A Twin Cities Design-build Team Marries History with Modern Sensibilities

A Twin Cities design-build team marries history with modernity.
Be sure to look for this property in the Builder’s Association of the Twin Cities 2016 Fall Remodelers Showcase.

(The space before the renovation.)

Many moments find Michelle Ames in her home’s breakfast room, savoring a cup of coffee, while just beyond its windows, the seasons paint her fresh portraits of Minnehaha Creek and Mill Pond. This 1926 Edina dwelling offers more than a few sublime spaces for the Ames family, especially after the home received a renovation—suiting the family’s lifestyle, without compromising the home’s historic vibe.

The Ames family purchased the home in January 2013. “We fell in love with the neighborhood,” Ames says, who notes the family, including her husband, Tony, and children, Colton, 14, and Hadley, 11, had previously lived in newer houses. But this time, the draw to a home with a longer history proved irresistible. While new construction can emulate character and provide striking details, Ames instinctively understood that older homes tell a compelling story.

Enthusiasm aside, Ames says the five-bedroom, five-bathroom home needed some renovation, so it could more easily dovetail with the family’s casual and active lifestyle. The 5,300-square-foot, four-level house had received a few facelifts over the years, including a kitchen remodel about 20 years ago, and an addition was built in the 1970s. Ames feels some of the work had erased the home’s original integrity and compromised functionality and flow. Her top priority was updating the kitchen to reflect the family’s needs, while maintaining the home’s original flavor. After collaborating with the couple, the team at James Barton Design-Build (JBDB) began work in May 2013, before the family’s fall move-in date.

The design team faced a kitchen surrounded by exterior walls, a formal dining room and a staircase leading to the upper levels. The couple also wanted to reconfigure the rear entry to allow for a mudroom. By moving the stairs to an exterior wall, reworking other elements in the home became less problematic.

James Madsen, the firm’s president, says maintaining the windows was a priority “so we didn’t lose any of the views,” he says. The stairwell was opened up to achieve visual expansion of the home. The reworked kitchen’s enlarged footprint allows for a gathering-sized island and sufficient pantry storage. The original dark woodwork was enameled, brightening up the whole space, and existing hardwood floors were repaired and refinished. Other work included updating a fireplace with window seat built-ins, installing a custom-depth, half-bath vanity console with a porcelain sink top, and creating a children’s homework desk in a nook space outside the library. The attic area’s stairway was opened up, and its two bedrooms and bathroom received cosmetic upgrades.

While renovating a home can foster some moments of consternation, Ames would do it all over again. “We absolutely love the home,” she says. The Country Club neighborhood and its proximity to the 50th and France area are added benefits, and Ames hopes more families appreciate the importance of nurturing and preserving the area’s homes.