Tour showcases Twin Cities homes

Bryce and Kelly Pier turned the unused attic of their Lyndale home into a hangout space for their two teenagers and added touches of their own, like a fiber optic star ceiling. Photos courtesy of the Minneapolis & Saint Paul Home Tour

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Minneapolis residents are showing off what they’ve learned with their own homes as part of the annual Minneapolis & Saint Paul Home Tour.

Homeowners from nearly 50 properties are set to open their doors April 28­–29 for the free, self-guided tour across the Twin Cities. From building a modern home from the ground up in Northeast Minneapolis to expanding onto a tiny Kenny home to entertain, these locals have experience in remodeling or completely redoing a home.

A teen hangout in Lyndale

3224_Harriet_AvS-5245 webWith two growing teenagers at home and one shower to share among the entire family, Bryce and Kelly Pier knew they needed to renovate.

Or Bryce’s sister-in-law did. The architect had an idea of turning a sleeping porch and a small bedroom Bryce used as an office into a master suite. And the projects started from there.

“I think every time we do a project there’s a lot of scope creep, project creep. ‘Oh wait, we’re going to do that,’” he said.

Bryce said they had put off redoing the roof of their 1904 Victorian home for some time. So, when they decided to add a solar electric array to the home, they decided to take care of the roof as well. The approximately 6000 kW array now generates the equivalent of about 130 percent of the Pier family’s energy needs.

“We pay Xcel (Energy) about four months a year, and the rest of the year they pay us,” Bryce said.

While they were up there, Bryce decided they could add skylights and work around a chimney that had made it hard to get into the attic, which they ended up renovating.

The top-floor space has become a family room with a home theater, but it’s mostly for their two kids, ages 16 and 13. Bryce added his own personal touch with a fiber optic star ceiling with color-changing lights, and the kids got hooks for hanging hammocks, giant bean bag chairs and soundproofing so they can make as much noise as they want.

“When your kids are teenagers where do you want (them) to be? Under your roof,” he said.

Bryce said the wave of projects have made their home more comfortable and energy efficient. In the 13 years they’ve lived there, they’ve redone the kitchen, which was featured the in the Minneapolis & Saint Paul Home Tour 10 years ago.

Bryce said the house has evolved and adapted with the family’s needs over the years. He said they hope to show off how homeowners can work with the home they have instead of trying to pay for something new.

“It’s always been about: We want to make this house what we want it to be,” he said. “I hope we’re done, we’ve pretty much touched everything in the house.”

There’s still the matter of landscaping and redoing the front porch, he said, but that’s another project.

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Modern design in Sheridan

It’s always been Jeremiah Albrecht’s dream to design and build his own home.

Albrecht and his wife Gretchen Bierbaum finally have that home in the Sheridan neighborhood of Northeast Minneapolis where Bierbaum operates two businesses, Sip Coffeebar and Straightline Dance Fitness.

The two bought a run-down home in the neighborhood a decade ago, but the Great Recession decided the dream home would have to wait. Last year, they finally got to start on construction, and they’ve just recently moved into their new home.

The two-story house gives the family about twice the room as their previous two-bedroom, one-bath home that they moved into in 2003. Albrecht, whose background is in designing and manufacturing furniture, put together the vision for the large, box-shaped home. Inside, it features lots of wood, simple white cabinetry in the kitchen and the clean lines associated with modern design.

“We designed it very specifically for how we like to live,” Bierbaum said.

Bierbaum said the house sticks out in the neighborhood with its flat roof and its exterior, which features uncoated Cor-Ten that will eventually develop an orange outer layer patina.

“Our section of the block is very eclectic already, so I felt OK about adding a modern house to this area because there is no solid design aesthetic,” she said.

Bierbaum said the project showcases what homemakers can do with a small lot. The two tried building the home in the corner of the property so they could preserve some green space, which she said will look secluded thanks to some privacy hedges once finished.

“I want sort of a secret garden feel in the backyard,” she said.

She said they plan to talk about how in their case finding a run-down property, sitting on it for years and eventually building their dream home was ultimately worth because they got to tailor it to their needs.

“I think you have to be aware that it’s a lengthy and frustrating process, but what you put forth in terms of the effort of going through the design and build process, you do end up with something that is made for you with your input,” she said.

Kristy Barnes and Bryan Carter added a new kitchen as part of a complete overhaul of what was a tiny 1937 home in Kenny.
Kristy Barnes and Bryan Carter added a new kitchen as part of a complete overhaul of what was a tiny 1937 home in Kenny.

Going up in Kenny

When Kristy Barnes and Bryan Carter decided their 690-square-foot cottage wasn’t enough room anymore, they looked up.

5405_Dupont_S-5626 webBarnes moved into the tiny one-bedroom, one-bathroom house nearly 30 years ago. Not wanting to move from the Kenny neighborhood they’ve grown attached to, they started renovating. During the construction, the two stayed out on Stubbs Bay in Orono, but Carter said they couldn’t wait to move back into their remodeled home.

The house has seen several projects over the years. They originally redid the kitchen and the bathroom. Then the two renovated the living room and added new built-in storage.

“We couldn’t entertain. We couldn’t have family dinners,” he said. “Essentially, we could have two people for dinner. I tell people we had three spoons.”

Eight years later and what was a five-room house has been nearly redone. The home is now two stories and is nearly three times the size at 1,770 square feet.

Through the project, Carter got a sewing room. They have an extra bedroom for guests. Despite the large expansion on top of the house, he said they got to retain the home’s cozy interior, which featured lots of windows and plenty of room situated around the central fireplace.

“We didn’t want this crazy McMansion,” he said.

Carter’s tip for homeowners is “spend the time and money to plan it out thoroughly.” The two took a year to work with designers, plumbers and others to pick out light fixtures, textiles and the plumbing to do it right. The only surprise along the way was a deteriorated part of the home’s chimney that required rebuilding.

“We sketched out these plans a long time ago, almost 20 years ago when we were dreaming about this,” he said.

Minneapolis & Saint Paul Home Tour

When: April 28–29

Where: Self-guided tour across 49 Twin Cities homes

Cost: Free