Renovations refresh Lowry Hill home for empty nesters

Craig Futterer has made noises about downsizing from the Lowry Hill house where he and wife Terri Simard raised their family.

He mentioned it the other day, too. Simard’s response? “Noooooo.”

Rather than move, this empty-nester couple has remodeled the rooms that have needed it most, for functionality and beauty. Over the past 10 years, they have worked with House Lift Remodeler in Minneapolis on updating their kitchen, remodeling two bathrooms and adding a third.

The kitchen was the first project. They could not expand it because of the size of their lot, so they decided to make the most of what space they had.

The kitchen had metal cabinets dating from the 1950s or ’60s, and a range that was even older, “a big, six-burner gas thing with actual pilot lights in it,” Futterer said.

It also had a butler’s pantry that took up space the family wanted for cabinets, counters and eating. They replaced the metal cabinets with maple, and added an island and counters made of black granite.

They had House Lift remove the swinging door that connected the pantry to the dining room and install a new doorway with a pocket door into the opposite end of the same wall. Now they had space for a new refrigerator and additional cabinets. The builder replaced a pair of corner cabinets across the room with windows that increased the kitchen’s natural light.

House Lift did more to lighten up this part of the house. The builder opened up part of the wall that had enclosed the back stairs, allowing those who walked up or down to see into the kitchen.

It’s a frequent part of kitchen remodels in the neighborhood, according to House Lift president Randy Korn.

“The stairwell wasn’t very usable at all. It was dark,” Futterer said. “We use that stairwell all the time now.”

The kitchen remodel allowed for a higher ceiling. Rather than just paint it, Futterer and Simard decided to add a new but old-fashioned touch: a stamped tin ceiling. Raising the ceiling to 9-1/2 feet and adding the tin panels give it a greater illusion of space, according to Simard.

“We just thought it would be a cool architectural detail, especially given how high the ceiling in the kitchen was going to be,” Futterer said.

A remodeled half-bath and laundry room with a stacked washer and dryer rounded out the kitchen project.

“Now you have full flow from the dining room to the back of the house, opening up the stairwell,” she said. “That is kind of the heart and soul of the house and easy to get to from other parts of the house.”

House Lift also remodeled a full bathroom on the second floor during the kitchen makeover. The builder replaced a tub and shower located in front of a window with an updated tub and shower along an interior wall.

Two strips of glass block in the partial wall separating the tub from the toilet allows light to pass through while maintaining privacy. A pedestal sink flanked by a pair of tall storage cabinets stands opposite the tub.

For their next project, the couple decided to turn a dressing room into a master bath.

“We’ve owned the house for 24, 25 years,” Simard said. “At the back of our heads was, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have a master bath at some point?”

The 1910 house had a built-in armoire and a sink in the dressing room adjacent to the master bedroom. The armoire was 5-1/2 feet wide, but not deep enough to accommodate today’s hangers.

House Lift removed the armoire and installed a glass-walled shower, a maple vanity with a soapstone counter and a pair of raised sinks, and a heated ceramic tile floor. The builder also installed windows above the vanity, and made the most of the remaining space by locating mirrors in the adjacent corners.

A reclaimed pocket door now separates the master bedroom and bath. The couple replaced the armoire with a spacious, freestanding closet in the bedroom.

“We’re really amazed at how large the shower is, and when you walk in, it’s a very warm and inviting space,” Simard said. “And the armoire — I was sad at the end that we couldn’t put it to some use, but it allowed us to have a bathroom of this size. In the end, it’s excellent.”