[Kaeli Wendt - Wendt Cabinets & Countertops]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography
Before photos provided by Kaeli Wendt
There are roughly 11 acres of gorgeous, treed parkland surrounding the Heritage Hjemkomst Interpretive Center in Moorhead, Minn. For most residents of Fargo-Moorhead, this area is reserved for field trips, the occasional river hike or historic and Nordic celebrations. For Kaeli Wendt, this is her backyard at the One Riverside Condos in Moorhead. Inside its 1978 facade, Wendt found a gem that would make for the perfect project. As a kitchen and bath designer in her family's Moorhead business, Wendt Cabinets & Countertops, she had a team of experts at her fingertips to help her reconfigure an outdated space into a modern marvel.
A Hidden Gem
Wendt's condo is a rare find in a secure building with an elevator, underground parking, library common area, and features extra wide hallways, which made moving in a breeze. The condo encompasses 1,300 square feet including two bedrooms and two bathrooms with laundry. The previous owner had lived in the condo for nearly 40 years and all of the original finishes were still intact.
While most her age would not be interested in residing in a building where nearly all of the neighbors are over 70, Wendt's eye for design spotted an opportunity. "Although it's outdated, it's a really charming building. My friends joke about the number of scooters and walkers in the hallway," laughed Wendt. "It's a quiet building though and I love it; I go to bed really early, so it's kind of my speed. Living alone, the neighbors are so kind and sweet to me, they all kind of watch out for me as I come and go."
Demo & Redesign
"When I first walked in, I thought, ok, this is interesting...but, I went to school for interior design, so I saw the potential right away. I went into work and drew up a design for it, so I already had a vision in mind," said Wendt. "So far, it's far exceeded what I had dreamt up for it. The remodel took only about three months, which is really quick, so I've gotten to live here for six months now."
To manage the construction, Wendt hired Murry Herrmann Construction. Herrmann is based in the lakes area, but he came highly recommended as he'd done work for her uncles in the past. Wendt and her dad, of course, handled the design and construction of the cabinetry and built-ins, but Herrmann and his two sons managed the remodel's construction details like the doors, trim work, flooring, plumbing, most of the tile installation, new HVAC and soffits. "Murry and his two sons busted it out super fast," said Wendt. "I was traveling one weekend and I came back and it was all gutted. I couldn't close on my house for a while, so it worked out well and I had plenty of time to plan the cabinetry and put in the final touches."
A major game changer was the idea to increase the ceiling height by exposing the ductwork. Wendt also wanted a more open-concept layout, so reconfiguring the space via the closets in the entry, bathrooms and bedrooms provided the opportunity for beautiful built-ins with extra storage and style.
The original entry consisted of a tiny coat closet, so Wendt got to work recreating the space using a full wall of painted white built-ins to add ample storage and keep the smaller entry space clear from clutter. "I had the resources to do a ton of cabinetry, so I used it to create a more defined space for the entry and dining room," explained Wendt. "This made for more storage on both sides and changing the walls created a more open layout."
The showstopper kitchen was the most dramatic change with a completely re-configured layout. Wendt put her design expertise to use creating a dream kitchen with a custom-painted island, modern perimeter layout, and new subway tile backsplash that her boyfriend helped to install. "I chose a 2x4-inch subway tile with darker grout and designed the backsplash with Schoolhouse warehouse sconces and floating quartersawn oak shelves."
Wendt designed the painted perimeter cabinetry in Bright White with a Jasper green island and adjacent built-ins with wine storage and pull-outs. The hardware is a mix of Modern Brushed Gold from Berenson and Restoration Hardware, with MSI Q Quartz countertops in Cashmere Oro, from Spaulding Stone.
"The condo has a concrete ceiling and floor, so this changed some of my plans for the kitchen island - I was originally planning on putting the microwave in the island, but since we couldn't get power to it, we relocated it to the built-in nearby," said Wendt. "That's why we have all of these conduits and one reason why we put a soffit above the island. My dad actually came up with the idea to include this built-in with the wine storage by taking space from the guest room closet on the other side of the wall. I had a lot of help with this project; thankfully, I have a lot of handymen in my life."
Making every inch count in the space separating the entry from the kitchen, Wendt designed a quaint, built-in dining area with quartersawn oak table top and industrial warehouse lighting.
"It was fantastic to have access to our family business," said Wendt. "There's no way that I would be able to have what I have, without those resources. It's also nice that I have the eye for it and it's what I do every day; I work with a lot of different ways to maximize storage. Cabinets and countertops are a big ticket item, so working in the cabinetry industry is a huge benefit on a project like this one."
Selecting a Style
"I'm leaning toward a Mid-century Modern style," said Wendt. "I've used a lot of black and brass, but it's a good mix of styles and reusing items to save on costs. I also had the flooring replaced with a COREtec luxury vinyl, so it's water-resistant and scratch-resistant. We took down the original wallpaper and repainted all of the walls in the same Bright White as the kitchen cabinetry."
A standout feature in the main living area is the custom-designed, 54-inch barn door painted in the same Jasper green as the kitchen island and built-ins. This door does double-duty as a transitional entrance to the guest bedroom, and a unique focal point for the family room. “The chairs in the family room are from West Elm, but the sofa is the first piece of furniture I bought, right out of college; it's now lived in three of my houses," said Wendt. "I'd love to get a cognac leather one, but I think this old one works for now."
"I had to get rid of a lot and declutter to move into a smaller space. As a designer, my advice is to let go of your junk," laughed Wendt. "I think people assume that they have to cover every wall and there has to be something in every corner, but I think less is more."
Wendt's Riverside condo overlooks the treed embankment of the Red River which frames in a spectacular view of the Hjemkomst Center's iconic Viking ship. "Originally, the building had all open-air balconies, but someone must have gotten the wild idea to enclose it, so everyone else followed suit," said Wendt. "You can see the brick exterior wall and it had a patio door when I moved in. I decided to keep the original wood paneling and I added a built-in daybed for extra storage. I love the chairs I found at West Elm."
Mastering the Suite
Wendt's master bedroom already had a large closet, so she reconfigured the space, framing in two smaller outer edge closets, then designed a built-in dresser and TV space in the middle. Since the exterior walls are concrete, Wendt chose bedside wall sconces that did not need to be hardwired.
In the master bath, Wendt had a distinct vision. It needed to include this custom-designed glass shower enclosure made by Fargo Glass & Paint and a stunning linen closet with glass inserts. She chose a white grout for her subway tile with a hexagonal ceramic tile flooring, quartersawn oak cabinetry and MSI Q Quartz countertops in Calacatta Verona.
"When we started the remodel, we widened the doorways and cut into the closets," said Wendt. "In the original layout, the closet and doors had a tendency to collide, so so we needed to get creative. Since it's a condo, I couldn't do much with the layout, so I had to cut in places where I could and remove framed in closets in the bathroom, opening up other areas."
Guest Bedroom Bliss
With two access points, one from the hallway and the other from the sliding barn door facing the family room, Wendt's guest room can be closed off for practical purposes or left open as a beautiful extension of the family room.
In the guest bathroom, Wendt chose a white grout for her subway tile with the same ceramic tile flooring that she chose for the master bathroom. Quartersawn oak cabinetry and MSI Q Quartz in Calacatta Verona set a sleek, but warm contemporary tone. "With my dad being a true cabinet maker and not liking painted wood, I really wanted to include some unpainted wood so I didn't break his heart," laughed Wendt. "I've been trying to get people to try oak again for a long time now, but everyone has that honey oak stuck in their heads; I specifically love quartersawn oak, and it's finally coming back."
The decision to downsize came after Wendt's two foster children of eight months moved on to new homes. "It was a really hard transition, so I decided to refocus and I wanted to take on a project," said Wendt. "There were so many memories in my last house, so I thought it was time to sell and downsize. I wanted something simple; I love to travel and I like to get up and go. I didn't want to have to worry about snow removal and mowing the lawn."
Although Wendt is thrilled with the results of her remodel, she doesn't predict she'll stay longer than a year or so. This is her third remodel to date, but she loves the process and is always searching real estate listings for her next project. "I built my last home and I flipped the one before that, so I'm a busybody - I always get the itch to take on another project," laughed Wendt.
About Wendt Cabinets:
Wendt's grandpa started Wendt Construction in 1969, with a primary focus on building homes with his three sons. Just over 30 years ago, her dad, Dale Wendt, branched off to create a cabinetry division that would not only serve Wendt Construction but many other contractors in the area. Kaeli Wendt has worked off and on in the business throughout her youth and college, then officially joined the family business in Moorhead, Minn. in 2012, after graduating from NDSU in Interior Design.
Find the Finishes:
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