Firm Infuses New Life into Vintage Showhouse

Minneapolis, MN —
Preserving the old while incorporating the new was the mantra for the revitalization of a 1925 colonial revival home that was part of the 2006 Minneapolis & Saint Paul Home Tour.

The home, located in the Nokomis neighborhood of Minneapolis, was in an extreme state of disrepair when Michael Anschel, owner of Otogawa-Anschel Design-Build was brought in to help bring it back to life.

The owners wanted to keep many of the elements that made the older home feel so comfortable. Anschel also wanted to keep within his Minneapolis, MN-based firm’s commitment to “green” building by using eco-friendly, healthy, durable materials throughout the home – especially in the kitchen (see related story, Breathing Easy).

But these guidelines did not mean the home was without its stylish, fun elements. The family planned to stay in the home for many years, so Anschel took a more permanent approach to the design, styling it the way the owners liked as opposed to what would work for resale.

A Tree Grows in the Kitchen…

The revitalization of the home began with the relocation of the kitchen. “The original kitchen was located by the side door, so when you came in from the garage, you walked into the kitchen. There was no mud room,” explains Anschel.

He adds that the kitchen was also “trashed. It wasn’t livable. There were plants growing in there, and parts of the ceiling were falling down. It made the most sense to find a new location for the kitchen that would let it be a little larger, but also allow for a mud room.”

The new 15'x11'6" kitchen was built in a poorly finished addition that had been added to the back of the house in the 1950s. Anschel’s firm reworked the addition, bringing it up to date. This allowed a mud room to be added, as well as a three-quarter bath.

Anschel created a horseshoe shape in the kitchen to accommodate the double doors that lead to the dining room, in the room’s center.

Upon entry, the stainless steel refrigerator sits to the right of the doors. It’s flanked by cabinetry. Corner cabinets set at different heights and depths follow this area. “The husband is 6'4", while his wife is 5'3", so we installed cabinets with different functions – taller cabinets for him, shorter for her,” states Anschel.

He explains that the base cabinets were also pushed back so they are shallower than normal. “That way, a person can get into the corner and make use of the space,” he remarks.

The upper and base cabinets continue around the bend, framing the stainless steel range.

The dishwasher, plus a work space that includes an Elkay undermount sink and Kohler faucet, sits on the third wall. Beyond is a peninsula with an eat-in area. A window above the sink and a second sink in the kitchen bathe the room with natural light.

To the left of the double doors, in a separate corner, Anschel put a pantry. “There’s a floor-to-ceiling unit that has recycling, canned goods, a telephone, a note pad center and all of the extra dishes that you don’t need to have in the workspace,” he reports.

The kitchen cabinets are a mix of knotty and premium alder with a medium stain, “so it has a nice, reddish cherry glow to it,” he says. “The knotty alder was used for the rails and surround on the premium alder panels on the doors. The result is a little bit of character that doesn’t feel too rustic.”

Anschel topped the cabinets with reclaimed granite. Though he notes that three or four different colors of granite are used in the kitchen, most people don’t notice it when they walk in.

India Blue Pearl adorns the bulk of the countertop, which includes the peninsula and sink area. Absolute Black flanks the range, making it appear like a prep area, and a chestnut brown granite highlights the corner by the wine rack and appliance area. The backsplash mixes remnant granite.

“All of the granite surfaces were honed,” he explains, “which would have made for an uncomfortable work space due to the room’s natural light.”
The wood floors in the kitchen were Shade Tree, which is a blend of oak, maple, birch, walnut and cherry. “These are all end cuts from regular runs,” explains Anschel.

…And in the Bath

The second floor bathroom had not fared much better than the home’s original kitchen, as it also featured plants growing in the shower.

The small space had other design obstacles, such as an oddly shaped closet and a chimney. “The space was 7'1"x7'9", but the chimney and closet took up 2'7"x2'7" each,” stresses Anschel. He removed the closet and framing next to the chimney, but in the end, the bath only measured about 5'x7'.

Space constraints dictated many of the choices made in the room. “Instead of trying to come up with a vanity, which takes up too much floor space, or a pedestal sink, which doesn’t offer enough counter space,” explains Anschel, “we took another piece of scrap granite and drew our own design. It starts at one wall and slowly reduces itself, but extends over the top of the toilet. This provides almost 4' of counter space.”

He gave the granite an organic edge, incorporating shapes and curves. The green granite is brushed, which offers an even more distressed surface than honed. “It’s a great texture that’s almost soft to the touch,” he notes. A Kohler faucet and undermount stainless steel sink complete the look.

A deep soaking tub that is actually a shower/tub combination is included in the space, as is a dual-flush toilet in bone. A customized storage unit features little drawers, plus open shelves and those with doors.

A very complicated tile pattern was chosen for the shower, using 12"x12", 6"x6", 4"x4", 2"x2" and 1"x1" tiles in red, brown, white and multi-color. Anschel tried to create a three-dimensional feel with the tiles by not restricting them to a finished top line.

“Typically, tile will go up 5' from the tub deck and have a straight line,” elaborates Anschel. “We have tile that goes beyond that by 1' or 2' sometimes, or sometimes by 3", or sometimes [does not go beyond that] at all. We tried to break the feeling of being contained in a box, and sort of liberate the tile a little bit.”

Anschel set 24"x12" buff-colored tiles in a subway pattern on the floor. “Then, there are 1" holes in the tile where we set small, red button tiles in the corners,” he describes. Small glass deco tiles that look like curls were also set into the floor.

“In a small, square space like this one, we were trying to create movement in the floor,” notes Anschel.

“By using a staggered subway pattern, we created direction, and then by creating some small visual elements, we broke up what would have just been, essentially, a buff-colored floor. With the little red dots and the little pieces of gold glass, the eye stops for a second, which helps create the illusion of the room being larger than it is,” he concludes.