If you’ve ever wanted to fit more into the heart of your home – more comfort, more people, more space—then you can probably relate to Scott and Dana Varland.
The Duluth couple had numerous ideas for remodeling their kitchen, family room and mudroom. And they had numerous questions … like how do you blend modern, earthy materials that match your personality into a traditionally styled, 70-year-old house? How do you open rooms to one another to capture more light while maintaining distinct spaces? And above all, how do you create more room—without adding on to the house?
The Varlands spend a lot of quality time together in their Congdon Park kitchen. A busy oral surgeon who works throughout the region, Scott appreciates being able to “be” at home with his family when the work day’s done. Throughout the day, Dana, and two-year-old son, Mathias, are busy keeping the home fires – and pastry ovens – burning. With her French Culinary Institute training, she bakes everything from madeleines and éclairs to wedding cakes, often with a little helper by her side.
“We spend 75 percent of our time in this back stretch of the house,” says Scott, pointing from the new kitchen island table into the dining area and sunroom, where wall-high windows reveal backyard pines and ample sunlight. Renovation has visually connected these spaces, and more importantly, helped them connect.
“This is where we cook, eat, talk and more … sometimes while I’m cooking, Scott will come in with his guitar to play and hang out,” Dana says.
With the new design, she likes that she can now watch Mathias playing in the family room while she bakes, and that he can see her and feels invited by the design to pull up a chair and help mom, even if that just means playing in the flour. It turns out others find the space perfect for getting into the mix as well.
“We do a big holiday party every year. In the past, people were in separate rooms. This year, everyone congregated in our new space, easily moving in and out because they could, thanks to the flow of the rooms. It was inviting and accessible.”
The way they live here now wasn’t possible before.
“Our old kitchen was fine for one person cooking. But once you had two people, you’d be bumping into each other, fighting over the same counter space,” Scott says, laughing. “It just didn’t work very well.”
What’s more, the adjacent dining room lacked storage and was separated from the kitchen by a wall. The family wanted an overhaul that would expand and connect these two spaces.
“We really wanted a gathering space for our family – a place to eat meals, a place to sit and connect,” Dana says, seated at the new walnut table, integrated to the island countertop that serves as a multifunctional centerpiece for the room. “Now, we sit here when Scott comes home, just to talk, before getting on with everything we have to do.”
Given everything they wanted, from space and functional needs to materials, it seemed they would need to add on to the house. But designer Rebecca Lindquist offered ways to refine and maximize the space—without adding on.
“Rebecca had to be very creative about incorporating all the things we wanted: more light, more counter space, an eat-in space, two sinks,” Scott says. “It’s effectively doubled or even tripled the function of our kitchen – without having to add on to the home’s exterior.”
As part of the renovation, the Varlands acquired a mudroom which improved function of the overall space. The adjoining dining room was enhanced with built-in storage and decorative columns that integrate with the kitchen. “The design connects but also creates some separation, both visually and aesthetically, between the kitchen and dining room,” Scott says.
The Varlands knew about Lindquist & company from friends who raved about their kitchen, bath and storage projects. But they didn’t know how seamless and comprehensive the Lindquist process would be until they dove in firsthand.
“They are classy, extremely professional, just excellent to work with,” Dana says. “Hands down, everything was top notch. Lindquist really listened and paid attention to everything we wanted in our kitchen space, and there weren’t any details that were left out,” Dana adds.
Listening closely to blend the lifestyle and personality of homeowners with strategic design and budget goals is essential to any successful project.
“We’d worked with other companies on projects where they would be very quick to say ‘oh that won’t work,’ or ‘it’s going to be too expensive,’ but Rebecca didn’t do any of that. If there was a way, she seriously tried to find out and make it happen. She wanted this to be our space.”
They particularly appreciated the level of organization and attention to detail.
“Our meetings during the planning and pre-construction phase really paid off during construction. There was less uncertainty. Things just clicked.”
That was crucial when the Varlands learned, while gutting the old space, that the 70-year-old home also needed structural repairs to a ceiling and roof.
“We opted to fix what was needed. Budget wise, we still came in close to our original intent,” Scott says. “It helped that Lindquist’s budgeting process gave us a good idea of costs from the beginning. And they work with a really top-notch team of carpenters, electricians and plumbers.”
The Varland favorites:
The center island: Featuring a bake center with specialty storage for ingredients and bowls, a small appliance bay, a mixer lift, an auxiliary sink … even a hot water dispenser. “We’d have counter space without it,” Scott says, “but the way it serves as a table, central storage area and has a sink right there makes it my favorite.”
Double oven: “I’m so glad we got it. It was a big debate for a while,” Dana says.
Farmhouse sink and prep sink: Handmade of distressed copper, “it’s like a living material that changes all the time.”
The walnut floor inlay: One of several unique custom details incorporated into the design that’s far from ‘off-the-shelf’.
“More than any one product, I love the functionality,” Dana says. “It’s just a great place to be – to cook, to entertain. We have plenty of storage, things just fit. Everything has its own place—and that’s because Lindquist designed it into the space.”
Carole and Gary Turner, Sunshine Lake Duluth, MN
"I always feel a little sadness when our [projects] are over. Gone is the fun in planning, the excitement of building, and the final stages of seeing a vision become a reality! We are so pleased with how everything turned out… It was a delight working with you… you made planning such an easy process and handled the husband/wife issues with great finesse! With Bob there… we never had to wonder about who was coming, when they were coming or why they were coming. Everything worked so smoothly that we never felt worried about anything… the great care and detail that goes into each project is always very impressive… Gary and I feel very privileged to have been able to have you design our kitchen… Thank you for all of your time and the great consideration you gave us."