When Dave Corkum and Julie Tauer bought their 1929 Mediterranean-style three-story in the Macalester-Groveland area of St. Paul in 2016, they acquired a home whose history preceded them. Affectionately referred to as the Donovan house in honor of the well-known owners who lived there for decades, Dave and Julie fell in love with the neighborhood and the 4,750-square-foot home’s early-20th-century charm.
“It’s a beautiful little enclave, and it’s so close to everything—close to downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul, yet you’re in a walkable neighborhood, and people are always out and about,” says Dave. “The house itself has a historical feel and great architectural details, yet it’s updated from the standpoint of the flow of the house. We could envision how we wanted to live in and use this space. It’s just got a casual livability to it.”
When they first moved in, it wasn’t their intention to remodel, but with two sons in high school, they began to crave a space in the basement where the boys could hang out with friends and teammates, and where the family could entertain or unwind together at the end of the day.
Split up into a handful of tiny rooms, the original layout of the basement presented a spatial challenge for Vujovich Design Build, which was already familiar with the house from a kitchen remodel executed for the former residents. The mechanicals for the home were all over the place, and a lot of structural work needed to be done to get the open space they desired. New footings and steel beams allowed the team to create not only a family room with a TV and fireplace, but a gym, laundry room, powder room, and walk-up bar that is the crown jewel of the area, featuring walnut custom cabinetry, a quartz backsplash, and a full-height wine refrigerator.
With phase one complete, Vujovich moved on to phase two: updating the homeowners’ second-floor bedroom-level spaces to better function for their needs. Both the kids’ Jack-and-Jill bathroom and Dave and Julie’s primary suite bathroom were ready for a refresh, and they all desperately needed more closet space.
To accomplish this, Dave and Julie figured they would have to build an addition onto their second floor, but because of the exterior of the home—outfitted with a limestone brick facade, copper gutters and downspouts, and a tile roof—it would be a costly undertaking.
Vujovich found the solutions. “We went back to the drawing board and ﬁgured out how to rework the existing space, because they did already have the room. The space just needed to be reutilized,” says Vujovich’s director of sales and design, Lori Balestri. “More often than not, our design team can rework the existing square footage and ﬁnd a better layout, a better ﬂow to make it more functional.” Vujovich was able to give the homeowners his-and-hers closets, a spa-like bathroom, and a rooftop balcony.
When it came to the design choices, Balestri was tasked with combining the house’s traditional Mediterranean ﬂ air with the homeowners’ modern taste. “They travel a lot, Dave lived in London—they’re used to that sleek look. They wanted that in the new design for the basement and for both the bathrooms upstairs,” she says, pointing to ﬁnishes that helped them achieve that seamlessly blended look, like rich walnut cabinetry, natural stone, deep paint hues, and bronze light ﬁxtures.
Additionally, Vujovich worked with the homeowners to ensure both of their aesthetics were incorporated. Take the primary suite bathroom, for example, where soft, feminine white countertops, ﬂoors, and a freestanding tub are given a masculine touch with dark wood accents, gray paint, and clean-lined ﬁnishes.
The ﬁnal phase three, which, as of this writing, was not yet complete, will transform the attic space—accessible by a spiral staircase original to the house—into an office for Julie and a suite for guests.
“Now the house, in addition to everything that attracted us to it initially, is completely updated—very modern in terms of the amenities, combined with the uniqueness of it and the great architectural details,” says Dave. “Part of the goal of the renovation was to maintain the character. We feel like we’re caretakers of a great home, and we take that seriously. Lori said to me at one point, ‘The renovation is not insigniﬁ cant in what we’ve done. You’ve saved this home.’ We feel like we’re restoring it. It’s a great place and it will be a great place for somebody else when we move.”
Photography By Landmark Photography
Written By Taylor Hugo