Photos by Alyssa Lee
After living in their Minneapolis home for 20 years, the Kennedys—two architects—decided it was finally time to start the renovation they had been planning for more than five years. “In a nutshell, we wanted to maximize the functionality of the kitchen while creating something that would fit in with our 1922 bungalow,” says Karin Kennedy. Even though the kitchen had been previously remodeled in 1999, it needed another modern-day update. The pair called Curt Irmiger, owner of Full Circle Construction, to take the lead on their latest endeavor.
Once the design concept was created, the husband-and-wife duo spent the next several years tweaking and refining their vision, which was only elevated by the couple’s profession in the design-build industry. “[The Kennedys] would draw it out sometimes right on the spot, so we didn’t have to go through layers to get decisions made,” explains Irmiger.
Aesthetically, the Kennedys wanted to retain the bungalow-style look of their home they originally fell in love with. “In some small ways, we hoped the personality [and] history of the bungalow would be reflected,” she adds. To do this, the Kennedys took the original red birch that flowed throughout the home and mimicked it in the kitchen’s design. Now, there is a seamless fusion of wood between the red birch in the cabinets, window frames, crown molding, and special dining nook.
Unable to source red birch locally, Irmiger shipped the thick wood from Ohio and Wisconsin. It’s a special material, one Irmiger is particularly font of: “Red birch is the heart of the birch tree—it has a lot of character and richness,” he says.
But with renovating a century-old house like this one, problems are to be expected. The projects Irmiger’s company takes on are mostly older homes, so the team knew what to anticipate: an underframed and understructured home. “100 years ago, [the home’s] looked great, but they weren’t built great,” he says. Now, the Kennedys’ kitchen has the stabilization it always needed.
Irmiger describes the completed kitchen as totally custom. Even his favorite part of the kitchen, the nook, is original, and the old-style radiator and natural light also bring a likeness to the 1922 design. Cabinetry and millwork are handmade by Northfield-based Johnny Blundred. “It certainly is Arts and Crafts [style],” Irmiger says. “Everything [about] it is warm.”
Having a fresh, warm, and inviting kitchen that pays homage to its historical roots is something the Kennedys have been intensely looking forward to. “It feels amazing,” Kennedy says. “It has changed our lives.”