The starting point: After years of townhouse living in Shakopee, Anders Nilsson and Jen Wightman were eager to relocate to the urban core. “We wanted to move into the city where all our friends were,” said Nilsson. After looking at several houses, the couple chose a 1911 foursquare in southwest Minneapolis, with the intention of remodeling. The kitchen, in particular, was overdue for an update, but that was a plus, according to Nilsson. “There’s a lot less guilt. We’d feel rather guilty tearing out a recent renovation, but that kitchen had not seen anything done in 50 years,” he said. “We could start from scratch — and do a lot of customizing to our taste.”
The design team: Shelter Architecture, including interior designer Lisa Antenucci, partner Kurt Gough, and architect Jackie Millea; 612-870-4081, shelterarchitecture.com.
The solution: Nilsson and Wightman’s house already had a small addition, a rear bump-out dating from the 1950s, but it lacked frost footings and was starting to sag. Removing that deteriorating addition and replacing it with a new two-story one, extending out about 12 feet, created space to expand the kitchen and improve its flow and functionality. “We were able to open it up and create a more open floor plan between the kitchen and the dining room,” said Antenucci. The addition also created space for a mudroom, complete with overhead bike storage, a powder room on the main floor, and a small master suite above.
Crafting a new kitchen: High on the couple’s wish list was open shelving where they could showcase colorful dishes. “We collect functional pottery from local art fairs,” said Nilsson. “We’re always on the lookout. Everything we have, we use.” Long open shelves above the cooktop and additional open shelving below the island create storage/display space, so the pottery is “integrated into the design, as art pieces,” Antenucci said.
The old ceramic tile countertops were replaced with granite with flecks of garnet red that echo the hue of new pendant lights. Under the linoleum, some of the original oak flooring was still in good shape. To complete the new kitchen floor, oak floorboards from elsewhere in the house were repurposed, feathered in, then stained chocolate brown. “We harvested it from the second floor and used it on the first floor,” said Gough.
Back story: The addition also created an opportunity to improve the home’s rear entry and connection to the backyard. “In the original kitchen, you couldn’t even see the backyard,” Gough noted. Now there’s a new deck just off the kitchen, with double doors for easy access.
Stark contrast: The exterior of the new addition is extremely modern, with clean lines, a flat roof and flat-panel fiber-cement siding. That’s a dramatic departure from the more traditional facade that faces the street. “It’s classic in front and modern in back,” said Nilsson.
Even the color scheme is radically different, with earthy tones on the back of the house, and bright red, with white trim, facing the street. “The original idea was to have it gray,” Nilsson said of the home’s rosy-hued front. “But during the winter, we were driving around, looking at everything being gray, and Jen decided, ‘I want it to be bright red.’ She was color-starved.”
That contrast between old and new is becoming more common, according to Gough. “A lot of houses have additions in different styles,” he said. “We’re not as afraid of introducing brand-new materials and palettes.”
The addition isn’t visible from the street, Nilsson noted. “If someone doesn’t like it, it’s at the back of the house. It wasn’t very shocking there.” He likes the contrast. “We got to have a little contemporary architecture — a little nugget of modernity — in a neighborhood that’s old-school.”
The result: Nilsson and Wightman are making the most of summer in the city, in their renovated home. “One of the big things we’re enjoying is the location — the parks, the bike paths, being able to walk around the lakes,” Nilsson said. They love entertaining in their new home. “We’re more likely to have people over,” he said. When the couple lived in Shakopee, “we spent most of the time visiting people in Minneapolis.” Now they enjoy inviting guests to dine outside. “That is really nice, moving from the kitchen to the deck.” And their new kitchen is a great gathering spot all year round. “When you have people over, that’s where they congregate,” he said. “The kitchen is just a gorgeous space. We like hanging out there.”