Hidden assets

Sometimes the simple, inexpensive solutions can have the most impact walls in this row house were peeled back to reveal the original stone
View of lounge and dining area after renovations dining room, interior design, living room, real estate, restaurant, room, table, brown
View of lounge and dining area after renovations which features a refurbished fireplace with solid limestone wall and marble hurst.

This project is proof that you don't have to spend a fortune transforming your home. With a little lateral thinking and a DIY approach you can make significant changes that are both cost effective and distinctive.

Residential designer Charlie Simmons of Charlie & Co Design in St Paul, MN, remodeled the interior of his own 1887 Italianate row house, located in the historic Uppertown district. Mindful of its notable past the building is listed on the National Registration of Historic Places Simmons says he chose to marry a contemporary aesthetic with the original DNA of the building. The existing material palette of the exterior informed the choice of materials on the interior.


View of living area with fireplace prior to ceiling, fireplace, floor, hearth, home, home appliance, house, interior design, living room, plaster, property, real estate, room, wall, window, white
View of living area with fireplace prior to renovations.

The most dramatic change involved the removal of a sheetrock wall, followed by a 2½in-thick horsehair plaster wall in the living room, which had been in place since the house was first built.

Simmons says he worked on the wall over a period of six months, gradually removing the plaster to reveal the original solid Plattville limestone wall that divides the row houses.

View of lounge and dining area after renovations ceiling, fireplace, hearth, home, interior design, living room, lobby, real estate, room, brown
View of lounge and dining area after renovations which features a refurbished fireplace with solid limestone wall and marble hurst.

This is now a key feature of the interior, along with a new fireplace surround. The original brick surround had been covered by small, uninteresting brick facade in 1979. Simmons added a third layer, sourcing Kasota limestone from the same quarry as the limestone on the building exterior. This was then glued to the existing masonry with the use of a construction adhesive.

"Such a project might cost upwards of $3000, but I was able to secure a good deal at the quarry, and a metal worker built the new fireplace screen for $200. Overall, it was very good value for such a dramatic change."

May 11, 2010
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