All in the FAMILY
Couple re-engineer ’90s house for multigenerational living
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — When Joan and Reed Nelson built their house 22 years ago, it was a great fit for a young family with three active boys. The Nelsons installed a pool in their big backyard and a full kitchen on the walkout lower level where they hosted their sons’ soccer-team parties. “It served us well, raising three kids,” said Joan of their west Bloomington two-story.
Over the years, the Nelson family changed. Joan’s father died, and her widowed mother needed more day-today help. Their three sons were now young adults with independent lives.
But the house didn’t change with them. It lacked some of today’s amenities that the couple craved, including a master suite and a more open layout on the main floor. “We wanted better entertaining space,” said Joan. “We host big gatherings, and the kitchen was cramped.”
They considered building a new house from scratch and looked at several lots. But nothing was as appealing as the location they already had, with its pool, a big yard for their dog, and a nearby nature centre with wooded views. “We’re close to freeways, the airport and Reed’s work,” Joan said. “If we moved, we’d be farther out.”
So they decided to reinvent their existing home.
The couple began brainstorming ways to reconfigure the spaces they had.
Their two-story family room and foyer wasted a lot of space. If they lowered the vaulted ceilings, they could create second-floor space for a master suite with a new bath and a big closet. If they reworked the layout on the first floor they could get a roomier, more workable kitchen and mudroom. And if they remodelled their lower-level family room and kitchen, they could create an inviting apartment for Joan’s mother.
To carry out the ambitious whole-house transformation, they turned to Amek Custom Builders of Bloomington. Many of Amek’s recent projects have involved converting traditional singlefamily houses into multigenerational homes, said owner Matt Schmidt. “For sure it’s a trend,” he said. “When the economy crashed, people started moving in together to avoid nursing homes.”
The economy has improved, but the trend continues, in part, he said, because the baby boomers are getting older. While most multigenerational projects require adding space, the Nelsons just needed to make better use of the square footage they already had. “They happened to have this great space partially set up,” Schmidt said of the lower level with its existing kitchen.
Reworking the upstairs was a bit more complicated. To create the new master suite, Amek built a new master bath in what used to be one of the boys’ bedrooms. “It was challenging to get the plumbing into an area with no plumbing,” Reed said. (The couple’s former bedroom is now a workout room.)
On the main floor, a small addition added 100 square feet, creating space for a bigger mudroom
This loft area provides extra private space for multiple families living together in one house.
The current residents of the Nelson home in Bloomington, Minn., are, from left, eldest son, Quinn, 24, Reed, Joan, and Joan’s mother, Jan McCabe, who moved into a garden apartment that was part of their whole-house remodel last year.