Moved from: the four-bedroom house in Willmar, Minn., where they raised their children.

Moved to: a two-bedroom condo in St. Paul. “We knew we wanted to relocate to the Twin Cities; our grandchildren are here,” Marcia said. So they started looking and found the unit they wanted on the Upper Landing, within walking distance of downtown and the river. “It was a good time to buy, but Doug wasn’t ready to retire,” said Marcia, a retired teacher. So they bought the condo and rented it out for two years, saving money toward outfitting it with all new furniture. The couple, who enjoyed going to auctions, had filled their Willmar home with antiques, many refinished by Doug. But they knew they wanted a very different look for the condo. “We wanted to get rid of the antiques,” Doug said. “We wanted new, modern furniture.”

Decision time: About a year ago, the Dewanes decided to take possession of the condo and start remaking it into their dream home. For help, they turned to Sue Hunter of Home for a Change, Minnetonka. “They were ready to make a total change,” Hunter said. The kitchen, which featured black granite countertops and maple cabinets, was relatively new, but the paint colors, lighting, carpet and window treatments needed updating. And the Dewanes, who had decided to sell almost everything they owned, needed help choosing new furniture and accessories, even dishes and glassware. “We were decorating from scratch,” Marcia said. “We both agreed we needed help.”

New colors: Hunter started the project by creating a color scheme — black and ivory, with pops of color, including peacock blue. She created the palette inspired by photos the couple liked. Then they chose upholstery fabrics and rugs. The backs of the built-in shelves in the living room were painted peacock blue to support the color scheme. The master bedroom features softer variations of the same hues while the guest bedroom is crisp black and white.

Out with the old: The Dewanes sold most of what they owned at an auction last summer. But there was one heirloom Doug didn’t want to part with: his grandmother’s harvest table. “If that table could talk, I’d like to hear it,” he said. “They raised 12 kids around that table.” At first, the plan was to stain the table darker and use it in the new dining room. But the legs couldn’t accommodate the bench seating they wanted. Hunter then suggested that it become a desk. In the end, the Dewanes decided the table just didn’t work in the new condo, so they gave it to another relative. “It’s still in the family, and he still gets to visit it,” Hunter said. The couple hung onto smaller items, such as a small pewter frog, a gift from Marcia’s mother, that have personal meaning to them. “The things we did keep are special,” she said.

Easy living: The condo lifestyle definitely has its benefits, the couple said. They had a “high-maintenance” landscape when they lived in Willmar, Marcia said. “I had lots of flower gardens. It was great for many years, but the work was more than I want.” Instead, she plans to become a volunteer gardener along the nearby river path. Doug likes delegating snow removal and lawn chores. “I haven’t touched a shovel this year. I haven’t been cutting grass.” Instead, the couple enjoy spending their time going to plays and museums, all within walking distance. “There’s just so much to do in the Twin Cities,” Marcia said.

Reaction: When Marcia’s brother first saw the new place, he said, “Well, this sure isn’t like what you had in Willmar!” she recalled. Their new contemporary-style furniture and simple beige dinnerware are a far cry from the tapestries, florals and formal patterned china they used for entertaining in their former home. “We liked what we had in Willmar,” said Marcia. “But I love the new look.”


Moved from: a 3,100-square-foot house, filled with traditional furniture, in Edina.

Moved to: a 1,705-square-foot condo in Lilydale with an open floor plan and a clean, modern design. The third-floor condo overlooks the Mississippi River. “We bought the place for the view,” Steve said. The unit itself was less to their liking, with its original 1980s-era appliances and “boxed-in” kitchen. “We felt kind of trapped,” Steve said. To update the space, the couple brought in Talla Skogmo, owner/principal of Talla Skogmo Interior Design, Edina, and her associate Jennifer Zirkelbach. Steve had known Skogmo since they were students at the University of Minnesota, but it was the first time they’d worked together on a project.

Opening it up: The condo’s original kitchen was “bland and dreary,” Skogmo said, and it didn’t make the most of its sweeping river view. The first step to improving the space was removing interior walls to open up the kitchen to the living room and dining area. “Now it’s one big open space,” Steve said. They also expanded the kitchen by taking space from the front hall. “We gathered 3 feet more breathing room, which made the kitchen feel so much bigger,” Skogmo said.

Picture perfect: Jody, who had been collecting photos of kitchens she liked, had one favorite, showing a streamlined contemporary design. “That was our inspiration,” said Skogmo. Multi-purpose furniture and built-in storage helped make the most of their smaller space. “They wanted everything clean and unencumbered, as part of uncluttering their life,” Skogmo said. Moving the sink from the back corner to one side of the kitchen helped accommodate a large center island, which doubles as a prep space and a gathering spot, and also includes plenty of storage for dishes and silverware. The dining-room table, with its Herman Miller chairs, does double duty as a project work space. “The chairs are out there,” said Skogmo, comparing their ultra-contemporary style to traditional dining furniture. “Yet they’re incredibly comfortable.”

Light and bright: New lighting was important to the design. Pendant lights would have interrupted the view, so Skogmo chose overhead disk lights, recessed lights and under-cabinet lights, creating a three-tiered lighting solution. “You can really adjust the lighting to what you’re doing — soft lighting for entertaining or bright lighting for chopping,” Steve said.

A new solid-surface countertop of Caesarstone incorporates fragments of crushed mirror, adding a bit of glam. “They sparkle at night,” Steve said. Enameled wood cabinets, a backsplash made of large square tiles and a soft neutral color palette, dominated by a “pale oyster” hue, with green accent pieces, complete the clean simple look. “They love watery colors,” Skogmo said. “The river view is part of the palette, like a great painting.”

The way they live: The couple have found that they use their space very differently than they did in their previous home. “Coming from a house, we rarely sat in the living room,” Steve said. “Here we use the space every day. It’s light and beautiful, and at night, we see all the lights way off in the distance.” The remodeling and redesign of the condo have made it more enjoyable to cook and entertain guests, even large gatherings, Jody said. “We had a birthday party for a cousin, and had more than 20 people over here. We like to stay home more than ever now.”