Life changes often precipitate a move — coupling, uncoupling, job changes, retirement, kids in, kids out, kids back in.
In the case of Brian and David Woolsey, their next phase in life was to start a family. And as much as they loved their Tyrol Hills midcentury modern in Golden Valley, both knew it wasn't the right house to grow with them.
"It didn't have a yard, much storage or bedrooms for children or our parents and siblings when they visit," Brian explained. "And we knew we'd see them a lot more once we had a baby."
Their search led them to a 1935 Tudor on Medicine Lake in Plymouth. At almost 4,000 square feet with golden west-facing light, the house had the space and yard the couple wanted, plus all the recreation options of lakeside living and many fetching architectural details: well-preserved woodwork, vaulted timbered ceilings and graceful arched windows and doorways. These details particularly resonated with Brian, a real estate developer who, at the time, was completing a restoration of the Abbey, a historic mansion in Minneapolis' Loring Park.
"This is an unusual house for the lake. It feels like it belongs in south Minneapolis," Brian said.
The location was also an easy commute to both their workplaces — Children's Minnesota in Minneapolis, where David is a registered nurse, and Brian's office in St. Louis Park.
The Woolseys wanted to reimagine the older home in a way that would highlight the beauty of the original design while reconfiguring some of the bedrooms, bathrooms and an unfinished attic space to add utility for their family (which now includes baby daughter Phia, born in August), dogs Walter and Remy and guests.
Should love it
Designer Deidre Webster of Studio Day Design helped the couple figure out how to work with what was there — scoring a big win by helping restore an original bathroom they were tempted to throw in the towel on.
"They said, 'We hate this bathroom, but know we should love it. Can you help us?' " Webster said.
Swathed in swimming pool blue ceramic tile, the room had a large area in the shower that had been patched with mismatched tiles by a previous owner. Webster repaired the damaged areas with near-perfect replicas from a tile company in Los Angeles, then added a new top for the vanity and whimsical vintage-inspired water-skier wallpaper to bring the room together.
The focus was to restore and reuse wherever possible.
This included the very 1990s kitchen, where they painted cherry cabinets a soft sage and reused the granite countertop in Brian and David's new bathroom. Webster did replace a ceiling full of recessed lights with small alabaster flush-mount fixtures to add period-appropriate softness.
"They aren't always necessary," Webster said. "This is a historical house that would have never had can lights, so we used actual fixtures and undercabinet lights instead."
Combining a small sewing room and bedroom and adding a pair of lake-facing dormers made space for a cozy primary bedroom and bath on the second floor. The dormers make the room feel larger and brighter and were worth the splurge, according to Brian. The adjoining bathroom features the old granite countertop from the kitchen, recut to fit the vanity, and vintage pendants that Webster sourced online.
In fact, half the light fixtures in the house are vintage, some original, some purchased. In the living room, they found buried electricals sources in the ceiling where fixtures once were, so they uncovered the boxes and installed pendant lights that gild the pretty ceiling and add drama and character to the space.
Insulating and sheetrocking the unfinished attic created room for a walk-in closet and laundry room. It's also the perfect spot for a 20-foot carved wood banister that Brian found in Minneapolis at Bauer Brothers, aesthetically and spiritually connecting the space with the rest of the house.
"Everyone assumes it's always been there," Brian said.
To prepare for visiting relatives, the Woolseys added a bedroom to the wood-paneled basement and converted a party kitchen into a bathroom. Webster convinced David and Brian to keep the dark paneling, removing it to update the electrical and HVAC and reinstalling it afterward. "She wore us down, but it was 100% the right move. It's fun, cozy and different," David said.
Since baby Phia joined the family, the house has become a bigger part of the Woolseys' lives as they spend more time at home.
"We use every room more, tummy time and feeding in the sunroom, meal and bottle prep in the kitchen," Brian said.
And they were prescient about finding a home with storage. "You wouldn't believe all the stuff a 3-month-old needs," David said.
Laurie Junker is a Twin Cities-based writer specializing in home design and architecture.