Photos by Andrea Rugg
Just ask: Every contractor involved will tell you it wasn’t the house, its potential, or even its distinctive 1925 historic charm that made this multi-stage project worth remembering—it was the client.
That’s just Shawn Judge for you. If you helped remodel her home, you can expect more than just a cut check and a “Job well done.” Instead, anticipate a lifelong friendship that takes the form of coffee catch-ups, graduation party invites, and a slap on the wrist if it’s been too long since you’ve grabbed dinner together. That’s what happened here, at least.
“They’re my family now,” Judge says. “They’re my friends.”
Judge and her husband, actor Stephen Yoakam, purchased their home nearly 30 years ago after an excited phone call from their realtor exclaiming how she’d finally found “the one.” It was June of 1991, and the newly-married couple traded in their small apartment on 21st and 10th for a larger, traditional home in the Shenandoah Terrace neighborhood of Minneapolis.
But after calling it home for more than a decade, Judge realized it didn’t fit her tastes anymore.
Nor did it fit her family’s lifestyle. She wanted a more sustainable, convenient way to entertain guests, host gatherings, and enjoy quality time with family, friends, and neighbors. She was ready to nix the traditional feel and shuttle in a more modern, colorful, and eclectic aesthetic—from paisley fabrics to burnt orange armchairs.
The preliminary stages of the remodel kicked off in 2005. Judge was particular about which architectural firm would head the project, and conducted a series of interviews to find the perfect fit. Eventually, she chose David Serrano of RSP Architects and his late partner Ian Scott, and together, the pair transformed all three levels of the home—most notably, the kitchen.
Before, the cooking space was crammed and closed off, and a general lack of flow and connectivity made it challenging to use and navigate.
“We wanted to open it up and have a kitchen that really functioned well and was beautiful,” says Judge, who wished for a bank of windows that spanned across the north side of the room, dark wood floors, and “something shiny,” which ultimately worked itself into the design in the form of ruby-red, automotive lacquer adorning a wall of storage cabinets.
“Consider it done,” said Serrano and Scott, who granted their client’s requests by removing a nook in the kitchen, adding storage, and cutting in a big window to create a linear aperture into the outside that proportionally plays with the long countertop.
The kitchen saw a lot of love, but the architects weren’t finished there. They also tore down walls, mounted a laser-cut handrail, revamped the basement office, and installed gorgeous red Italian tile in the enlarged upstairs bathroom.
Meanwhile, the couple’s interior designer, Sarah Rodriguez of Skogstrom Rodriguez Interior Design, prepared to deliver the feel and flair Judge hoped for. Whether it was more color, texture, pattern, or layers (spoiler: it’s all four), Rodriguez was all in.
She went to work—reupholstering furniture and picking out wallpaper, paint colors, carpet, and lighting selections—all with a clear mission in mind: Blend traditional with eclectic, swirl in color, and coordinate the couple’s existing art collection into the new space. The family loves art, and specifically, Judge adores the Southeast Asian hand-carved lintel that lives on her fireplace mantel. But more than anything, it’s a small “nightlight” that leaves a lasting impression on her.
The “nightlight” is actually an upstairs window, installed between the bath and wash rooms. The washroom has an exterior window of its own, and light often makes its way through both panes into the bathroom—acting as a nightlight.
“It’s a very small thing,” Judge explains, “but it reminds me of Ian. He insisted on capturing light whenever he could.” (Scott passed away in late 2017 after living with cancer for five years.)
To truly complete their dream home, Judge wanted the ultimate outdoor living space—one that connected the interior and exterior of the home—and trusted Ron Beining of Ron Beining Associates to make it a reality. He corrected water movement across the site, tightened up Yoakam’s backyard vegetable garden, used evergreens to create screening from nearby neighbors, planted blooming perennials, and softened the deck with containers of annuals.
The deck stretches across most of the backyard, which has increased the family’s indoor-outdoor flow more than anything, Judge notes. The 10-foot table made of wrought iron with a beautiful teakwood top complements the L-shaped sectional couch, and the stone retaining wall gives the space a private, secluded feel—creating, in essence, a room with eight-foot walls.
But for Beining, the best part wasn’t the work he put in, or even the final product. “I think the best part about the project, oddly, has been the client,” Beining says. “It’s lovely when that happens.”
And as much as the contractors adore her vivacious and lively personality, the feelings of compassion and care are more than mutual. “What’s great about them is how they work with clients,” Judge says. “They listen. And then they execute and give you something extra. They were an incredible team to work with.”
Judge would like to extend a warm “thank you” to everyone involved in this project, including (but not limited to) mason Joel Forsberg, neighbor and deck connoisseur Peter Hagen, light fixture designer Marlaine Cox, and sculptor James Church.