convenient location, and it was big enough to share with her parents. And, important for an animal lover, it allowed pets.
Oszustowicz, who grew up in Wayzata, had moved to Hawaii several years earlier to help launch and operate a family-owned chocolate company. But in 2005, with her mother battling cancer, Melissa and her parents returned to Minnesota for better access to health care, family and friends. “It was our base,” Melissa said. Her brother, Adam, stayed behind in Hawaii to run the business.Their mother’s condition worsened, and Adam, too, eventually returned to Minnesota to be with his family. By then, Melissa had bought the house. The family liked its comfortable features, its double lot and easy-access location. “And we have the world’s nicest neighbors,” Melissa said.
Multigenerational living felt natural to the Oszustowiczes, especially after their experience on the islands.
“In Hawaii, it was the norm,” Adam noted.
The siblings, born two years apart, were close growing up and have remained compatible, even after years spent attending college and graduate school and working in different parts of the country.
“We get along really well,” Melissa said.
After their mother died a few years ago, Melissa, Adam and their father, Richard, chose to remain in the home so the siblings could continue to provide help and care for their dad. Without it, “he would be in assisted living,” Melissa said.
Over the years, the family made improvements that enhanced the livability of the home and yard. But the kitchen was far from ideal.
“It was dark, and felt so cramped,” Melissa said. “If there were more than two people in there, you’d bump into each other.” And with three dogs and two cats, “We were climbing over dog beds to get to the stove.”
Eager to tackle the project, the siblings attended February’s Minneapolis Home & Garden Show, where they were drawn to the sleek, contemporary kitchen systems on display at the Puustelli Miinus booth. Puustelli, a well-known brand in Finland and throughout Scandinavia, had only recently become available in North America through Puustelli USA.
“We fell in love with the clean Scandinavian look,” Melissa said. “We didn’t want a kitchen that looked like everybody else’s kitchen.”
The clean look lent itself to a wide variety of styles. “We have a lot of different furniture from all over the world,” she said. “This design can meld with anybody’s taste.”
Adam appreciated the “strength and quality” of Puustelli’s materials. So the siblings invited Miko Juola, Puustelli USA’s president, and Bjorn Freudenthal, vice president of sales and marketing, to meet with them at the house. After listening to what the siblings were hoping to achieve in their new kitchen, the Puustelli team suggested a bigger-picture solution.
“We asked, ‘Can we look at this a little more holistically? Let’s brainstorm,’ ” Freudenthal said. “We started analyzing how the house lives and thinking through the puzzle.”
Like many houses of its era, the Oszustowicz home had a lot of small rooms and compartmentalized spaces, especially at the front, which resulted in a choppy floor plan that blocked the flow of traffic and light. By bumping out the back of the kitchen 18 inches, the team was able to create space for a large center island with an eye-catching waterfall countertop. And by removing the wall that separated the kitchen from the living room, the team was able to create the more casual, open-concept floor plan coveted today. (The old kitchen countertops and cabinets were repurposed in the garden shed. “We were able to reuse everything,” Adam said.)
An underused sitting room/TV room at the front of the house also got some tweaks, to create a more appealing space and a better lit, better defined mudroom/entry that makes it easier for the siblings to come and go without disturbing their dad.
“Redoing the floor plan has revolutionized the house,” Adam said. Even the airflow is much improved, he added. “It changes the comfort of the house.”
The family continued to live in their home throughout the remodeling project, and they’re eager to start using their sleek new kitchen, which will be completed just in time to appear on the Parade of Homes Remodelers Showcase, Sept. 30-Oct. 2. (It’s home R33 on the tour.)
Adam, who enjoys cooking and barbecuing, is looking forward to the new kitchen’s layout and storage features, which will make it easier to prepare family meals together and to entertain guests. “It’s very efficient,” he said.
As for Melissa, the family baker: “I’m just psyched to have a really cool kitchen,” she said.