Having trouble finding your dream Rochester home downtown?
Try making it from the inside. That’s what Matt Baylow and Wolf Mirasol did when they relocated to Rochester last year.
The retired couple moved from California to Minnesota in June, after a long search for a place that was close to downtown as well as to Baylow’s aging parents. (Who happen to be former Mayo Clinic doc and city coroner Paul Belau and poet/artist/pianist Jane Belau, who’s been called “Rochester’s Renaissance woman.”)
Matt and Wolf settled on a fifth-floor condo at High Point Condominiums.
The 2,000-square-foot space was a rental property for decades, which meant previous occupants were minimally concerned with improvements, says Baylow, who grew up in Rochester and started his career in 1980 doing weekend weather at KTTC-TV. (Which is when he “televisionized” the spelling of his last name.) After stints in Las Vegas and WCCO in Minneapolis, Baylow spent 20 years as a well-respected weather anchor in San Diego. (The mayor of San Diego, in fact, named June 11, 2018 “Matt Baylow Day.”)
The remodeling rookies knew the condo wasn’t what they wanted long-term. So they jumped right in. The plumbing couldn’t move. But since all of the weight in the condo was supported by the floors and ceiling, the pair could tear down any walls they wanted.
And boy, did they.
“If we’d wanted to take out all of the walls, we could have,” Baylow says. Just look at these pictures alone for the before-and-after of this totally remodeled condo.
“We like that it’s a wide-open space—that’s how people live nowadays,” says Mirasol, a mobility trainer and certified powerlifting coach (who grew up in several exotic locations but is convinced Rochester is ‘where it’s at’). “We wanted to take the emphasis off the area and onto the people that are in it.”
We understand, not everyone can totally make over their space. But trust us—you’ll want to borrow some of Baylow and Mirasol’s tips.
Here are several ideas you might like (ranked in order of sheer commitment to your remodel):
Look for ways to bring in local flavor. The “supermodern space” inside is balanced out with touches of history, says Mirasol. Glance around the condo’s front room, and several Rochester-specific details jump out. Accent lamps near the fireplace came from Dr. William Eugene Mayberry’s office at the Mayo Clinic, by way of Baylow’s father’s office. The couple used acid battery containers from the Duluth Lift Bridge to make side tables. And those dining table chairs from 1965 came from Baylow’s parents’ southwest Rochester home.
Brighten it up. Because ceilings support much of the weight in the High Point condos, there was no drilling for light fixtures. Around the edge of the living areas, Baylow and Mirasol placed strips of LED lights facing the ceiling, which add brightness to the area. When switched off, they blend into the white walls.
Don’t like your layout? Change it up. Baylow and Mirasol started by hiring Dahl Home Builders as their main contractor, then tearing out the wall that separated the den from the kitchen to turn the space into an open plan. Then they went through room by room, changing doors and turning unnecessary features into storage space.
Maximize space. Mirasol’s a fan of the sliding barn door, which he chose to avoid adding bulk inside the rooms. “They don’t take away the space that some other open door would,” he says. And after an HVAC upgrade that decreased the home’s need for ducting, they raised the ceilings a little, increasing the height of the living areas. And of course, cabinet space pays back in dividends. Baylow and Mirasol created an entertaining-friendly space by storing almost everything under counters. “It’s more than a two-butt kitchen,” Baylow says.
But don’t be afraid to convert closets. A wide, shallow closet in one hallway is now a small office area, with space for two computer tables and chairs. The bathroom attached to the master bedroom initially had a separate shower and tub. What a waste of space, Baylow and Mirasol thought. So they walled off the tub (it’s now a closet space in the master bedroom) and moved in some storage furniture. Finally, one sink became two. There was another extraneous space in the other bathroom which is—you guessed it—another closet.
Share space with your contractors. Finding people to work on the condo was tricky, Baylow says, because of the amount of construction in Rochester. However, during the four months or so of work, the couple did occupy the condo—or just outside it, actually. An air mattress on the south-facing balcony and bathrooms and showers in the High Point lobby made it possible for them to avoid renting a room. “We lived on the balcony for a couple of months,” Mirasol says. “It was like camping—we got into the habit of getting up as soon as the crows started cawing, and we didn’t have electricity, so we went to sleep as soon as the sun went down.”