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Mark and Jill Heggestad have always followed one rule when buying a home. “We didn’t want to see a house in our backyard,” Mark says. The couple’s starter home, where they lived for 27 years and raised three sons, overlooked a picturesque creek. After becoming empty nesters, they moved to a house in Corcoran that was set on six acres. If avoiding neighbors behind them was a good thing, having no neighbors at all would be even better, they reasoned. But they soon realized they had made a mistake. “We felt isolated and missed being close to restaurants, live theater and Gopher sporting events,” Mark explains. And so, they decided to move again, this time closer to the city. Their search focused on Lake Johanna, an area that they had long admired that’s only 10 miles from downtown Minneapolis. The couple’s real estate agent discovered the property before it had even come on the market and sent the Heggestads to check it out. Mark knew it was the one before he stepped inside, besotted by the west-facing views. “Watching the sunset is the highlight of my day and I want to experience as many of them as possible,” he says.

Photography by Spacecrafting

The 3,500-square-foot house was sound but dated, with hallmarks of its build year (1997) — loads of honey oak woodwork, a bulky fireplace and a peninsula in the kitchen. The couple wanted to remodel but took their time finding a partner for the project. For three years, they attended local home tours to see what was out there. They even considered doing it themselves. “We did that at our previous homes but couldn’t quite figure out how to do it here,” Mark explains. None of the tour houses resonated with them (“Everything was white on white on white, and we didn’t want that,” Jill says) until they saw a 1929 Mediterranean in St. Paul by Vujovich Design Build. The timeless quality of the remodel, particularly the abundance of natural woodwork, struck a chord with the couple. The son of a woodworker, Mark is a skilled carpenter who quickly honed in on the quality of the craftsmanship. “Both he and Jill have a sharp eye for design,” says Lori Balestri, the sales and design director for Vujovich.

The Heggestads brought Vujovich on board to help bring their nineties-era house up to date. They wanted to improve the lake views and make the home feel more like them. But not too much. With a cabin up north and two sons living out of state, the couple wanted to keep their options open. “We planned to live here about seven years before moving on and wanted to be mindful of resale,” says Mark.

Balestri opened the main floor by removing a wall separating the kitchen and living room and installing new picture windows along the entire area. She unified the space with white oak hardwood floors and replaced the burly fireplace with a slimmer, more sophisticated version in limestone and walnut. In the kitchen, the Heggestads took a leap of faith when the Vujovich team suggested they skip a walk-in pantry in favor of more cabinets (including a few that are cleverly integrated with the range hood). “I was worried we wouldn’t have enough storage, but they were right,” said Jill. “We have more than we need!” A large quartz-topped island accommodates family cooking projects celebrating the Heggestads’ Norwegian heritage — lefse, krumkake and meatballs. Warm, rift-sawn walnut cabinets and a charcoal island and range hood help ground the light-filled kitchen. Balestri also picked up the walnut to trim a cased opening between the kitchen and living room — a smart-looking frame that distinguishes the rooms. Mark contributed his woodworking artistry via an integrated wine rack of his own design. Placed under a counter along a window wall, it breaks up the cabinet and creates a stylish bar with a great view.

As is sometimes the case when remodeling older homes, there were a few surprises. “Halfway through the project, when we removed the old windows and decking, we discovered the house hadn’t been wrapped properly and was rotting,” Balestri said. The whole house would need to be rewrapped and sided, at a considerable expense. The Heggestads loved how the house was being transformed and realized they might stay longer than they initially thought so they didn’t hesitate to approve the work. “Mark and Jill wanted to do this right,” Balestri says.

Sunset views of the lake are now a highlight of Jill and Mark’s everyday life in the house, as are visits from the grandchildren and peaceful paddle boarding and kayak outings on the lake. They see no reason to live anyplace else. “We’ll be here as long as it is physically possible,” Mark says. For Vujovich, there is no higher praise. “The fact that we helped create a home where Mark and Jill feel inspired and comfortable is the best compliment,” Balestri says.

Explore this home in person during the Artisan Home Tour June 21–23.

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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