Photography by M. Schleif Photography
Arriving at a home in rural Casselton, N.D, the home’s exterior was unassuming; like most 1950s ramblers, that at one point, had received a few subtle upgrades. It didn’t take more than one step inside the door before we realized that our unassuming rambler, had a stylish story to tell. This was a Mid-Century Modern gem, which had recently been updated and preserved to perfection. Giving us a tour of their extensive remodel project, was design consultant Cassandra Grenz of Casselton, N.D., and contractor Brock Dickson of Harwood, N.D.
Preservation on the Prairie
A preservation and remodel unlike any other, this rural rambler was once the home of the owner’s grandparents. Built in 1951, the home had good bones with a layout that’s unusually spacious. Inside, it held a treasure trove of Mid-Century Modern appeal that simply needed a little T.L.C. To recreate and update the homeowner’s childhood retreat, they requested that the original 50s details be preserved, restored and fused with modern amenities.
Back in 2011, Dickson had been hired to do improvements on the exterior, updating the windows, siding and roofing. So, when the homeowners decided to remodel the interior, nearly two years ago, they once again reached out to Dickson. Realizing the extent of the design and preservation, he decided to collaborate with his high school friend and design consultant, Cassandra Grenz. While Dickson took on the work of moving walls, reframing and updating the electrical, furnace, trim, flooring and doors – Grenz managed the entire main floor’s design and finish. After the main living space had set the tone, Dickson would go on to overhaul the basement on his own. Together, the two would successfully fuse the home’s 1950s elements with modern amenities and high-design.
Preserving the Kitchen
At the heart of the home, Dickson and Grenz were tasked with preserving her grandparent’s 1950s metal cabinets. These retro cabinets would become the inspiration for the entire remodel. Before they could get started, Dickson gutted the area, reframed the space, added central air and updated the flooring, plumbing, electrical and trim. The original floorplan stayed the same, but the overall finishes were a major upgrade.Keeping the metal cabinetry intact, Brock and Grenz did their research, going online to find new hardware that would mimic the 1950s style they needed. They also recruited Grenz’s dad, Harold Lemar, to wet sand and refinish the original metal in a more modern tone. Silestone quartz countertops from Northern Stone were added, along with a textured, Walker Zanger mod-inspired backsplash. Since the tile had a heavy texture, their installer, Tile Tec, opted to mount and hide the electrical outlets underneath the cabinetry.Embracing the curved counter and sharp corners near the dining room, Grenz and Dickson had IMS Decorative Ironworks fabricate floating stainless steel shelving for a 50s diner feel. Near the dining room, small details received extra attention; after updating the furnace and adding central air, they no longer needed the radiators, but instead, opted to keep them and have Lemar repaint and preserve them in place.Continuing their retro vibe with the appliances and fixtures, the homeowners chose industrial faucets from Ferguson, a La CornuFe range from Williams and Sonoma and Sub-Zero refrigerator.
“The homeowner’s favorite part of this project was definitely the kitchen. It was really the inspiration for the entire remodel. She has so many childhood memories with these metal cabinets; being able to restore them for her own family, is a great feeling.”
Cassandra Grenz, Design Consultant, Sassi Cassi Designs
Powder Room Pretty
Directly off the kitchen, Grenz redesigned the small powder room in an exquisite, Birds & Butterflies wallcovering from Schumacher. Adding to the retro look, Grenz chose clear globe lighting, a pedestal sink and Julia Mosaic Field tile from Walker Zanger.Another treasure worth preserving in the foyer, was the 1954 Rittenhouse Sheffield, Westminster doorbell chime in brass. “I had reached out to Lamps & Repair in Fargo – Dale had done lamp repair work for me in the past and I had proposed the restoration to him. He was open to the challenge, and took the old oil and cylinder construction and completely rebuilt a computer board for it to function; it turned out awesome,” said Dickson.
Art Deco Inspiration
Taking on the living and dining room remodel, Grenz looked no further than the family heirlooms and art deco collector’s pieces that remained. After moving a wall and updating the electrical, new COREtec flooring and carpet were installed, along with placement of a custom rug. Grenz found new furnishings from West Elm, Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware to complement the home’s original 1950s vibe. Grenz also had the original, curved velvet sofa fixed and re-upholstered to suit the refreshed space. The original wood-burning fireplace got a more convenient insert and the home’s lighting was replaced with timeless globes, pendants and mod chandeliers, similar to the original fixtures of the era.A fun find, that is now a treasured keepsake, is the home’s original cork and mahogany coffee table by designer, Paul Frankl. Using art deco pieces like these as her inspiration, Grenz chose walnut side tables from Rejuvenation, and a matching, walnut shelf from West Elm. Custom linen drapery, made of exquisite Schumacher fabric, finishes the living room and displays a traditional, Japanese dye technique referred to as Shibori.
Typical of the home’s era, the original master bath was cramped and closed off. Dickson opened up the small space by eliminating excess walls, while Grenz gave the room a crisp, monochromatic tone. Lighter and brighter, the new bath features custom glass and subway tile, walk-in shower, and a unique herringbone tile accent in marble. Since they had removed much of the original character to manage the remodel, Grenz made intentional design choices like the Schoolhouse globe lighting and Restoration Hardware vanity with a similar look as the 1950s kitchen cabinetry.
The homeowners nearly disposed of their old bedroom furniture, but Dickson and Grenz quickly intervened; recruiting Paul’s Furniture Restoration out of Buffalo, N.D., to refinish the solid wood pieces with modern appeal. Five-panel sliding doors lead the way to redesigned walk-in closets by Lampert’s Lumber._____________
After the main floor was completed, Dickson took over the remodel of the lower level, gutting the space and removing an entire floor’s worth of white tile. New COREtec flooring extends down the stairs, while new carpet was installed in the communal area. The original fireplace was also updated with a more modern and convenient insert. Beyond the communal space, two bedrooms were reconfigured for more space, with a back hallway hiding the new mechanical, electrical and water softener system. This hallway gave the owner’s sons easy access from their bedrooms to the newly renovated bathroom.At one point, the home’s lower level featured a kitchenette with 1950s elements. Having access to these original pieces gave Dickson an opportunity to refurbish the original cast-iron and porcelain sink for use in the new bathroom. He also added in decorative, stainless steel shelving behind a sliding barn door, cleverly hiding the linen closet. To utilize more of the space, Dickson added a side quartz countertop with a small vanity and shower area.This was the original wash sink and washing machine dating back to the early 50s.
Dickson had the washing machine repainted by a local body shop. Above the wash sink, he opted to keep the water lines exposed for added character.
Find the Finishes:
Contractor – Dickson Design & Construction, LLC
Designer – Sassi Cassi Designs
Countertops – Silestone Quartz – Niebla, Northern Stone
Shower door- Frontier Glass & Mirror
Sinks, bathtubs & plumbing fixtures – Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery
Custom stainless work – IMS Decorative Ironworks
Tile installer – Tile Tech
Flooring & tile supply – Tollefson Contract Flooring
Carpet – Tuftex: True Inspiration, Misty Taupe
Sofa reupholstery – Rocky Performance, Velvet Asphalt by Schumacher
Dining table & chairs – Restoration Hardware
Side upholstered armchairs – West Elm
Custom drapery – Andromeda, linen by Schumacher
Closet systems – Lampert’s Lumber
Hard flooring – COREtec Plus HD, Klondike Contempo Oak planks
Painting – Harold Lemar, H&S painting – Casselton, N.D.
Stove – La CornuFe, Williams and Sonoma, France
Fridge – Sub-Zero, Wolf
Drop glass pendants – Room & Board
Dining chandelier – Restoration Hardware
Powder room wallcovering – Birds & Butterflies by Schumacher
Powder room tile – Julia Mosaic Field, 6th Ave, Walker Zanger
Globe lighting – Schoolhouse, Shades of Light
Doorbell chime restoration – Lamps & Repair, Fargo
Furniture restoration – Paul’s Furniture Restoration, Buffalo N.D.
For more information, contact:
Sassi Cassi Designs
Cassandra Grenz / Design Consultant
Facebook: Sassi Cassi Designs
Dickson Design & Construction, LLC