Inviting the Home Tour hordes

Being on the Home Tour brings countless gawkers -- but homeowners participate for the civic virtue, to show off, and even to launch a new business

Looking for something fun to do on what should be a beautiful spring weekend? Why not throw open your doors and let dozens of complete strangers walk through your house and gawk?

That's what 38 property owners -- including 10 in Southwest -- are doing Saturday-Sunday, May 3-4, for the 2003 Minneapolis-St. Paul Home Tour.

Why blow a perfectly good weekend like that?

For some people, it's a tip of the hat to their architects or contractors. The tour is a way for designers and builders to showcase their talents, so they ask satisfied clients to participate. The tour also offers some homeowners a chance to launch a new home-related business of their own.

Some participants have enjoyed going on the Home Tour themselves over the years, and they say they wanted to return the favor. And some hope to get home decorating ideas from passers-by.

Here are a few of this year's Home Tour participants and their answers to the question, "Why?"

Alyssa Taylor: A fishy, fishy business

Alyssa Taylor of Kenny wants to start her own residential interior design business called "Fishy, Fishy Designs." Participating in the Home Tour seemed like a good business opportunity, she said.

"I am in the process of finishing my home right now," said Taylor, 5521 Dupont Ave. S. "I thought it was a good way to show off what my skills are and give ideas to other people -- and hopefully drum up some business for myself.

"I had a friend who did it last year. She kick-started her business pretty well."

Taylor used to work for Ellerbe, Becket doing commercial, office and retail interior design work, she said. Her priorities changed after becoming a mother. She wants to stay home with her 19-month-old daughter Avery, she said. Running her own business will give her more flexibility. She also wants to focus on residential design, particularly kids' play areas.

(She came up with the name Fishy, Fishy Designs from playing with Avery. "The first game she ever laughed at was when you'd squeeze her cheeks and go 'fishy, fishy,'" Taylor said.)

Taylor is most proud of the play area she created in the basement, and it only cost a couple hundred dollars for paint and toys, she said.

The playroom has a garden theme. The lower half of one wall is painted green to look like grass and also works as a chalkboard. The top half is painted sky blue and the horizon is decorated with wrapping-paper flowers.

She bought an inexpensive tent for Avery's house, a table and chairs for a picnic area and a mailbox. A cheap fabric-covered pine box provides for storage. She also bought a pocket organizer, so Avery "can sit and play with the pockets, pulling things in and out," she said.

Taylor and her husband John have been on a tight budget because of a period of unemployment and the baby, she said. She wants to show people on the tour what kinds of things homeowners can do with relatively small homes and limited expense, adding shelves and organizing closets.

The prior owners rented the house, and "it was pretty gross," she said. The Taylors have fixed walls and windows, moved doors and repainted, yet she estimates they have spent less than $3,000 on fix-ups.

The Taylors bought their 1,200-square-foot home (their first together) in 2000, merging stuff from an 1,800-square-foot home and a 900-square-foot apartment, Alyssa Taylor said.

"I have lots of baskets and I use a lot of wall space for storing things," she said. "Needless to say, it is very efficient."

Marjie Smith: A Home Tour vet

Marjie Smith of East Harriet has gone on the Home Tour for more than a decade to get decorating ideas -- colors, wallpapers and finishes -- and "seeing what is possible in older homes," she said. She decided to strip the paint off her mantel after she saw so many beautiful natural wood mantels on the tour.

Smith, 804 W. 41st St., will participate in this year's tour, showing her newly renovated home and garden, she said. Her contractor asked if she would do it, but she also is looking forward to talking to visitors -- particularly asking for people's opinions about her color scheme.

"I am still open to doing more things," she said. "I do a lot of painting and wallpapering. I am hoping to get some ideas from them. You just never know; it's another fun experience."

Smith spent $28,000 to expand an existing porch, and make a four season porch. "When people come over, that is where they want to be, because it is very comfortable," she said of her new porch.

She spent $10,000 to convert her lawn into a low-maintenance native plant garden and for wall repair. Richfield-based EnergyScapes landscaping designed a system to catch the roof-deck runoff and channel it into a small water garden.

Smith lives on a direct walkway to the Lake Harriet Rose Garden, and lots of passersby stopped last year to ask her about her work-in-progress, she said. She wants them to see the final product.

Smith has lived in the house for 29 years, and a lot of her neighbors hadn't seen the inside, she said. "I thought I would open it up to them, too."

Larry and Barbara Rudnick: Tooting their contractor's horn

Larry and Barbara Rudnick had a dryer fire in their Fulton home in November 2001. It caused minimal structural damage but plenty of smoke damage, forcing them to move out for six months, Larry Rudnick said.

The kitchen -- located above the dryer -- needed to be gutted and redone. But the Rudnicks had problems with their first kitchen contractor and were in "a dire situation," Barbara Rudnick said. They hired Keith Holtan as a replacement and were very happy.

Holtan asked them to participate in the Home Tour, and Barbara Rudnick said she wanted to help him get more business.

"He was a decent, honest, caring man who did superb work," she said. "What can I say? That is why I wanted to do it."

Larry Rudnick said Holtan's design added more counter space and storage space than they had before. He wanted to participate in the Home Tour to promote city living.

"We are very committed to the city," Larry Rudnick said. "We have lived here for 23 years. Our girls grew up here. We want to see the city to continue to be healthy. Showing nice places in the city is a positive benefit."

In addition, they had been through so many decisions and so much turmoil with the reconstruction "that it is just fun to share the story with other people," he said.

The Rudnicks are going to take split shifts during the weekend, and Larry Rudnick has Home Tour advice that goes beyond remodeling tips.

"I would take the opportunity to give people the caution -- regularly clean the ducts coming out of their dryer," he said. "They build up with lint, and the lint is highly flammable. Simply cleaning the lint trap is not sufficient. It is a common cause of house fires."