Our most referenced residential project

Of the residential projects featured in our portfolio, a 1920’s remodel we refer to simply as “Paris” is the one most often asked about by people who seek our help when building or redesigning a home. So we thought we’d give you some of the background on our most referenced residential project.

Before and After 2

The American family and what we expect of our homes has changed dramatically since this little post-World War I house was built in the Windom neighborhood of south Minneapolis. We don’t want to live in a bunch of little rooms, most people desire an open floor plan. People’s expectations of how their home should function is often at odds with the way homes designed for the 1920’s. For many, the only solution has been to abandon established neighborhoods in favor of tract housing or sprawling suburban developments.

Before and After 3

This project was designed to sustain these modern social forces. We are always asked why we call this project “Paris”?  We wanted to embrace our old homes; keep them and make them work for us in today’s context so we started to say…“We’ll always have Paris.” To that end, keeping this family home tied to its neighborhood required a major renovation, leaving only the exterior studs standing after demolition. Birds in the walls, poor insulation, and stairs that didn’t meet code were only the tip of the iceberg when confronting the problems that troubled this home.

Before After 1

Our challenge: Create an energy efficient home for a dynamic, modern, blended family with children, elderly grandparents, exchange students, and extended family members in a 1920s, 1.5-story house while respecting the scale and character of the neighborhood.


Our design: The solution was a two-story addition to the rear of the house to accommodate accessibility and moving the stair outside the main structure to function as a collector and distributor of radiant heat and allow for aging in place, via accessibility from the back of the house. Every element was considered for its impact on the environment, and energy efficiency was greatly improved by the addition of spray foam insulation, new energy efficient windows and new duct work throughout.

Each floor, from the basement to the second floor, was reconfigured to give the homeowners an open plan, while using the original footprint and traditional materials – double hung windows, stucco exterior, oak flooring. But, where new forms were added, so was a new vocabulary, including commercial glass, Hardie board panels, and bronze metal rails.


A small vertical cut to accommodate a home office and library was made. A new main entry structure that contains a mudroom, and a full-width second story box to create a master suite were also added.

Before and After 4

The result: The home went from two bedrooms, one bathroom and 900 square feet, to four bedrooms, three bathrooms and 2,000 square feet, while lowering monthly energy and maintenance costs and preserving the form and scale of the original’s street presence.  The home is still scaled to fit the neighborhood and allows a modern family to have all the conveniences and luxuries of today, but it has been reorganized with a public gathering space on the main level, an expanded private space on the lower level and a luxurious retreat for the homeowner on the upper level.

So, now you know more about one of our favorite remodeling projects. Cheers from team Shelter!

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