When Michael Alexin embarked on a makeover of his house in Golden Valley, choosing the designer was a no-brainer.
“I did all the design,” said Alexin, former vice president of design and product development for Target Corp.
His professional focus was apparel and accessories, but interior design is his “avocation,” he said. “I love design and playing with color, light and shapes.”
And while his home is high-end, it reflects the philosophy and aesthetic he honed during his 13 years at Target — that good design is comfortable and casual.
“I’ve always believed design should be accessible and affordable to everybody,” he said. “I have a style I prefer: eclectic, with things that remind you of comfortable classics from the past but with a contemporary feel.”
His home, a Cape Cod-inspired house built in 1987, already had a lot going for it. It was spacious, with more than 3,000 square feet including a separate guesthouse, and sat on a half-acre pie-shaped lot on a cul-de-sac in Golden Valley’s North Tyrol Hills.
Just 3 miles from downtown Minneapolis and Target’s headquarters, Alexin enjoyed a short, easy commute, and came home to a quiet, natural setting that backed on Theodore Wirth Park.
“It’s peaceful,” he said. “I’d get fox, turkey and deer. You’re in the woods, so you have privacy without window coverings. It’s a true urban retreat.”
Alexin had updated bits and pieces of the home over the years, but in 2011, he embarked on a major remodeling project. He gutted the kitchen and added a great room, bringing the finished square footage to more than 4,000.
Let there be light
“I like to cook and entertain, and I wanted that comfortable flow — entertaining today is so informal,” he said. He wanted to maximize light and views and create casual, inviting spaces — “a place you feel like you can kick off your shoes and be comfortable — stunning but lived-in.”
Instead of the white-and-gray color palette that has dominated new kitchens in recent years, Alexin chose a warm, rich color scheme. “I wanted it really beautiful but also cozy,” he said. “I had all the materials and finishes picked out.” He created a “storyboard” for his new kitchen.
“It started with the cabinetry. I wanted something exotic with a beautiful grain,” so he chose African mahogany. He wanted dark, ebony floors, so the original maple was treated to five coats of stain and then sealed. He chose dark African granite for the countertops and a massive 6-by-8-foot center island.
“The last piece was the backsplash of variegated green glass with a little honey color — a little splash of texture and color,” he said.
The kitchen had three skylights, so he repeated that architectural element in the adjacent 21-by-20-foot great room, which includes a soaring fireplace made of Kasota stone, installed “dry-stack” rather than with mortar. “More contemporary,” he said. Built-in cabinets, made of African mahogany to echo the look of the kitchen, were designed to accommodate and conceal media equipment.
Landscaping for the seasons
The project included updates to the rest of the house, including new lighting, additional storage, spray-foam insulation and a new roof. Alexin also reconfigured his patio, adding an outdoor kitchen with a Wolf grill, and redid his landscaping, again serving as his own designer.
“I did most of the landscaping myself. It’s so meditative,” he said.
In the front yard, he created an English cottage-style garden, with plants, including iris, lilies and hosta, designed to provide color throughout the growing season. “I chose things with different bloom times. In back I wanted it low-maintenance — no grass — bark mulch, evergreens, arborvitae and hosta.”
After the project was completed, Alexin found he lived differently in his home. “I spent all my time in the kitchen and the great room,” he said. “Those two rooms became the heart of the home.”
Now that he’s moved to San Francisco for his new job as president of TravelSmith Outfitters, it’s his kitchen and great room he misses the most.
“I loved the size of the great room — connected to the kitchen but still a separate space,” he said. “I love that room so much.”
Jacqueline Day of Edina Realty has the listing, 763-522-9000, jacquelineday.com