Real Families Tell their Home Remodeling Experiences

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Two real Twin Cities families shared their recent home remodeling experiences.

Remodelers Showcase Entry #R3
Finished Basement Company
10424 Abbott Court. N, Brooklyn Park
Lower Level Remodel

The Force is with Them

Karen and Rob’s 2,800-square-foot, 2004 arts and crafts home in Brooklyn Park provided the couple and their daughter, Nikki, with plenty of space. They even had an extra bedroom large enough to use as an office and at the same time contain nearly all of Rob’s Lego collection—numbering 400 kits with more than 140,000 pieces, all cataloged in a database.

“I have been a big fan of Legos and Star Wars since I was kid,” says Rob. “I have had Legos since the 1970s, and I have not stopped getting them. I buy them, and I get them as gifts.”

Despite the home’s spacious floor plan, the couple’s plan had always been to eventually finish their lookout basement, so they could entertain multiple out-of-town family members over the holidays and enjoy some of their favorite movies together.

“When we built the house, we also wanted to eventually put in a home theater, so we didn’t put windows in a portion of the basement,” says Rob. “Five years ago, we started the process of finding a remodeler to finish the basement, but then Karen was laid off, so we put the project on hold.”

In the summer of 2012 with the U.S. economy improving, housing prices starting to recover, and Nikki turning 13, Karen and Rob decided it was, once again, time to execute their plan. “We thought if we don’t do it now, we’ll never do it,” notes Rob.

The couple contacted Admit One Home Theater, an Edina-based firm specializing in custom-designed home theaters. Admit One put the family in touch with Finished Basement Company, a design-build firm specializing in basements with offices in Maple Grove (moving to St. Louis Park this fall), Denver and Chicago.

“We got a couple of quotes,” says Rob. “But we decided to go with Finished Basement Company because of the design ideas and skills the firm brought to the table.”

Rob’s Lego collection and his keen interest in Star Wars—particularly the Legos—became an early favorite when choosing a theme for the theater. Yet even though Rob, Karen, and the remodeler decided to go with a fun Star Wars theme, Karen and Rob did not want the 1,000-square-foot basement project to be over the top.

“We didn’t want it to be a decorating style,” says Karen. Both she and Rob were adamant about wanting the lower-level theater, family room with fireplace, full bath, and guest room to flawlessly blend with their home’s contemporary take on the classic mission style interior. Built-in cabinetry and wood trim were chosen to match the main-level woodwork, and the family room furnishings, including a refurbished rocker, a classic library desk from a rural Minnesota courthouse and a chair from Iowa State University reflect the style of the home.

The furnishings and fixtures in the home theater, however, are a completely different story. Rob’s R2-D2 Lego kit watches over the room while seven Master Replicas Force FX Lightsabers—fictional laser swords used by Jedi warriors—are hardwired as sconces to provide both ambiance and functional lighting. They even power up and down with the iconic electronic whoosh of the Jedi sword.

“It’s really cool,” says Karen. “People are like, ‘Now that’s fun.’ ”

Seating for the 345-square-foot theater is divided into three distinct areas. Counter seating allows family and guests to eat while watching a movie on their new 110-inch theater screen. Traditional theater seats provide for the full effect of the big-screen cinema experience, and the lounge pit—a U-shaped seating area constructed of custom cabinetry topped with comfortable cushions and a center ottoman—delivers enough comfy space for Nikki to hold a sleepover with two or three girlfriends.

“When Nikki’s friends are over, the girls don’t leave that room except to occasionally come up for food,” says Karen.

The family’s basement project was completed in February 2013, and Rob, Karen, and Nikki christened their new home theater by, of course, watching the original version of Star Wars.

“I’m not a huge fan of Star Wars, but I appreciate its significance.” says Karen, who until February had only seen the movie once, when it debuted in 1977. And Nikki? “It’s cool.”

All three, however, are big fans of their newly finished basement—particularly the fun home theater.

Remodelers Showcase Entry #R22
Bluejack Builders
1293 Hartford Avenue, St. Paul
Main Level Remodel

Love at First Sight

Twenty-six years ago Bob and Rose fell in love with their 1920’s St. Paul rambler. It was the ideal home for their small family — where city charm met small town feel. And its location fostered a sweet nostalgia for these two High School sweet-hearts who both grew up in the same Highland Park and Macalester Groveland neighborhoods.

Rose grew up just three blocks away, something she was able to point out as we got ready to shoot our cover story in the couple’s front yard on Hartford Avenue. They both attended area schools; Bob graduating from Cretin-Derham Hall just blocks from the home and Rose from nearby Highland Park Senior High. The enthusiastic couple, who met while working at former St. Paul retailer Montgomery Ward, loved the location, its proximity to their families, and everything the community offered. From the very beginning they were able to envision raising a family and eventually retiring here.

Throughout the years, Bob and Rose put a lot of love into their home. They raised three beautiful daughters (now grown) and underwent multiple small renovations and DIY projects on an as-needed basis so that the home could evolve and grow alongside them. “We updated things for what we needed at the time,” explained Bob, “but we didn’t always have vision for the house as a whole.”

Now approaching their next phase as empty-nesters, Bob and Rose were ready for a comprehensive remodel that would meet their current needs while creating a space that they could enjoy into the future. “Choosing to undergo a remodel was the next step,” Bob shared, adding that “the small, narrow and outdated kitchen was our first priority. It was the one room in our house that left us overwhelmed. We had no vision for what it could be.”

Like most older houses, the kitchen lacked both space and functionality and was very closed off from its adjoining rooms.. Bob and Rose wanted an open-concept layout which would mean knocking out walls and also renovating the home’s family and dining rooms so that all three spaces worked together.

For a couple who knew right away that their St. Paul rambler was going to be their lifelong home, the process of choosing a remodeler to renovate their kitchen, dining and living space was equally as intuitive. After their initial meeting with Bluejack Builders’ Andy Sonnen and Chad Schillinger (who they met through a friend), ready to move forward and take the plunge into transforming their cherished home. “Bluejack’s vision for our kitchen addressed the layout of our house as a whole. They were able to cast a vision that lined up perfectly with our needs,” Rose explained. “And their remodeling approach allowed us to share in their vision of what our house could be.”

Bluejack Builders swapped out the aged carpet and laminate flooring for hardwood floors and addressed other age-related problems including sagging ceiling, visible support beams and unlevel flooring. The home’s windows looked weathered, but the budget didn’t allow for replacing the bay window in front or the window clad sunroom in the back of the house. Bluejack Builders had a simple solution for the family. Instead of replacing the whole window, Bluejack updated the stained trim around the windows with a traditional stool and apron casing that offers the character appropriate for a home of its era, and to have the window and its new casing finely enameled as one. “Everyone thinks we got new windows!” Rose gushed.

The sunroom’s large arch window is a standout feature in the home and an element that Bluejack Builders chose to incorporate throughout the house. Two arches that border the kitchen as well as an archway that frames the living room fireplace beautifully tie everything together on the main level. “I couldn’t see their vision for our fireplace at first,” Bob laughed. “Bluejack saw things in our house that we couldn’t. They brought fresh eyes to every element of our home.”

At the heart of the home is the new kitchen. Among the many improvements and upgrades include ample amounts of granite counters and tall maple cabinets, which are in stark contrast to the outdated light-wood cupboards and laminate surfaces that preceded them. Most impressive is the center island which houses a large stovetop with a hidden downdraft ventilation system. With the press of a button, the ventilation hood slides up from its hiding spot and begins working immediately.

If you ask the couple about their remodeling experience, they won’t hesitate to praise their remodeler. “We couldn’t be happier with our home or with the entire Bluejack team,” Rose said. “We needed a lot of hand holding, but Bluejack Builders seamlessly got us through all of the design options and made the process really easy. From day one we believed in Bluejack’s vision and we love what they have done for our home!”

See this remodel during the Fall Remodelers Showcase during last weekend of the Parade of Homes tour.

The 2013 Fall Parade of Homes Remodelers Showcase is sponsored by Marvin Windows and Doors.