Mary Johnston had heard about our long Minnesota winters. So when she and her husband, Alan, decided to move from Londonderry, Northern Ireland, to the Twin Cities, she really wanted to find a house with large comfortable rooms.
“We heard you get cabin fever in Minnesota, so we wanted a lot of space,” she said.
Alan was starting a job at Seagate Technology, so in 2011, the couple and their two children moved into a sprawling brick home on a hill in Edina. Among the pluses: The living spaces were all on one floor. But a big minus was that the house, built in 1983, had a dated “Miami Vice” vibe, with white marble floors, dusty pink carpet and polished brass light fixtures. At least the sparkling disco ball suspended above a dance floor in the lower level was retro-cool.
The Johnstons knew they wanted to make changes. But “we were in a new country, and it was overwhelming to think about how to start,” said Mary. So after two years of outdated decor and cooking in a poorly designed kitchen, the couple were ready to jump into a major remodeling.
“We realized that we should do the whole main floor at once,” said Mary. “We decided to grit our teeth and go for it.”
They hired Chris Easterday, owner of C.R.E. Construction, after being impressed with his work on homes featured on the Remodelers Showcase and Parade of Homes.
His mission was to rescue the home from its Hollywood-style mirrors and “Miami Vice” pink and infuse more sophisticated finishes and up-to-date functionality for a family of four — all within the existing footprint.
Easterday steered the Johnstons toward a simple, clean-lined aesthetic, so the spaces will never look dated. “We only wanted to do this once,” said Mary.
Here’s how the Johnstons and Easterday renewed and reimagined four rooms in the Johnstons’ home:
CRISP BLACK-AND-WHITE KITCHEN
Before: The dark, dated kitchen, with pickle-finish oak cabinets and ceiling-lowering soffits, felt cramped and closed off. “I felt like I was in the servants’ quarters,” said Mary. The one redeeming feature was a deep angled skylight in the ceiling.
After: The fresh black-and-white color palette is carried out in the granite countertops, island top and subway-tile backsplash. In place of a separate casual eating area, Mary requested a table connected to the island, which is “perfect for having a cup of tea with friends and paying bills,” she said. The walnut table is covered with a clear coat of epoxy finish for protection.
By widening doorways in two places — between the kitchen and foyer (by tearing out a coat closet) and between the kitchen and dining room — the cook can feel connected with the action in the rest of the home. And the front entry now offers a clear view through the house to the back porch.
Mary, an avid cook, chose the latest appliances, from an induction cooktop to a steamer oven. Nearly all of the appliances are covered in wood panels to avoid a sea of stainless steel. “The kitchen is lovely,” she said.
Before: The family rarely sat in their uninviting sunken living room, which had an inoperable fireplace and no real purpose. “You felt like you were in exile,” said Mary.
After: To create a welcoming living room, Easterday put in a new gas fireplace flanked by storage cabinets and a spot for a TV. For continuity, the fireplace surround and hearth are the same granite as the kitchen island top, and all the woodwork is painted soft white. For a personal touch, Mary chose the Celtic-designed hardware for the cabinets. The room is now an inviting family gathering spot. “We play games and watch the telly in here,” said daughter Emma Johnston.
Before: A mirrored ceiling and Hollywood bar lights defined the 1980s glam bathroom.
After: The Johnstons toured many houses on the Parade of Homes, and discovered that “it’s an American thing to go all out in the master bathroom and make it the most luxurious room in the house,” said Mary. The couple followed suit, with walls tiled in marble, a cherrywood vanity with his-and-her sinks, a heated floor and a whirlpool tub. “We all use the bubbler when it’s really cold,” said Mary. They took out a wall between the toilet and shower to make space for an oversized frameless glass shower. “Our friend said we could wash a horse in there,” said Mary. They saved one feature — a stained-glass window, which was original to the house.
Before: In the 1980s, mudrooms that focused on organization and ample storage weren’t high on the must-have list. The home’s garage entrance opened to a laundry room and a small coat closet. “There wasn’t room for backpacks, and the kids’ coats ended up on the floor,” said Mary.
After: Easterday gained space by knocking down two walls and adding a new stacked washer and dryer. New wall cabinets give each family member a closet, pullout drawers and shoe cubbies. It’s also where dogs Freddie and Guinness nap in their beds and can be confined when the family is out. But the best part is the heated floor. “It’s dynamite — especially in the winter,” said Mary.