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Before and After: Remodeled Ranch House

Big changes—and great style—for a suburban Minneapolis ranch house

Written by Amy Elbert
  • Werner Straube

    Susan Brunn’s home makeover inspirations came right out of her closet: sexy high-heel shoes (including pewter-colored Pradas and alligator-skin Manolo Blahnik pumps), a cashmere-silk scarf in soft sage, and a pair of graphite-gray Jackie O sunglasses. Susan was brainstorming with designers about ideas for converting her humble 1955 suburban Minneapolis ranch into a chic New York Hamptons-style shingle home when she opened her closet doors.

    “It was a fun way for Susan to relay what she was looking for in her home,” says Rosemary Merrill, a designer at Casa Verde, a Minneapolis custom kitchen and bath design business. “When she brought those things in, we instantly knew she wanted taupe, gray, and caramel tones, with soft whites and a touch of bling.”

    Colors and decorating style were just part of the equation. Lifestyle changes primarily drove Susan’s renovation. “When I first moved in here I was married, had two kids, two cats, and two dogs,” Susan says. “Here I am 15 years later. I’m divorced, my children are grown and out of the house, and all my animals have died, so it’s down to me,” she adds with a good-natured chuckle. “I love my house and the setting, but it was designed as more of a family house. I entertain a lot and have quite a few houseguests, so I had to figure out what changes could make it work for me now.”

    Instead of raising a family, Susan’s life now revolves around her work as a business partner at Casa Verde and entertaining friends and clients. “I was only living in half of the house,” she says, explaining that she rarely ventured to her lower-level former “rec room.”

    Susan and designer Merrill enlisted Minneapolis architect Jeff Murphy to do some of the heavy lifting, particularly working on structural and exterior design issues. Together the team spent the better part of a year reconfiguring both levels of the house, adding an exercise room above the existing garage, and giving the exterior an updated look with new cedar-shingle cladding.

    Murphy lifted the existing roof to boost ceilings from 8 feet to 9 feet 4 inches on the main level. Large double-hung windows with transoms were installed throughout the house, filling rooms with light and transforming the boring ranch into a Hamptons look-alike.

    A wall dividing the living room from the kitchen was removed, creating an entertaining area that reclaims the formerly neglected living room. Three sets of French doors were added along the living room’s side wall, opening the space to a new balcony that overlooks the swimming pool. “Now the house opens up to the outdoors and takes advantage of this beautiful wooded site,” Merrill says.

    “The house sits up high on a hill above the pool,” Susan adds. “When you’re looking over the pool, it’s like being in a tree house or in a snow globe in the winter.”

    A new Chilton stone fireplace (the same limestone is used on the exterior), flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows, anchors one end of the living room, replacing a dated picture window. Beamed and coffered ceilings and detailed trimwork on mantels and doorways give the house the weight and scale it previously lacked and add to the classic East Coast feel.

    In the living room, Susan replaced two leather sofas with shapely linen-covered pieces. “After 15 years of kids and dogs, they were done,” she sighs. Pattern enters the picture via the Tibetan area rug, pillows, and the stacked limestone fireplace surround.

    Merrill gave Susan the kitchen she wanted-—inspired by the movie Something’s Gotta Give. Cream-colored, inch-thick recessed paneled doors create shadows and have the scale the large space demands. A handsome center island features a walnut dining ledge that accommodates four at leather-seated stools.

    “Susan did not want backs on the bar stools because she wanted to be able to see the fireplace and the windows in the living room,” Merrill explains. Plus they tuck under neatly when she uses the island for serving. A small round dining table and curved settee and chairs offer more cozy kitchen-side seating for those who prefer relaxing around a table rather than sitting at the counter.

    The crowning touch for Susan is the richly grained gold-and-gray Calacatta marble countertop. “I saw the stone and almost hugged it,” Susan says. At the counter under one window, Merrill couldn’t resist playing up the beauty of the stone, designing a marble apron accented by a satin-nickel towel bar.

    The former family room was converted into the dining room with French doors to the balcony. Built-in cabinets that complement those in the kitchen, plus an updated two-sided gas fireplace (between the dining room and porch) give the house architectural interest and charm. For Susan’s dose of bling, she chose a glittering “drizzle” chandelier. She had her existing dining table refinished and updated it with new upholstered dining chairs.

    The old dining room was converted into a wine and music room that is visible from the foyer, giving Susan’s Steinway grand piano the stage it deserves. “It’s the perfect spot for the piano. It’s not in the way and yet is accessible when I entertain,” she says. Walnut cubbies and two tall wine coolers beautifully display wine.

    Architect Murphy opened up Susan’s rarely used lower level to create an inviting social space that houses a family room with a wood-burning fireplace, Susan’s home office, guest bedrooms and baths, a back entry with mudroom, and a second kitchen handy to the swimming pool.

    Massive curved brackets on the exterior support the balcony that overlooks the pool and boost the lower-level’s architectural importance. Murphy worked with the builder to include many eco-friendly features in the remodel, too, including a geothermal heating and cooling system. “It not only heats and cools my house, it heats the pool,” Susan says.

    Although the project was extensive, the 4,000-square-foot house’s footprint wasn’t altered. Rooms flow together, and Susan can entertain with ease. She spends much of her day working in her sunny lower-level office. “I feel like the house has grown into the lot,” Susan says. “It is now what it was always meant to be.”

    Photography: Werner Straube
    Produced by Elaine Markoutsas

    Architect: Jeff Murphy, Murphy & Co. Design, 2 Division St., Suite 203, Buffalo, MN 55313; 763/682-9294,
    Kitchen and bath design, space planning, custom cabinetry and interior design: Rosemary Merrill, Casa Verde Design, 911 W. 50th St., Minneapolis, MN 55419; 612/353-4401,
    Builder: Pete and Sue Jacobson, Lake Country Builders, 339 Second St., Excelsior, MN 55331; 952/474-7121,
    Landscape Architect: Adam Newton, The Corduroy Studio, 3592 Northome Road, Deephaven, MN 55391; 612/226-6888,
    Furnishings: Leila Lake, Leila Lake Design, 612/803-9817. 

    Windows (Architecture Series); front door (custom): Pella, 877/473-5527,
    Roof (charcoal shingles): Timberline, 800/766-3411,
    Stone (“Chilton”): Hedberg Landscape, 763/545-4400,
    Lantern (“Adger’s Wharf, large” #JG-1900): Urban Electric Co., 843/723-8140,

  • Werner Straube

    BEFORE AND AFTER Living Room

    The old living room had an outdated picture window has a fireplace, and opens up to both the kitchen and deck. Sofas are from Hickory Chair, and a wood-and-iron coffee table is from Formations through Holly Hunt. The Tamarian carpet is through Woven Arts.

    Sofas (“Sutton Sofa”/mahogany finish #321-88); sofa and pillow fabric (#2852-18); nailheads (#NS-09): Hickory Chair, 800/349-4579, Blanket on back of sofa (“Avalon”/Ecru, Dark Blue): Hermès, 212/751-3181, Pillows on sofa: Heinrich + Schultz, 952/920-2258, Orange throw (cashmere in Autumn Glaze): Williams--Sonoma, 877/812-6235, Coffee table (“Tavolino” #F-TB04): Formations, 310/659-3062,, through Holly Hunt, 312/661-1900, Orange leather tray on coffee table (“Wrapped Handle Tray”/Coral Leather #9.91378): Global Views, 888/956-0030, Vase on coffee table (“Corinth Rose Bowl” #1607): Simon Pearce, 800/774-5277, Area rug (“Pinepress”/Downing Stone,” Tibetan): Tamarian Carpets, 410/321-6222,, through Woven Arts, 612/370-4444, Sofa table (antique): Historic Studio,  952/933-9924, Mantel (custom): Casa Verde Design, 612/353-4401, Tall candleholders at right on mantel, short candleholder at left on mantel (“Turned Wood Pillar Holders); sleeve on short candleholder (“Hourglass Hurricane Sleeve”): Pottery Barn, 800/922-5507, Tall candleholders on mantel, left (antique): owner’s collection. Wooden horse (antique); porcelain vases (antique): Historic Studio, 952/933-9924, Benches (“Turned Leg Bench”/Ebony #6352-88, by Mark Hampton): Hickory Chair, 800/349-4579, Bench fabric (#190054H-160, in Mushroom): Highland Court, 800/387-2533, Side table (antique): Historic Studio, 952/933-9924, Mirror: owner’s collection. Lamp: Vivid Interior, 612/874-3282, Wall paint (“Stony Ground” #211): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121, Ceiling, trim, and cabinet paint (“Simply White” #OC-117); Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,

  • Werner Straube


    The kitchen needed a sturdier island that better fit the scale of the space. Appliances integrated into the custom cabinets by Casa Verde give the kitchen a furniture feel that blends with the adjoining living room. Wavy handmade glass imported from Germany and installed in cabinet fronts reflects light and adds character to the space. The island chandelier and the hanging lantern between the wall cabinets are from Dennis & Leen.

    Cabinetry (custom): Casa Verde Design, 612/353-4401, Cabinetry paint (“Simply White” #OC-117): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, Marble countertops (“Calacatta Gold,” Category A): Casa Verde Design, 612/353-4401, Tile backsplash (“Studio Moderne”): Walker Zanger, 713/880-9292, Cabinet knobs (“Square Cabinet Knob” #CK-524 11⁄4-inch knob in W1 finish); cabinet pulls (“Thick Square Handle Cabinet Pull #CK-545  5-inch C to C square pull in W1 finish); towel bar (#TB-32TBC-WI with #P-925 Escutcheon in W1 finish): Sun Valley Bronze, 866/788-3631, Fireclay kitchen sink (“Allia Single Bowl Undermount”/White #6307): Rohl, 800/777-9762, Kitchen faucet (“Vir Stil Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet”/Brushed Nickel #P23065-00, by Laura Kirar): Kallista, 888/452-5547, Filtration faucet (“Designer Series”/Brushed Nickel): EverPure, 855/790-5318, Counter stools (“Madigan Backless Stool”/Ebony #5750-05 ); leather seat (“Vacuma Seal” #946); nailheads (#NS-09, in Antique Nickel): Hickory Chair, 800/349-4579, Chandelier over island (“Gothic” #DL-CD06); hanging lantern (“Paul Revere,” custom size #DL-LN05): Dennis & Leen, 310/652-0855, through Holly Hunt, 312/661-1900, Wall paint (“Stony Ground” #211): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121, Trim paint (“Simply White” #OC-117): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,

  • Werner Straube
  • Werner Straube

    Breakfast Area

    Drexel Heritage chairs and a curved settee covered in a Duralee fabric circle a Hickory White table. “I love island seating, but I didn’t want to always have to sit in a line,” Susan says. Ebony-stained floors replaced light maple.

    Dining table (“Center Table” #303-29, 48 inches, in Maison finish #20): Hickory White, 828/322-8624, Dining chairs (“Pasqualina”/Walnut #470-751, Dalliance Collection); banquette (“Pasqualina”/Walnut #470-779, Dalliance Collection): Drexel Heritage, 866/450-3434, Chair and banquette fabric (#15318-15/Linen/Greystone, Wainwright Collection): Duralee, 800/275-3872,

  • BEFORE Dining Room

    What was once a formal living room with a fireplace Susan transformed into a cozy dining room.

  • Werner Straube

    BEFORE AND AFTER Dining Room

    Susan transformed what was once a formal living room into a cozy dining room. The spacious dining room is sun-washed during the day and warmed by a fireplace at night. Side chairs from Hickory Chair are covered in two fabric designs and partner with a Guy Chaddock table Susan had refinished. A chandelier from Ochre introduces a measure of glamour.

    Cabinetry (custom): Casa Verde Design, 612/353-4401, Cabinetry and trim paint (“Simply White” #OC-117); ceiling paint (“Seashell” #OC-120; moire troweled on metallic plaster): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, Wall paint (“Stony Ground” #211): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121,  Two-sided fireplace (“Town & Country TC36 See Thru”): Town & Country Luxury Fireplaces, 250/748-1184, Dining table (“Country English Double Pedestal Table with Radius Corners”/custom finish #CEO918): Guy Chaddock & Co., 828/584-7176, Dining chairs (“Marlboro Side Chair” #6172-11): Hickory Chair, 800/349-4579, Chair-seat fabric (“Alcazar”/Taupe #CD9003K311, by Fonthill); chair-back fabric (“Liege Tweed”/Sand #AL-0022CDA4, by Grey Watkins); nailheads (#NS-09, Antique Neutral): Stark, 212/355-7186, Area rug (“Tibetan Wrought Iron”/Stone Blue): Tamarian Carpets, 410/321-6222,, through Woven Arts, 612/370-4444, Chandelier (“Light Drizzle Chandelier”/Rectangular): Ochre, 212/414-4332, Porcelain pitchers on mantel (Pillivuyt): Williams-Sonoma, 877/812-6235,

  • Werner Straube

    Wine and Music Room

    The former dining room was converted into a wine and music room. Wine kept in walnut cubbies and two Sub-Zero wine chillers is easily accessible from both the dining room and the kitchen. Susan Brunn’s Steinway grand piano is showcased, illuminated by a glittering Pottery Barn chandelier.

    Cabinetry (custom): Casa Verde Design, 612/35Cabinetry (custom): Casa Verde Design, 612/353-4401, Wine storage (#427G, 27 inches): Sub-Zero, 800/222-7820, Cabinet pulls (offset pull #1145/Black, 61⁄4-inch pulls); appliance pulls (offset pull #1150/Black): Ashley Norton, 973/835-4027, Chandelier (“Clarissa Chandelier”): Pottery Barn, 800/922-5507, Wall paint (“Stony Ground” #211): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121, Trim paint (“Simply White” #OC-117); Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, Ceiling paint (“Accessible Beige” #SW7036, with shimmer): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794,

  • Werner Straube

    Easy Elegance

    The appaoach to the music room is the epitome of elegance.

  • Werner Straube

    Sun Porch

    The ceiling in the sun porch was vaulted and painted Sherwin-Williams’ “Accessible Beige” with a shimmer finish. Susan’s ottoman and sofa pillows were re-covered in an animal-print fabric from Lee Jofa. The sectional was updated with fabric from Kravet.

    Windows (Architect Series): Pella Windows & Doors, 877/473-5527, Sectional sofa; ottoman: owner’s collection. Sofa fabric (“Dazzling”/Shale #29876-106): Kravet, 888/457-2838, Ottoman and pillow fabric (“Cosma”/Smoke #PF50064.935, by GP&J Baker): Lee Jofa, 800/453-3563, Pillows (“Waves Ombre”/White #GWF-2925.116, by Groundworks): Lee Jofa, 800/453-3563, Blue textured pillows (“Lyra”): Crate & Barrel, 800/996-9960, Taupe pillows; throw (Peruvian): owner’s collection. Area rug (“Reflexions”/Clay, Tibetan, wool, silk, hemp): Tamarian Carpets, 410/321-6222,, through Woven Arts, 612/370-4444, Glass side table: owner’s collection. Table lamp (#251C): Zeugma Import, 770/270-2200, Floor lamp: Historic Studio, 952/933-9924, Large basket (discontinued): Restoration Hardware, 800/910-9836, Wall paint (“Stony Ground” #211): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121, Ceiling paint (“Accessible Beige” #SW7036, with shimmer): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794, Trim paint (“Simply White” #OC-117): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667,

  • Werner Straube

    Mud Room

    Fifteen-inch cubbies in the lower level mudroom are the perfect place to store out-of-season items.

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    Master Bedroom

    A built-in cabinet with open shelving and closed doors that conceal a TV is the focal point of one wall in the master bedroom. A fireplace occupies the second wall, and a deck with a view occupies the third.  The king-size Henredon bed is upholstered in a Beacon Hill fabric and draped with an Eileen Fisher crushed silk coverlet from Garnet Hill.

    Cabinetry (custom): Casa Verde Design, 612/353-4401, Hardware (“Metropolitan Drawer Pull, Large”/Polished Nickel #UA5113-L-H): Urban Archaeology, 312/527-4627, Bed (“Rejuvenation Bed,” discontinued): Henredon, 800/444-3682, Bed fabric (“Rustic Dune”/Driftwood): Beacon Hill, 800/333-3777, Pillow shams, back row (“Arista Palampore”/Blue): Pottery Barn, 800/922-5507, Standard pillow shams: Sferra, Duvet cover (“Italian Vintage Duvet Cover”): Restoration Hardware, 800/910-9836, Quilt coverlet (“Eileen Fisher Crushed Silk Quilt Collection”/River Stone); sheets (“Eileen Fisher Lustrous Cotton Sateen Bedding”/River Stone): Garnet Hill, 800/870-3513, Lamp (vintage): Historic Studio, 952/933-9924, Wall and ceiling paint (“White Down” #OC-131); trim and cabinetry paint (“Simply White” #OC-117): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, Stack boxes on shelves (“Luxe Organizers”): Global Views, 888/956-0030,

  • Werner Straube

    Master Bath - Shower

    Calacatta Gold marble and Walker Zanger mosaic tiles line the walk-in steam shower outfitted with a rainhead from Jaclo and hand shower from Rohl.

    Steam shower (“Steam Generator” #SM-9, temperature control #TC-150-PN, steam head #3199-PN): Steamist, 800/577-6478, Rain-head faucet (“Lorenzo”/Polished Nickel #S185-PN): Jaclo, 800/852-4133, Hand shower set (“Palladian”/Polished Nickel #1330): Rohl, 800/777-9762,

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    Master Bath - Tub

    Wood panels and marble create a sumptuous surround for the Kohler whirlpool tub with a polished-nickel Rohl tub filler.

    Tub (“Tea For Two” Whirlpool #K856-H2-0): Kohler, 800/456-4537, Tub faucet (“Palladian 3-Hole Deck Mount Tub Filler”/Polished Nickel #A1984): Rohl, 800/777-9762, Trim paint (“Simply White” #OC-117); cabinet color (“Creamy White” #OC-7); wall and ceiling paint (“White Down” #OC-131): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, Custom finish on walls and ceiling (light plaster with metallic glaze): Aurora Decorative Finishes, 612/396-9295,

  • Werner Straube

    Master Bath - Vanity

    Double sconces from Urban Electric light up the vanity designed by Casa Verde. A single bowl on the vanity maximizes counter space.

    Cabinetry (custom): Casa Verde Design, 612/353-4401, Hardware (“Metropolitan Drawer Pull, Large”/Polished Nickel #UA5113-L-H): Urban Archaeology, 312/527-4627, Towel ring (“Palladian”/Polished Nickel #A6885): Rohl, 800/777-9762, Vanity countertop (“Calacatta Gold”): Casa Verde Design, 612/353-4401, Sink (“Ladena”/White #K2215-0): Kohler, 800/456-4537, Faucet (“Palladian”/Polished Nickel #A1908): Rohl, 800/777-9762, Sconces (“Lafayette Double Sconce”/Pewter finish, with Polished Nickel shade #DC2400WR-PW-ON): Urban Electric Co., 843/723-8140, Tabletop mirror on vanity: vintage. Tile floor (“Studio Moderne Regency Mosaic”/Calacatta Seagrass): Walker Zanger, 713/880-9292, Mirror: owner’s collection. Wall and ceiling paint (“White Down” #OC-131, light plaster with metallic glaze); trim paint (“Simply White” #OC-117): Benjamin Moore & Co., 888/236-6667, Cabinets (“Stony Ground” #211): Farrow & Ball, 888/511-1121,

  • Werner Straube

    Pretty Details

    Pretty details enhance the bathroom and add color to the neutral space. 

  • Werner Straube

    Susan Brunn

    Homeowner Susan Brunn says the woodsy setting is what she has always loved about her Minnesota home.

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    Great Spot For Entertaining

    Even the yard has that casually sophisticated Hamptons vibe.  

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    Architectural Details

    Architectural details add interest to the exterior.  

  • BEFORE Side Exterior

    The once truncated back deck used to be engulfed in ivy.

  • Werner Straube

    AFTER Side Exterior

    Layering lends interest to the architecture as well as the landscaping. Massive brackets support the new balcony. All-new doors, siding, and Pella windows update the house’s exterior.

    Windows (Architecture Series): Pella, 877/473-5527, Roof (charcoal shingles): Timberline, 800/766-3411, Stone (“Chilton”): Hedberg Landscape, 763/545-4400,