Behind the Wallpaper

Life Inside the Ultimate Before & After

Jayne Haugen Olson and family in their home under rennovation
Photo by Steve Henke

Those who have followed my columns know that my husband, Curt, and I have lived in five homes together. Make that six if counting the temporary house our family is living in now, while our main residence is being transformed into this year’s ASID MN Showcase Home. This sort of passion for projects was one of the common interests that drew us together. Dumpster diving, estate sales, farm auctions, architectural salvage shops, antiques stores, and flea markets were how we could afford to decorate early on. And some of those early finds are still in our lives—a reminder of our past, layers of our story.

Over the years, we’ve done small and big projects, both as DIYers and alongside seasoned professionals. We are both entrepreneurs at heart, and early on we dabbled with a side business, Creative Nesting, for selling all of the stuff we bought that we didn’t need in our home. It was fun while it lasted, but in the end, too much work. But the adventure honed my eye, tested my instincts, and provided much-valued insight into buying vintage. It also was something Curt and I did together.

As we built our home, family, and careers, we have splurged here and there, but we have more often than not shaved and repurposed to keep the budget in line. Though home projects can become major pain points for some couples, the collaboration between us has always made for a better end result. All of which helped prepare us for our largest project to date: working with 25 designers on this year’s Showcase Home.

We purchased our North Tyrol Hills home—the location of this year’s tour—a year and a half ago. Established circa 1930, this area of Golden Valley nests on the western shoulder of Theodore Wirth Park. The rolling hills, oaks, pines, and other mature trees are part of its appeal, and—not unlike today—the families who first built homes here were professionals with “downtown” jobs who wanted space away from the streetcars and the hustle and bustle of city neighborhoods.

Our home was built in 1939 by a Dr. Mitchell for his family of five. We’ve traded an e-mail with one of his daughters, but have yet to learn the early history. From what we know, we are the fifth or sixth family to live at 641 Westwood, including Irv Weiser (former CEO and president of RBC Dain Rauscher) and his wife Marjorie, who added the second garage, pool house, and master bath.

This house is located around the corner and up on the hill from our former home. It had been on the market for more than a year, after the family who lived there had to move East for professional reasons. We had no intention of moving until one day when my husband walked through the property during an open house. He told me I needed to see it. Long story short: we moved.

Last fall we were about to embark on a kitchen remodel when we learned that the Showcase Home Tour was without a home for 2014. We had already engaged Swan Architecture for our remodel—plans were drawn, bids for construction were in play—and it was not easy to press pause on that process. If we decided to be part of the Showcase Home project, we would need to move out, and we would have to be comfortable with tour-goers walking through our home. But we would also be fast-tracking our “five-year plan” of home improvements.

We also knew that things would have to move fast, decisions would need to be made quickly. Fortunately our professions—Curt’s in software sales, and mine in publishing—are also fast-paced, so the five-month turn on this project didn’t freak us out (too much).

Knowing that it would be our “forever house” also helped give us the confidence to take on the project. We don’t really know where our lives will take us, but this is the first home we have lived in that really feels permanent. In other words, we were ready to invest, not with the idea of selling the home, but in order to create the environment where we want to live for a very long time. Needless to say, we are counting the days until the “After” phase at 641 Westwood, when we can return our lives to normal, when we can truly come home.

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