A “not-so-big-house” philosophy for a south Minneapolis renovation

Architects Joy Martin and her husband, Ted, were having a cocktail on their front porch in the summer of 2018 when a couple on bikes started strolling past their Minneapolis home. The Martins immediately approached them.

“We were like, ‘Yeah, what can we do for you!'” Martin recalled.

The bikers were Kirsten Delegard and her husband, James Shiffer (full disclosure: Shiffer is an author who is also a journalist and editor at the Star Tribune). Delegard founded the Mapping Prejudice Project, which documents the history of racial covenants that restricted land and real estate ownership for people of color. She wanted to share with the Martins some information about their home.

“They invited us for a drink,” Delegard said, and she told them how the structure was built over 100 years ago by Moses and Mary Burke before they and other African Americans be chased out of that part of town. “Minnesota has some of the greatest [racial] home ownership gaps in the country, and it didn’t happen by accident.”

The house, in the Fulton neighborhood of Minneapolis, had seen many changes since then, and Martin was about to add his own chapter to that story. His clever, efficient and elegant renovation of the structure is a winner of the Home of the Month award, a partnership between the Star Tribune and the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

“By maximizing the existing square footage, this home exemplifies the qualities of ‘The Not So Big House’ by living large in the space it has,” the submission reads.

answer his call

The honor is a high point for Martin, who launched her own studio, Joy Martin Architecture, in 2016.

“It was fascinating to find out the pedigree of the house, and we thought about it taking it apart and putting it back together,” Martin said. “We were away from home when George Floyd was killed and renovations were underway. It made us think about the privilege of doing this kind of project.”

The renovation, like a large part of his work, prolongs a creativity nurtured since childhood. Martin grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, the middle child of his mother Kathy Rackley, a teacher who loved science, and his father Gary Rackley, a dairy salesman who traveled through the Low Country of Carolina. South.

Her parents were athletic, but they put her “in front of all sorts of opportunities,” Martin recalls. She has been practicing art since she was in kindergarten. And she yearned to nurture that creativity, even if it was just a sideline in a hands-on career in dentistry until her freshman year at Clemson University.

“I was taking a painting class because I was missing something creative when I walked through the halls of the architecture building and saw all the projects that were pinned,” Martin recalls, and she stopped short. “I realized my pre-dental background was wrong. I was going to go to dental school because I loved science, I was good with my hands, and my mom thought I could win. a lot of money to support my hobby.”

This formal schooling helped her understand and appreciate the built environment of where she lived. “I’ve been exposed to beautiful architecture and incredible city planning all my life,” Martin said.

Martin is passionate about renovating historic homes. In a broad sense, renovation means reinvesting in the urban fabric. And it’s a lasting movement in architecture. But, personally, she loves bringing a modern aesthetic to an older structure.

“What’s really fun is that we can pay homage to the original craftsmanship,” Martin said. “A lot of old homes don’t have fancy things we can restore. It’s up to us to breathe new life into them. We have this chance to love them, upgrade them, and bring this lovely home to the modern.age with a better floor plan, kitchen, newly relaxing owners suite, fresh and updated fixtures and finishes.”

Passionate project

She put this into practice with her own project. When the Martins, who met at the University of Oregon, bought their Minneapolis home in 2017, they knew they would have to renovate it.

“The existing house was quite charming, but the kitchen was isolated and dysfunctional,” Martin said. “For the size of the house, the formal dining room was disproportionately large. The use of square footage was inefficient.”

And that was just down. Upstairs, the three rooms were, in his words, “odd in size”.

“We had a large master bedroom with a small closet and no bathroom,” Martin said. “The kids’ room had a giant closet. And we all shared a mediocre bathroom.”

Downstairs, the basement was partially finished “but not at the level where you would want to spend a lot of time there,” Martin said. “It was unheated and was used primarily for storage.”

The goal then was to maximize every square inch of the 2,000 square foot home, making it useful and beautiful for a family of four with school-aged children and two working parents. This involved reconfiguring the upstairs for a private owners suite with ample storage and closet space. They would also create appropriately sized bedrooms for children.

On the ground floor, they opted for an open concept to maximize the kitchen, living room and dining room. It served not only the family, but also their pre-COVID goals, which included lots of parties and entertainment. They redid the locker room, which was previously a tunnel. It has been redesigned to be much more functional.

Maximize existing space

The renovation included converting underutilized areas into functional spaces. The area under the front staircase, which had been blocked off, was opened up and turned into a closet.

On the ground floor, she built a home office for herself, a locker and a bicycle storage room. She also transformed a powder room into a three-quarter bath and added an exit window. A large storage room she described as “gross and creepy” has been transformed into a craft room with storage. The space proved essential during the coronavirus closure of schools, becoming a classroom for her children and others.

In all of this, Martin considered light, access and flow, adding a back door to the veranda that connects to the kitchen and patio.

“It’s a beautiful way to use indoor-outdoor living,” Martin said.

And all changes would be made without adding square footage.

The larger story of the house also has a personal and poignant corollary for Martin. Her husband, Ted, a booster of her artistic and architectural gifts, died after a road bike accident in May 2021.

“He supported all my crazy ideas,” Martin said. “If there were things I wanted to do to keep pushing the boundaries, he never doubted my ability to do it and encouraged me to follow my passion. It was an incredible gift that never dies not with the person.”

Martin expands his studio and builds his practice in his hometown of Charleston. The Minneapolis house she spent so many nights dreaming about and erected as an emblem of elegance and efficiency? It will be for another family.

“The beautiful thing about living in a historic home is that you know there have been many lives here before you and there will be many lives after you,” Martin said. “People will make memories and write their own stories here. It’s a cool legacy that I’m very proud of.”

About this project

What: From creating closets, craft rooms and office spaces, a south Minneapolis renovation uses every square inch.

Cut: 2,000 square feet.

Design firm: Joy Martin Architecture.

Group project: Joy Martin, AIA.

About Carl Schroeder

Check Also

Here’s what we know so far

If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, …