Finding the perfect mid century home is always challenge. Finding one while long-distance house hunting in Seattle for a move to Minneapolis takes both dogged determination and a measure of luck. Homeowners Tiffany and Nate Mueller know this from the experience of their own rambler renovation, and have documented the process in their blog, Hello Refuge.
“We wanted something that had some remnant of character that we could build off, then this one popped up,” says Tiffany, referring to her family’s sixties-era rambler in the southwest suburb of Edina. An interior stylist and co-owner of Hello Goodbye Studio with her husband, Tiffany ventured to the Twin Cities alone to tour the house after the seller accepted their offer.
“When I saw it in person, it was a little scary,” she says of the sadly neglected ranch. Built in 1964, the house had majestic windows and great bones, but the grimy kitchen cabinets and bathroom mold raised concerns. Undeterred, the Muellers relocated with their two young daughters in July 2016 with plans to give the house new life.
“We moved in and thought we were going to update bathrooms and kitchen, all the fun stuff you see on HGTV,” recalls Nate. Instead, the couple spent several months correcting drainage issues in the backyard and replacing weatherworn siding, soffits and fascia.
Although far from glamorous, the projects afforded them the opportunity to put their personal stamp on the property. They painted the exterior black, and dressed up the front entrance with modern house numbers originally designed by architect Richard Neutra, a custom mailbox and mid century-style lighting sconces.
To stay on budget, the creative duo focused on simple strategies to spruce up the main living areas, including fresh paint and artfully staged home furnishings. “We wanted a place where as a family we could cuddle up together,” says Tiffany, referring to the modern sectional sofa placed opposite the two-story fireplace in the family room. Nate adds, “We rearranged the furniture three or four times, until we finally found that sweet spot for how the room is supposed to be laid out.”
Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the space with natural light, prompting Tiffany to paint the walls midnight black. A plush shag area rug and macramé wall art add a bohemian flair that is a striking contrast to the original mid century credenza, leather wingback chairs and modern wall-mounted bookshelves. “Keeping those sleek lines but adding those textures makes it very livable,” says Tiffany.
In the dining area, reproduction Eiffel chairs surround a stately wood table purchased at Crate and Barrel. “I think that was the first piece of adult furniture we bought,” Nate remembers. A saucer pendant light and replica starburst wall clock complete the setting.
Over time, the pair gutted both upstairs bathrooms to eradicate the mold and update the harvest gold color scheme. A reproduction mid century media console was modified with a white quartz countertop and vessel sink to create the vanity in the main bath, illuminated by a globe chandelier overhead.
Brilliant white subway tile, chrome fixtures and Mutina Tex-Black floor tiles in both bathrooms add dramatic flair to otherwise utilitarian spaces. Although pricey at $28/square foot, the flooring was worth the investment, says Nate, noting that the smaller footprint of the bathroom made the expense manageable. “You mix in cost-savings in other places, so you can splurge on wow factor pieces like that.”
The vintage vibe also extends to both bedrooms, where retro-inspired furnishings and DIY hacks are the order of the day. In the master suite, a wall mirror from Target’s Project 62 line paired with a modern white sofa table serve together as a vanity, while a mid century dresser and platform bed carry the low-profile motif throughout the space. In the girls’ room, Tiffany painted an IKEA dresser pastel pink and added brushed brass cabinet knobs for retro flair.
The couple plan to continue renovations later this year, including a full kitchen remodel that combines mid century style with modern conveniences.
In the meantime, they invite friends to enjoy the work in progress. “This is our first adventure in being homeowners, and we know we’re going to be here 30-plus years,” says Nate. “We have time to plan stuff out and evolve the space as we grow with it.”