Millennial Downsizers

Adams family in their downsized duplex

Above: Lyndsie, Archer, and E.J. Adams in the new kitchen of their remodeled duplex. The resourceful couple installed the concrete tile on the island and did  most of the finishing work.

Lyndsie and E.J. Adams were on their way: They graduated from college, got married, bought a starter house, bought a bigger house, started a family, and then said … wait a minute.

They looked around at their beautiful 4,000-square-foot home in Shakopee and realized they lived in only a third of the space. With two full-time careers—both work at Life Time Fitness, she as a marketing manager, he as a compensation analyst—and a newborn, they used the fully finished and furnished lower level about once a month. And the two guest bedrooms even less frequently.


“I’m cleaning and dusting all these rooms that get used once in a while, and I’m buying all this stuff to fill this space,” says Lyndsie. “It just seemed so wasteful—not to mention the cost of heating it all in the winter.”

So the Adams began rethinking their lifestyle. Their solution: downsize. “Everyone thought we were crazy to downsize at a time when our family and careers were growing,” Lyndsie admits. It wasn’t that they wanted a “tiny house,” the movement that holds such appeal for those who want radically simpler lives, but a home with about half the space would do.

They hit on the idea of looking for an investment property, a duplex that would give them the option of living in a portion of it. “I think our parents panicked because they thought maybe we were having a financial crisis by moving into one side of a duplex, but we definitely weren’t,” she says. “We just decided this is what we wanted to do.”

They found they weren’t alone. Their baby boomer parents were also looking for smaller, single-level, upgraded homes, and so were a number of their friends. “We’re all looking for same stuff our parents are looking for,” says Lyndsie. “Small, but nice, single story. It’s so weird. No wonder there are so few [homes like that] on the market.”

Downsized dining roomAbove: New French doors that open to the deck—and a well-placed mirror—transformed the dining room.

In fact, the more E.J. and Lyndsie talked about the idea, the more they discovered people who were thinking along the same lines: One friend, a realtor, owned three duplexes; he and his wife lived in one of them. Three other couples they knew—all who had recently had their first child—were also looking for a duplex to buy and live in.

After a month of searching, the Adams found the one: a 1958 duplex on a private, 1-acre lot, just blocks from downtown Excelsior and surrounded by single-family homes. The two occupants were the original owners who co-owned the property. Lyndsie and E.J.’s offer on the duplex was one among nine—several all-cash—made the same day; but they were the only ones planning to occupy the property. Plus, they agreed to let one of the current owners, a 90-year-old bachelor, remain as a renter for as long as he desired.

So their new adventure began. Using Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up as her guide, Lyndsie pared the family’s possessions. (Maybe a little too much, she admits. She had to buy a few occasional chairs and end tables to replace items eliminated.)

Downsized living roomAbove: Saturated colors and mod furnishings in the living room complement the midcentury pedigree of the house. Bright artworks abound—including the one at left, painted by Lyndsie.

At 31, E.J. and Lyndsie are already serial remodelers: This is their third project. They do much of the finishing work themselves but call on professionals for plumbing, electrical, and the like. She’s also an interior designer by training who does design work on the side (marketing manager by day; freelance interior designer by night, as she puts it), so has that designer’s eye for visualizing transformations.

She reconfigured the main level to make the space work for the family. Her redesign flipped the kitchen from the back to the front of the house in place of the former family room and eliminated a hulking brick fireplace to open the space to the living room. The original kitchen is now a playroom, while the dining room got French doors and access to a deck that overlooks the deep backyard.

With the help of contractor Jeff Landwehr of Racbern Design Build Inc. in Minnetonka and lots of sweat equity, the first floor took shape while the family camped out in the basement for six months. The lower level was finished at the time, but the bathroom consisted of a stool and barebones shower with cinderblock walls. E.J. and Lyndsie mostly resorted to showering at their club during construction.

Downsized play roomAbove: Lyndsie moved the kitchen to the front of the house and reconfigured its former space into a playroom for Archer.

Now that the project is completed, the couple is back in their king-sized bed (albeit in a smaller master bedroom), and 2-year-old Archer is comfortably ensconced in his own room. They agree this move was the best they’ve made.

Living with a lot less “stuff” and lower expenses in roughly half the square footage, they find their home and new location much more peaceful. After three months in their half of the duplex, she calls downsizing “the most refreshing and grounding experience of our lives.” And, she adds, “We have more than enough space for the three of us, with room to spare.”

By Chris Lee

Photos by Wing Ta


Interior Designer: Lyndsie Adams

Contractor: Jeff Landwehr of Racbern Design Build Inc.

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