A modern makeover

On the northeastern shores of Lake Harriet earlier this spring, an army of interior designers and craftsmen were working to modernize a classic colonial-style house for this year’s American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) home showcase.

The two-story home of Pat Fallon, a renowned advertising guru, was chosen for the makeover as part of the month-long showcase event co-sponsored by Mpls.St. Paul Magazine. The house was originally built as a remote 1,000-square-foot lakeside cottage in 1905, when it was outside the city limits.

Fallon, 62, is the chairman of Minneapolis-based advertising agency Fallon Worldwide, whose clients have included BMW, Holiday Inn Express and United Airlines. The lifelong Minneapolis resident bought the $1.4 million home last June, according to Hennepin County property records.

“The house was a disaster when I bought it … but it had a great lot and a street I wanted to live on,” Fallon said. “Fremont Avenue by Lake Harriet is just a wonderful street. It’s a family neighborhood. It’s leafy and peaceful and quiet and full of beautiful homes, many of which have been restored. It’s a very tight, respectful neighborhood.”

Since its early-20th-century construction, the house’s deed had passed through the hands of several serial remodelers that all contributed their own additions, giving way to a painfully eclectic mix of design.

“The house really needed this [makeover],” said Lars Peterssen, principal architect of Domain Architecture & Design. “There were different kinds of doors, different kinds of molding, different windows. Everything had just not been looked at as a whole.”

But there weren’t just style problems. The rickety old house also had its share of structural issues,
Peterssen said.

“Some of the walls when they were opened up, it was almost like there weren’t studs there,” Peterssen said. “It was like an abstract composition of strange building parts in the wall. It was amazing that it was even standing up.”

Revamping and renovating the house to bring about a harmonious, up-to-date style has been the challenge for the squad of makeover artists, which includes some of the area’s top professional designers and students from the Art Institutes International Minnesota and Alexandria Technical College.

The team of designers have dedicated their attention to the house’s more than two dozen rooms and areas, which include a master suite, a guest suite, four children’s bedrooms, a dog-washing room, an exercise room, and a hunting and fishing room, among many others.

Fallon is a single father to five kids — three of whom still live at home with him. He said his family played a key role in guiding the direction of the house’s newly rejuvenated design.

“My kids have been involved in the designs of their rooms, and they’re really excited,” Fallon said. “They were the ones that, independent of me, put together the narrative of what they wanted and the feelings they wanted, and they met with the designers.”

When completed, the home will exude a contemporary feeling that isn’t too stark, but instead is rather warm and comfortable. The color scheme will be fairly neutral with a few surprising bursts of color, said Suzanne Goodwin, president of the Minnesota chapter of the ASID.

“Pat’s hip. His family’s hip. Were doing just some wonderful things all at kind of his urging,” Goodwin said. “With Pat’s creative spirit, he kind of led not only the architects but also the interior designers to kind of complete his vision of what he thought this house was going to be for him and his family.”

Upon walking into the front entrance, visitors are welcomed into an open foyer area. A long dining area breaks to the left. Just ahead, a one-of-a-kind wood and steel staircase climbs to the upper floors, which contain bedrooms, bathrooms, lounges, and an office.

On the first floor just past the staircase, there is a large gathering area and kitchen, which is outfitted with stainless steel appliances. The space’s massive windows open up to a backside porch, a backyard pool and in the distance, the northern tip of Lake Harriet.

“The minute somebody opened that front door, I wanted the response of ‘wow.’ I wanted everything driven to the back of the house toward the views of Lake Harriett’’ Fallon said. “I wanted every square inch of the house to be used. There’s no mausoleum rooms.”

This year will mark the 12th annual ASID home showcase. Last year’s showcase featured an 1893 Richardsonian Romanesque-style home located in St. Paul. Architect Cass
Gilbert, who was also credited with his work on the Minnesota State Capitol Building, designed the historic Summit Avenue house.

The 2007 event attracted more than 10,000 visitors, and organizers expect about the same number to turn out this year. Like last year, the proceeds from the guest tours will go to benefit Second Harvest Heartland, the Jeremiah Program, the Junior League of St. Paul and Cornerstone.

Aside from the numerous culinary events and designer-led tours that were part of pervious years’ showcases, this year visitors will also be able to access a prerecorded audio tour via their cell phones.

“The designers actually talk to you about their vision for each space,” said Bonnie Birnbaum, chair of the ASID steering committee. “People have millions of questions and, this way, you kind of hear from the horse’s mouth.”

The process of selecting a showcase home usually begins nine months before the date of the event. Despite the benefit to homeowners of getting designer’s cost on materials, it’s not easy to find a suitable house or homeowner willing to remodel on such a grand scale, Birnbaum said. Aside from the home itself, planners also consider its location and the public’s prospective interest in touring it.

“We want a house that we can make a significant impact on,” Birnbaum said. “We don’t want to come in and hang a few curtains and put furniture in. That doesn’t really express what designers do.”

So what can visitors expect to see at this year’s showcase home?

“I think they’ll see a very accessible, family-friendly home that is unlike anything they’ve ever seen before,” Fallon said.

If You Go
Where: 4300 Fremont Ave. S.
When: May 17 through June 15
Open: Wednesday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
(Closed Monday & Tuesday for
general tours)
Cost: $25 at the door. $23 at www.mspmag.com and $20 at ticket outlets. List of ticket outlets available at mspmag.com

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