The challenge: An empty-nester couple bought a previously owned condo in a historic converted loft building on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. The classic tall-ceilinged spaces boasted airy living and dining rooms with hardwood floors, exposed brick walls and ceiling timbers. Big windows let in plenty of light.

However, the master bedroom felt cavernous and lacked panache and personality. The couple also wanted to replace a massive sliding barn door that opened to the bedroom and swallowed up precious wall space. “They wanted to make the bedroom a little bit more spectacular — and reflect their taste,” said Paul Mellblom, an architect at MSR Design in Minneapolis.

The couple added another project to the loft-improvement list: Reduce the noise from shoes on hardwood floors and other activities by residents in the unit above them.


The design team: Mellblom and Kate Michaud with interior designer Caitlyn Maus, MSR Design, Minneapolis,, 612-225-1042.


The solution: In the master bedroom, Mellblom designed two new walls that introduced visual depth and style, while increasing storage space.

First, he removed the sliding barn door. In its place are built-in gray-stained oak storage cabinets and art niches. The minimalist brushed aluminum hardware smoothly blends into the cabinet wall.

On the opposite wall behind the bed, Mellblom replaced basic painted chipboard with a textural wood wall treatment.

For this wall, he used the same size boards and projected some of them out in varying degrees to create shadow lines and highlights. “The idea was to take the same rhythm and proportion of the cabinetry wall and have the wood angled in and out to give it visual texture,” he said.

To make the bedroom feel balanced, he repeated the same materials — gray-stained oak — on both of the new walls. “They look modern, but the texture gives them warmth,” he said.


Storied artwork: The couple had a vast art collection with “wonderful stories about the artists and how they found the pieces on their travels,” said Mellblom. So he designed illuminated display niches in the cabinet wall. It allows the couple to view and appreciate their curated sculptures, while showcasing their personal style. Plus the niches break up the floor-to-ceiling cabinet wall.


Strategic lighting: Mellblom used LED lights, on a dimmer control, in the display shelves to highlight the three-dimensional objets d’art.

“Light brings more dimension and makes the colors pop against the gray wall,” he said. In the textural wall behind the bed, tiny recessed LED lights “make the wall visually dance and give it sparkle.”


Noises off: The homeowners wanted to save the exposed rustic timbers on the ceiling in the master bedroom. “We had to balance the desire to have a really quiet bedroom that blocks all sound to keeping the character,” said Mellblom.

In order to muffle noise from the upper unit, he put in a new ceiling structure with sound isolators between the timbers and patched holes in the existing structural deck. “It’s not as quiet as a tomb, but we’ve reduced the sounds coming from above,” he said.


The result: Mellblom’s new cabinet wall also created a narrower doorway between the bedroom and living room. Now it’s more private from the rest of the loft when the owners entertain.

After the remodeling, the loft has abundant storage, the bedroom is quieter and the owners have “imprinted their personality and love for art,” he said.