Real-life remodeling projects open for touring Star Tribune

home + garden

Real-life remodeling projects open for touring

Christine and Paul Kurzweg were driving around Bald Eagle Lake, where Paul had grown up, when they spotted a house for sale. The couple werent intending to move, but they decided to take a look anyway.

Once inside, they fell in love with the little home on the lake, with its beautiful views and European touches, such as the Bavarian-style lower level that reflected their own heritage. With three bedrooms and 1,600 square feet on the main floor, the 1950s rambler was just the right size for a pair of newly empty nesters who were ready to downsize.

The house near White Bear Lake was well-built, but needed updating, Christine recalled. They bought it and began the process of turning it into their dream home. Ten years later, that process was almost finished when disaster struck: an explosive fire that started in the garage and quickly spread to the house. By the time the fire was extinguished, the Kurzwegs had lost almost all their belongings, along with much of their house. What remained was heavily damaged by smoke and water.

We were heartbroken, said Christine. The couple wanted to restore and rebuild, even though some contractors advised them theyd be better off tearing down what was left and starting from scratch. Then a friend suggested they talk with Cary Becker, owner of Becker Building and Remodeling, who assured them he could make their little house smile again.

At first, the Kurzwegs were set on re-creating the house exactly as it had been, the house you loved and lost, Christine said. But after talking with Becker, they decided to retain the homes original character while improving on its flow. With that in mind, they added windows and removed walls to create an open floor plan and make the most of the lake. Now you walk into the kitchen and see the million-dollar view, Becker said. A front porch was added, on the lake side, providing another spot to enjoy the water and connect with neighbors.

The biggest challenge was blending old and new to create a unified home, said Becker. New cabinetry and doors resemble those from the houses original era.

Now that theyre back in their improved dream home, the Kurzwegs have a new appreciation for what matters in life, thanks to the support that sustained them after the fire and during the rebuilding. We truly felt embraced, Christine said. Great things can grow out of bad situations. This little home, everything its been through its a survivor.

Open to change

Beth Navara and her family had lived in their Chanhassen home for more than 15 years when they decided it was time to dramatically refresh their tired kitchen. Over the years, theyd replaced the countertops and flooring. But the kitchen still had its original 1992 oak cabinets, and it was too small to comfortably accommodate their family, which includes two teenage children.

So the Navaras hired Destiny Homes to transform their kitchen and bring it into the 21st century. I like to problem-solve, said owner Butch Sprenger, who removed the walls that separated the kitchen from the dining room and family room. The dining rooms square footage was incorporated into the new kitchen, and the kitchens back wall was bumped out 2 feet and cantilevered, adding 40 square feet that opened up space for a big center island with room for seating, plus a little wine bar. That small addition was huge, because it gave more width around the island; you could actually sit at it and eat, Sprenger said.

Once the Navaras got their kitchen updated, they decided to keep going and freshen up the rest of their homes main level. It was just a kitchen project originally, but you cant update just one part, Beth said. It was pretty open now, and you saw everything. I wanted it to look complete.

They installed new hardwood floors, resurfaced the brick fireplace with limestone, redid the stairway to add wrought-iron railings and converted a three-season porch into a room that can be used year-round. We put foam insulation in the floor, wall and ceiling, Sprenger said. Even without an additional heating system, the room stays toasty warm in winter when its doors are opened to the rest of the house. We had it open when it was 17 below outside, and it was the same temperature as the dinette, Sprenger said.

The Navaras spacious new kitchen, with its crisp white woodwork, hickory floors, cherrywood island and commercial-grade appliances, is as inviting and family-friendly as theyd dreamed it could be. Its so much more open, Beth said. We dont miss the dining room at all, and we still have eating space. I absolutely love it!

Kim Palmer 612-673-4784


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