When John Lassila was house hunting a few years back, he thought he'd end up in a townhouse.
But on the way to a showing, he came across a home for sale in Minneapolis' Bryn Mawr neighborhood that drew him in.
"We were driving to look at another townhouse when we passed this home. It had just gone on the market. I loved the character and the large windows," Lassila said. "Even though it needed a ton of work and it had baby blue shag carpeting and pink walls all over when I bought it, the character and the setting spoke to me."
Lassila, an award-winning interior designer, went right to work. Eighteen years and several extensive renovation projects later, the Cape Cod-style home just west of downtown, is on the market.
The home, built-in 1946, features 2,797 square feet, three bedrooms and three bathrooms. Lassila aimed for a Cape Cod look when making changes to the house, which over the years have included a re-engineered layout and a showstopping screen porch addition.
The porch, with its arches and lattice details, was inspired by a home along East River Parkway near the University of Minnesota, Lassila explained. It features a wood-burning fireplace, garden-paver flooring and a handcrafted vaulted ceiling as well as French doors that open out to the landscaped courtyard with a retaining wall, stream and waterfall.
"The houses around here are close together, and it created more privacy and a visual barrier," he said. "The porch has a fireplace that we used year-round. It really is a porch for all seasons."
To tie the new addition to the original home, the exterior was painted Nantucket gray and the roofline of the two structures matched.
While the porch steals the show, the biggest design shift came from converting the house back to a single-family home. Before Lassila purchased the property, the previous owners leased the lower level as an apartment. When Lassila moved in, he combined the apartment to become part of the main house.
The apartment's street-level entrance was converted into the home's main entryway, replacing the original one, which was inconveniently located a full level up from the street. Creating a new main entry allowed for a grand entry foyer and staircase — complete with custom-made wrought iron railings.
"I've done some pretty major remodeling on all the levels," Lassila said. "And that's probably the biggest architectural change."
Other updates to the home included taking out a main-floor bedroom to allow for an expansion of the living room. The wall between the dining and kitchen areas was knocked down to create an open floor plan.
"It's been wonderful for gatherings such as hosting our large family or hosting fundraisers with as many as 80 or more in the house," said Lassila. "It isn't an overly large house. But the layout works."
The entire upper level has been made into an owner's suite that includes a luxury bathroom with custom cabinetry, dual sinks, a walk-in shower and soaking tub. The owner's suite comes with a skylight offering bird's eye views of the Minneapolis skyline.
The home has an interesting back story, as well. It was originally located elsewhere in the city and then relocated.
"The house was actually further north in Bryn Mawr but then because of the I-394 expansion, it was moved to this location and then placed on a cement block," said Lassila, who has a VHS tape showing the home being moved on a trailer. It was passed on to him from the previous owner, and he plans to leave it with the next owners.
Lassila said he had planned to stay in the house. But after the death of his parents, who stayed with him when they visited, he doesn't need the space. He's downsizing in the Twin Cities and buying his parent's lake house in northern Minnesota.
"I'll miss this house. But it feels like the right time to move on and let another owner enjoy it," he said. "The lake house will be a project. It needs everything that needed to be done to this house and more. I'm going to leave a completely remodeled and finished home to take on another. But then again, what's life without a project?"
Carson Brooks, 612-720-6555, and Chris Deutsch, 612-208-7653, of Exit Realty Metro, have the $695,000 listing.