Historic Home Boasts a Soulful Spark

Unconventional ideas ignite inspiring interiors within this eclectic Minneapolis abode

Photos by Alyssa Lee  

Boasting oak butcher block counters, zellige tile, and a rich green hue, this European-inspired kitchen is more than memorable.

After 27 years in their Tangletown home, the owners of this century-old residence found themselves at a crossroads. “We were in our 60s and thought we would probably have to move,” say the homeowners, self-proclaimed “semi-retired” professionals. Although perfectly sited and stylistically spot on, the home had its flaws, they say, culminating in “100 micro-irritations we didn’t think we could continue to live with for the next 30 years. We didn’t think they could be fixed.”

These challenges seemed so insurmountable that they considered relocating altogether. But Mark Peterson, lead designer of Edina-based MA Peterson Designbuild, saw only potential—ultimately landing him and his team, alongside interior designer Wendy Boyer of Brown Cow Design, the job. “We hit it off right away,” the homeowners add. “[Peterson] got our style instantly, and the teams he suggested were total soulmates. The interior designer and project manager were especially in sync with us.”

Soft textures, geometric patterns, and myriad materials lend endless layers of visual excitement to the living room, aka the afternoon room, which features a striking stone accent wall.

What started as a modest renovation resulted in a complete main-floor and lower-level overhaul, says Peterson, who flipped the existing floor plan on its head. In fact, he recalls sitting at the dining room table, delving into his clients’ lifestyle to dissect how they currently lived and, more importantly, how they hoped to live in the future. The comprehensive list of nonnegotiables included expanding the kitchen, infusing more natural light into the living area, bringing the laundry room to the main floor, enhancing the garage size and its storage, and more—all while protecting the essence of the 1922 home.

Peterson’s first move was shifting the kitchen to the opposite end of the home to be closer to the sunroom, the space the homeowners start their day. “You have to have the right layout,” explains Peterson. “The rooms have to be in the right locations, and they have to be configured properly and detailed properly. This is all part of a crescendo that leads up to the soul of this home; this experience that is unique to the space, the homeowners, and how they want to live and experience life.”

Preserving and honoring that original feel and authentic spirit was paramount, and the design team achieved it from the ground up—starting with 14-inch-wide Manomin Resawn Timbers reclaimed wood floorboards sourced from 19th-century barns that evoke a sense of lived-in charm. “The homeowners were told they might have some creaking in their floors because of the big, wide wood they chose,” says Boyer, who instantly connected with the homeowners after realizing she used to frequent the wife’s now-closed garden store. “The contractor was trying to tell them how he would ensure they wouldn’t have any creaks, and they stopped him and said, ‘Well, we want the creaks.’ They wanted to feel like [the home] had been lived in before, even if it was new.”

The homeowners start their day with cups of steaming coffee and cozy conversation in the sunroom.

The rest of the job flowed seamlessly, Boyer says, thanks largely in part to the homeowners’ risk-taking nature and strong desire to push the envelope. “This project was unique because the people who worked on the crew weren’t afraid to express ideas that weren’t normal,” she adds. “It opened the staff up to not be intimidated or offer ideas. The cadence wasn’t straight. [They] could feel the rhythm.”


Much of this concept is perhaps felt most strongly in the kitchen, where a dynamic green color scheme and European-inspired design choices deviate from the conventional. Locally sourced light fixtures overhead illuminate lacquered brass hardware, oak butcher block counters, and a House of Rohl faucet that flaunts a creative touch of functionality. “We took some of the concrete quartz countertop from their laundry room and stuck a simple piece of it behind the faucet,” Boyer says. “That’s a really unique thing to make sure you don’t get water on your wood, but it also adds just a moment of intrigue.”

Although the aged brass Schluter that frames the windows, the decision to forgo grout between the handmade zellige tiles, and the zinc-countertop island framed with wooden edges all sparked initial skepticism, the finite details ultimately infused the space with panache and personality. “Normally people would take zinc and wrap the edges for a clean look, but the homeowner wanted the edges to be framed all around,” Boyer says of the island. “We got such pushback, but when it was done, everybody thought it was so cool.”

Arguably even cooler is the Architectural Antiques mantel atop the fireplace in the adjacent dining room. “Before the house was designed, we fell in love with an antique mantel with a carved dog head, and we knew we wanted it to be part of the house,” the homeowners say. Peterson adds, jokingly, “When they gave that to me, I thought, ‘What in the heck am I going to do with this?’ But the homeowners loved it, so we were going to find a way. We didn’t want to change the nature of it because it’s a 140-year-old mantel, but it had to work with a new see-through fireplace.”

The other side of that fireplace (which Boyer and the homeowner designed together on a napkin) warms the connected sunroom, a space that further emphasizes the clients’ willingness to take chances in both color and concept. “We threaded out tons of colors—greens, blues, anything deep—and we landed on Knoxville Gray,” says Boyer, who notes its blue undertones. “Then we had to play with it because it came out too dark, so we added white. You can always change the depth of a color by adding white to it.”

Here, daylight peeks through charming bistro curtains above cleverly designed window seats. “Typically, designers will put a 3-inch bench seat cushion on top of a 15-inch base,” Boyer explains. “The homeowner said, ‘No, no, no—we have to reverse it and do 12 inches with a 6-inch cushion.’ It could be the most comfortable thing I’ve ever sat on,” she adds, laughing. “Now, I do it in all my projects.”

Meanwhile, it was Peterson’s prowess that pulled together the living room. The entertaining space spotlights a striking display of black Wisconsin-mined stone veneer that clads the entire wall, and in keeping with European design, a ledge stone tops another fireplace. “The stone wall with the two windows that flank the fireplace is intended to appear as one element, which creates interest, function, warmth, light, and texture,” Peterson says.
“I wanted it to feel like everything
was a part of the stone and a unique element someone 100 years ago would have done.”

A collection of other custom elements, with the help of Boyer, supports the overall design: The boucle ottoman adds a layer of texture and warmth, wood beams overhead supply another sliver of authenticity, new windows offer views of the surrounding creek, and double doors step out to a stunning veranda. Flanked sconces emphasize the accent wall’s vintage vibe, while a leather-detailed Ralph Lauren chandelier from Visual Comfort & Co. lends a more industrial aesthetic. The adjacent entryway’s archways, bookcase, and discreet coat closets also were Peterson’s doing, as was the office tucked in the back corner accessible via a pocket door.

Down the hall, a William Morris wallpaper, antique mirror, and delicate penny tile pattern transport the main-floor bathroom to a bygone era. On the lower level, a second bathroom features another beautiful tile design in a robin’s egg blue, while a guest bedroom is made equally as memorable with a whimsical butterfly wallpaper.

“I think the heart of this home is just so special,” Peterson adds. “And these people are so special to us. I’ve done over 1,000 projects, and I’ve put this one in my top three. This project affected me more than probably any home I’ve ever done, and it’s one I’ll remember for the rest of my life.” The clients concur—adding they’re done with home projects (not to mention house hunting!) for good, noting, “This one is too perfect.”

No posts to display