Interiorssneak peeks

A Mid-Century Design Buff Hits the Jackpot Outside Minneapolis, MN

by Garrett Fleming

A Mid-Century Design Buff Hits the Jackpot Outside Minneapolis, Design*Sponge

Design director Sam Soulek and his wife Natalie, an esthetician, had been hunting for the perfect mid-century house for two years when they finally came across this ideal option 10 minutes from downtown Minneapolis, MN in Golden Valley. The space boasted everything the pair wanted: untouched original details, an open floor plan, and a patch of woods just outside the back door. Such a well-preserved gem came with a hefty price tag, though — one rather far outside Sam and Natalie’s budget. Ignoring pleas from their realtor to pass up the expensive option, Sam and Natalie decided they simply had to bid even if their number was well below the asking price.

That night, with the couple’s paperwork likely sitting at the bottom of a stack of competing offers, Sam couldn’t get the house out of his mind. Fearful their modest offer would be ignored, he decided to appeal to the homeowner Tom’s softer side. By the light of a desk lamp he wrote a very sincere and heartfelt letter detailing his adoration for the house and how he would build a wonderful life for his wife and child inside its walls. His final touch, a page full of charming family photos, would accompany the note and play backup in case his words didn’t do the trick.

The following days seemed to drag, and the house becoming theirs seemed to stray further and further from reality. That is, until their astonished realtor gave them great news: their offer had been accepted! Even better, Tom loved the letter so much he requested they tour the space with him before he moved out. Shocked and thrilled, Sam and Natalie immediately agreed.

As Tom’s son pushed his father’s wheelchair around each room, the 96-year-old man talked of the original makers he’d worked with and of the wonderful time he had bringing his architectural vision to life. He even gave the couple a binder full of 1960s-era manuals and the receipts for everything he’d purchased for the space. Charmed by his kindness, passion and generosity, Sam and Natalie then graciously accepted the keys.

Over the years the couple periodically visited Tom in his retirement community, not only giving him updates on the renovations but catching him up on life in Golden Valley. The couple recalls one visit in particular: “I have something for you,” he said with a twinkle in his eye as he handed them a set of scrolls. Rolled immaculately and meticulously labeled, they seemed ancient. There, on cobalt blue, were the original plans for the home he had painstakingly configured all those years ago, a final gift to the family that had touched his heart. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Wing Ta

Image above: Updates weren’t solely reserved for the home’s interior. Many dingy, foggy windows were replaced, and the home’s railing was given a powdered, smokey paint job. But the most impactful change has to be the exterior’s new hue. Its retro, white-and-mint scheme has been given a moody facelift through grey-and-black hues and wooden touches. “It was amazing to see how the bold color shift changed the vibe of the house and made it feel more at home in Minnesota,” Sam says.

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For the past four years, Sam and Natalie have been chipping away at this old home. They describe their personal style as minimalist minus sterility.
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When they moved in, the kitchen was decked out in carpet and black appliances, but those days are gone. Sam and Natalie strategically updated it to reflect the era of the home but with the conveniences of modern technology. Those conveniences live in cabinets and drawers in order to keep the work space clutter-free and clean. The lighting, sink and cabinets are original.
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The kitchen table -- sitting pretty in front of original, textured wallpaper -- is where this family spends most of their time. It's right off of the deck, so come happy hour they swing open the doors to create one giant entertaining space.
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The kitchen's counters end at this built-in desk.
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The combination living/dining room's wall panels open to reveal an abundance of storage. Inside are decorations and fun finds Natalie rotates in and out of each room to keep each space feeling fresh.
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The granite, wood-burning fireplace runs up to here from the basement's fireplace below. The two white pillars allow for both to be burning at once.
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This glitzy bathroom -- which is lovingly nicknamed "Ziggy Stardust" -- features custom-cut, original wallpaper.
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Sunshine from the room's skylight dances off of the triangular design daily.
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The basement gets more use than most rooms in the home as its floor-to-ceiling windows keep it as sunny and inviting as the top floor. The built-in shelving came with the home.
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The basement's vintage ping pong table provides the perfect distraction should Sam hit a wall while creating graphic designs for one of his many stylish clients.
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The home is situated on a corner, so when Sam and Natalie open up the sun room's doors they get double the waves from neighbors. The old screen printer's screen was given to Sam by a friend who used it to make posters for Urban Outfitters a decade ago.
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Before the home was reformatted, the sun room was the porch. Look closely, and you'll spy the house's original mail slot and doorbell.
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Fifteen years ago, the couple bought this IKEA bedroom set and never looked back. Not only does it perfectly fit their aesthetic, they say it’s held up better than some of the more expensive pieces they’ve purchased over the years. The prints above the headboard are by Sam’s friend Jeff Holmberg and depict personal growth.

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Sam designed this poster for Artcrank, an international bike/poster show in Minneapolis.
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Sam and Natalie's bedroom overlooks the nearby wood. Sam tells us, "At night [our view is] undulating tree shadows backlit by the moon."
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"What we love most about our home is... it's a classic." -- Sam and Natalie Soulek
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"After our offer had been accepted, Tom (the previous owner) wanted to meet us to give us a proper tour before the closing. His son rolled him through the house in his wheelchair as he pointed out unique things along the way. He was sharp as a tack at 96. At the end of the tour, Tom presented us with a home guide that detailed the ins and outs of the whole place and a binder containing nearly 60 years of receipts from home furnishings and fixtures." -- Sam Soulek
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For years, the couple regularly visited Tom in his retirement community. On one of the visits, he presented them with this treat: the home's original blueprints. "I couldn’t believe he still had them all and that they were organized so meticulously. Tom was the perfect host and friend to buy a home from." -- Sam Soulek
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Source List

Kitchen

Lighting – George Nelson

Table – Room & Board

Chairs – vintage

Cabinets – Saint Charles

Faucet – Hansgrohe

Wall planters – IKEA

Prints – Eleanor GroschHouse Industries

 

Living/Dining Room

Table – Room & Board

Chairs – vintage

Couch – Room & Board

 

Basement

Rug – West Elm

Coffee table, floor lamp – Blu Dot

Sofa – Room & Board

Chair, side table, ping pong table, lamps, vases – vintage

 

Sunroom

Sofa, credenza, chair – Blu Dot

Print – Aesthetic Apparatus

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

    • Hi Lauren –
      Thomas B. Hendrix A.I.A. was the homeowner and architect. At one point he ran the business with a partner under Hendrix/Snyder Architects. Their main focus was civic buildings and schools. I found out during one of our meetings that he actually designed the Elementary and Middle Schools I attended as a child in New Prague, MN. Such a small world!
      -Sam

  • Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. I’m afraid to ask if the original owner is still alive – this story just really touched me. Your story sounds like a Nicholas Sparks book…it’s simply beautiful and anyone that gets to see their vision come to life and pass it along to others who have the same love and respect for it as it’s creator is definitely a great thing. Lovely updates, great style. Thanks for sharing!

  • This is one of my favorite posts on here. It’s very touching that Tom was so cool and appreciated leaving his home in good hands.

  • Could you share the source of the shower curtain shown in the bath with hand cut wallpaper?
    So much beautiful design!

  • Beautiful story and beautiful work on a period home that captures exactly how wonderful this era was. It reminds me so much of the homes I visited in the 1960’s as a kid, the kind that inspired; “I want a house like that when I grow up”.

  • as a midcentury baby boomer who has seen lots of the good bad and the ugly mid-century, the previous owner and the present owners captured the mid-century house and design to the max. Love the color of the outside doors which I saw when growing up and the counters free of clutter.

  • Sometimes the heavens open up with the sun shining brightly down on people, and this story about a wonderful owner selling from the heart is one of them. It’s especially touching as the new owners visited Tom often after they became owners of the house. I’m sure it brought a lot of joy in the sharing of memories and bringing back a tired, well loved house, to it’s current condition.

  • Such an amazing house and so inspiring. Is it possible to get a source for the gorgeous wall-mounted set of fireplace tools?

  • This is so great and is eerily similar to our own buying experience in Mpls last year–a 4-level split that was a bit of a stretch for our budget, built in 1964, sold by its original owner who was 95. And he left the original blueprints for us. It’s even minty green+white, and we plan on going black on the exterior. But for now we’re just living in it to see what it says to us.

  • This is absolutely beautiful! I love that Tom still had original documents and the floorplans! This was truly a wonderful and shows it’s worth taking risk for your dreams.

  • Oh my gosh, what a great story. I live close by, and used to enjoy riding the city bus through a bit of Golden Valley, where I could dream over the cool homes there. Thanks for showing us around, telling the great story, and showing the blueprints–I love those!

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