When Loren and Kristen Heeringa moved from Phoenix back to the Twin Cities 20 years ago, hunting for their dream home — or building one from scratch — wasn’t a viable option.
It was a corporate relocation, and with five children, the eldest just about to start high school, getting the family settled was the first priority.
So the Heeringas bought a good-enough house: a newish two-story with four bedrooms, set on a small lake in Eden Prairie.
“It was a cookie-cutter home,” said Loren, one of many that the original builder had put up in their subdivision when it was first developed. “You get what you get.”
The Heeringas made themselves at home, raised their family and set down roots in their neighborhood. One by one, the kids grew up and moved out.
Then the grandchildren started coming (the couple now have three, ages 9, 6 and 4), they needed space to host extended-family gatherings, and their house just wasn’t cutting it.
“The kitchen was never big enough,” Loren said. “When everybody was home for the holidays, it was elbow-to-elbow. We wanted more of a destination home, where you could have a large group be comfortable.”
Plus, their home was showing its age. Many of the features that were considered the height of style in the early 1990s had fallen out of favor. The windows were too small and didn’t make the most of their water views. And the two-story family room, in particular, felt noisy and drafty, not cozy and inviting.
“We wanted a change,” said Loren. “When you’ve lived elsewhere, you notice that Minnesota homes tend to be dark inside. Homes in the Southwest are more open, and the indoors and outdoors are more integrated.”
The Heeringas thought about moving, but decided against it. “We had neighbors we really liked,” Loren said. So they decided to stay and invest in the home they already had “to make the house how we wanted it.”
To do that, they turned to mackmiller design + build, a husband-and-wife team based in Eden Prairie. While the project started smaller, it ultimately grew into a reinvention of almost the entire house.
“It kind of snowballed,” said Loren. “We got more momentum and ideas.”
Moving the fireplace
One of the biggest ideas was to close off the ceiling of the two-story family room to create a bonus room above and a more human-scaled room below.
“It was not sized correctly — it was like an upended shoebox,” said Mary Mackmiller, interior designer. “That was the fashion then — an open floor plan on steroids. But it was freezing in winter, blazing hot in summer.”
Creating two rooms out of one gave the couple a workout/family room on the second floor, while “the main floor became a family room that they actually used,” said Mackmiller.
Another big design change was to relocate the room’s fireplace, which dominated the wall overlooking the water.
“There was a fireplace with two little windows on either side,” said Loren. “It was hard to decorate and took the best views of the lot. Mark [Mackmiller, who specializes in space planning] had a great idea to move the fireplace and put in big windows.” A new fireplace is now on another, less-prominent wall. The floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the little lake dramatically transformed the room.
The formerly dark living room was brightened up with new windows and French doors to become a light-filled “piano room.”
The builder also reworked openings between rooms and around staircases. The door connecting the kitchen to the porch, for example, was widened to better integrate the spaces and create an inviting year-round room that brings the outdoors in.
“They took a closed-off porch and opened it up, with heated floors,” said Loren. “I love the outdoors.”
Geometric cut-outs on interior walls, another relic of the early ’90s, were closed.
“We Sheetrocked over all the goofy openings,” Mary Mackmiller said.
To expand the kitchen, Mark Mackmiller captured space from the back entry and laundry room, making room for a bigger, two-level island.
“Now we can be cooking, preparing food, and there’s still room to move around,” Loren said.
An addition created space for a bigger, better laundry room, where Kristen, a costumer who helps with high school productions, has ample space for sewing and storage.
Infusing the home with vivid color was another way to make the Heeringas’ home truly their own.
“They had pent-up demand for color,” said Mary Mackmiller. “It was builder white on the walls from when they purchased it” — so plain-vanilla that the “before” photos almost appear black and white.
“We wanted some vibrancy,” Loren agreed. “It helps your emotions, makes you happier.”
Their home’s new palette of yellows, rusts and Granny Smith apple green was drawn from the fabric on one of Kristen’s chairs, hues that also were reflected in the couple’s artwork.
“That inspired the whole house,” Mary Mackmiller said.
The couple also commissioned a new piece of art for their dining room — a three-panel canvas showing a castle, five people in a caravan and a few trailing cats.
“It symbolizes our kids coming home,” Loren said.
Now there’s plenty of room for big family gatherings. “It’s a great home for entertaining, a great home when all the kids come for the holidays,” Loren said.
Day-to-day life is better, too, he said. “It’s so much more fun — more pleasant to be in. This is like a new home.”
Like a new home, it was a big investment. All the improvements, including the new kitchen, baths, windows and landscaping, cost about as much as the couple originally paid for their house 20 years ago, Loren estimated.
Was it worth it? “Absolutely,” he said.