Move or stay? That was the question facing Shawn and Marlo Eilefson after 13 years of living in their charming English Tudor-style house in Minneapolis.

“We were at a crossroads,” said Marlo.

With two active sons, now 8 and 11, the family needed a mudroom for all their gear, a roomier, updated kitchen and a garage with more than one stall. “Shawn was sick of parking outside.”

Shawn thought they should look for a bigger house, but Marlo was reluctant to leave the one they had.

“I love this area,” she said. “Lake Nokomis is beautiful — we’re right on the parkway. You can’t beat the location.”

So the couple chose to remodel their 2,200-square-foot home. “I didn’t want a huge house,” said Marlo. “Just a more functional one.”

A small main-floor bump-out addition at the back would create space for a mudroom. But as long as they were adding on, the Eilefsons decided to also do a second-story addition, extending above the new garage, to create a retreat off the master bedroom. The extra space would allow the couple, who had been using one of their main-floor bedrooms as an office, to put a desk upstairs and free up the bedroom for one of the boys, who had been sharing.

To reinvent their home, the Eilefsons turned to contractor Charlie’s Angles, Braun Architects, and cabinet maker Behnke Woodworking. Marlo, an art director who does staging for home goods catalog shoots, did most of the interior design herself.

The main-floor addition was small, a little over 100 square feet, and fitting everything in was tricky.

“They wanted a new kitchen and mudroom area between the garage and the house,” said architect Ben Braun. “It felt really tight, and they wanted it to be more open and spacious. But they didn’t have much footprint.”

Increasing the size of the garage also required some maneuvering. “That was the big challenge — going from a single to a double garage on a pretty compact lot,” said Braun.

The project took nine months, during which the Eilefson family lived in their home, including six months without a kitchen.

But now that the remodeling is complete, they’re delighted with the final result — including Shawn, who originally thought they needed a much bigger house. “It’s enough, absolutely!” he said.

Marlo agrees. “It’s a perfect-sized house now. It still feels like an old house, with little cozy nooks. I’m glad we didn’t move.”

Refreshed kitchen

“We didn’t change the footprint but it feels twice as big,” said Shawn Eilefson of their 9-by 15-foot kitchen. Architect Ben Braun ( reconfigured the space to make the most of the existing square footage.

“What helped us was that there were a lot of openings,” Braun said, including doors to two closets. “A lot of little things were removed.” The original eating nook was separated from the rest of the kitchen by an arched opening and thick wing walls. Removing those, along with the closets, a pair of corner cabinets and bulky radiators, opened up the space, creating just enough room to add a slim walnut-topped island and a new nook with bench seating.

Replacing two small double-hung windows over the sink with one big French casement window brings in more natural light and adds to the sense of spaciousness. Instead of the radiators, there’s now in-floor radiant heat. “It’s so nice to have warm feet,” said Marlo Eilefson. The new kitchen’s finishes include new cabinets painted pale gray, quartz countertops that resemble marble, herringbone tile flooring and brushed-brass hardware and lighting.

Practical mudroom

A bump-out addition on the main floor created space for a mudroom off the kitchen, complete with storage lockers, drawers and a pantry. “The mudroom has changed our life completely,” said Marlo. “Before [left] it was a tiny area, and stuff was everywhere. Now it’s completely organized and tidy. The kids each have their own cabinet. I don’t know how we lived without a mudroom.”

Owners’ retreat

A second-floor addition over the new garage created a large sitting area just off the master bedroom. It has a cozy character with lots of built-ins, including a new window seat set in a nook, with shoe storage beneath the bench seat. (The nook was designed to mirror another one it faces.)

There’s room for a desk and even a laundry closet. “We have a laundry in the basement but now I never use it,” said Marlo. It’s a quiet space with no TV, where the couple can unwind, listen to music or take an in-home getaway when they need “adult time.”

Sometimes they even entertain in their new retreat. “We have company up here,” said Shawn. “We hang out and have wine.”


Exterior finesse

Maintaining the character of their traditional 1932 house was a high priority for the couple.

“This house has a lot of dormers and traditional English aspects,” said Marlo. “We wanted it to look like it had always been there, not a big huge box.”

Adding dormers and windows that matched the original house went a long way toward creating that seamless vintage look. “It costs money to blend in,” admitted Marlo, “but I wouldn’t have it any other way.” The dormers were strategically located to mask the transition of old and new, Braun said, with a new roofline cantilevered over the old one.

“There were some structural gymnastics required to make that roofline appear seamless with the old house,” he said. “It required structural steel and a lot of finesse to make it work.”

The Tudor home’s stucco and half-timbered materials were repeated on the addition. Detailing on the front, including decorative stone and curved wood trim, were replicated on the back.

The result: a house that looks as good from the alley as it does from the street.