The Elliot House: A 100-Year-Old Duplex Becomes A Newly Renovated Airbnb
Many Minneapolis natives may be familiar with Colleen Eversman of 2ndTruth Photography. She has been working side-by-side with Kate at Wit & Delight to create innovative content and dynamic photography for the past several years, as well as working closely with hundreds of families and companies to produce top-notch imagery around the Twin Cities and all over the world. As a good friend and confidant to everyone at the studio, Colleen is a constant fixture at W&D and also a big part of our brand and what we have become.
Colleen and her partner James own a large duplex in South Minneapolis, in a neighborhood once home to the Twin Cities’ wealthiest roughly a century ago. After recently learning their downstairs tenants would be moving out unexpectedly, she and James began ruminating on various ideas for how they wanted to fill the soon-to-be vacant space. Shortly after, Colleen approached the W&D team and pitched the idea of transforming the downstairs half of the home into an Airbnb, as well as an additional set location for shooting Wit & Delight content. Her hope was to renovate and refresh the 100-year-old duplex into a modern residence that still embraces the charm of the past. The new space would be named the Elliot House, after the street it resides on, Elliot Avenue.
The W&D team is always seeking new accommodation alternatives (that we trust and love) to offer guests visiting from out of town. Styled with products by Wit & Delight’s favorite brands, the Elliot House will allow guests to experience W&D first-hand.
With much of the 100-year-old Elliot House needing remodeling and repairs, Colleen and James set out on a rather large initiative to completely renovate the bathroom and kitchen floors while also sprucing up the rest of the house with new furnishings.
They hired local interior designer Anne McDonald to put all the initial design concepts and spacial moodboards together. Anne then worked closely with Colleen from start to finish on all the design aspects of this project.
If you are interested in learning how to DIY or redesign your space– catch our interview below with Colleen where we ask her every question under the sun about her home re-design story.
What DIY or design projects have you been tackling lately? Let us know in the comments below!
Tell us a little bit about your home buying journey and why you decided to purchase your duplex in the first place? — In 2013, James and I started looking for a place to buy. Flash forward to 2015, and we began throwing around the idea of a duplex. We had no idea how to be landlords, we (at the time) felt like we didn’t have a single DIY or handy bone in our bodies. And yet, it seemed to be the only way to really make the money work for us. We knew that we weren’t ready to buy a “forever home” so buying a duplex made the most sense – we could get help paying the mortgage (or covering it all together) from renters, and then pay ourselves rent against the principle. It’s a win-win. So we started working with a realtor and after eight months or so, we found the Elliot House. We were the first ones to see it, and we knew right away that we wanted to put in an offer. This was after many lost offers to cash offers or to being outbid, or to just straight up walking into a place and being like, “Yea, no.” I think we saw it in March and closed the deal in May of 2015. It’s crazy to think that we’ve been there for almost 3 years now!
What inspired the Elliot House project and how do you foresee this space being used in the future? — The Elliot House was conceived when our tenants downstairs broke up and wanted to get out of their lease. That was this past August, and with the Super Bowl fast approaching, I threw out the idea of turning it into an Airbnb. I asked Kate what she thought and if W&D would be interested in partnering with me and she quickly agreed, and then the ball was figuratively rolling. Now that the Super Bowl has passed, we’ll be using the space as an additional shooting space for Wit and Delight, but as an ongoing Airbnb as well, and a space available for photographers and other artists to shoot in.
First and foremost, before breaking ground or drafting up any designs – there were several concept words that Anne and Colleen established together. This sort of verbal moodboarding sets the tone for the home and ensures that both the client and interior designer are aligned. Here are the words that embody the Elliot House:
Copper // Oak & Woodwork // Black & White // Clean // Current // Useful // Cozy // Original Architecture // Electic // Modern // Fun
In the main living room, Anne and Colleen hoped to achieve a clean and modern feel while still honoring the original architecture of the home. In this cozy space, you will find the original 100-year-old floors as well as a preserved fireplace that is full of vintage charm. They added in a black and cream area rug, a stylish gold end table, and a black marble base lamp from Target alongside the Sven sectional in Birch Ivory from Article. On the sofa, they placed the Pasco throw blanket from Article with two beautiful velvet green covered pillows from local shop The Golden Rule Collective to give the room a fun and eclectic pop of character. The Pradet Tray Coffee Table from Target sits in the center of the room. While in the corner, the Balla Sheepskin Throw in ivory lays over the Luna Lounge Chair from Article.
Describe your design process and the overall aesthetic goals of the space? What were you looking to achieve with this remodel? — The house will turn 118 years-old this year, and James and I both wanted a modern refresh while still maintaining the home’s Victorian character. Our ultimate goal was to give the space an update that wouldn’t totally break the bank or involve tearing down walls or gutting anything. We treated the project like a mini facelift, rather than a full makeover.
What advice do you have for someone looking to hire an interior designer? What criteria should they consider when looking for the right fit? — James and I had the privilege of working with interior designer, Anne McDonald, and she was great from the beginning. Before hiring your own designer, I recommend you meet with and interview several that you potentially want to work with and really get a feel for the way they work and their design style. Know that there’s going to be a lot of back and forth communication and some things you will and won’t agree on. It’s a total give and take, and humble honesty is essential. Don’t assume they’re miracle workers or mind readers. If you’re not totally stoked about what they’re putting together, then chances are you haven’t been very clear with the direction. But if you don’t know what direction to go and you’re looking to them for help with that, be patient with the process. It’s going to take time to figure that out if you’re starting from scratch.
Before you make a decision, I recommend asking yourself the questions below:
What are you hoping to achieve with the space?
Is it functionality?
Is it aesthetic-related?
Is it a combo of both?
How big is the space?
What is your budget?
What are you going to do yourself and what do you need to hire out?
For the front bedroom, Anne and Colleen worked to maintain the consistency of the overall aesthetic that they had already established. They went with crisp white bedding from Casper, which includes the mattress, pillows, sheets, and the down duvet. The Casablanca Market Striped Moroccan Blanket folded at the bottom of the bed is from The Mine. The Chunky Knit Wool Rug beneath the bed is from Target as well as the Hourglass Copper Accent Table. The ornate Black Wicker Headboard from World Market was chosen to give the room that funky statement piece and the Cotton Luster Velvet Pillows on the bed are from West Elm as well as the black sconce reading lights.
Where did you look for design inspiration and product sourcing? — We went to Pinterest, I looked at things Kate had pinned, I was also looking at design magazines. I was all over, but mostly Pinterest. Anne was a huge source of inspiration too- she was pulling ideas and sharing them with me, so from there it was a collaboration of jamming back and forth about what the direction was going to be.
Where would you recommend cutting corners on cost and where would you recommend splurging? — Cut corners on cabinets and various furniture by shopping at IKEA, Target, and looking for sale items from West Elm, and CB2. We did not pay full price for anything except what we bought at IKEA. Splurge on a comfy bed. But you don’t need a $5k sofa. Ultimately, ask yourself what’s important to you (for us it was beds and seating because that’s where people want to be the most comfortable). We also bought IKEA cabinets instead of custom ones because the space is a rental.
When designing the kitchen, Colleen and Anne envisioned an old-fashioned room with fresh and new accents that didn’t take away from the original foundations. One of the more time-intensive aspects of the room was the installation of the funky hand-painted wallpaper by local artist duo By She She. If you look closely, the silhouettes of Colleen, James, and their sweet dog Ellie are painted throughout the kitchen to add a little personal character and timestamp on the home. Colleen and James also completely re-did the floors with a grey SnapsStone floating porcelain tile. The current butcher block countertops are from IKEA but they are looking forward to replacing those with new Cambria countertops later this month! (A special story on that coming soon!) They also added in this industrial kitchen island butcher’s block from IKEA to provide extra countertop space.
If you are new to remodeling and have little to no experience, what projects do you think are feasible to tackle alone and what tasks would you highly recommend hiring out for? — Painting isn’t everyone’s favorite task, but it’s the number one thing that you can save money on. Hire out when you don’t feel confident you can pull it off with YouTube tutorials and/or if you don’t have the time to do it yourself. Always hire a professional for any plumbing and electrical work. Definitely hire someone to lay tile, the floor has to be extremely even, and it’s just a messy pain in the butt thing to try and YouTube your way through. We had a great experience working with Randy Brehmer. He laid the tile in the bathroom and went through the trouble of custom cutting all of the tiles surrounding the radiator. I would highly recommend Randy to anyone looking for help on house projects in the Twin Cities. We were also put in contact with a contractor, Clint Sebastian, and he’s been critical in coming over and helping us cut/hook items up, he also helped us install TVs into our plaster walls.
With Airbnb guests in mind, Anne and Colleen wanted the bathroom to feel clean and fresh. To do so, they went with a black and white theme with several touches of gold. Due to the odd shape of the bathroom and misshapen radiator, this room presented a significant amount of work. Colleen and James ultimately made the decision to hire a contractor to lay the tile flooring using Fireclay’s gorgeous Hexagon Tile in Basalt. They also have plans to install Fireclay’s 2×8″ Rectangle Tile in a Herringbone pattern along the walls later this spring. Next, they installed this white sink cabinet with two drawers + sink top and added a white bathroom shelving unit from IKEA. The fresh rust-colored towels + a black-striped textured shower curtain are from Target while the black braided reversible bath mat is from CB2.
What lessons have your DIY experiences taught you? — Above all, always use two wrenches when trying to unstick a stuck bolt. We learned the hard way trying to replace the faucet in the basement laundry room. James basically ripped the copper water line, and on a Sunday at 2 pm – getting a plumber out to solder on 3 inches of copper pipe will cost you $800+ dollars.
What has been the most enjoyable part of this remodel project? — Seeing it all slowly but surely come together has been really cool. James and I have also been able to spend a good amount of time together throughout this process and it has us thinking about what we want to do in our space upstairs.
When comparing Airbnb listings, a home office or workspace is a major added bonus, especially for guests traveling on business. The den was specifically designed to provide a workspace for guests in need of a quiet nook to work from while away from their office. Here you can find a black cowhide rug beneath two wicker chairs, paired with two Turkish kilim throw pillows from Arden Trading Co. In the far corner is a simple white desk from IKEA alongside the Luna Lounge Chair from Article. You can also find art of Prince and Bob Dylan by Kate Worum sprinkled throughout the den.
All DIY projects come with pain points. What was the least enjoyable part of the project? — In terms of workload, I think the largest undertaking was cutting and laying the SnapStone in the kitchen (a floating floor product, since the wood underneath wasn’t salvageable.) There were times when the place was a total mess and it was really difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel – but we’re there! Otherwise, the least enjoyable part was the many trips to Home Depot and IKEA. I swear, if you can go to those places and still want to be together afterward – you have a relationship that will last a lifetime. Also, just the timing of everything. Everything takes double if not triple the time you think it’s going to take. And with a house as old as ours, there is a greater potential for things to go wrong. That’s probably been the most stressful part, just the constant feeling of – Gosh, I hope this works.
What is something you wish you could re-do or begin again if you had the foresight and DIY knowledge that you have now? — I wish that I would have been more serious about the timeline. We really cut things down to the wire for the Super Bowl. James was literally screwing on an outlet plate in the kitchen when our guests were trying to get into the house.
What were your top 5 brands or companies you would recommend working with? — Article and Casper have both been amazing in bringing the Elliot House to life. I love Article’s furniture and their customer service is amazing. As for Casper, James and I have owned two of their beds in the past, so when we decided to move forward with the Airbnb, we knew right away that we wanted Casper beds. We bought a large number of things from IKEA and Target’s Project 62 line. James works for Target and receives an employee discount, which came in handy when shopping for furniture and décor. Lastly, I highly recommend hiring the By She She gals for wallpaper if that’s something you are interested in pursuing in your space. Their designs are always spot on and they are the hardest working chicks out there!
In the back bedroom, Anne and Colleen’s inspiration was once again in line with the front bedroom. They wanted it to look classic and fresh with a pop of originality. In room no. 2, the mattress, pillows, sheets, and down duvet also came from Casper. The warm wool blanket draped over the bed is from Arden Trading Co. While the black and gold Tufted Leather Ottoman is from Article. To add warmth to the floor and complete the room, Colleen purchased this Black/White Chevron Rug from Target. Anne also recommended that Colleen paint the wall behind the bed black to offset the white bed and create balance in the space.
What are the overarching pros and cons when digging into a remodel project? In the end, do you think the juice is worth the squeeze? — The juice is definitely worth the squeeze. The pros are: in the end, you hopefully have a space that you love, want to be in, and you want other people to be in. The cons are: at times it’s really really overwhelming. Like really overwhelming. You start getting stressed about how much things are costing you, and all of the items you have to return because they didn’t fit or work out accordingly. I had no idea that some of this stuff would take weeks to get sorted out. But overall, it’s been a good process. I’m already thinking about our space upstairs! I think once the downstairs is complete, we’re going to take a breather on large projects and just tackle little ones here and there.
All in all, would you do this again? What are your biggest learnings or takeaways? — The short answer is yes. But the biggest takeaways are – have a plan on which updates are realistic from a timing and financial perspective. Take the time and do your research on what it’s going to cost you. Get multiple bids, ask for referrals, and be patient. Once you can figure that out, it’s all about just going for it! There’s never really going to be a right time, so the best thing you can do is try to be as prepared as you can with the information you have.
The dining room is a simple space that bridges the kitchen and den together, it has ample lighting and tall ceilings. For this space, Anne envisioned fun and earthy hemp chandeliers paired with a modern rug. Golden Age Design provided a beautiful Danish-restored midcentury modern dining room table and bookshelf to complete the look. While the Horizon Bench in Bard Gray beneath the window from Article adds a nice touch, the Microplush Geo Area Rug in Charcoal/Cream from Target gives it a mod feel.
What do you most look forward to seeing come to fruition in the recent remodel? — I’m really looking forward to it not being a construction zone – a space that people can come truly enjoy and have a great experience in. I am working with Francine Thompson, a designer here at Wit and Delight to brand the Elliot House and our hope is to make it a destination place to stay when people come to Minneapolis. The branding was inspired by the colors and structural elements of the house like the columns in the archway. Francine also pulled some inspiration from Minneapolis city directories from the 1920s and 30s.
Any last words of recommendations for our readers looking to tackle their very own DIY projects? — My recommendation is that if you’ve been thinking about doing something in your home or in a rental – reach out to people who have done it before and ask for their advice and get referrals! Here are the following folks that I would recommend for anyone local near the Twin Cities.
Interior Design: Anne McDonald Design
Contractors: Randy Brehmer and Clint Sebastian
Plumbing: H2C – They have been amazing. They don’t bother with the “flat rate” scam. They run by the hour, which is a way better way of paying for work like this because then you know exactly what you’re paying for.
Stefani Ellenbecker is the Editorial Director at Wit & Delight. When she’s not feverishly editing or writing about style and interiors, she runs her bohemian shop Arden Trading Co. where she sells artisan-made home goods. She lives in Minneapolis with her fiancé Muhamed.