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Welcome to Everyday Solutions, a new partnership between the Star Tribune and the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Everyday Solutions will appear once a month in the Homes section, showcasing projects, by AIA Minnesota member architects, that solve a homeowner's everyday design challenge.

The challenge: Mary Beth and Scott Timmington's Colonial-syle home in Minnetonka was stuck in the 1970s. The couple planned an extensive main-floor remodel, including the living room, dining room and kitchen. In order to stay within their budget, they wouldn't be able to drastically change the family room. But they wanted to somehow turn the dark, uninviting cave into a comfortable, sunlit space.

"We loved the brick fireplace and wanted to keep it," said Mary Beth. "But we live on a wooded lot, and the room was really dark -- especially in the summer."

The team: Architect Paul Hannan, SALA Architects, Minneapolis,, and contractor Candlewood Carpentry, Shorewood.

The solution: Hannan removed the partial wall between the kitchen and family room, which opened up and connected the two spaces.

"The biggest change in home design in the past 30 years is opening up the kitchen to the family space and making it an integral part of everyday life, rather than a secret room where food magically appears," he said.

In the family room, Hannan took out the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves flanking the fireplace. "This allowed us to put in windows on each side of the fireplace," he said. "They face west and flood the room with light." Hannan also replaced the family room's French doors, which opened to a back-yard deck, with a band of four large double-hung windows. He shifted back-yard access to the kitchen with new French doors leading to a new screened porch.

Better bookcases: Hannan added new bookcases, under the windows, designed to hold today's amenities such as a flat-screen TV.

Goodbye, beams: The weighty ceiling beams -- a 1970s design staple -- made the room feel small and dark. The beams were removed and the ceiling and walls painted a lighter color.

Easy entertaining: "The pass-through wall made the kitchen feel closed off," said Mary Beth. "Now people can spill from the kitchen into the family room,"

Best part: "I can read, knit and crochet in the family room without having to turn on a lamp in the middle of the day," said Mary Beth.

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619