Colleen and Sam’s completely renovated modern little Minneapolis house

Outside

The offbeat occupant: Colleen, Nonprofit volunteer coordinator

Other occupants: Husband Sam

Approximate square footage: 650-1000 sq. feet (60-93 sq. meters)

How many bedrooms? 2

Lives in: Northeast Minneapolis, MN

When did you move into this home? Sam moved in in February 2009 and I in April 2010.

Let's start with the neighborhood. What's it like where you live? We love where we live! Our neighborhood has lots of personality and variety. Northeast Minneapolis has great restaurants of nearly every global cuisine, and the arts scene is thriving here. So much is within easy walking or biking distance; I love knowing that I can easily get cough medicine when I'm sick, fresh doughnuts for a treat at work, and last-minute cilantro for dinner all within just a few blocks.

Outside

What makes your home offbeat? Our house was built in 1901 and by the time Sam bought it, it was condemned and boarded. He spent over a year doing a complete rehab inside and out. I helped some, but Sam gets most of the credit.

Garden

One of our priorities was making our home efficient and eco-friendly. All of our appliances are really energy-efficient, which keeps our utility costs low. We chose a bamboo floor, well-insulated windows, and the other "green" things we could afford. Next items on our earth-friendly list are expanding the vegetable garden and building a rain garden.

Go Nordeast

We're both inspired and calmed by nature, so we chose relaxing earth tones for the house and a lot of wood furniture. However, we also like modern vintage stuff, so our artwork leans towards more urban style. Most of it is from local artists and came from our giant annual neighborhood art crawl.

Dining room

A lot of our furniture is vintage finds from Craigslist because we like the personality and affordability of it. The rest is a mix of Ikea, Room and Board Outlet (anyone in the Twin Cities MUST check it out!), Target, and the dining table is a family antique. It may not all represent the same era or style, but we think it mostly goes together well enough.

Living room

Our house isn't that large (850 sq. feet, 79 sq. meters) but most of the time we like its little size. Although Sam is a little possession-prone (which means clutter in such a small house), it's easy to keep such a small space clean. The high ceilings, open floor plan, numerous windows, and large yard help our home feel larger than it is.

Whole house

What's the most challenging about this space? How do you deal with the challenge? Our house is not very big! That's both something I love and something that drives me crazy. Our house and room layouts are limited; for instance, our bedroom opens right into the dining room. That means that there's no such thing as public and private space. Occasionally I wish we had an upstairs or a hallway to make things feel more separate. We don't have many options to arrange our living room furniture, and our bedroom barely fits a queen bed and one dresser. We have three small closets in the whole house, and while we have a small garage and basement, they are both kind of gross, damp, and not ideal for storing some things.

Nonfunctioning vintage electronics

Overcoming this challenge is still a work in progress, especially since we've been living together less than a year and are still figuring out what we each need and want from our space. Because I am less into "stuff" than Sam is, I've had to learn that not every nook and cranny can be organized the way I wish it were. Despite me wishing we had more kitchen storage, one drawer will be for Sam's random junk. I try to let little spaces like that go.

On the practical side, we benefit a lot from closet organizers, good shelving, and storage-centric furniture such as our buffet, armoire, and kitchen cart.

What's your favorite feature of your home? Because nothing was salvageable, we got to select everything from the doorknobs to the paint colors to the medicine cabinet. That means that we like a lot of things about our home!

My personal favorite feature is our yard. We've got almost a double lot, which gives us ample space for a garden, fire pit, and outdoor entertaining. Because our indoor space is limited, we have friends over a lot more in the summer when we can be outside. Come winter, I love our plentiful windows so I can enjoy the sunshine without being in the frigid cold.

Dresser

What's the most important lesson you've learned from this home? This home has taught me to love the imperfect. Our place will never be quite done; that's the challenge and exciting potential of a self-done rehab. I used to think that a few unfilled nail holes or missing cabinet knobs would drive me up the wall, but I've slowly learned to love my home despite what's not perfectly complete. Making progress on those small to-dos is exciting, but I can survive without most of them.

What's your grandest plan for the space? We love our house and neighborhood, but we know that someday we'll want a bigger place. We've talked about adding on a second story so we can keep what we love but have that dreamy master suite with dual closets, a living room that can actually hold a normal-size couch and loveseat, etc. Maybe we'll do it, maybe we won't.

Office

Shorter-term projects include putting up the crown molding and curtains we have just begging to be installed, painting the bathroom blue, rehabbing the ugly front porch, and continuing to improve the landscaping. Some day we'd like a bed frame, "real" nightstands (mine is currently fashioned from a Three-Buck Chuck box), a dining table that's not falling apart, and things like that — but they're not too high on our priority list.

Windowsill

What advice do you have for other offbeat homies? These days, it seems that a lot of friends of mine in their mid-twenties are buying homes or dreaming of it. I generally like owning our home, but I've also enjoyed renting. Neither is right for everyone. There's no one way to make a home. Don't buy unless you're sure it's what you really want for yourself, and at that time do a lot of research and get some financial advice. With the market as bad as it is, home ownership is tough to get out of if for some reason you want a change.

Show me the decor porn — AND the crazy condition the house was in when they bought!

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  1. 1) Your house is gorgeous! And 2) My name is Colleen and my husband is Seth, so when I read "Colleen and S" I about flipped! It's rare to meet another Colleen, so I would have peed myself if your husband had the same name as mine, too!

  2. This house is so cute! It's great that you where able to start from scratch and make it just the perfect little house for you two!

    I love the colours you have chosen!

    1 agrees
  3. It's so funny–I never know exactly how to define my personal decorating style until I see it. This house is it.
    I love a WIDE variety of styles and themes, but this house embodies the exact sort of style I want to really live in. Really–I have a vintage radio VERY similar to this one, I love the art, I love the colors, I love the wood. PERFECT!
    I'm totally inspired to edit down some of my possessions!

    2 agree
  4. I used to live in this area (and miss it a lot). Thank you for rescuing the house and making it look fantastic!

  5. Wow! I love the dining room table and chairs. They are so friggen amazing! And the archway in the living room! OMG! LOVE IT! And good job to both of you! It's hard work to even do light repairs on a house let alone compleatly giving it a beautiful makeover! It's beautiful!

  6. I LOVE that dining table and I also LOVE the light greeny/grey color of the downstairs walls and I LOVE how the two of them go together so beautifully. Can I ask what that paint color is?

    • I got a chance to look at the paint… the green is "Kiwi Kissed" by Dutch Boy. We get so many comments on it when people come over. We didn't realize we were choosing anything special!

  7. Fantastic renovation!

    I live in the area as well, and have seen so many similar houses (in the before state). It's nice to see one updated. Also, I love the Adam Turman art – he is a great local artist that I'm a huge fan of.

    1 agrees
  8. Your house looks so nice, you're IMO so brave to take on a condemned home.

    Thanks for talking about a rain garden I've never heard about them and it was fun to learn about some thing new.

    • Our area has a nonprofit/city partnership to provide classes, consultations, plants, and garden construction at really affordable rates, and they offer grants and things. If anyone is ever looking in to building a rain garden, I recommend checking if the same things are available in your area.

  9. I love your home! I just bought a 1915 house in Anoka and I'm excited to start renovating it too! plus I love Adam Turman and have some of his art too!

  10. This is just incredible. I'm blown away. I would have been terrified to rip up that carpet or tear away those old ceilings, especially since the tiles showed obvious water damage. What you did was beyond brave, and had to take a lot of know-how and heart.

    2 agree
  11. Ah! I am in the process of looking for a little home in NE Minneapolis (moving from NJ). I'm glad to hear positive things about the neighborhood!

  12. Love. We live in Northeast Minneapolis in a little house as well, and love it for all of the same reasons you expressed! Also, your house looks REALLY familiar. So I'm sitting here wondering if I bike by it on my way to work? Small world!

    P.S. I <3 Adam Turman's art. 🙂

    • You'll know it's our house if it's in a row of five identical little houses, each painted a different color. Small world indeed!

      • OK. Yep. I know exactly where that row of cute houses sits! Makes me think of "Little Boxes" when I see them. We used to live right up the street. We had to buy elsewhere, but most of our friends live that way and we absolutely adore that neighborhood.

  13. Wow, thank you all for your kind comments! It's great to have so many people on Offbeat Home who love old homes, restored homes, Minneapolis, and the same things we love.

  14. Nice, I love this place, especially since my husband and I just bought a house in the same neighborhood! NE MPLS is such a great area and your work on the house is remarkable.

  15. Colleen and Sam, I'm so awed by your home. I saw it in the "mostly after" state, and it's even more beautiful now. You two are good role models for others who want to own a home but get scared away by the amount of work. There are so many ways people can learn to do home renovation themselves-books, videos on the internet, asking friends,and trading labor with friends or family. What a feeling of pride and accomplishment you must feel every time you look at the before and after photos. Congratulations from a proud auntie.

  16. Wow-I came upon this today as I was daydreaming of moving back to Minneapolis (my home town). Your cute Nordeast house is making me homesick (in a good way). Also, before I moved to CO I picked up some of Adam Turman's prints-they are all over my apartment and are a great reminder of the great city!

  17. We also bought a fixer-upper where each room needed a complete overhaul. So far we've only managed to get three rooms done though, and we've been here a year! How did you keep yourselves motivated to keep going? It looks like you didn't take any shortcuts either! Gorgeous work!

    • Thank you! While my now-husband did most of the work on evenings and weekends, he did hire help for some of the more daunting or skilled tasks.

      The main motivation, though, is that our house was condemned, so he had to renovate it completely in order to get an occupancy permit. Until he did that, he couldn't live in the house. Nothing like owning one home while renting another home to get a fire lit under you!

      • That makes sense. Ours is livable, even if a little gross. What tasks were worth hiring someone else to do, and which were easy to tackle yourselves?

        • Good question. We hired out some of the plumbing/electrical/HVAC work as required by city ordinance (which we had to be 100% compliant with to get that occupancy license). We also hired out the driveway paving.

          My husband also chose to hire pros to do some things that he could do, but would take him a lot longer and not look as good: laying the wood floor, exterior painting, some of the drywall and tile, etc. Many of these pros were happy to let my husband assist them, which got the work done faster/cheaper and let my husband learn from their expertise. We also hired some handy friends for short-term help with stuff like roofing, siding, kitchen install, etc. That was just to get things done faster.

          I think the hire vs. DIY balance is different for every situation. Young House Love recently had a conversation about that: http://www.younghouselove.com/2012/10/when-to-diy-vs-when-to-hire-it-out

          • That was a good read, thanks! I wouldn't have thought to hire someone to install doors but after some of our fiascoes I am seeing its merit. I enjoyed scrolling through her before and after shots too 🙂

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