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Cookbooks aren’t just for pulling recipes. If you are Victoria Sass of Prospect Refuge Studio, they can also inspire an entire remodel. At least, that’s how the renovation of this family’s Minneapolis home began, with a stack of six titles: Sunday Suppers at Lucques, The New Midwestern Table, Aloha Kitchen, Australian Food, Nothing Fancy, and Ottolenghi Simple. Some of the books reflected the homeowners’ travels, others spoke to their Midwestern roots, but the meals in each all shared one thing in common. They feature “daily specials,” according to Sass, or simple, thoughtful dishes that make regular events—baking on a Saturday morning, celebrating a birthday on a school night—feel a little more grand. Those are the kinds of moments Sass and her team, along with architect Sarah Nymo, wanted to design for. “It was all about taking ordinary things and adding a little sprinkle on top,” says Sass. 

So how do you translate the feeling of a cookbook library to a home? You do it through clever floor plan tweaks, nostalgic tile, happy paint colors, and splurge-worthy lighting. Ahead, Sass walks us through the feel-good updates they made to this kitchen, dining area, mudroom, and powder room. 

Search High and Low for Wiggle Room 

The kitchen, before.

While flipping through the pages of Sunday Suppers, Sass noticed that all of the recipes were tailored to a party of six. Looking around her client’s home at that moment, she felt like their house had originally been designed to host that many people, too. But given the homeowners have two young kids, Sass wanted to expand the rooms ever so slightly so that they could comfortably host, say, another family of four or two other couples for dinner. She wanted to give them a house for hosting a party of eight. “We wanted just a little more breathing room, so you could pull up two more chairs at the dining table,” Sass says. 

It was a game of inches. Prospect Refuge shrunk the mudroom by a hair, widened all the doorways, bumped the sink zone out 6 inches, and tucked some of the cabinets underneath the adjacent staircase wall to make way for an island with seating. 

Cover Your Reno Tracks With Old-School Details

The aforementioned cabinets that got tucked underneath the staircase were a new addition, although looking at the millwork you’d never know it: The dark wood and semi-overlay doors seem antique. “Having that conversation with a cabinetmaker is always comical to me,” says Sass. “They’re like, ‘Oh, you want me to put that into a kitchen? But we’re taking that out of kitchens.’” Sneaking the cabinetry under the stairs was a clever move, but it was one that forced them to lower the ceiling over the nook. To make the soffit look more streamlined, Prospect Refuge mirrored it on the other side of the room, over the range hood and sink.

The marble trim that lines the vent hood and the walls around it also looks like it was added to the kitchen decades ago. Is it original to the house? Was it repurposed from a different room? Those are the exact type of questions the designer wants you to be asking when you step inside. “Maybe that marble existed before the tile or the tile came first; I love when you can’t tell the chronological order of things, even though all of this was added at the same time,” shares Sass.

Abstract Memories of Home Through Custom Tile

Prospect Refuge tasked custom tile designer Kristen Falkirk with crafting the backsplash. Her only real direction from Sass was to make squares with various shapes on them. Falkirk took it upon herself to open up a map and trace various corners and contours of Minnesota lakes. “It makes me so happy when we work with these people who aren’t just following orders, but are true artisans,” says Sass. The result is a collection of tiles that look organic and random but are each little reminders of home. 

Buy That Light That Impresses Guests, Morning and Night

The dining room, before.

With new paneling, hinges, and paint, Prospect Refuge beefed up the hutch in the dining room, making it feel more like a proper alcove rather than a series of flimsy shelves. Sass convinced her clients to spend half of their entire lighting budget for the house on the Atelier de Troupe chandelier over the dining table. Her argument: It’s the first thing you see when you walk in the front door and come down the stairs in the morning; it has to take your breath away.

Make the Drop Zone Flexible

The mudroom, before.

The bee-themed Jennifer Shorto wallpaper in the mudroom is both a reference to one of the owner’s upbringing on a farm and also Sass’s cheeky nod to the space being a hive of activity. Prospect Refuge ensured the delicate paper’s longevity by adding paneling partway up the wall, keeping it out of reach of little fingers. 

While the large cabinet is prime for winter coats and boots, the drop zone right next to the door arguably works harder. The nook is outfitted with fully removable drawers that are perfectly sized for 8.5-by-11 inch pieces of paper, that way when it’s time to sort through old art projects and homework, each kid can grab their cubby and dump it out on the dining room table. Important pieces of paper can be tacked to the magnetic wood veneer wall.

Heart Your Renovation Forever

The powder room, before.

The powder room is a nostalgic whirlwind with its vintage-inspired Water Monopoly sink (there’s also a matching blue tankless toilet) and needlepoint-esque floor tile. The tiling detail felt crafty and therefore fittingly Midwestern, but look closely and you’ll also see four little hearts in the motif.

Each one represents the four family members. “I just have to pray that the couple doesn’t have anymore children,” Sass says jokingly. “It’s a snapshot in time of when they worked on this house, and I think that’s part of it, too.”