See more of the story

A warehouse loft downtown is a fun home for a couple.

But for a young family with a baby, a wide-open loft space is a little trickier.

That's what Kevin and Lauren McDermott concluded after a year of living in their condo. They loved their warehouse building and its industrial vibe. They also loved their location in the heart of the North Loop, right across the street from Parlour, the popular restaurant.

"We could look out the window to see if there was an open table on the patio, bring the dog and have a beer and a burger," said Kevin, former long snapper for the Minnesota Vikings. "It's a great little neighborhood." The couple even had a rooftop patio where they could host his teammates and their wives.

But the condo wasn't kid-friendly.

"We knew we wanted to start a family," said Lauren. "Open [floor plan] works great when it's just the two of you. We needed nursery space."

And their condo had other quirks, including a too-small kitchen with a tiny bar-size sink. "You couldn't fit a pot or pan in it," said Kevin.

"We cook a lot," said Lauren. "We needed a bigger, more efficient kitchen."

The McDermotts' multilevel condo was spacious, just under 2,000 square feet, but they couldn't utilize all of that space. Some ceilings were high; others were low. The ceiling between the entry and the kitchen, for example, was so low that Kevin, who is 6 feet 5, could barely clear it without bumping his head.

"There was lots of wasted space," he said.

To reinvent their condo for family living, the couple hired Albertsson Hansen Architecture, Minneapolis.

"They had done other loft remodels. They had the vision," said Lauren.

The McDermotts' condo is on the top floor of a three-story 1913 industrial warehouse that was converted into 61 dwelling units in 2002. Their unit had its original oak floors, concrete block and brick walls and exposed ductwork.

"There was the cool factor of the raw space, but the space planning was inefficient and not thought-through," said architect/principal Todd Hansen, which resulted in a confusing layout. The master bedroom, for example, had a huge closet that was several steps below on a different level.

"The space was great but not conducive to family living," said Hansen. "The challenge was to create utility out of a complicated set of inefficient spaces. The goal was to provide an infrastructure for a growing family."

Meeting that goal was tricky because of the different ceiling heights on the different levels. The solution was to remove a section of floor on one level, leaving a small portion as a mezzanine for storage.

That allowed creation of an enclosed nursery for baby Campbell. The cozy room still has industrial elements including concrete block walls, painted white, but with softening touches including white built-ins.

Removing some of the floor also created space for a closet on the same level as the main bedroom.

"We resplit the second level to extend the master suite," said Jenny Seim, senior project manager and designer.

The move reduced the total square footage to 1,806 but the condo feels larger. "It lives bigger," said Kevin. "There's more usable square footage."

It's the opposite of what many homeowners are seeking today when they remodel, taking down walls to create open-concept living spaces. "Most remodeling breaks down barriers, opening spaces to each other," said Hansen. "We had to go the other way. It was so open it was useless."

Transformed kitchen

By reworking the space, the Albertsson Hansen team also was able to nearly double the size of the kitchen. The position of the island also was flipped to improve flow. "It really changed the way I could entertain in the kitchen," said Lauren.

The new kitchen maximized space by utilizing the area under the staircase to create a pullout pantry, wine storage and a built-in kennel for the McDermotts' dog, an 80-pound white Lab named Cash.

"He loves his kennel," said Lauren.

The McDermotts also wanted to lighten and brighten their kitchen. Darker cabinets were replaced with new ones, in a combination of light Baltic birch plywood and Ikea stainless steel. There's open shelving in one corner, also made of Baltic birch plywood. The island has a waterfall marble top, while textured white tile on the range wall also lightens the space.

In the formerly useless entry area, there's now a new built-in cabinet, creating a drop zone and additional storage for pantry goods, coats and boots, and vacuum cleaner.

"Everyone has their ugly things you don't want out in the open," said Lauren.

By using a combination of custom and Ikea cabinets, they were able to hold down costs while still creating a custom look.

A new laundry room also added much-needed storage. "Before, the machines were stacked in a closet," said Kevin. "Having a room with a place to store things is a game-changer."

Unifying the finishes throughout the condo helped it feel more cohesive. "They had a unit with random materials that didn't really go together," said Seim. "We tried to make the materials consistent throughout the project," with Baltic birch and black metal the dominant finishes. "In the TV area, we repeated the shelving we used in the kitchen."

The McDermotts lived in their remodeled condo for about 18 months. They never expected to make it their long-term home.

"The elements of a loft are not the easiest with a toddler," said Lauren. "We knew an end was in sight."

But they left Minnesota and the condo sooner than anticipated after Kevin lost the tip of his finger in an opponent's face mask, then suffered an elbow injury and underwent surgery. The Vikings released him a year ago.

"After I had my last injury, I decided to move on from football," he said. The family moved to Oregon to be close to family, and Kevin now works for Morgan Stanley. They're renting out the condo.

"We didn't foresee leaving Minneapolis as quickly as we did," said Kevin. "We wanted to make it home while we were there." Albertsson Hansen's makeover of the condo transformed it from a cool but impractical space to a functional and beautiful home. "It went from a project to fix a few problems to creating a piece of artwork. We loved our time in it."