A reboot takes a 1970s Edina ranch home from drab to fab

As owners of a design-and-build firm, Jeff and Leslie Nicholson have done their fair share of home renovations.

When it came time for the husband/wife duo to find a home to remake for themselves, a ranch-style home was top of mind.

“It’s something we loved and talked about all the possibilities a ranch-style has to offer,” Jeff said.

With their kids grown, they were ready to downsize. So the couple traded in their two-story Edina home for a one-story classic ranch home, also in the western suburb.

“We bought the house from the original owners who built it themselves in 1970 and lived there for 40-something years with everything pretty much untouched,” said Jeff, who co-founded Minneapolis-based Quartersawn Design Build with his wife. “It was a great huge blank canvas to work with and a really nice layout, as well. The main floor is all laid out in a linear long line with a walkout into the backyard.”

The remodel was carried out in phases, with a main goal of ridding the home of no-longer-groovy relics from the disco era: shag carpeting, heavy drapery, dated wallpaper and dark rooms.

To accomplish that, natural materials were brought in to modernize the home as well as bring in warmth.

“It was installing hardwood flooring and new tile and updating all the finishes and light fixtures to get them from drab, dark ’70s to bright and more modern,” Jeff said.

The most dramatic transformation was the kitchen, which was expanded, reconfigured and outfitted with updated finishes and fixtures, including reclaimed white oak cabinets, quartz countertops, plank lime-washed oak floors and a glass tile backsplash. A wall between the kitchen and family room was taken down to create a more open floor plan and to invite in more natural light. They also put in a center island and relocated a seating nook to the family room.

“Those two moves allowed us to accommodate a 9-foot island and connect the family room to the kitchen,” Jeff said.

The lower level received a major remodel, as well, with spaces reimagined to create an exercise room and wet bar as well as updating guest rooms. At the same time, the couple made sure to preserve details such as the original fireplace, in which brick and stonework were updated with an Italian plaster treatment.

“You take some of the quirks from the ’70s and you work with them,” Jeff said.

Other major transformations included expanding and reconfiguring the primary bedroom and en suite as well as adding a large bay window.

“We have a very private backyard with a lot of wildlife. The combination of sunlight coming in, privacy and wildlife is making it all worthwhile,” Jeff said.

Home on the ranch

The exterior of the home was also given some love, with a refresh to the facade to make it lighter and brighter. The previous yellow hue was swapped for white, and a crimson-colored front door was traded for a contemporary glass one. Adding a clean-lined, curved retaining wall was strategic.

“The street is on a curve and how to delineate that space without sidewalks is an interesting circumstance in suburban lots,” Jeff said. “We came up with the idea of extending a retaining wall on one side of the house and taking classic Chilton Limestone [prevalent in Minnesota] to mimic the curve on the street and the curve of the driveway.”

To optimize outdoor spaces, a pavilion and a deck were added. That’s because the goal for the Nicholsons was to be able to enjoy their remade ranch-style home inside and out.

Jeff considers ranch homes to be full of design potential.

“The homes were solidly built. You can go up with second-floor additions. There’s the possibility of adding a wing to the back,” he said. “In our case, the floor plan was big enough to suit our needs.”

“I’m constantly with homeowners who are looking for more space. With small maneuvers, you can get some dramatic transformations, which is oftentimes far more reachable cost-wise than adding on.”

To show off the transformation, the Nicholsons’ revamped ranch home will be on the Parade of Homes Remodelers Showcase next weekend.

“It’s an opportunity for people who are interested in remodeling to go inside homes and get ideas,” said Parade of Homes spokesperson Katie Elfstrom. “There are outdoor spaces, there’s full home remodels, there are teardowns, there are basements. Every project you can imagine in your home is featured.”

Spring Parade of Homes Remodelers Showcase

What: Self-guided tour featuring 34 remodeled homes throughout the Twin Cities metro area.

When: Noon to 6 p.m., April 8-10.

Where: A free guidebook with addresses and maps is available at area Holiday Stationstores and Kowalski’s Markets. An electronic version also is available online.

Cost: Free, with the exception of the one dream remodeled home ($5) and goes toward the Housing First Minnesota Foundation.

Info: paradeofhomes.org

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