Like many men, Tim Jarvis experienced a midlife crisis. Unlike most men, he solved it by buying a house.
“I was living with all Ikea stuff,” said the 36-year-old software developer from Iowa. “I couldn’t keep living a transient lifestyle. I don’t have a wife or kids. I needed something to anchor me to reality.”
That anchor came in the form of a 1940 St. Louis Park home — and its subsequent $175,000 renovation. In the span of three months, Jarvis, working with Danny Hecker of Clairmont Design + Build, transformed the outdated 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom, one-bath house into a 2,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bath dwelling updated for the 21st century. New plumbing and electrical systems, window replacements and refinished floors were just the beginning of this massive overhaul. A backyard tree was removed to make way for a two-car garage, walls were opened up in the living room and dining room, and doorways were raised to accommodate the homeowner’s 6-foot-3 stature.
Jarvis, a body builder and self-proclaimed “car guy,” looked at more than 50 homes before settling on his Princeton Avenue bachelor pad. He likes St. Louis Park because it “feels less suburb-y” and is close to his city-dwelling friends. Neighborhood home values and the quality of the school district also factored into the decision, though he doesn’t know if fatherhood is in his future. “I have that bachelor mentality. I feel young and with it,” he said. “Then I realize now I’m the old guy at the gym.”
Living in a made-to-order abode is a big change from Jarvis’ previous residences: the Murals of LynLake and a penthouse in the Lime in Uptown. “I was paying, like, $2,100 a month, and it was still 800 square feet and you get to the point where you have no storage,” he said. He wanted more room for his photography equipment, and parking spaces for his beloved Audi and Miata. The small yard also is a perk for his 3-year-old French bulldog, Pookie.
That the home needed substantial modernization to fit his taste didn’t deter Jarvis; in fact, he preferred it. Many of the other homes he saw were described as updated, but much of the work had been done hastily by the owners.
“The tile would be janky, or the outlets would be crooked,” he said. “Other people can maybe deal with that, but it would drive me insane.”
Hecker acted as both Jarvis’ real estate agent and builder. Together, they meticulously laid out a plan that fit both Jarvis’ budget and vision for the home. Not once did Jarvis consider doing a DIY remodel.
“Doing contract work, you get a sense of what the best use of your time is,” he said. “If I have time to myself, it’s better to invest it towards my career, in billable hours. Time is the most valuable thing you have.”
Jarvis, who did do his own interior design, found most of his furniture at Room & Board. “My design is trial-and-error,” he said. “I look at a million things and when I find something I don’t hate, I try it.” He balanced a sleek pewter palette with the warmth of walnut and a few pops of color. The square lines of the smoke-hued sofa and camel-colored chairs are softened by the curves of the coffee table. The overall vibe is “chill,” as he described it.
Jarvis didn’t skimp on the major purchases like the dining room table and the living room seating. “The big, substantial stuff, I’m happy to spend the money on,” he said. “On accessories, I don’t think it really matters.” A crystal chandelier and area rugs throughout were steals from Overstock.com. He found reasonably priced Eames-style molded plastic dining room chairs through Poly + Bark, an online vendor of midcentury modern furniture. Faux taxidermy also was purchased online from Z Gallerie. Textiles, which Jarvis says are not his strong suit, were chosen by an associate at West Elm in Edina. Several other trinkets on display in the living room were also purchased there. “You go to West Elm. You have no intention of buying something. The next thing you know you have a deer and a weird diamond thing,” he said.
The kitchen is the star of this house, completely redone from its former, windowless galley style in the space that is now the dining room. Gone are the black-and-white checkered linoleum floors. An original skylight brightens the space; evening ambience is provided by a trio of Edison bulbs in pendant lights, purchased from Creative Lighting in St. Paul. Jarvis also had under-cabinet lighting installed.
The white quartzite countertops, one of the splurges of the project, were worth an epic wait. For the first two months of renovations, Jarvis substituted an old door for the top of the island. “It was miserable,” he said. Now, however, the gray and white palette adds a cool, soothing complement to white cupboards and stainless-steel appliances.
A farmhouse sink was one of the choices Jarvis made reluctantly, based on friends’ recommendations. He would have preferred an under-mount model, but “every woman I asked was like, ‘Omigod. You have to get one.’ I don’t get it, but the fact that everyone else gets it is enough for me,” he said.
Input from the peanut gallery
Crowdsourcing opinions from online acquaintances didn’t work out so well with other decisions. When he announced he was having a master bath shower niche installed in an off-center position, the peanut gallery went wild. “Everyone said I was an idiot and making a mistake,” he said. Ultimately, he put it where he wanted and says he’s happy with the choice.
For Hecker, transforming the upstairs bedroom into a master suite was the highlight of the project. A walk-in closet, bathroom with glass-walled shower and a custom walnut double vanity were among the luxurious improvements. “That master bathroom is something that’s pretty exceptional for that style of house and that neighborhood,” Hecker said.
Jarvis, who does freelance work from home, uses one of the two main-floor bedrooms as an office. The desk setup is minimal but functional, surrounded by a few “bro” tchotchkes like Lego race cars and a gold skull. KFAN plays constantly. The sitting area is adorned with six small canvasses, three of them portraits of Pookie by local artist Jesse Golfis. More art by Minnesota natives includes pieces by Deuce 7 and Isaac Arvold.
The basement is now carpeted and furnished with a guest bedroom and egress window, full bathroom, den with sectional sofa and chaise, and a minibar. The laundry room is the only section of the house that remains untouched.
Jarvis celebrated the completion of the remodeling project with a Chipotle-catered housewarming party for 22 friends. He’s considered hosting a bigger party but thinks it would have to be staggered. “There is a cap on how many people you can accommodate,” he said. “Probably 30. Then it gets tight, or people get out of my vision, which I don’t like because they break stuff. I’m not super anal, but if people set a glass down on solid walnut, it’s like, ‘It’s a wood table. Use a coaster.’ ”
There’s still more work to be done. Hecker and Jarvis are planning to give the front of the house a “face-lift” so that the exterior has as much character as the interior. As for the back of the house, Jarvis says, “I’m going to add a deck and possibly do a hot tub, which would be kind of douche-y but I’ve always wanted one.”
Douche-y or not, it might be an appealing addition to Jarvis’ online dating profile. So what happens when he finally meets The One — and she inevitably wants to redo the house he so painstakingly designed? “That wouldn’t happen,” Jarvis said, then reconsidered. “If I met a special gal and she’s like, ‘Oh, I want to put my touch on it,’ I’d say, ‘Buy some table settings or something.’ ”