See more of the story

When Theresa and Les Brunker's children went off to college, it was time to downsize. The couple, who both work from home, moved out of their Edina house and into a three-bedroom Minneapolis condo with views of Bde Maka Ska.

"The size was perfect for the two of us. We could have our own separate offices that can be transformed into guest bedrooms when our kids come to visit," Theresa said. "It's within walking distance to lots of coffee shops and restaurants. We love walking and taking our bicycles everywhere. We love the fitness studio [nearby]."

While the Brunkers appreciated the industrial nature of the condo, they wanted to soften the look, open up sight lines and allow in more natural light.

"One of the big goals was to make it a sustainable project," Theresa added.

Theresa and Les brought in SALA Architects, the firm they worked with several years ago when remodeling their Edina home.

Getting the band back together proved to be a hit. The project, called Pied-a-Lac, was named a 2022-2023 Home of the Month winner, a partnership between the Star Tribune and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Minnesota recognizing top residential designs.

Judges cited the careful reuse and recycling of existing materials as well as the incorporation of new, durable materials. Equally impressive were the artful details.

"Overall, the floor plan was successful, and what a great way to bring in the light," commented one of the judges.

Reuse of existing materials

SALA architect Bryan Anderson didn't want to gut the condo, something that happens often in remodeling. Fortunately, the 1980s condo was given an update 20 years ago with plenty of solid materials that they could work with.

"It was architect-designed previously," Anderson said. "It was meticulously done. We wanted to maintain what we could and make it much brighter and lighter and softer for the homeowners."

The team kept the concrete masonry walls. Stucco already existed in parts of the unit, "so we decided to use that plaster finish throughout. It was certainly an increased cost from drywall," Anderson said. But "we were continuing something that existed."

The corrugated steel ceiling and concrete floors also would remain intact.

Items that were removed — such as stainless steel kitchen countertops and storage systems made with angle iron and steel — were donated to Better Futures Minnesota, a nonprofit that sells reused building materials while employing individuals released from prison.

Tucking and rolling with it

When introducing new materials, Anderson sought durable, warm, muted and versatile items to create continuity throughout spaces.

In the kitchen, thin porcelain slabs were used for the island, countertops and backsplash. Continuous lines of cabinetry and shelving in a neutral beige came from Fenix, a carbon-neutral certified product line.

"It feels like a traditional melamine, but then the face and the edge bands are matte finish in their appearance," Anderson said. "But then they also have a softness to their texture."

Douglas fir brought warmth to areas such as the buffet as well as in the bedrooms, where the wood was used for built-in shelves, wardrobes and a headboard. However, the most prominent display is in the kitchen and dining area, where a sizable Douglas fir floating "cloud" panel with hidden LED lights hangs.

"That was a counterpoint to the coolness of the other materials," Anderson said. Plus "it hides an existing exhaust fan that's up and around the corner."

Black accents — including steel angle framing where the ceiling meets the wall — can be found throughout. Custom radiator covers were designed to hide exposed pipes.

"We made it go from the floor up to the windowsill to keep it a continuous line. It looks almost like a fabric," Anderson said. At the same time, "they heat up and transfer the heat. Because it's metal, it doesn't insulate it in any way."

Shining examples

To bring in more daylight, partitions blocking the sun between the kitchen and the entry were removed.

Les, a financial adviser, and Theresa, an education consultant and English language teacher, needed home offices. So studies were created in the two smaller bedrooms, each with a pullout convertible sofa bed for when their children visited.

A refresh of those rooms also presented a chance to bring in more natural light and create a cleaner look by removing existing doors, widening the doorways and installing custom Douglas fir oversized pocket doors.

"When the doors are open, it's south-facing light all the way into the hallway and the amount of light expands into the rest of the main areas," Anderson said. "Then when you're looking in the hallway and the doors are closed, you get this whole flat piece of surface of Douglas fir all the way across. It's a wall of wood, roughly 60 feet long."

Ghost of partitions past

For the remodeling, structural alterations were minimized.

While the main bathroom was given a dramatic upgrade, fixtures and plumbing were kept where they were. A spa-like shower wall and fixed-glass partition were added to the existing soaking tub. New, larger-than-life mirrors make the room look double its size. Handmade blue-green tiles are a tribute to the lake, which originally drew the couple to the condo.

Removing partitions left indentations in the concrete floors. But the design team and homeowners agreed to leave them, because the concrete floors were in such great condition.

"We would have had to refinish the whole thing to avoid leaving marks," Anderson said. "We kind of call it the ghost. It's a fun thing to tell the story of what was there."

In addition to an emphasis on reusing, recycling and durability, the design incorporated sustainability features in a way that fit the couple's lifestyle. Details as small as adding built-ins to give the option of air drying clothes and as big as switching from gas to electrical appliances counted for a lot.

"Everything is just very energy-efficient," said Les. "It's a very pleasant place to be with so much natural light filling the rooms that it allows us to not have to have the lights on as much."

About this project

Artful in its industrial aesthetic, the new owners of a Minneapolis condo sought to open up the sight lines, soften materials, increase daylight and create flexible spaces by remodeling.

Designing firm: SALA Architects.

Project team: Bryan Anderson, AIA; Marta Snow, AIA.

General contractor: Terra Firma.

Other project partners: Hurley Custom Cabinets.