Ranch House Reborn

A reorganized layout, and a playful approach to décor, breathed new life into this dated log cabin


Cambria design shown: ELLA™

What’s the most important ingredient in the gut renovation of a historic (but ramshackle) home? Creative vision. And that’s exactly what shines through in this renovated home in Minikahda Vista, Minnesota. From bold, industrial accents to Scandinavian farmhouse charm to Moroccan tile, the design is an eclectic mix that somehow works flawlessly together to create a light, bright sanctuary for its owners, Steve and Margo Henke—a photographer, designer, and stylist.

The first step was to reimagine the layout and design a second-story addition, the owners explain. “The house was very choppy, with long corridors, and we wanted a more free-flowing, entertaining-friendly floorplan, and needed a little more space.” Then, they set about creating fresh and modern interiors that still stay true to the original character of the house.

To that end, the renovation team painstakingly removed every piece of wood paneling from the interior walls and ceilings, and the live-edge siding from the exteriors, and stored it in the garage for months while they completed the structural stage of the project. Inside, the owners used that original wood—bleached and remilled for a cleaner, more modern look—on select ceilings throughout the house, opting to panel all the exterior walls with white-painted nickel-gap shiplap. “We went from a Western-lodge look to more of a light and bright Nordic lodge.”

Balancing all that light is plenty of black: the dark porcelain floor tiles that flow through the main living spaces; the window frames; hardware and light fixtures; and even the kitchen cabinets, where the matte black finish creates a quiet backdrop for bold design moments. The farm table/island, for example—which the couple had made from their old dining room table—appears to float in the space, its sculptural legs standing in bold relief against the dark cabinets and floor. And, their forty-year collection of glassware gleams inside a pair of glass-fronted cabinets framed in black.

“In our old house, our glassware was split between three or four different rooms, so those cabinets were on the ‘must-have’ list.”

Light and dark come together again on the kitchen counters: Cambria’s Ella design covers the perimeter counters and the island, and Golden Dragon tops the area around the range. “We wanted a sense of easiness and fun in the design, and the Golden Dragon is one of the fun moments. It has streaks of gold glitter, and we just thought, ‘why not?’”

Another must-have in the kitchen: the black and gold clé tiles behind the range. “A splurge, for sure,” they admit. “But they add so much depth and personality.”

Golden Dragon reappears on the great room bar countertop, as do the clé tiles and the dark cabinet finish from the kitchen. They mounted a TV above the bar. “You might usually just have shelves for glassware or bottles above a bar, but this is the perfect placement for the TV, because it’s opposite the fireplace, so we can sit on the sofa between them and look in one direction at the fire, or in the other direction at a movie or a game.”


Cambria design shown: Delgatie™

This well-considered approach to design continues upstairs, where the decorating mixes equal parts whimsy and practicality in every room. The main bedroom, for example, has a full-wall mural of palm fronds and birds behind the bed. The baths each have their own personalities, thanks to boldly colored and patterned tile paired with Cambria white countertops unmarred by surface faucets. The floors on the second story, even in the bathrooms, are natural oak, specially treated to stand up to water, and reclaimed wood appears on select ceilings, continuing the warm, lodge-style look from the main floor.

Fun, fresh, inviting, comfortable—the updated spaces mix the best in modern design, with the aim of providing a haven for the owners and their family and friends for years to come.

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In the guest bath, main bedroom, and main bath (all above), the backdrop of white and natural wood keeps the look consistent. Pops of bold color, and design flourishes like the mural and vintage chandelier, add whimsy. Cambria design shown: Brittanicca™ (bathroom vanity). 


Paint Picks

From left: Black Jack 2133-20 and Super White OC-152 from Benjamin Moore & Co.