A Tudor Reawakened

A reimagined 1930s home in St. Louis Park returns to its roots with a thoughtful, functional update

Photos by Round Three Photography  

With the homeowner’s penchant for quiet color, the kitchen cabinetry is painted a soft blue-green-gray shade, and the tile backsplash—featuring a traditional Moorish star-and-cross pattern—is white so it doesn’t overwhelm the eye. Shelves are integrated into the windows, providing space to display plants and trinkets.

When Billy and Liz Levin began expecting their first child, they were ready to find their family home. “We knew we wanted to live in the area where I grew up,” explains Liz, who was raised in St. Louis Park but met her husband while attending medical school in Chicago. “My mom saw that our good family friend’s home had just gone on the market. I hadn’t seen it in 20 years, but when we went and saw it, I knew right away it would be our forever home.”

While the 1931 Tudor-style abode had beautiful bones and plenty of charming character, a 1980s addition ended up burying the original kitchen in the middle of the house. “The front of the home was perfect, but I needed more light in the back half of the house,” says Liz. “I love to cook and spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and it had no windows. So, I wanted to move the kitchen into a space with a lot of windows and natural light.”

In lieu of windows, the original kitchen featured a complex, nonsensical series of doors—no less than five separate openings made for far too much foot traffic—and a chaotic and cumbersome work area with limited counter space. With no closets or separate entry area for the back door, the kitchen was also serving as a mudroom, with most coats and shoes being stored there as well. “Pathways to the staircase, garage, basement, and powder room all passed directly through the kitchen, which made you feel like you were cooking in the middle of an interchange,” says Michael Hanslick, senior project manager at TEA2 Architects.

To remedy these issues, spaces were repurposed within the existing footprint. A rarely used sunroom was converted into the new kitchen, while the old kitchen space was transformed into a dinette and hallway layout. The architecture team also added north and south corridors to improve the flow of the home—getting foot traffic out of the kitchen and adding the much-needed mudroom and storage spaces. “It was really a matter of rearranging so the homeowners would actually be in the spaces of the house that made use of the sunlight and sight lines to the yard,” explains Dan Nepp, principal at TEA2 Architects.

With large windows that provide views in three directions, the new kitchen feels much more open. Storage space that was lost with the addition of the windows was regained through creative solutions that blend seamlessly into the architecture, such as cabinetry built into the corners and shelves strategically integrated into the windows—both of which are favorite elements of the design-build team. “We had to work closely with Marvin Windows to realize the corner-radiused window, so seeing how well it was integrated into the cabinetry with Über Built [the contractor] was very satisfying,” says Hanslick.

While the cabinetry is painted a soft blue-green-gray shade and the quartzite countertops add an understated shine of silver, the new wood windows received a rich dark-brown stain to highlight their beauty and add contrast to the space. “It’s so dynamic and creates a connection to the stained millwork throughout the rest of the house,” says interior designer Heather Peterson. “It’s a small thing that makes a huge difference in how you appreciate that kitchen—it really creates a strong focal point and makes that main window the sight line.”

Previously the old kitchen, the dinette is a special, cozy nook in the middle of the house that provides an informal dining area near the new kitchen (so Liz can still interact with her family without them crowding her while preparing meals) while also acting as a central passage that links the garage, mudroom, and main living spaces. It also features a unique interior window that allows natural light into the hallway while providing a view of two beautiful mural-covered doors that disguise the new pantry and mudroom storage.

With a vaulted ceiling and custom banquette seating, the new dinette feels timeless while also making optimal use of a relatively shallow dining area. The interior window extends views and connects the kitchen and its natural light to more of the house.

“The trick was to find something that would read through the window but also made sense in the hallway,” says Peterson. “It felt wrong to paint those doors because all the other doors in the house are stained, but if we stained them, you wouldn’t be able to see the detail of the banquette window. So, we came up with the idea to use wallpaper on the panels so the doors themselves would still feel really traditional.” The solution was a lovely Iksel mural, featuring a landscape and cranes, which echoes the blue-green tones of the kitchen while introducing a more exotic feel to the space.

Restoring authenticity to the home was another project goal. In addition to making the house usable for her own family’s needs, Liz also wanted to use the renovation as an opportunity to reconnect the house with its traditional Tudor origins. “I wanted to make sure we kept the integrity of the home, and although our main project was a modern updated kitchen, I wanted the remodel to be timeless. I didn’t want people to be able to guess the year it occurred,” she says.

Tudor arches and curves were introduced into doorways and elsewhere throughout the residence.

In response, the architecture team made a conscious effort to use select design details of the original house in the renovation to help stitch it all together, such as Tudor arched openings, vaulted ceilings, textured wall finishes, tile flooring, and more—all key features to creating a consistent character for the house, says Hanslick. “For example, we used the millwork profiles from the existing dining room cabinet doors on the interior windows of the dinette,” he explains. “So, while the interior windows helped give that renovation a more contemporary feel, the profiles helped reconnect the design back to the original house.”

Tudor arches frame the new rooms, creating layers of inviting spaces, while dark-stained oak wainscoting and trim help connect the rooms and features. A mix of antique and new light fixtures bridges eras, while brass finishes add a subtle shine. In the formal living room, the understated fireplace was also reimagined. A tapered plaster wall now brings the fireplace forward, while the flat stone surround was replaced with an arched, custom-carved profile that echoes the two existing built-ins flanking it. “Previously, there was a flagstone surround and mantel tacked on,” explains Peterson. “Transforming that to a more dimensional plaster fireplace with a mantel that repeats that Tudor arch was a subtle change that had a big impact on the volumes of space in the living room.”

The reimagined fireplace in the formal living room now boasts a larger central form to balance out the surrounding arched niches without stealing attention.

To enhance the new layout, beloved antiques and heirloom decor and furniture were also brought out and given new life in places of prominence. “Liz had some wonderful inherited pieces we wanted to honor,” says Peterson. “Before, her grandparents’ desk and chair set was hidden away, and now it’s one of the first things you see in the living room.” Chairs were reupholstered, Liz’s set of handpainted Royal Copenhagen porcelain was put on display, and a gorgeous watercolor of the home (gifted to the Levins from the previous owners) is now showcased in the dining room.

“When we got there, there was really no furniture in the living room. They [the family] weren’t really living in the house. They had been there for several years, but with renovations postponed due to the pandemic, it felt like they had never really unpacked and settled in,” says Peterson. “When we did the final walkthrough, Liz kept saying, ‘It’s a dream … it’s just a dream.

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