Kathy Ehrmann fell in love with a whimsical 1921 cottage-style house in Minneapolis' Lowry Hill the moment she saw it. For one, it was one of the few "mushroom houses" in the Twin Cities.
"There's a handful of them here, but I'd say no more than five," Ehrmann said about the style of home that gets its name from its rounded cedar shake roof, which resembles a mushroom.
Ehrmann wasn't looking to move from her house in the suburbs in early 2015. But when she drove down Kenwood Parkway and saw a "For Sale" sign in the yard, she bought it faster than she could sell her previous home.
With its white-trimmed turret and towering chimney, the style of home is also referred to as a "storybook home" because it looks like a page from a fairy tale.
Just as appealing, the more than 2,800-square-foot structure sat on a double lot surrounded by mature trees and had multiple European-inspired outdoor spaces. A patio on the side of the house covered by an arched portico evoked an image of Italy. And a large patio in the backyard had a Parisian bistro feel. The grounds also came with a renovated carriage house.
It was a fitting setting for Ehrmann, who owns L'More Chocolat, a Twins Cities-based company that makes custom French chocolates. These scenic touches made the home feel far away from the city, while sitting just a few blocks from Walker Art Center and less than 2 miles from downtown.
Antique quality, modern flair
While she loved the home's timeless European character, much of the inside hadn't been updated in decades.
Ehrmann, who has a background in real estate, quickly had ideas on how to repair and elevate the home's interior while keeping its old European charm.
"I said, 'OK, I've got the resources to do this, and I'm going to make this home magical,'" she said.
One space where Ehrmann balanced architectural history with 21st-century freshness was in the kitchen. She had the room completely redone, adorned with new marble counters and stainless-steel appliances, but refused to tear down a wall like many people suggested.
"I wanted to keep the historical integrity," she said. "We just dialed it up a few notches."
Standouts include the living room fireplace, now framed with an elaborate, hand-carved marble mantel from Italy, which Ehrmann transferred from her previous home.
"This home is a statement, and it needed something when you first walked in to say you've arrived somewhere really, really special," she said.
Ehrmann updated all four gas-burning fireplaces in the home, along with the heating and cooling systems, plumbing and electrical.
Three existing bathrooms were fully renovated and two more were built from scratch — a large spa bathroom attached to the lower-level primary suite and one in the carriage house. All are gold-accented and elegantly modern.
The 850-square-foot carriage house also has a kitchen after top-to-bottom updates. Ehrmann said it's perfect for extended family to live in, or it could be rented out as an apartment or used as a home office.
"I ended up making chocolate out of that carriage house because it was a perfect place," she said.
A 'labor of love'
Even with all the functional and stylistic changes, Ehrmann recognized the longevity of the house's bones. She sought high-end replacement pieces, such as designer light fixtures and antique French oak flooring. She even replaced the seven-layer cedar shake roof, which is supposed to last 100 years.
Although she was hesitant to live in an old house, she quickly learned to appreciate its features through all the renovations, which she called a "labor of love." Now that she's moving to live closer to family, she hopes the new homeowner values the home as much as she did.
"What I learned through that process is that old equals quality," she said. "It equals this intense craftsmanship that you don't [always] find."
Ellyn Wolfenson (firstname.lastname@example.org; 612-644-3033) and Matthew Baker (email@example.com; 612-860-4222) of Coldwell Banker Realty have the $1.075 million listing.
Jessy Rehmann is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune. Reach her at Jessy.Rehmann@startribune.com.