The challenge: Transform a generic-looking condo unit into a home with style and personality.
The back story: Former Minnesotans Michelle and Mark Jahn, now living in San Diego, wanted a getaway home in the Twin Cities. “We miss the change of seasons,” said Michelle. “We’re kind of crazy — we like snow. And we love the fall.” They looked at condos in downtown Minneapolis. “But it didn’t feel like home,” she said. So they turned their sights westward. When they had lived in Orono, Wayzata was their downtown, she said. And a boutique hotel, the Hotel Landing, had recently opened there, with condos above.
Bland and basic: The 2,000-square-foot unit the Jahns looked at didn’t have much flair. The original owner had bought it as an investment, and had chosen basic finishes. “It was very plain,” said Michelle, with light maple floors and “stark white walls and woodwork. It was like being in a freezer.” But the Jahns liked the open floor plan. “My husband said, ‘We can do it our way.’ ”
Assembling a team: The couple, who have built several homes in the past, had a clear idea of how they wanted to change the condo. To bring their vision to reality, they chose Boyer Building Corp., Minnetonka, the remodeling firm recommended by their previous builder. “We’re getting more demand for that [redoing condos],” said Joe Franson, customer liaison. “Many condos are getting to an age where it’s about time. And there are more super-mobile clients who need a low-maintenance location.” The Jahns also hired designer Rebecca Van’t Hull, House Vant Hull, to create drawings of their vision for the builder and to oversee the design while the couple were in California.
Fireplace makeover: One of the most dramatic changes involved reconfiguring the fireplace wall. Before, the fireplace had been a basic box, with a hearth and wing walls on either side that jutted out into the room. The box and wing walls were removed, which left holes in the floor, so new maple flooring was spliced in to match what was there. Then the wall was redesigned with a new fireplace, floating stone shelves and display cubbies, lit to highlight art and pottery. “We had to add steel reinforcement so the shelves and mantel could float,” said Franson. The new fireplace wall was skim-coated with decorative plaster, troweled on to add texture, then painted a dark charcoal gray.
Kitchen face-lift: In the kitchen, the Jahns kept the white cabinets but chose new countertops of black Caesarstone with faint white veining. “It really pops,” said Michelle. The mirrored backsplash (“a ’70s throwback,” said Franson) was replaced with the same Caesarstone. The Boyer team also added a walnut-slab ledge to the island, affixed with a hidden connection. “It looks like it’s floating,” said Franson. The condo already had higher-end SubZero and Wolf appliances, so the Jahns kept those, as well as a wine refrigerator and microwave. On either side of the island were two mixer lifts, side by side. “Neither had any power,” Franson said. “We pulled them out and reconfigured the cabinets to accommodate a drawer microwave.” An existing cabinet was reconfigured to create more of a buffet, with a wine cooler. “Now it’s like a built-in bar area,” Michelle said.
Fresh look: To update the main living area, the Jahns replaced their traditional baseboards with new ones — taller, wider, flatter and more modern-looking. The light maple floors were restained a dark chocolate color. And all the light fixtures were replaced with new LED lighting, for a fresher look. Above the kitchen island are sleek contemporary pendant lights, as well as new sconces and pendants in the dining room, and new ambient lighting in the hallway.
Powder room: An L-shaped salmon vanity was removed, and replaced with a wall-hung vanity and a floating vanity shelf, reinforced with steel. The vanity and shelf are both topped with Caesarstone. A dramatic tile accent wall and an LED backlit medicine cabinet complete the new look.
Biggest challenge: Access. “Condo remodeling is a difficult type of remodeling to do,” said Franson, primarily because it necessarily involves space that is used by other residents. “All of our deliveries had to come up the main elevator,” he said. “Coming in everybody’s front door was quite a challenge. We did our very best to clean up and be respectful with use of the elevator.” Also, because the Jahns live primarily in San Diego, the project required “extreme phone, text and e-mail communication,” Franson said. “Having a local designer was helpful.”
The result: “It was a small project, relatively simple, but very rewarding — it made such a dramatic change in the space,” said Franson. The Jahns are thrilled with their getaway home and its location. “We’re on the second floor, and we look out on Main Street,” said Michelle. “When the trees are bare, you can see the lake.” And they have easy walkable access to many destinations. “We can hit Cov and the other restaurants and shops,” she said. In addition to condo amenities like heated underground parking, a workout room, a storage room and balcony, the Jahns also have access to hotel amenities, like housekeeping and room service.
Their young adult son, who lives in Los Angeles, likes to visit. “He’s happy we bought it,” Michelle said. “We gave him a set of keys. He misses Minnesota, too. He says, ‘I’d like to see a pine tree once in a while.’ ”
Ironically, the Jahns had stayed at the Hotel Landing the first weekend they came back to Minnesota to look for a place, said Michelle. “Never in our wildest dreams did we think we’d end up living in this hotel.”
Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784