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Ann Kincaid always wanted a room at the top. She got her wish 25 years after she bought a loft in the historic Itasca building.

Kincaid, who was one of the first tenants, had her pick of the condos in the massive brick warehouse that was renovated in the 1980s, 100 years after it was built. Kincaid chose a one-bedroom, 1,050-square-foot unit on the top floor of the six-story building, one of Minneapolis' first loft-conversion projects.

"I loved the feeling of the open warehouse with the tall ceilings and exposed bricks," said Kincaid. "I'd never seen that before in Minneapolis."

While her compact balcony offered views of the Mississippi River, she longed for a space where she could "be under the stars and in the sun all year long." So she added a clause to her purchase agreement that gave her access to the roof and approval to build a deck -- someday.

In 1999, Kincaid bought the condo next to hers, which was nearly identical in layout and size. She planned to double the size of her unit -- someday.

It wasn't until 2009 that the renovation planets aligned: Her renter moved out, she'd managed to save enough for a remodel and she found the right architect, Christine Albertsson of Albertsson Hansen Architecture in Minneapolis.

With Albertsson's help, Kincaid combined her original condo with her rental unit next door, creating a single cohesive living space that would, of course, include a staircase to the hoped-for rooftop retreat.

Public and private

Albertsson gutted both units and rebuilt them in a way that preserved the warehouse's exposed brickwork and massive ceiling purlins.

"It's about not hiding the workings of the building," said Albertsson. "We wanted to create an industrial aesthetic."

In the new configuration, one side houses the public spaces, the other the private.

The public space includes a kitchen, dining room, living room and a library, which Kincaid can convert into a guest bedroom. Rich red oak flooring warms up the tall-ceilinged open spaces. The new galley-style kitchen, outfitted with clean-leaned oak Ikea cabinets, is wide enough for several people to prepare food at Thanksgiving. "I was surprised when Christine suggested Ikea cabinets," said Kincaid. "But I really like how they look."

The private space is given over to Kincaid's generous-sized bedroom suite, which boasts a wall of built-in bookshelves and a minimalist metal wood-burning fireplace.

Kincaid, an avid traveler, uses part of the bedroom as a trip-planning center. The well-appointed bathroom has in-floor heat, a walk in-shower and a huge closet lit by the building's original skylight.

Up on the roof

In the center of the combined condo, Albertsson built a U-shaped staircase leading to the roof, where she created two spaces -- a sky-blue-colored sunroom and an open-air deck, which holds pots of blooming daylilies and tomatoes.

When the weather's warm, Kincaid can raise the sunroom's oversized window, turning it into a screened porch. In the winter, the sunroom is warmed by a gas stove. "I love to sit up here and watch the barges go down the river," she said.

The added weight of the rooftop construction was one of many technical details Albertsson faced in the renovation. She raised the floor one foot to create space for a layer of soundproofing insulation and for electrical and plumbing. And she had to get approval of the deck design from the Heritage Preservation Commission because of the building's historic designation.

"This project has so many layers, including the technical challenges," said Albertsson. "I really enjoyed that."

Albertsson also incorporated many sustainable strategies, which were a priority for the Prius-driving Kincaid.

A rain barrel on the rooftop collects water for Kincaid's container gardens. The sunroom is topped with a green roof planted in sedum, which helps reduce rainwater runoff. And during the demolition, Albertsson hired Deconstruction Services to recycle any reusable materials.

Kincaid, who's always thinking ahead, also asked that part of the roof be wired for photovoltaic panels that will be installed -- someday.

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619s