Real Families Tell their Home Remodeling Experiences

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Four real Twin Cities families who recently remodeled their home shared their stories with us.

#R31 and #R32
6742 and 6770 129th Street West, Apple Valley
New Spaces

Togetherness has its Advantages
Soon after moving into their Apple Valley neighborhood, Parker and Lisa realized that one of the main benefits of their new home was living next door to Melanie and Rick, whose son Alex, 9, is the same age as Lisa and Parker’s son, Ethan. Because of the boys’ similar interests in soccer and baseball, the boy’s parents soon became good friends as well.

Lisa and Parker and their children Ethan and Claire, 5, have spent many nights with Rick and Melanie and their children Alex and Aleah, 10, gathered around Rick and Melanie’s backyard bonfire. Often the adults’ conversation turned to their homes, particularly their kitchens. Both of the families’ homes were built in the late 1980s, and both had their original kitchens.

Melanie and Rick had lived with their kitchen for nearly a decade when Parker and Lisa moved to the neighborhood in 2009. Rick and Melanie’s kitchen with its beige laminate countertops, vinyl flooring, and inexpensive factory-made cabinets was typical of suburban homes built in the 1980s. “Rick and I hated our cupboards,” says Melanie.

Parker and Lisa’s outdated kitchen had laminate flooring, laminate counters, and the overall flow was choppy. “It was getting shoddy,” says Lisa. “Parker and I had talked about remodeling since we moved into the house. Last summer with rates as low as they were, we decided the time was right to move ahead with the remodel and try to take advantage of a refinance after the project was completed.”

Following one of Alex and Ethan’s mid-summer baseball games, a mother of another teammate invited the young ballplayers and their parents over for a get-together. The home where the party was held had a newly remodeled kitchen by Burnsville-based New Spaces.

“Melanie and I both really liked that kitchen. It had a nice design element to it that you don’t always see,” says Lisa. She and Parker were already in the process of contacting remodelers for their kitchen and added New Spaces to their list. Melanie and Rick left the party with a heightened desire to move forward with their kitchen remodel.

“Rick and I had been talking about how someday we would remodel the kitchen. When is someday? The party started us thinking that maybe now is the time to remodel,” recalls Melanie. She and Rick were impressed with New Spaces’ work and they gave the remodeler a call. New Spaces presented Rick and Melanie with three possible designs. “We liked all three, but one we really liked,” says Melanie.

Melanie and Rick’s chosen design opened up the floor plan by removing a wall that created a hallway between the kitchen and dining room and eliminating a dinette area to make room for an island and breakfast bar. The toffee stain of the cherry custom cabinetry and the vivid charcoal of the granite perimeter counters contrast wonderfully with the hickory floorboards and lighter caramels of the granite island top of this modern yet traditional kitchen.

Parker and Lisa chose New Spaces after interviewing various remodeling firms, and they, too, picked a design that opened the floor plan by removing a wall separating their kitchen and dining room. Lisa and Parker’s kitchen remodel extended into the dinning room where New Spaces installed a buffet area and dry bar for entertaining along with a breakfast bar. The marshmallow-cream upper cabinets, lower cherry cabinetry, red-painted island, and cork flooring give their kitchen a modern, cottage feel.

The remodeler also reconfigured the couple’s mudroom. “Our old mudroom was poorly designed,” says Lisa. It had a desk and space for a top-loading washer and dryer. New Spaces removed the desk to make room for front-loading appliances and designed shelves and locker-spaces for shoes, coats, and sporting equipment.

Through the entire 12-week process, the two families only grew closer. “We would go to each others’ spaces to chill and commiserate,” says Lisa. “I was without a washer and dryer for eight weeks, and Rick and Melanie were kind enough to let me sneak in their back door and do laundry. They were without a stove, so they used the stove in our basement a couple of times.”

With their kitchens torn up, the two families occasionally would also grab a quick bite together at a local restaurant, and between Christmas and New Year’s, the eight of them slipped away for a four-day retreat at Parker’s family’s lake home in Aitkin, Minnesota. “That was a really nice reprieve,” says Melanie.

By scheduling their kitchen projects together during the holidays—the remodeling began around Thanksgiving and ended in early January—not only did the two families get to commiserate and enjoy a little holiday cheer together, but they also received the best pricing. Best of all, New Spaces stayed on schedule, wrapping up both projects several weeks early, allowing both families to enjoy their fresh, new kitchens shortly after 2013 began.

800 Interlachen Draw, Woodbury
Novare Renovation & Design

Let the Sun Shine In
Dawn was so busy raising a family that she never quite realized just how ‘moth-like’ she was—always migrating toward the light. However, once her adult children, Emily, who is serving in the Peace Corps in Cameroon, Africa, and Erik, a senior in college, were no longer living at home, Dawn began to realize how much time she actually spent in the family’s 120-square-foot dinning room—the brightest room of the house.

Thus after 20 years without adequate sunlight, Dawn and her husband, Jim, a dentist, were ready to let the sun shine into their two-story walkout in Woodbury. “We love the area. We love the backyard; we have a pool,” says Dawn. “We wanted to stay and do something that would make us feel really good about our home.”

The couple built their house more than two decades ago, but never truly loved it. “We always felt compartmentalized. At the time we built it, Emily was two and Erik was still a baby,” she says. “We put in fairly inexpensive selections because it was all we could afford at the time.” The home lacked interior light due to poor placement of windows, and a three-season porch blocked light from entering the family room.

Once they made the decision to remodel, Dawn and Jim began the process of finding a remodeler. The couple interviewed four firms, including Woodbury-based Novare Renovation and Design. “We felt the most comfortable with Novare,” says Dawn. “When the people from Novare came back with their suggested plan, we could tell they really listened.”

Novare was able to stay within the home’s existing footprint and still accomplish the couple’s wishes by removing a wall between the dining room and kitchen and part of a wall between the kitchen and family room. This alone opened the interior of the home to daylight, but Novare brought even more light into the house by adding a trapezoid window to the family room and a larger window in the kitchen.

The couple kept their three-season porch, which they now enjoy on a regular basis. “With the new light, we are in the family room more and it’s easier to say, ‘Let’s go out to the porch.’ I never realized how much I migrate toward the light,” notes Dawn.

Jim and Dawn, who both enjoy cooking, are also thrilled to have an updated kitchen with double ovens, a convection microwave, and an induction cooktop. And they love their character-grade hickory flooring.

For the first month of the remodel, Jim and Dawn tried to live upstairs with a microwave, toaster, and toaster oven. “Doing dishes in a vanity-size sink was not pleasant,” she recalls. Then Jim carved out a living space in the lower level where the couple was storing its main-level furnishings. “He did a marvelous job. He even put up shelving.” Living in the lower level made the next two-and-a-half months “a breeze,” says Dawn.

Today after two decades of feeling limited in terms of comfortable living spaces, Dawn and Jim finally have an entire main level that’s bright and inviting to enjoy.

2016 Seabury Avenue S., Minneapolis
Vujovich Design Build, Inc.**

Lifestyle Choices
Craig and Karen’s Mediterranean-style foursquare on the prestigious Mississippi River Boulevard is located a mile from Craig’s office. “I like walking to work,” says Craig, a professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School and a practicing physician at the U of M Medical Center, Fairview. “Walking gives me some exercise, and it allows me to unwind at the end of the day.” The high river bluffs provide Craig with a spectacular commute, and recreational paths offer the couple and their two sons, Jake, 16, and Joe, 14, the opportunity to walk, bike, and run along the city’s most scenic greenway.

Their house, however, had a few issues begging to be addressed. The home’s original kitchen was small and the refrigerator was sequestered in its own little space away from the main kitchen area. “The refrigerator area wasn’t very energy efficient,” says Karen. “When I wiped the floor in the winter, the water would turn to ice.” The kitchen was also cramped without space to eat, there was no bath on the main level, and there was no air conditioning.

Having made the decision to remodel, Craig and Karen started visiting the Remodelers’ Showcase. “It was so helpful for us to see what other people had done,” says Karen. At one of the homes, the couple connected with Minneapolis-based Vujovich Design Build. “We really liked Vujovich’s work,” says Karen.

Determined to pay for one remodeling project at a time, Craig and Karen first hired Vujovich to enlarge and update the kitchen, making space for a mudroom and half-bath, both of which had been on the couple’s wish list since 2001 when they purchased the house.

“We did not want to do a big addition,” says Karen. “The intent was to keep the addition in proportion with the house.” To enlarge the kitchen and make way for a mudroom and powder room, Vujovich added 175 square feet to the home by removing a backyard patio and bumping out the lower level.

The remodeler remained true to the era and architecture of this stately home by installing custom, flat-panel, craftsman-style cabinetry, a farm sink, casement windows in the kitchen and mudroom, and a peninsula breakfast counter. Vujovich also expertly melded the outside stucco and tile roof of the addition with the home’s existing exterior.

The next project entailed extending the roof over the back landing and steps to create a covered outdoor porch, located off the kitchen. Vujovich linked this spectacular space with the home’s Mediterranean architecture by installing a tongue-in-groove ceiling, large archways, and a wrought-iron railing.

With the bulk of the remodeling behind them, Craig and Karen next hired Vujovich to add insulation to the attic and install air conditioning and a gas fireplace insert.

Craig and Karen are glad they stayed in their city home. “It’s nice to be close to everything,” says Karen. “I don’t enjoy driving in rush-hour traffic. I can drive the back roads to wherever I need to go.” The family also continues to enjoy the diversity that the city offers, the recreational paths along the river, and their now perfect home.


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