It doesn’t matter whether Revolution Design and Build is remodeling a single bathroom or transforming a whole house. For the Wayzata, Minn.-based firm, it all starts with one question: how can the space make a client’s life easier?
“We ask clients to imagine they’re living in their home a year after it’s been remodeled, and think about how well the new design works with their day-to-day routine,” says Sid Levin, principal at Revolution Design and Build. “It helps pinpoint exactly what they want to be doing differently, and that’s when we start creating a design that works better for them.”
Levin and partner, Rob Aldecocea, have been transforming homes — and lifestyles — in the Minneapolis metro area since 2008. Rather than focusing on a particular size or style of project, the NARI Certified Kitchen and Bath Remodelers specialize in a personal approach. A typical pre-project meeting involves an interview with the owner, collecting details about daily life. “People make adjustments to their lives based on their homes — the way they cook, spend time with their families, entertain — but we are passionate about making our clients’ homes work magnificently for them,” says Levin.
In an upscale Minneapolis neighborhood of homes built primarily in the 1950s, Levin and Aldecocea met clients who shared their passion. The owners of a mid-century modern home wanted to expand their space to better suit their family’s needs (including small children and large dogs) while preserving the original architectural style.
Creating new (old) space
The 1,500-sq.-ft., single-level home was cramped and disconnected, with a small galley kitchen completely separated from the main living area by a bearing wall. The challenge: adding space and functionality to the home while maintaining and enhancing its beauty and character.
Clerestory windows in the home’s three existing bedrooms, while beautiful and stylized, did not provide much light or meet modern egress code. Revolution Design and Build designed a vaulted, open space that would preserve the home’s façade. The new floorplan doubled the window walls in the main living area and added egress windows to the rear elevation.
Rather than expand the home’s footprint, their design shifted the master bedroom from the first floor to a new upper level and created a dining area in its place. By moving the kitchen to the back of the house, they made it more open and accessible to the living room. The originally enclosed kitchen dinette was converted to a mudroom, opening to both the foyer and the home’s side entrance.
“By creating a ‘great space’ over the living room, but keeping cozy, intimate spaces on each side, the house actually feels a lot bigger than it is,” explains Levin. While the dining room and kitchen maintain the original ceiling elevation, they are open to the vaulted living room, so the space is comfortable for both small and large groups.
Over-accentuated support posts take the place of former bearing walls, with a prominent design that appears more artistic than functional. The posts are painted dark gray to match a corner fireplace, which the designers retiled and extended to the height of the new ceiling. Clerestory windows on the new second level create visual continuity with the first floor.
Above the living room, a mezzanine/art gallery leads to the new master suite. “We could have put the door to the master suite directly at the top of the stairs,” says Levin, “but locating it at the end of the balcony lets our clients take in their new view and gives the gallery a greater sense of purpose.”
Horizontal wrought steel railings create the upper level boundary, while a vertical oak lattice screen wall serves as a guardrail for the upper and lower staircases. The natural materials add to the home’s simple aesthetic. “In the mid-century style, form followed function and materials appeared in their natural state,” explains Levin.
Revolution Design and Build limited color in its interior design to a few key locations: an orange dining room wall, blue tile in the downstairs powder room, and an aqua accent wall in the master bedroom. Original stain colors were matched for the trim and new cabinetry to maintain the 1950s aesthetic.
Making the transformation
The design/builders were also determined to salvage the original living room floor. Although much of the work was staged during the winter, they devised a way to construct the new roof before tearing down the existing roof. After carefully covering the floors, they erected a set of large, horizontal and vertical laminate beams to open the walls, support new roof lines, and deal with shear wall issues. Seventeen-foot-tall laminated wood studs prevent the two-story back wall from buckling in Midwestern winds.
This staging also protected the finished basement from the elements. “This is the phase of the project that usually keeps us up at night,” says Levin. “We’ve been known to drive by jobsites in the middle of the night, just to make sure roof tarps haven’t blown off in a snow or rain storm.” The new roof construction technique was so successful, they have since repeated it on other second story additions.
Salvaging the floors was not just an aesthetic choice, but part of Revolution Design and Build’s effort to reduce waste. “We approach projects with a practical, green perspective that starts with conserving as many existing materials as possible,” says Levin. The design/builder saves time and money by salvaging existing finishes (not redoing more than they need to) and selecting environmentally responsible, locally sourced materials. All of the lumber used for this project was certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), and remnant Caesarstone and granite countertops were used wherever possible.
The home’s new HVAC system, required to heat and cool the two-story living space, not only uses super-high efficiency, Energy Star rated equipment; it also became an inspiration for efficient use of space. “We built a hidden room above the master bathroom to house the new heating and cooling system,” says Levin, “and while we were at it, we decided to extend the space out above the bedroom to create a 4×12-ft. storage area.” The design/builders added two striking light fixtures to accentuate, rather than hide, the distinctive ceiling structure.
This attention to aesthetic and functional detail extends to their interior design process. Levin accompanies clients to showrooms where they choose fixtures and faucets together. “We guide our clients through the selection process so we can provide real-time feedback on how their selections are affecting the budget,” says Levin. “When they have ownership in the decision-making process, it really adds momentum to the project.”
By following this client-focused philosophy, Revolution Design and Build ensured that the owners would instantly feel at home in their new, 2,400-sq.-ft. living space — as would their dogs. “The family’s favorite feature is the dog wash area we added to the mudroom,” says Levin. The contractors built a small, half-high tiled shower so the dogs’ paws can be washed as soon as they return from their daily walk around the neighborhood lake. “The more you look at the details of this house,” he says, “the more you see how it makes life easy.”