It was a sign. Literally.
Arlyn Anderson had been trying to find the right buyer for her longtime family home — someone who would preserve it, not demolish it.
She knew the smallish, old house was a tempting teardown target. “It was a perfect candidate — a double lot, five minutes from Uptown,” she said. “I was worried.”
So she took a vintage sign painted with the house’s name, “Petit Point,” and placed it carefully, in the last room she thought prospective buyers would walk through.
Soon Anderson’s real estate agent told her that a couple was smitten with the home and wanted to buy it. Oh, and they also wondered if they could have the vintage sign.
“I knew right then,” Anderson said. “I’d been asking the universe every day to send the right person. This was a message saying, ‘We appreciate and value this home.’ ”
The couple, Ross and Lilly Moeding, were enchanted by the farmhouse-style dwelling and its features, which included a rustic stone fireplace, pine-paneled walls and beamed ceilings.
“We totally fell in love with it,” said Lilly. “You could just see the potential.”
Yes, the house needed work, but Ross, a carpenter with his own business, Cabinetry Refined, was the guy for the job. “I was looking for a project. I wanted something like this,” he said. “There’s so much character.”
For her part, Anderson was happy to hand her home over to someone committed to writing its next chapter. “I’m just really pleased,” she said. “The house itself is a gem. And it’s a house with a story.”
‘This is my house’
The story began in the late 1920s when Alice and Frank Tisdale built a new home in a then-rural setting in St. Louis Park, just west of the Minikahda Club and east of Bass Lake.
The house, modeled after an 18th-century Pennsylvania farmhouse, was Alice’s dream home. She had filled a bulging scrapbook with pictures of early Colonial cottages, then hired Minneapolis architect Carl Stravs to design a simple yet richly detailed house with her favorite features.
Alice gave her house a name, Petit Point (a type of needlework), which she had painted on a sign — the sign that Anderson used to intrigue the Moedings.
Alice’s affection for her home is well-documented; she was a prolific writer who penned journal entries and articles about it, including one published in the American Home magazine. “This is my house from top to bottom,” she wrote in 1929, in a piece titled “Petit Point: A very small house that brought no end of pleasure.”
One of the many personal touches that Alice built into her home was a removable hearthstone, intended as a time capsule; when the house was finished, she filled the cavity with a tin box containing a new coin, that day’s newspaper and a list of everyone present.
Over the years, as St. Louis Park was developed, the Tisdales’ home was joined by others in what is now the Minikahda Oaks neighborhood.
In 1955, Petit Point was sold to Richard and Marjorie LeRoy. Years later, Marjorie made headlines as Marjorie Caldwell, who was charged, then acquitted of conspiring with her then husband, Roger Caldwell, to murder Marjorie’s mother, Duluth heiress Elisabeth Congdon. But in the mid-1950s, Marjorie was a suburban housewife, known to her neighbors for her gracious entertaining, hands-on home-improvement projects — and a tendency to fib. When the LeRoys moved to a bigger house in Minneapolis, Marjorie gave her maternity clothes to the home’s new owner, Anderson’s mother (who was pregnant with Anderson), and even threw her a baby shower.
Dorothy and Jim Anderson raised their four children in Petit Point. Arlyn can still remember the first night she slept, as a young child, in the unusual attic-style bedroom with its peaked ceiling, exposed rafters and wrought-iron cats for door hinges. “It was just magic,” she recalled.
The Anderson family treasured the home for more than five decades. But in 2012, with her elderly parents ailing and requiring expensive care, Arlyn decided it was time to sell the house, which had sat largely vacant for several years. She mobilized a group of neighbors, Friends of Petit Point, who planned a history-themed open house in hopes of attracting a preservation-minded buyer.
“Teardowns are on so many people’s minds in the neighborhood,” she said. But a real estate agent advised her to empty the house first, clearing out “years of accumulated antiques and collectibles … so people could visualize it for themselves.” At the end of that process, the house went on the market — and the Moedings became the next owners.
‘Intimate and unique’
The couple lived in the house “as is” for a year, saving up money for the renovation. “It was drafty, and the ceiling was leaking,” said Lilly. None of the windows opened, and the house was unbearably hot in summer.
Still the Moedings were charmed by their new home, which Ross described as “very intimate and so unique.”
When they were ready to begin remodeling, Ross’ brother, Jess Moeding of Xpand Inc., served as general contractor.
“I had my brother look at it, so I knew what I was getting myself into,” Ross said. But that didn’t mean there weren’t a few surprises.
“It held a whole number of secrets,” Ross said. “When you remodel, you never really know what’s behind the Sheetrock.”
The house had “virtually no insulation — horsehair and straw,” so the Moedings added spray-foam insulation, along with new wiring and new windows. The original rough-plaster walls had straw sticking out of the plaster, Ross noted. “She [Alice] wanted it to look like old mud. … but a number of the walls were rotten and had to be reframed.”
And although the Moedings loved the original wood paneling, much of that, too, had to be removed. “We couldn’t save what was there; it was so brittle,” Ross said. He repurposed what he could, and replaced the dining-room paneling with fir wood, just like the original panels, to maintain the home’s character.
Ross used his carpentry skills to add new built-ins, including window seats, storage and even beds.
The new kitchen, in particular, is a showcase of his work. “The idea for the kitchen was like an old European kitchen, with everything pieced together,” he said. He crafted black-walnut doors for the refrigerator, freezer and pantry; some cabinets were painted cream; and others were given a distressed, antiqued finish. Countertops of Paonazzo marble, and flooring of vintage terra cotta tile, reclaimed from a French farmhouse, complete the Old World ambience.
The Moedings also converted the partial attic into a playroom for their 2-year-old son, Elliott. There was no room to build a staircase so they installed climbing rungs into the wall. Because the attic hadn’t been finished originally, it had to be reinforced. The Moedings added steel I-beams below, in the master bedroom, then “wrapped them in fir, to look old,” Ross said.
Interior designer Marita Simmons helped select period-look finishing touches, including lighting and wallpaper.
Outside, the couple added lanterns with flickering flames, inspired by ones they’d seen in New Orleans. “They have those gaslights everywhere,” Lilly noted.
Remodeling his own home was both enjoyable and exhausting, Ross said. “It’s a fun house to work on. But it was incredibly stressful at the same time. I was working all day, then coming home and working at night.”
And the project grew beyond the couple’s original plans.
“We went a little overboard,” Ross said. “But I don’t really regret it. It’s our dream house.”
Like the Andersons before them, the Moedings plan to live in the home for decades.
“This is not for resale,” Lilly said. “This is where we’ll stay.”
The couple still have the vintage “Petit Point” sign, which they plan to display outside. “It’s part of the history of the house,” Ross said. “I feel like I’m doing what the original owner did. She poured her heart and soul into it. And I put my stamp on it, to bring it into the 21st century.”