Blueprint for Home – Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

Hindsight 2020: Two years ago, we reported on the expected impact COVID-19 would have on how Twin Citians might rethink their homes. Although we were just a few months into the pandemic, many of the themes that emerged were already afoot.

Flexible floorplans, study stations for the kids, work-from-home zones with Zoom-friendly backgrounds, and outdoor gathering spots were top of mind. Today, those ideas are still at play, alongside many of the same woes we had then, too—supply chain slowdowns, labor shortages. Those headlines unfortunately haven’t changed much either.

But what we did discover in putting together this year’s Lookbook, and interviewing more than a dozen local home and design professionals, is the manifestations of the what-ifs. How some went  from the dreaming to the doing, whether with a highly personalized kitchen, an expanded outdoor room, or having one or even two or more work-from-home spaces.

“The biggest thing is people are realizing they want to stay where they’re at,” says James Julkowski, president of Housing First Minnesota, who cited home offices, workout rooms, and “just more free space” as examples of top remodeling projects. 

Editors’ Pick:

Innovative Fridge

Part of LG’s Signature Kitchen Suite, the 48″ French door refrigerator (which won gold at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show earlier this year) boasts precise food preservation. Available at All Inc., 185 Plato Blvd. W., St. Paul, 651-227-6331,

Bolder Baths

“In the last few years, we have seen color come back to the sink areas,” says Jim Schroeder, co-owner of Montaggio. The North Loop showroom recently began carrying the European-based Kast Concrete line. “Powder baths are a  great place to experiment and get creative with color because you don’t tend to spend as much time in your bathroom,” he says. “This means you can afford to be a bit braver with your design choices.”

Outdoor Oasis

The initial pandemic push for improved outdoor spaces has continued to explode ever since, with even more creative and personalized features emerging. Pools still top wish lists locally, says Jim Sweeney, owner of Mom’s Design Build, but other “creature comfort” features are extending the outdoor season well beyond summer. “People aren’t necessarily looking for bigger homes,” Sweeney says. “They’re looking for something unique, something they don’t have. To connect outside in a more transformable space is super important.”

Editors’ Pick:

Sleek Ceiling Fan

From porches to sunrooms to bedrooms, ceiling fans are back, but they don’t have to detract from the décor. Haiku bamboo fan by Big Ass Fans, available at Muska Lighting (multiple metro locations),

Pet Projects

“Pet rooms are off the charts,” says designer Sandy LaMendola of Twist Interior Design. Recent projects include specialty spaces, washing stations, and custom feeding bowls and bedding. “It’s part of the overall home management,” she says.

Natural Blend

Rethinking how homes integrate with the landscape and exploring ways interior spaces can provide places to gather as well as areas to be separate are frequent conversation topics with clients, says architect Jody McGuire of SALA Architects. “People are caring much more for their landscapes and the way they move in and out of their homes,” she says. Inside, “some of that open floorplan that we saw so much of maybe five years ago is a bit more distinct and separated.” In Wisconsin, McGuire designed a cabin that connects to nature in all directions. “The deck becomes an extension of the living room, and the view itself becomes an ever-changing landscape scene beyond the dining table.” 

Smart Lighting Control

We’ve all been there, pressing unidentified buttons or mindlessly flipping switches hoping the right light turns on. An all-in-one keypad takes away that guessing with labels—Welcome Home, Entertain, Pathway, All Off—and controls multiple lights and levels throughout the home, says Kristin Reinitz, co-owner of Admit One Home Systems. Bonus: The sleek design removes the old-school bank of ugly light switches, or what Reinitz calls “wall clutter.” 

Editors’ Pick:

Instant Architecture

An impactful fireplace surround brings architectural interest to new homes that might lack built-in character. Calypso stone fireplace by François and Co., 811 Glenwood Ave., Ste. 270A, Mpls., 612-375-9540,

Making History

Kitchens today are getting more dimensional with color and architectural details, says builder Kate Hage, who partnered with designer Kelly Caruso on a Lowry Hill kitchen design. “There’s a movement away from all-white kitchens to ones that have bold color, and we’re beginning to see more wood come back to bring warmth,” Caruso adds. Although the Minneapolis kitchen they built is new, the space pays homage to the neighborhood. “We wanted the interior to reflect those historic details,” Hage says. “There is much more interest today in creating traditional spaces. People are starting to gravitate toward history and memories.”

Pro Tip

Whether building new or remodeling, make decisions early and try to stick with them to avoid construction delays. Supply chain and lead times are still affecting some categories, such as windows and cabinets, says Chris Egner, president of NARI.*

*NARI: National Association of the Remodeling Industry

Editors’ Pick:

Modern Firepit

This portable mood maker brings the fun fireside in the smallest of spaces. Solo Stove, $350, available at Ace Hardware (multiple metro locations),


“People are asking for more specialty features in their homes than they probably have ever before,” says Mark Peterson, owner of MA Peterson Designbuild. Windows—lots of them—are high on the list for seamless outdoor connections and light-filled rooms. A vaulted all-in-one living space overlooking Lake Minnetonka (above) features a 50-foot-long wall of windows that slide open to the balcony. “People want rooms to function better but also with more features that make them feel better, too,” he says.

Pro Tip

“The biggest thing is to preplan,” says James Julkowski, president of Housing First Minnesota. “You really want to make sure you get your design down first because that drives everything.”

More S’mores

Grilling stations and pizza ovens are moving partially indoors, away from the exposed elements. Blake Swanson, vice president of Swanson Homes, installed a Wolf grill inside a three-season porch in Medina (above).  Surrounded with cedar cabinetry, a granite countertop, and vented hood, the grill is just steps away from the main kitchen. “With an outdoor kitchen, you’re not as likely to use it in January,” he says. “At this home, you have the ability to grill year-round.”

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