Minnesota’s stay-at-home order has required sacrifices of everyone. But there’s one thing that Pamela Diamond and Kathryn Rozin haven’t had to give up — each other’s company.
The mother/daughter duo and their families continue to enjoy time together because they inhabit the same house — a 1904 duplex in Minneapolis’ Lowry Hill neighborhood.
Diamond and her husband live downstairs; Rozin, her husband and three daughters live upstairs.
“This [staying home] emphasizes how blessed we are,” said Rozin.
While many of her friends with kids have been limited to virtual visits to grandparents, Rozin and her daughters enjoy an easy back-and-forth with theirs. The women and girls do virtual Pilates together, walk around Lake of the Isles and share casual meals, including a recent family birthday celebration.
Living in such proximity allows for “little everyday moments,” said Diamond. “My friends who have grandkids say, ‘You’re so lucky.’ ”
Being confined at home in recent weeks has felt less confining because they can visit each other.
“It’s like we have two homes,” said Rozin. “It feels like you’re going somewhere.”
And if one family runs out of something, the other helps out. “We have two households to draw from,” said Rozin.
For Diamond and Rozin, multigenerational living is a family tradition that long preceded the pandemic. For several years in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Diamond, her former husband and two daughters lived in a Minneapolis house they remodeled to create a suite for Diamond’s retired parents.
“It was great!” recalled Rozin, who was in grade school at the time. “I absolutely loved my grandma and grandpa.”
Diamond also has warm memories of those years, although sharing a kitchen was a challenge, she recalled; no one could keep track of what food belonged to who.
“I always said, ‘If we ever did it again, we’d have separate kitchens.’ ”
The family’s living arrangement was unusual at that time but “I was very proud of it,” Diamond said. “I’ve traveled a lot and seen multigenerational living elsewhere in the world. We’re the only country in the world that doesn’t do it.”
In 1980 in the United States, only 12% of households included two or more adult generations, according to Pew Research Center analysis of census data. But by 2016, that figure had risen to 20%, spurred in part by the recession of 2007-2009, as families combined households to save money.
“It’s not a weird thing now,” Diamond said.
She and her ex bought the stately Neo-Classical duplex in 1992.
Rozin lived there through high school, then left Minnesota to attend college and work on the East Coast. She eventually returned, bought a house of her own in northeast Minneapolis, married her husband, Michael, with whom she owns and operates a security consulting firm, and started a family.
By then, Diamond was living on the 2,000-square-foot first floor of the duplex with her current husband, Michael Brenner, and renting out the second and third floors.
Then Rozin and her family sold their house and needed short-term housing. Could they rent the second floor of the duplex?
“We looked at it as temporary,” Rozin said. “One year turned into eight.”
The Rozins had a third daughter, now 5, and expanded into the smaller third-floor unit. They considered buying a house of their own, but after weighing the pros and cons they decided to stay in the duplex. So they worked out an agreement to buy the upper two floors.
Time for a makeover
The Rozins set to work making their home their own.
“The house is so traditional, and I have a more Bohemian style,” said Rozin. “It started with, ‘I need a deck.’ ”
But it soon grew into a major remodel, including a new kitchen and bathroom. They hired designer Victoria Sass, owner of Prospect Refuge Studio, who also lives in Lowry Hill, to advise them on the project.
Rozin wanted her home to feel more contemporary but still mesh with the rest of the house.
“We wanted it to feel like one house, so we took architectural inspiration from the lower level,” said Sass. The new deck, in particular, was carefully designed to complement the original house and Diamond’s deck below. “There was a lot of discussion about the exterior, making the railings cohesive.”
Inside, Rozin felt a little freer.
“She respects her mom’s style, but she wanted her own style,” said Sass.
The biggest challenge was trying to make the kitchen feel bigger and more spacious without adding square footage. While the kitchen had a small surface for dining, it wasn’t big enough to accommodate the family of five.
“The kids sat at the bar, and we stood,” said Rozin, who wanted a space for family meals.
They debated adding an island but in the end decided against it. They would eat on the deck when it was warm and in the dining room when it wasn’t. Rozin looked to inspiration from European homes. “They use their dining rooms,” she said. “Meals are longer, with more conversation.”
The kitchen’s layout was reconfigured. “We moved the sink, which solved the dishwasher always hitting the oven,” Rozin said.
The new kitchen has “an English vibe,” according to Sass, with blue/green Shaker-style cabinets, black soapstone countertops, handcrafted Moroccan tile for the backsplash and white oak flooring in a herringbone pattern.
They reused the bronze hardware that Rozin had added previously. “It’s meant to age and [acquire] a patina,” said Sass.
New glass doors connect the kitchen to the new deck, and there’s also a butler’s pantry, built in a hallway.
The second-floor bathroom had an Art Deco vibe, finished with dark Vitrolite, a product popular in the 1930s and ’40s.
“We wanted to modernize it and make it classic,” said Rozin. They chose square offset white tile, a black soapstone ledge along the tub wall and traditional tile flooring — in the same pattern as the floor below.
Sharing a laundry room
There are challenges that come with living in the duplex.
The two families share the basement laundry room, but have put rules in place to keep it manageable. Diamond and Brenner have access to it on Sundays, and the Rozins have it the other six days. Laundry hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., although if there’s a laundry emergency, “we break the rules,” Rozin said.
Still, clothing can get commingled.
“Sometimes socks end up on another floor,” said Diamond.
“Or black leggings,” added Rozin. “Four of us wear the same size.”
The families also have established rules to respect each other’s privacy, such as texting before visiting, and always knocking. “Even the little one knows to knock on the door,” said Diamond.
But they relax the rules when the husbands are out of town on business, a frequent occurrence before the pandemic.
“When the husbands are gone, the rules are gone, too; we break them,” said Rozin. “It’s a different vibe when it’s all girls.”
The two couples split the cost of snow removal, while Brenner and Diamond handle mowing and gardening, sometimes with the girls’ help. “We tell them, ‘If you help weed, I’ll take you to Sebastian Joe’s,’ ” Diamond said.
The families agree that the upside of living together far outweighs the challenges.
For Diamond, “the best thing is to have your family close by. There’s nothing we’d rather do than hang out with our grandkids.”
She and Brenner, who are starting a furniture and artwork restoration business, are “crafty,” said Rozin, and do craft workshops with her girls. “It’s great for the kids to be in proximity to their grandparents.” Even the families’ two dogs enjoy playing together, she said.
As for her, “the best thing about living with my mother? It’s really fun, especially in spring, summer and fall,” she said. “We all like to walk to the lake, and we convene on the porch. On Friday nights, it’s ‘What are you doing for dinner?’ I have this, she has that. It’s impromptu family time together.”