Remodelers Showcase Guidebook Shares Real Remodeling Stories

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ROSEVILLE, MINN. (March, 2018) — Having your home remodeled is a great way to remain in the community you love while recreating your home to fit your family better. Hiring a professional remodeler like those that participate in the Remodelers Showcase, will minimize stress and maximize satisfaction. The spring 2018 Guidebook includes these stories (in words and photos) describing the remodeling experiences of five families whose remodeled homes are on the tour.

Remodelers Showcase Home #R26
120 Sunrise Court, Medina
Nor-Son Custom Builders

Featured on the Guidebook Cover

Eleven years ago, Greg and Becky found their ideal Medina home in a neighborhood they loved surrounded by trails. But, after living for more than a decade in the home, they knew the time

had come to take the next step and create the basement of their dreams. Greg and Becky wanted to create a space to entertain and a hub for their kids, Emma (13) and Charlie (10), to bring their friends—the ultimate family recreation zone.

“As our kids got a little older and started having friends over, we imagined a space for everyone to be here. We wanted to be the house where everyone can gather and entertain their friends,” explained Becky.

They considered moving, but they had laid down roots in their neighborhood and didn’t want to leave. Remodeling allowed them to stay near the parks they loved, kept Emma and Charlie in their school district and provided the opportunity to customize the lower level with all their must-haves.

Once Becky and Greg started the process they began visualizing the design with their architect, Windmiller Design Studio. When it was time to select a remodeling partner, their architect suggested Nor-Son Custom Builders. It couldn’t have been a better match.

“We spoke with three different remodelers, but we really loved Nor-Son and knew they were a good fit for our project. We were so impressed with how organized they were,” said Becky. “We really became like family through the process.”

The majority of the work was in the lower level of the home which kept the disruptions to a minimum, and workers could come and go as they pleased. Through the remodel they transformed their unfinished basement and added in a craft room, exercise room, family room, bathroom, bar, wine cellar, sport court and extra storage.

The family worked with an interior design team that let Becky’s ideas for the look of the space sing. Sometimes they knew exactly what they wanted. Other times they leaned on the expertise and advice of the team.

“Danielle from Vivid Interiors was really someone who had that vision. We could show her pictures on Pinterest or Houzz and she quickly understood the style we wanted. She went through the details so it wasn’t so overwhelming for us,” explained Becky.

“And I always said ‘I want the next thing, not the last thing.’ I didn’t want to do what people have been doing for the past two years, I wanted what people will be doing for the next five,” added Greg. “They just really got it.”

One of the most difficult parts of the project for Greg and Becky was being new to the tight project timelines. There were lots of small decisions that needed to be made quickly to ensure the project stayed on schedule.

“There are always unknowns that can pop up, so when you’re unfamiliar with construction projects, it can put you out of your comfort zone,” said Greg. “But we knew it would be worth it in the end … and it absolutely was.”

Charlie is able to practice his soccer moves in the sport court while Emma loves having friends over and making slime in the craft room. Greg and Becky are able to watch movies with their kids in the family room and entertain in the bar area.

“It’s really nice to have the basement for sleepovers and to have all my friends over,” added Emma. “It’s a lot of space to entertain.”

“The remodel exceeded any expectation I had. It was done so well and the details were so thought through,” said Becky. “There are those moments when you walk into houses on the Parade of Homes and think ‘I wish I could! I wish I could!’ and now we get to walk downstairs and say ‘We have!’”


Remodelers Showcase Home #R29
4065 Goldenrod Lane, Plymouth
Crystal Kitchen Center, Inc.

Four Part Harmony

Bill and Ros bought their 1986 home back in 2012, mostly because of its location. The Australian-born couple loved how it was perched atop a 30-foot embankment that overlooked the wooded beauty of French Regional Park. “We really liked how it looked out on a pond, and feels like living in a treehouse,” explains Ros.

Unchanged from 1986, the home had a number of problem areas, especially in the original kitchen and bathrooms. But “it had good bones,” Bill says. “And great landscaping.”

Once they got settled it was time to make a few changes. “Bill was passionate that the master bathroom needed something done fairly immediately, and I was passionate about getting the kitchen done. The kitchen got the first go,” says Ros with a smile.

The L-shaped kitchen was definitely a mess. It was actually three rooms that didn’t work. Besides the traditional kitchen space there was a tiny hearth area plus a four-season porch that Bill thinks may have been a smoking room. “Nothing worked, including the extraction fans [or as we Americans say, exhaust hood], plus the strange enclosure [porch] was a physical barrier to the space.”

Their search for a kitchen remodeler started by perusing the phone book. The nearest one was full-service remodeler, Crystal Kitchen Center. Ros stopped by the showroom and was impressed.

“Our first impressions were that this was a professional outfit with good ratings,” states Bill.  When they met with a Crystal Kitchen designer and owner Jolynn Johnson, they just clicked. That was the beginning of six remodeling projects completed over the next five years.

“Our experience over six remodels was that Jolynn and her team get things done on time and on budget,” Bill maintains. “We knew what we were getting into at every step, their design input was excellent and there were no surprises at the end of the day.”

Ros weighed in that the “first time around we were a little more nervous and wanted to ask about everything, but we really never had to raise any issues. If there was a problem, they were very honorable. They would go to great lengths to sort out what a lot of people would think were minor issues.”

It wasn’t too long before they were ready to tackle the next remodel, Bill’s choice of master bath. As Ros noted “the kitchen looked so spectacular that everything else just looked worse!” That remodel got Bill his soaker tub but they just couldn’t make a steam room work upstairs.

Which, of course, meant another remodel project was on their bucket list. Bill did get his steam room, and a sauna to boot in their renovated lower walk-out level. Crystal Kitchen helped them create a family room where the couple host parties and found room to fit the steam shower in the downstairs bath and a sauna, which their two daughters love when they visit from their homes in Boston and New York.

The revamped lower level also now includes a music room for Bill, a part-time musician (his specialty is Irish Celtic music). To make sure the room was correctly soundproofed, Crystal Kitchen brought in an associate in the music business to help.

The final (so far) remodel was to the upstairs living room which is home to a number of antiques Bill and Ros collect.  Today the room boasts a beautiful architrave ceiling and gorgeous lighting that showcases their collection.

Both Bill and Ros love their new spaces, and discovered a bonus to remodeling with Crystal Kitchen. “We’ve made enduring friendships with the guys who worked in the house as well as Jolynn and her husband,” Ros reports.

Next up? Who knows. “If you think the house is done there’s always another idea from Jolynn, she suggested a special train room tucked under the garage,” says Bill, a little wistfully.


Remodelers Showcase Home #R30
2460 Vale Crest Road, Golden Valley
TJB Homes, Inc.

A Phased Approach

it was 18 years ago when Devon and Chris decided to move back to the twin cities. Chris was still in California when Devon and their realtor went searching for a home to buy. A few photos later, the couple decided on a 1957 residence in an established Golden Valley neighborhood.

“I didn’t see the home until we actually closed,” says Chris who remembers being a little quiet the first time he saw it. “I had a hard time seeing beyond what was there.”

The neighborhood kids called it the “pumpkin house” due to its cinnamon orange exterior. And it had 1976 décor inside. There was foil wallpaper in the bathroom, pink tile in the hall bath and salmon tile in the master bath.

But Devon knew the home had plenty of potential. They settled in and with a little elbow grease and paint, fixed a number of the cosmetic issues in the first two years. Then in 2002 they decided it was time to tackle the first of what would become three remodeling phases.

“There was a family room addition to the back of the house that was all gray with a popcorn ceiling,” Devon explains.  They spent a lot of time in that room so it seemed a natural first project.

They started searching for a remodeler during the Remodelers Showcase, and walked through a neighbor’s house that had been renovated by TJB Remodeling. “We were impressed,” says Devon. “We had gotten quotes and talked to other contractors, but TJB came out on top as far as price and quality of work.”

TJB gutted the family room down to the studs, added a gas fireplace, put in new carpeting and basically created a whole new room. Devon designed the centerpiece of the space, an overmantle above a fireplace surrounded by a cherry entertainment center that beautifully holds their DVDs, CDs and much more.

It took them about 10 years to give the exterior a facelift and update all the bathrooms. Once again they recruited TJB to work their magic. The new Mission style front included fieldstone to replace the white painted brick and pillars at the front entry. The garage got an additional 10 feet for a much needed mudroom with closet and pantry.

After that “we continued to putter and do things as always,” Devon reports. Then in 2017 they started talking about adding a pool to the back yard like the one they had in California.

“Once reality set in (we knew pools in Minnesota don’t add a lot of value) we relooked at where the next renovation should go,” Devon continued. “Chris loves to cook, and the 50s kitchen was tiny with hardly any usable counter space.”

They loved the neighborhood and so decided to go for it. First, they hired a designer to create the plans and went to the designer’s recommended contractor for an estimate.

Soon it was apparent that the new contractor just wasn’t going to work. “They weren’t as detailed as TJB,” Devon explains. “It was like night and day. Originally he threw out a lowball price, but then it just kept going up.”

That’s when they called Jason Budzynski at TJB who worked with them to meet their budget, but still, according to Chris, “gave us everything we wanted and more.”

Budzynski made a number of design recommendations too. “He just brought so much to the party, so many new ideas we never thought about,” Devon says. “They really improved the whole project overall.”

They love their new kitchen and according to both of them “it feels like we live in a whole new house!” When you visit this home #R30 on the Spring Remodelers Showcase, you can see all three phases of this beautifully remodeled home.


Remodelers Showcase Home #R56
3708 Pleasant Avenue, Minneapolis
White Crane Construction

Rising from the Ashes

It was a warm August night in 2016 when the lightning storm hit. Jen and Loretta’s story-and-a-half bungalow was struck around 1 a.m. Thankfully, the couple and their kids, Henry (10) and Kate (7) plus their dog, Teddy, all made it out without injuries, but the house didn’t fare so well. The entire top level was destroyed and everything else was severely water damaged.

“It was a horrible thing to go through,” Loretta says. Yet even while so much of their lives lay in ashes, they were blessed with “so much support from our friends and community.”

One friend was Susan Denk, owner of White Crane Construction. They met Susan shortly after moving back to Minneapolis in 2012 from Rochester, New York.

They called Susan to tell her what happened and “she came to walk through the house right away,” Jen says. “It was clear that whether we hired White Crane or not, Susan wanted to help. She told us ‘let us see what needs to be done, even if we don’t do the work we’ll help you pick the right contractor.’”

They worked with their insurance company, and quickly found out that “the insurance company cares more about cost than quality.” But, “we wanted a builder that was working for us, not the insurance company, even if it wasn’t the cheapest. After the fire, we had to make a lot of major decisions quickly, even while we were in a state of shock.”

It didn’t take long for them to realize they wanted to work with White Crane because “they were people of integrity,” Loretta points out. “We trusted them when we really couldn’t trust anybody.”

One thing Susan did right away was to rescue the door frame where the couple had been marking the heights of their kids. “When we first walked the house and Susan saw the height board, she immediately called one of her guys to come rip it out,” Jen says. “Throughout the project, that height board leaned against the wall in Susan’s office. Every time we went there we saw it, and she made sure all the people who worked on the house saw it, too.”

That sensitivity extended to making sure Henry and Kate were included in the process. “After demo was completed, Susan had her whole team come out to the house to meet the kids so that they knew who would be working on their home. It made them feel safe and taken care of,” Loretta says.

As they moved ahead with the remodeling, both Jen and Loretta were impressed with White Crane’s design input. “They helped us be creative about what we could do that would make the space more functional,” Jen reports. The older bungalow had lots of smaller rooms, but now the main floor living spaces are wide open yet filled with clever storage solutions.

“We like older homes, even though this one was kind of funkily configured,” Loretta says. “We bought it because it had a ton of space, beautiful woodwork and hardwood floors. It had lot of character and was close to the church where Jen works.”

When it came to choosing finishes and details, White Crane helped them save what they could and match the look of what they couldn’t. “They worked hard to find the right size floor boards to look similar,” says Jen. “They made sure to get the stain right to match the look of the older woodwork. And, they saved one little light in the kitchen that’s probably original to the house.”

Now that they’ve moved back in, they love their new spaces. They don’t have a single regret about picking White Crane and the result. Jen adds, “I used to hate getting up in the morning and making lunches for the kids because the kitchen was so closed off. Now I come out at 6am and the kitchen is wide open and full of light and I’m so happy to be in our beautiful house.”


Remodelers Showcase Home #R60
1660 Laurel Avenue, St. Paul
APEX Construction Management

What’s Old is New

When Rich and Shirley bought their first home 19 years ago, it was the first and only home they toured with their broker. The home they saw was built in 1912 and, while it wasn’t perfect, it had that certain something that just felt right.

“I grew up visiting my great grandparents on our family homestead,” explained Rich. He saw some similarities between the home he remembered and their “new” home, but mostly it was the sense of nostalgia and comfort that drew him in. Both he and Shirley discovered they were suited to the older style, so they made an offer with plans to fix the things they didn’t love by remodeling.

Fast-forward 19 years. Rich and Shirley just never got around to tackling a remodel until now, when family decided to come visit from Norway. “The old kitchen and one bathroom just wouldn’t work,” Rich said.

With a pile of clippings and ideas that they had been gathering for the past two decades, the couple knew that they needed a remodeler who would understand their love for their home, and their desire to keep much of its character intact.

They found APEX Construction Management after reviewing online referral services. “We looked for top rated firms, interviewed several and went with APEX. They were the most responsive, and we liked their approach and their people,” Rich said. “We felt they were just the right fit.

Throughout the design phase, Rich and Shirley made it clear that they wanted to use the real antique
fixtures whenever possible, and they wanted the look to be completely period appropriate.

“We knew what we wanted to change. We wanted it to look old and wanted the details to be authentic,” stressed Rich. “To us, imperfections like the little slope at ceiling and floor are part of the ‘patina.’ What was most important was making sure that technology and other modern features would be hidden.”

APEX gutted the kitchen and annexed the corner porch area to square the space and improve the
kitchen layout. Then they bumped out to make room for a new main level bath and entry, basement laundry and a small rear portico that opens to their storybook backyard.

Modern touches in the renewed kitchen were carefully hidden while their treasured 1920s appliances took center stage. The result is a space that brings back memories of the old homestead, giving the kitchen a distinctly timeless appeal.

“One of the reasons we were interested in participating in this editorial is to show people you can do this,” Rich stressed. “You can repurpose stuff. The sink, stove and refrigerator are more than 90 years old and still fully functional. They’re classic and should last for a long time.”


The 2018 Spring Parade of Homes Remodelers Showcase is sponsored by Marvin Windows and Doors.