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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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