The challenge: Cathy and Mark Haukedahl loved the Craftsman character of their longtime home, a classic four-square in Minneapolis’ Lynnhurst neighborhood, but not their dark, closed-off kitchen, which was at the end of a long hallway. “When we had family over, I was really isolated in the kitchen,” said Cathy.

The team: Architect Kari Nelson, 763-913-9912, K|Nelson Architects,; builder Terra Firma Building and Remodeling.

The back story: Nelson just happens to be the Haukedahls’ daughter. She grew up in the house, which added to the challenge of remodeling it. “I knew it so well — all the memories and sentiment,” she said. “Working on a home you don’t know is easier — a clean slate.” As for working with her parents? “I treated them like any other client,” she said.

The sweet spot: Like many couples, the Haukedahls had different tastes and priorities that had to be balanced in their remodeling project. “She doesn’t like change. He does,” said Nelson. “It was a fun challenge finding the sweet spot that works for both of them.” Nelson’s father also took a more active role in the project than her mother. “My husband was more interested in design details,” said Cathy. “I gave [Nelson] free rein. I just got veto authority. I don’t think I used it.”

Original footprint: The Haukedahls decided early on to keep their kitchen’s existing layout. “It’s not large — 12½ by 12½ — but it works very efficiently,” said Nelson. And Cathy was set on keeping their existing kitchen table. “I love that table,” she said. While center islands with seating are an increasingly popular alternative to traditional tables, there’s less connection with dining at an island than being seated across from each other, Nelson noted.

Opening things up: A wall separated the kitchen from the adjacent sunroom, where the Haukedahls’ young grandchildren played when they visited. Nelson proposed removing the wall and its bank of original cabinets to integrate the two spaces. “As soon as we saw her ideas, we could see it would be more family-friendly,” said Cathy. “It was hard for me to get rid of those 100-year-old cabinets.” But Nelson reused some of the cabinets to create a new drop zone in space from an unused maid’s staircase (there’s another, larger staircase at the front of the house). “I love that she got rid of the maid’s stairs,” said Cathy. “It was just a place junk accumulated.”

Discoveries: During demolition, unexpected things were revealed. “Like any 100-year-old house, you find some structural issues,” said Nelson. “We needed to do some beam support to prevent any sagging in the future.” They also discovered that the house was a few years older than they had thought. “We assumed the house was built in 1919,” said Nelson. But in the old insulation, they found a calendar page dated August 1916. “My husband turned it into a framed picture” that now hangs in the kitchen, said Cathy. “The fun things you find in old homes.”

Classic character: The new kitchen looks very much at home in the Haukedahls’ vintage house. “Keeping the character was really important to us,” said Cathy. The opening between the kitchen and sunroom is large enough to let in light and invite connection, but small enough to retain the sense of two distinct spaces. “If a person loves an older home, stay true to that,” said Nelson. “You don’t have to have everything open. You can get a lot of connection with smaller to medium-size openings.”

Original patina: Unlike the bank of cabinets on the wall they removed, the rest of the Haukedahls’ cabinets were not original, likely dating from the 1970s. They were also removed and replaced with new cabinets that echo the style of the house. “We tried to match the style of the original ones,” said Nelson, using the same wood (birch), exposed hinges, beaded astragal molding and bin-pull hardware. The new cabinets were stained to match the patina of the original cabinets that were repurposed in the new drop zone. “We went through a number of stain samples” to find just the right one, Nelson said. Then a darker stain was rubbed into corners and crevices to replicate the natural aging of stained wood over time.

Architectural inspiration: Nelson drew details from her parents’ house to repeat in their new kitchen, including a leaded-glass cupboard. Mark, a woodworker, helped with the cabinets’ design. Details from the staircase newel post and from the dining room were replicated in the new kitchen. “We pulled from the whole main level to tie the kitchen back to the rest of the house,” Nelson said.

Timeless look: For the backsplash, the Haukedahls chose handmade subway tile with irregularities that would have been typical in tile made 100 years ago. Its light green hue complements the countertops, which are black soapstone with green highlights. A new maple floor replaced linoleum, and a new light fixture looks like it could have been installed in the 1920s. “It’s so consistent with the character of the house,” said Cathy of the kitchen. “It seems it could always have been here.”

The result: The open kitchen accomplished its goal of fostering family connection. “It lives entirely differently,” said Nelson. “Now we are all hanging out together, three generations. We’re all more involved in the prep and cooking process; everyone helps more. You can have a Wild game on in the sunroom, and see it from the kitchen, but it still has the intimacy of an old house.”

Cathy enjoys cooking more than she used to. “Once I got a space I really enjoyed, I want to spend more time there,” she said. “I love that the kitchen and sunroom are now seamless. Everybody can be together. People talk to me. The kitchen is no longer just a place for food. It’s a real living space.”


Everyday Solutions regularly appears in the Homes section as a showcase for projects, by AIA Minnesota member architects, that solve a homeowner’s everyday design challenge. The program is a partnership between the Star Tribune and the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects.


To submit a project for consideration, please send uncompressed JPEG images of the element or space, before and after photos if available, and a brief description of the story behind the project, to Angie McKinley: