It’s spring! Time to renovate, remodel and grow

A fun cloud mural for a child’s room, painted by Brushed Monkey


To misquote the poet Tennyson, in the spring a homeowner’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of … repair and remodeling. But where to start?
“Your house is the most intimate place in your life and when people go through personal changes, they call us,” said Donnie Kimbler Olson, the owner of Brushed Monkey, an interior painting company with many glowing reviews. With a staff of 25, including workers with degrees in graphic and interior design, Brushed Monkey can not only paint your walls perfectly, but they can also craft beautiful faux finishes, fine Venetian plasters, and even custom murals. The company has won several awards including Best Painting Contractors 2020 by the Minneapolis Award Program.
“There’s a lot to choosing a painting partner,” Kimbler Olson said. “People change and when this happens, when people’s attitude change, when fashion changes, people want their house to reflect that.”
Much of Brushed Monkey’s work is upgrading interiors in homes, including getting rid of the dated popcorn ceilings and other obsolete design elements.
“We see people wanting change every seven to 12 years. People change and fashion changes,” Kimbler Olson said. “There are in-style colors. Right now the trend is for simple, soft cotton colors. But it’s more than just choosing colors. It’s infusing organics and natural textures, mixing the soft with the hard and the rough. And you want to have flair. As far as indoor design, it not just paint color, it’s what’s behind the choices for the changes.”

Beautiful and functional kitchen design by Third Street Studios

Spring is also a good time to begin larger projects. Linda Cassone, one of the founders of Third Street Studios on Selby Avenue in St. Paul, has an MFA in set and costume design. Her partners Robert Agnew and Russell Tillotson are artists as well, and the three spent a few years doing sets and props for events such as the Super Bowl pre-game show. Over time, their focus shifted, and these days they concentrate on residential interiors, mostly kitchens, bathrooms and furniture.
“We do anything anyone needs, from the smallest projects to large ones,” said Cassone. “I will do two or three floor plans. We start with the layout of the room and then show what it will look like. We do it all. We pick paint, tile and countertops for kitchens. We help find fixtures, plumbing or lighting for bathrooms.”
Cassone said that right now, because of supply chain problems (up to 159 days to get items from China), projects are taking longer than the usual six to eight weeks, but she’s hoping that won’t last for too much longer. “We try to make this as painless as possible.”
“The most fun part of this job is transforming someone’s life. Some people have never had a new kitchen. It’s seeing them happy when we’re done that’s the pleasure in this for me,” Cassone said.
Joe Hayes, owner of Hayes Window Restoration, found his calling when he purchased a 1916 home in South Minneapolis. When original windows are replaced by modern styles, something is lost, he said. Windows on older homes were made of rot-resistant old-growth wood to last for decades, but were intended to be regularly maintained. Too many windows in older Twin Cities homes were neglected for years. But, Hayes said, his company can restore even badly damaged windows to their former beauty.
Hayes Window Restoration restores sash cords and weather stripping and can glaze windows. They offer full window restoration to bring back the original beauty to older homes, working on both interior and exterior upgrades. They also partner with historic preservation organizations including the Twin Cities Bungalow Club and the Window Preservation Alliance.
Castle Building and Remodeling, one of the largest remodeling companies in the Twin Cities, has been in business for more than 45 years, said marketing manager Hannah Husemann. “We specialize in older urban homes. We can handle just about any project,” she said.
Right now, Husemann said, clients are asking for wood cabinets or green or blue painted ones, instead of all-white cabinetry. There has also been a big push for handmade tiles and induction ranges.
Building porches, decks and other outdoor amenities is limited to times like spring and summer when the weather is good, Husemann said. That means that right now the company is starting to get busy with outdoor projects.
While Castle Building and Remodeling’s main focus is kitchens and baths they also remodel attics, gutting the space to the studs, adding dormers to create more living space, skylights, walk-in closets, even fireplaces.
Castle partners with All Energy Solar so they can integrate solar installation into remodeling projects. They also work with and recommend eco-friendly materials such as linoleum or cork for floors, reclaimed trees from urban neighborhoods to make butcher blocks, and tile made from natural materials.
Of course, there are many improvements homeowners can do themselves.
Spring is a good time to get rid of clutter and the garage is a great place to begin. Get rid of old paint and soda cans, broken folding chairs and flower pots you won’t be using. Put away the snow shovels and snow blowers and pull out the grill, the fire pit and the gardening equipment.
Organize your tools, putting winter items into storage (save that ice melt in a waterproof container) and pulling out warm weather supplies and tools. Donate unwanted items that are in good shape, but let the city take away unusable articles.
Often, garage floors are a mess, with dirt and oil spots. To clean, add a half cup of bleach to a gallon of water and use it to mop or scrub the surface. Wait about 15 minutes and then use your garden hose, equipped with a spray nozzle pointed back to front, to spray the dirt out of the garage.
In Minnesota, many homes were built with smaller windows to keep the heat in, but they also limit the sunlight. There are ways to brighten rooms without a major renovation.
Using light colors on the walls can brighten rooms. Strategically placed mirrors, metallic vases and copper pots for plants will all reflect light.
And don’t forget to wash all the windows, every year. If you’re not fond of climbing ladders to reach upper floors, there are professionals who will do this for you for a fee.
When buying overhead lighting fixtures, select those that cast light evenly. Choose halogen light bulbs, known for efficiency and long life, as well as brightness and quality of light.

Boulevard garden with flowers and herbs

While upgrading indoor spaces is on the minds of many homeowners, spring is also the time to move outside, creating and upgrading open-air areas, curing cabin fever at the end of a long, cold winter and an even longer pandemic.
Spring is the time to begin gardening. For those who want to grow their own flowers and vegetables, but don’t want to dig up their lawn, there are options. Container gardens and raised beds continue to grow in popularity.
Many people choose to plant smaller gardens in boulevard strips. These little plots of land technically belong to the city, and planting gardens in them was prohibited until a few years ago. But so many good, law-abiding citizens flouted the prohibition that the ordinance was changed.
Boulevard strip gardens, as well as container and raised bed gardens, are ideal for planting pollinator-friendly vegetables including cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, as well as herbs such as lavender, mint, thyme, basil and lemon balm. Even some of Minnesota’s favorite flowers, including daisies, snapdragons, marigolds and hostas are favorites of pollinators, too.
Pollinators love all of these. While growing delicious vegetables, fragrant herbs and lovely flowers, homeowners can help the environment as well. Spring is a win-win, even if sometimes it takes a while to show up.

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