Life in south Minneapolis is often reflected in the hard work and the vintage homes of those who live in this inviting part of the Twin Cities. Take the home and occupations of two such residents, Jenneane Jansen and Kris Palmer. As attorneys, they spend long hours practicing law and look to the comforts of home to escape the rigors of work. In fact, Jansen’s hard work earned her recognition in 2005 from Law and Politics magazine as one of Minnesota’s top 25 attorneys in appellate law.
But when they decided to turn their classic 1920s Tudor home into even more of a refuge, Jansen and Palmer discovered that remodeling the master bedroom was going to be a tough case indeed. The couple dreamed about their ideal bedroom – a suite with a huge walk-in closet and a separate shower and bath area, true to the home’s signature era. But getting there involved some real-world ingenuity and building expertise.
Like many houses in the area, the second floor presented substantial challenges: The lot size prevented a major expanded addition, and the homeowners were adamant about retaining the home’s exterior integrity with any improvements they might make. Inside, nearly all of the second half of the story was finished (including a poorly constructed bonus room), but it was not very habitable because of its low ceiling, knee walls, and narrow and badly configured stairs leading from the kitchen, making it impossible to move regular-sized furniture upstairs. The second floor offered no plumbing and not much of a heating source. The original ceiling of the master bedroom was flattened and hand-framed in the ’20s, and the pitch of the roof was at different angles from the top of the wall to the peak, creating unequal measurements – and a real challenge for overall construction.
Then came the hard work of getting a superb architectural design executed for a result that eventually went beyond expectations.
Today, the master bedroom suite looks and feels different indeed, having been transformed from a cramped, second- story setting into a stylish urban retreat. Pivotal in this process was the construction of an expanded and raised roof at the top of the steps to provide additional space in the master bedroom suite without disrupting the stone work outside. Supported from the top, rather than underneath with a column, the elevated roof creates more height on the second floor and also made it easier to straighten and move the staircase from the kitchen below to the dining room. The bonus room floor was completely torn out and rebuilt using 2 x10’s4s rather than the 2 x 4s used previously for floor joists. This, of course, required a lot of planning, design and dialogue among all parties involved.
“Mike’s attention to detail is very good,” notes client Jansen. “But he’s also an outstanding communicator,” exclaims the homeowner, “and he’s funny! He’s able to diffuse and manage the kinds of situations that arise when you’re remodeling your home, and do it with a good sense of humor,” Jansen added. “We really wanted something for the bedroom that was private and peaceful, and Mike and our architect, Joseph Metzler, made that happen. They gave us a bedroom that was not like the others in our neighborhood, yet it retained the character of the original home.”
“Mike’s a good listener and collaborator,” says Metzler, a member of SALA Architects since 1990. “Unexpected issues and change orders and other things always come up in remodeling, especially on the more challenging projects, and he does a good job of dialoguing back and forth to work out what needs to be done. I look forward to working with him again.”
Today, a hallway – lined with newly crafted built-in bookcases – flows naturally from the rerouted staircase to the relaxing bedroom space. An elevated, loft-like ceiling is accented with skylights and handsome triangular support frames. New high-velocity air-conditioning and in-floor heating offer welcome comfort.
Flanked by a huge walk-in closet and a modern bath and shower that still embody the home’s period-piece serenity, the space has been transformed into the sanctuary the homeowners had dreamed of – and more.
Their master bedroom has been warmly reinvented – without changing the vintage exterior or the interior character of this charming south Minneapolis home. Now, that’s sweet.