Overlooking the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is a loft-like condo that feels like a piece of art in itself. But before its bright and inspired makeover, the dwelling was dark and dated, wrapped in maple paneling and embedded with cigar smoke. To give it new life as a glam, light-filled pied-à-terre, a talented team opened up the cramped rooms and instilled a touch of class, complete with finishes worthy of a gallery. “Our goal was to make it clean, sleek and modern, but not cold — more art deco,” says Jean Rehkamp Larson, partner at Rehkamp Larson Architects.
Having worked with the homeowner before, Rehkamp Larson knew her client’s design-minded eye, and together they jumped into the project along with builder Welch Forsman Associates, known for their exacting attention to detail. First, they opened up the many dark little rooms into a “simplified, clean living space.” The new floor plan allowed for each of the more public spaces — the kitchen, sitting room and living room — to face the bank of glass windows and doors, maximizing the natural light and views of the art outside.
One area they intentionally defined was the entryway. “There was no sense of entry,” the architect explains. “We didn’t want to walk in from the elevator into the middle of the room, so we created a classic foyer.” Even though this space is contained, the walls and ceiling shimmer thanks to muted yet buttery custom plasterwork by Darril Otto, who “made it glow, especially when the daylight comes in.”
Such luxe finishes are what really made things shine and sparkle top to bottom, from the stepped ceilings to the bleached walnut herringbone floors, which replaced carpeting that covered up a wildly uneven surface. To level matters, the team had to shuttle up lightweight concrete via a crane and set up a mixer onsite, pumping up parts of the floor nearly three inches.
Another challenge was painstakingly fitting the many floor-to-ceiling design applications. Giant slabs of marble were used in the primary bathroom as a dramatic backdrop for glossy white acrylic cabinetry surrounded by polished nickel. Because the slabs were prefabricated, they had to be perfect before the crane sent them up for install. “It was a day of high drama,” recalls Don Forsman, president of Welch Forsman Associates. “There was no room for error; everything had to be flawless.”
Likewise, in the living room, a custom floor-to-ceiling fireplace by Live Oak Ironworks was crafted with large quadrants of blackened steel to conceal the TV and finished with a bronzed fireplace surround. In the kitchen, a bank of striking stainless-steel cabinetry by Jon Frost runs an entire wall, also prefabricated to a tee along with the slab of marble on the island. Once again, perfection was the only option. “The finishes were ridiculous,” Forsman notes. “Wood is one thing, but stone and stainless steel have no give. It all had to be perfect — and it pretty much came out that way.”
To complement everything, the homeowner opted for brass hardware and custom floating shelves, which warm up the kitchen so the space reads luxurious rather than industrial. She also accessorized rooms with vintage sconces and chandeliers. As Rehkamp Larson explains, “She’d rather have a light fixture than a diamond — that’s her jewelry.”
Artsy finishing touches abound, like dark hues found in wallpaper, a cozy library and a bathroom, where Pietra gray tiles shift from glossy to matte halfway up the wall. “There’s no milquetoast here,” Rehkamp Larson shares. “It’s either bright and airy, or deep and moody. That’s pretty glam in itself.”