Modern Intervention

A Tyrol Hills '80s rambler gets a major, mod renovation

    Mixed materials of red birch and glass make a warm, modern backdrop for the open living and dining rooms.
    A custom, locally-made front door makes a striking first impression.
    High style meets function in the kitchen, where a library ladder reaches newfound storage spaces.
    Textured stone, reclaimed wood, and a steel "floating" bench comingle for a major fireplace makeover.
    High/low décor: A Louis Poulson pendant hangs above a family-friendly Crate & Barrel table.
    The powder room that started it all, outfitted with beveled Ann Sacks tile and Prandina sconces.
    A dream mudroom with heated floors, lots of storage, and iPod charging stations.
    Trend Alert: Homework rooms with a pass-through snack window.
    Architects Gabriel Keller and Lars Peterssen at their Uptown offices.

Like so many home projects, this one started out small: The homeowners just wanted a simple powder room renovation. But soon it became clear that the crowded 1980s rambler didn’t match the way their busy family of six lives.

The house was dark, and rooms terribly out of proportion—especially the kitchen and family room, says architect Gabriel Keller, who oversaw the project. The homeowners decided to seize upon the opportunity to “reconfigure and conceive what the house was all about,” says Keller.

After talking to the family about their needs, Keller set out to transform the home into “organic modern” style. A talented team composed of Peterssen/Keller Architecture, Streeter & Associates, and Eminent Interior Design made Keller’s vision a reality by making the layout more livable and introducing warm, durable materials.

“The way it was before was so dissected,” says Kristine Anderson, an associate of Peterssen/Keller. “We had to make it more functional for the family.”

To brighten the home up, the team aimed high–literally. “It was about activating those high spaces, adding shelving and skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows,” Keller says.

The first step was to remove most of the walls on the first floor and open up vaulted spaces in the ceiling, which instantly made the home lighter and more spacious. In the kitchen they dug into existing trusses to build shelves that are accessible by a rolling library ladder.

The now-open space was made seamless by replacing outdated cabinetry with red birch that extends from the kitchen to the hall and then to the mudroom—and serves as a stunning wall between the kitchen and living room.

“This was not a typical bank of cabinets here and there–everything was integrated,” says Bob Near, renovation manager of Streeter & Associates. The kitchen cabinetry (which includes a hidden drop-down family organizer board) flows into a “pantry hallway” instead of a walk-in pantry, which Near calls “clever and way more artistic.”

“It really was a modern intervention,” Keller says.

Interventions mean tough choices. The family sacrificed an extra garage space to allow for a roomful of cubbies, iPod charging stations, and a heated floor.

“We could never have done this in phases,” Near says. “There was no room for error as everything is tied to each other.”

That’s why it works. The family room leads to a double office space—one study for the parents and another for the kids with a homework table—a room to display artwork, and a pass-through window from the kitchen for snacks. A high glass partition and a thick, six-foot-wide, pocket door stand between the living and dining room and serve as a sound buffer. Brazilian cherry floors—known for their extra tough finish—mean no worries about everyday traffic.

“As high style as the house is, it’s so functional,” says Brandi Hagen, a designer at Eminent Interior Design, who worked with the client on everything from lighting and colors to rug selection. “It’s a contemporary home, but it’s also a family home with storage behind every nook and cranny, so the furnishings had to fit that, too.”

In addition to function, color was important to the homeowners. “The client wanted every room to have a color story, but people get tired of color,” Hagen says. “When color trends change, this house can, too.”

Keeping the walls neutral in modern gray, Hagen found her accent color inspiration from the greens, reds, and blues in the kitchen backsplash. She translated that into turquoise in the dining room, which also plays a cameo in the powder room where beveled Ann Sacks tile soften the small room’s straight lines. Pops of red, blue, and yellow in pillows, rugs, and chairs give the clients the burst they wanted without a major color commitment.

Thoughtful, family-friendly materials include scotch-guarded, commercial upholstery and leather barstools, as well as an easy-to-clean glass coffee table. Since the homeowners were interested in being eco-minded, the fireplace surround uses reclaimed wood from Old Globe Wood Company in Wisconsin (it’s the same wood used in Peterssen/Keller’s Uptown offices). The hearth’s eye-catching “floating shelves” and steel bench help complete the “organic modern” feel Keller set out to create.

“I always ask clients for inspirational images in the beginning. Then I’m going to create something I’ve never done before, and they’ve never seen before—and it won’t look anything like those pictures,” Keller says. “It’s not what they envisioned starting out, but now they love it. Cold, white, hard modern is not for anybody in Minnesota.”

Renovator's Notebook

Peterssen/Keller architecture, along with Streeter & Associates and Eminent Interior Design, tapped the following sources for this project.

✱ Red Birch Cabinetry

From J & B Wood Products, 20033 Cleary Rd. NW, Anoka, 763-753-9577

✱ Grain Polished Wood

On fireplace surround, by Wisconsin Woodchuck and Old Globe Reclaimed Wood Company, 715-392-5110,; steel benches and shelves (in family room), by Tom Kelly of Architectural Iron, 2201 NE California St., Ste.123, Mpls., 612-781-4482

✱ Tile

Kitchen backsplash, Tatami Field, by New Ravenna; powder room, Ann Sacks, both from Fantasia Showroom, International Market Square, 612-338-5811,

✱ Stone

Entryway and mudroom, Nichole gray, by Artistic Tile, also from Fantasia Showroom, IMS; fireplace, Island Stone, from RBC Showroom, 1820 Berkshire Ln. N., Plymouth, 763-559-5531,

✱ Powder Room Sink

Alape, from Montaggio, 150 2nd Ave. N., Mpls., 612-333-6264,

✱ Soapstone Countertops

From Midwest Specialty Products, LLC, 1340 Park Rd., Chanhassen, 952-470-0403,

✱ Rolling Ladder

From Putnam Rolling Ladder, 212-353-5147,

✱ Front Door

Custom wood door, from Pegg Whitney Woodworks, 1138 Bunker Lake Blvd. NW, Anoka, 763-208-3919,; bubble decorative glass, from Glass Art Design, 427 10th Ave. N., Mpls., 612-870-0247,

✱ Steel

On benches and shelves in family room, made by Tom Kelly of Architectural Iron, 2201 NE California St., Ste. 123, Mpls., 612-781-4482