Sunday, March 29, 2015

Renovation rookies build new home inside old walls

The Quinns display a favorite painting by local artist Hiromi in their new gray-tiled living room. They kept the original wood-burning fireplace but added a sculptural concrete surround. SHNS photo

SH11L150RENOVATIONROOKIES Dec. 26, 2011 -- The Quinns display a favorite painting by local artist Hiromi in their new gray-tiled living room. They kept the original wood-burning fireplace but added a sculptural concrete surround. (SHNS photo by Tom Wallace / Minneapolis Star Tribune)

From page C3 | January 20, 2012 |

By Lynn Underwood

Family members tried to talk Natalie and Bryce Quinn out of buying their early 1920s Mediterranean-style fixer-upper in Minneapolis.

“My dad said, ‘You don’t know how much work this will be,’” Natalie said.

And Dad was right, Bryce conceded. “But we bought it anyway.”

The Quinns, who had never remodeled a home before, thought it would take just a few months to repair and update the neglected home. Instead, they spent more than a year on a whole-house renovation, ultimately rebuilding a modern interior within the Old World concrete and stucco shell.

When Bryce first stepped inside the multi-level Mediterranean, he dismissed it as another DIY special they would be fools to take on.

“It was rundown, the windows were nailed shut and it hadn’t been touched in 50 years,” he said. Still, Natalie was seduced by its Mediterranean charm, especially the curved archways, vaulted-ceiling sunroom and three graceful Juliet balconies across the front.

“It had a good energy,” Natalie said. “And I felt like it really had potential.”

Bryce got on board because of the home’s great location — plus it was in their price range. In the fall of 2009, the Quinns bought the 2,800-square-foot house “as is.”

“After we closed on the house, we were handed the keys, and none of them worked,” Bryce recalled. “Not a good sign.”

They had planned on making typical cosmetic improvements — new lighting and paint and rehabbing the outdated bathrooms before they moved in. Their biggest project was remodeling the tiny servants’ kitchen, which was on another level off the living room. “If people on HGTV can do it, why couldn’t we?” said Natalie.

But when Bryce tore down plaster walls to move a bathroom, he discovered rusted leaky pipes. When they pulled up carpet, they unearthed uneven floors. Rotting windows would have to be replaced. The red metal roof had been improperly installed, and water was dripping into an upstairs room.

“We got in way over our heads,” Bryce said. “We had bought a house that needed 100 times (more) work than we wanted to do.”

The couple reassessed the home’s condition and decided to demolish all three levels of the interior, retain the concrete block and stucco shell and start from square one.

Bryce took time off from his job at his family’s business to serve as general contractor. He hired experts to hang drywall, do plumbing and lay tile. He did the demolition himself, with the help of friends.

Natalie, meanwhile, launched a blog, Quinn + Co Urban Design (, to document their progress and vent about the “highs and lows of construction.”

When every last wall was down, “it opened up all these possibilities,” Natalie said. “That’s when we started to have fun. We got out a ruler and drew a new floor plan.”

But after six months, the Quinns had run out of renovation money. With just the framing and floorboards completed, they had to re-evaluate whether it was worth it to continue or whether they should sell. After consulting with real estate agents, they were assured that finishing the home would be a good investment and took out another loan.

The Quinns finally moved into their nearly finished home 13 months after the closing. “It’s exceeded our expectations,” Bryce said.

Instead of a kitchen center island, Natalie chose a long granite-topped Parsons table that doesn’t obstruct the elevated view from the dining room. “It’s a community table where you can pull up a stool on both sides,” she said.

The Quinns decided to salvage the original staircase, and refinished the dark oak steps as an homage to the home’s history. But they added a modern touch — a wall made of glass to let in more light. “It looks like something you’d see at a car dealership,” Bryce said.

The upstairs level holds two bathrooms, a guest bedroom, office and a master suite with a walk-in closet the size of a luxe dressing room. The couple meticulously chose every material and finish, from the chunky bar-style faucets to the quartz-topped walnut cabinets, which are duplicated in other rooms.

“Repeat elements,” advised Natalie, who designed the interior. “It gives a home continuity and unifies the spaces.”

In the end, they spent about $350,000 to essentially build a brand-new house, which includes new stucco exterior and landscaping.

“In hindsight, it would have been easier to tear it down,” Bryce said. “But we were naive and wanted a challenge. Now we’re glad we saved it.”

— Minneapolis Star Tribune



Scripps Howard News Service

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