I became a first time home owner of a 1920’s chicago style brick condo on Portland avenue in St. Paul back in 2006. It was a fixer upper, to be sure, and I was excited about the prospect of putting my skills to work to make the place my very own. After several months of remodeling, what was an eyesore was transformed into a modern and chic space that was the envy of every unit in the building. After getting married in the spring of of 2015, my husband, Kande, left his downtown apartment and moved into the condo. The space was perfect for the two of us, and we took full advantage of the opportunity to cook and entertain family, friends and neighbors. Of course as we set our eyes on building a family, we knew that the condo could not accommodate an addition, let alone a child with all the things that come with it. And so began our search for the perfect home! The condo sold much quicker than we anticipated, before even we began our house search in earnest, but we were fortunate to stay with family as we transitioned.

A photo of a kitchen counter
A photo of a kitchen with window in view

Our search turned out to be much more difficult than we had anticipated. We looked at tons of properties. Homes that were move-in ready looked pretty but too often the layouts seemed problematic… kitchen layout wasn’t thought through and would never work for more than one person in the space at a time, and/or the mudrooms were not big enough. My husband really wanted a home that was move-in ready and we put in a few offers but we lost out. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because in the long run we would have outgrown these homes and the dysfunctional layouts would have driven us nuts.

The next set of homes we considered had only minor projects but the quality of the work was concerning to me. What we found is that permits were often never pulled for the work that was completed, which from my professional experience introduces a whole host of issues. Having fixed my share of DIY disasters with the remodeling firm, we were not inclined to go down that road.

New homes remotely close to downtown where Kande works or central for me were out of our price range, and those that were somewhat affordable had a plain track home look and feel with poor space planning.

Having a degree in architecture, I truly feel that the spatial layout of a house is the foundation to a home you will love forever. It affects so much of your daily life, so having a comfortable home where you can enjoy living is always my goal with every home I design.

Like so many, we both have lived in homes that have driven us nuts. As an example, a home with limited or no storage can cause for there to be junk everywhere. A kitchen where you are constantly bumping into the other person can be a nightmare. Or what about having shoes EVERYWHERE because the mudroom isn’t laid out well with the right storage. You don’t need a lot of space to eliminate these home troubles, you simply need good design.

After an exhaustive search, I found the house Rutledge over the summer. I purposely went to look at it myself without Kande because I had a sneaking suspicion that it was going to take a whole lot of convincing to sell him on a vision for the house… I knew that if we negotiated the right price, we could do a major renovation with our budget and get nearly a brand new home for far less than the new homes in the area.

The corner of a kitchen with cookbook on stand

What I saw – the grandeur of a 1940’s post-war upscale home. The living and dining room were a generous size, while the cove molding and hardwood floors added character and class to the space. The home had gorgeous original stone work both inside and out. Large oversized windows with beautiful southern exposure provides tons of daylight. The main floor has 2 bedrooms and a full bath, which serves as the guest quarters for out of town family. A perfectly placed office that overlooks the living room where the kids can play under close supervision. A straightforward way to bump out the kitchen to make it just as grand as the living and dining room. With a second floor addition we would have plenty of room to add 2 additional bedrooms, a master suite, a laundry room and a cozy loft space we needed.

What my husband saw – a HUGE fixer upper with a sagging roof, terrible pink carpet, stinky basement….

I certainly had my work cut out for me in convincing him that we could turn this outdated house into our quintessential forever home. And over the next 3 months as the house sat on the market I was able to convince him of the home I could create – “new” home feel for him and a beautiful home with the traditional elements of its past that blend tastefully in with all the new amenities our growing family will need in the future.

We ended up purchasing the home over the winter and starting our project in late spring. We have a great team who takes tremendous pride in what they do, and our home reflects that. Remodeling, given all of its complexities, is challenging, and having a great group of experienced tradesmen is priceless. My husband, who is in corporate finance, has a newfound respect for what I do, I think. There were many times he was in awe of the intricate details and logistics involved with remodeling. He did get his hands dirty doing the majority of the demo work and lots of landscaping, so it truly has been a team effort. We are excited to get back to entertaining and loving our home!

If you can relate to our story and want to explore remodeling your home or work with us to find a property we would love to talk more!

Outside photo of a home with Samantha on stairs.