The spacious seating area easily accommodates gatherings of 12 or more. The tall homeowner chose an L-shaped sectional, customized with an extra high back, deep seats, and bespoke upholstery.
The sprawling, dark, low-slung basement wasn’t at the top of the to-do list for these homeowners. After buying this Edina house from his parents three years earlier, they had focused their remodeling energy above ground. But when a burst pipe ruined much of the basement ceiling, they knew it was time to make the lower level their own.
The father’s imprint was heavy on the 3,900-square-foot space. It has been decorated in the 1980s to look like a nightclub, with shiny charcoal-gray automotive paint on the walls, oversized columns hiding vertical supports, a sunken bar, and a neon-lit dance floor.
The next generation of owners had other ideas for it. They wanted a more open, multifunctional space designed for children and adults. They wanted a kitchen where they could continue the family tradition of cooking parties as well as an exercise room. They wanted more light and higher ceilings. And they wanted the basement to feel like it belonged in the house, an elegant light-filled two-story. “We really wanted to bring the rest of the house downstairs,” he says.
He called on Maureen Haggerty, of Mint Interior Design in North Oaks, who had helped the couple redecorate the master bedroom, bath, and a guest room. And Haggerty brought in architect Ryan Thuftedal, of RT Design in Golden Valley. The challenge: achieve the openness the owners wanted without ending up with a space that felt like a hotel conference room.
The poker area features such classic touches as red leather chairs on casters and a handy butler tray.
Thuftedal’s solution was to create six “rooms” by means of a coffered ceiling. “A lot of times, people say, ‘Let’s do the maximum [ceiling] height everywhere,’” Tuftedahl says. “What that does is create a cavernous space.” With coffers, he explains, you experience areas as different rooms.
But he needed to find the height for the coffers. The 7-foot-6-inch ceiling was already filled with mechanicals and beams. One builder said it couldn’t be done. But Arien Yineman, of Schwarz Builders in Minnetonka, thought otherwise.
The first step was to gut the lower level, a two-month-long feat involving a half-dozen dumpsters. After ensuring framing was level, Yineman and team began tucking beams into joist cavities and rerouting water and waste lines, ducts, and wiring. “In a remodel like this, it’s not really something where the architect can say, ‘This is where it goes,’ because you really don’t know until you have it open,” Yineman says. They also found they could reclaim an area where the ceiling had stepped down to accommodate the formerly sunken living room above. When they were done, they had an additional foot of ceiling height throughout, a gain much appreciated by the 6-foot-3-inch homeowner.
The palette of sophisticated neutrals continues in the powder room.
Meanwhile, Haggerty was scouring her sources for flooring, furnishings, wall coverings, textiles, and finishes she believed would meet the owner’s desire for a traditional, tailored, East Coast aesthetic. “I have a vision, and Maureen executes,” the owner explains.
The starting point for the color scheme was the kitchen’s flooring: marble mosaic in a driftwood color. Its rich grays, taupes, and browns reappear in the walls, furnishings, carpeting, and stone. Woodwork, including glass-front display cases for the owner’s model car collection, is painted a soft white. To add interest, Haggerty played with texture, putting soft wool looped carpeting next to the tile, mixing wool and linen wallcoverings, and using polished nickel pulls on the black satin-enamel kitchen cabinets. She chose leather for chairs and two different hound’s-tooth plaids in velvet for the sectional sofa and bench cushions. A 20-foot-long island is polished quartzite, and mica-flecked granite surrounds a see-through fireplace.
The 20-foot-long bar is topped with polished quartzite. Behind it is ample storage for wine and soft drinks, and black satin-enamel cabinetry.
Today, the space has a timeless feel. Light pours in from windows and French doors no longer blocked by columns or walls. The ceiling seems even higher than it is, thanks to a trick of the architect—hiding strips of LED lighting in the coves, so that light washes across it. “It seems like it’s open to the sky,” Thuftedal says.
In rooms without walls, family and friends can play billiards, poker, or arcade games, stir a pot on a commercial stove, or watch television. The homeowners feel the lower level is theirs, ready to serve the multiple needs of a new generation.
Architect: RT Design
Builder: Schwarz Builders
Interior Designer: Mint Interior Design
By Carmen Peota. Photos by Susan Gilmore