Before sisters Pola and Betsy Rest closed on the purchase of their Mendota Heights condominium a year and a half ago, a leaky refrigerator wreaked havoc with the kitchen’s wood floor and cabinets. The insurance company paid for new flooring in the kitchen as well as the dining and living areas because the contractor could not match the existing wood flooring in those areas.

The insurance company would not pay for the other damages in the kitchen, but that did not stop the Rests. “We were going to do a kitchen remodel anyway,” said Betsy Rest, a retired physician. “This just got the process going a little faster.”

The sisters hired Castle Building & Remodeling for the project. Castle redesigned and rebuilt an island counter, opened a kitchen wall to draw in more natural light and installed new appliances and lighting.

The importance of having a kitchen that functions well was a major reason the sisters moved to Mendota Heights from their apartment in Saint Paul. The Rests enjoy entertaining, “and the kitchen at our other place was terrible,” Betsy said.

The Linden Street Lofts condo has an open floor plan. However, a wall with a pass-through opening separated the kitchen from an adjacent room. That room had windows overlooking the street, and the sisters wanted to bring that natural light into the kitchen.

home improvement
Pola Rest reclines at the new island counter that serves as a bridge between the kitchen and dining room of her and her sister Betsy’s Mendota Heights condominium. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Working with designer Tracy O’Donnell, they had Castle enlarge the pass-through and remove a half-wall to create a doorway. To add a bit of pizzazz, they chose a white Artisan Hardware barn door that can be slid into place to close off the room from the kitchen when quiet or privacy is desired.

The sisters made other changes, starting with the island counter, which now runs the kitchen’s length and separates the cooking area from the dining area. They removed the island’s bar top to gain counter space for food preparation. The new island features a deep Blanco America sink with a stylish Brizo single-handle faucet, a dishwasher and storage cabinets.


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“Now we can both work comfortably without bumping into each other when we’re preparing food,” Pola said. “And we’re using all of the counters a lot because we’ve been cooking a great deal during the pandemic.”

“Now we can both work comfortably without bumping into each other when we’re preparing food,” Pola said. “And we’re using all of the counters a lot because we’ve been cooking a great deal during the pandemic.”

The sisters installed a new GE Profile stove, microwave and refrigerator. Betsy likes the GE induction stovetop because it cooks faster and responds to temperature settings quickly. The appliance also leaves the stovetop warm but not hot after cooking. “We’re trying to age in place,” Betsy said, “and this seemed safer than a gas cooktop. I also like that it’s really adjustable in heating.”

Castle constructed the kitchen’s cabinets and painted them a custom color. The sisters chose Cambria countertops for the kitchen surfaces. Pola designed and constructed a stained-glass backsplash, covering quarter-inch mesh with square and rectangular glass pieces in a colorful mosaic to brighten the kitchen’s back wall.

“It was a fun project to work on, and I love the result,” Pola said.

While they were transforming the kitchen, the sisters had Castle complete a few other projects. Workers removed a popcorn ceiling over the condo’s main areas and replaced the hallway and kitchen lighting with more contemporary lamps.

O’Donnell said she enjoyed helping the sisters choose three tube-shaped pendant lights to hang above the island counter and a series of lighted lines that are attached to the kitchen ceiling.

The project, O’Donnell said, transformed the condo’s original kitchen “with what is a more bright and airy space.” The kitchen is not only more functional now, but more pleasant to work in as well, she said.

home improvement
Orchids frame the barn door that replaced a half-wall separating the Rests’ kitchen from a small side room. Photo by Brad Stauffer

— Frank Jossi


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