Same Footprint, Whole New Impression

This Tomco project is a case study in smart remodeling and teamwork. The main level makeover demonstrates how to gain functional and attractive living space without adding on. It also shows how you can make a floor plan more open, within limits, for the best of both worlds.

Maple kitchen with peninsula breakfast bar

Breakfast for two.

Martin and Linda had four objectives when they contacted Tomco Company last year on a subcontractor’s recommendation:

  • Enlarge their tiny master bath to make it more accessible and enhance resale appeal.
  • Open up the kitchen to the family room around the corner while retaining the separate dining room.
  • Update the rest of the main level so it didn’t look frozen in time alongside the new spaces.
  • Reduce carpeting to combat allergies.

At first they planned to remodel the bath and kitchen in phases, but Tomco’s Tom Schiebout convinced them he could provide more value and achieve a better outcome by completing everything at the same time. After sharing the space with out of town family over the holidays, hosting a couple of parties, and experiencing two months of daily living in the new space, the empty nesters say they wouldn’t change a thing. (Except maybe living in the basement last fall during construction.)

Kitchen Remodeling Recipe

The original 1970s kitchen peninsula had an overhead cabinet so it functioned more as a pass-through that separated the workspace from the eating area. Meanwhile, French doors divided the eating area from the family room addition. The new layout features an open peninsula with a pair of benches. The doors are gone too.

Now a floor to ceiling wall of cabinetry with accessible storage and a distinctive eye-level bookcase replaces the table. This  improves traffic flow and storage between the front hall and the family room. With the kitchen table removed, the couple now enjoys daily dinners in the dining room that had mostly been reserved for entertaining in the past.

“It has almost created an L-shaped great room. Between the kitchen and the family room is where people hang out so it is much more open to flow back and forth,” Linda explained.

The kitchen work zone is much more functional too. “Before you could only have one person in the kitchen. And everyone else would stand there and watch me,” Linda recalled. “The way it is designed now, you have multiple work stations so a lot of people can be helping out in the food prep,” Martin added.

In the old kitchen, the refrigerator had no nearby counter space. A counter with a pull-out cutting board now separates the new fridge and stove on the same wall. “It’s just so much more functional. There are drop spaces. I don’t have to set the milk on the stove when getting stuff in and out of the fridge,” Linda said.

The couple knew they wanted rich maple cabinetry with contrasting dark stone countertops and lighter flooring. They chose sand-in-place maple flooring with a clear Bona finish for the kitchen, dining room, halls and three bedrooms. This achieved their main-level integration and air quality objectives. Tomco also updated cabinet doors and drawer faces and hardware in the hall and hall bath to match the kitchen.

“We previously had high quality laminate flooring in the kitchen and the entry. It was from Norway, and they couldn’t get it here anymore. We kept coming back to what we really liked was solid hardwood flooring. We have a number of allergies also so we knew we would have to at least recarpet bedrooms if we changed anything. So we bit the bullet and went with what we loved and used maple flooring throughout,” Linda explained.

Linda and her designing daughter picked Jet Mist Honed Granite counters for a soapstone look without the chipping and scratching. “It’s about as close to a soapstone look as you can get without being soapstone,” Linda remarked.

Linda credits Tom with painstakingly creating a custom finish color match for the millwork and cabinetry, which saved them the expense of replacing the oak trim throughout the house.

“Tom worked very hard, it took a lot of hours, to get the stain just right so when you walk in the kitchen you focus on the maple cabinets. The trim still is oak, but you don’t really notice it because the cabinet color matches so well,” Linda said.

Tomco also updated the kitchen with extensive LED lighting. “It’s lighter. It’s brighter. I didn’t know that I really cared about undercabinet lighting and now I love it. I can actually see what I am doing and we can control it with dimmers,” Linda said.

“A number of people have said the kitchen is a very calming atmosphere with the colors of the wood and the counters and being able to adjust the lighting,” Martin added.

Putting the Master in Bath

Linda recalls discovering the private bath off the master bedroom when they bought the house and thinking, “Oh look, a second bath!” But she knew the reaction would be more like “Really?” at resale because of its tiny size and narrow, 24-in. doorway.

“My mom had a knee replacement and getting her in there was a problem. The walker wouldn’t fit through the old doorway,” Linda recalled. Tomco annexed a bit of space from the adjacent family room to make way for a large, accessible shower and wider floor and door.

Stylish grab bars double as towel rod and toilet paper holder. An adjustable hand shower and shallow corner bench improve versatility and convenience.

Tom eliminated the upper part of the partition between the vanity and the toilet to open up the space visually without compromising privacy. However, the biggest innovation is the split pocket door.

Without room in the wall for a 32-in. wide pocket door, Tom fitted the space with split pocket doors that slide to each side. The vanity and countertop taper toward each end to accommodate the undermount sink and the wider doorway and toilet access.

A Craftsman’s Approach

The couple said they are glad they chose a contractor who was more than a salesman. “We used to have a pantry closet in the kitchen. Tom said, you know, you could flip the door and access the space from the hallway and still have a pantry. That created a lot more useable space in the kitchen. As a carpenter he could visualize things where we had no idea,” Linda explained. “Tom did a phenomenal job and all of his subcontractors were great. This is the kitchen I wanted to see when I was searching for ideas!”


Before Photos

Looking Good After 21 Years

Jan and Gary’s Minnetonka house was built in 1960 and they had called it home for the past 21 years. Tomco Company remodeled the kitchen and dining room, banished the pink main bath and created a proper basement suite for their returning grad student daughter. They love it so much they expect to retire in place someday. But for now they are focused on celebrating the new space with family and friends over the holidays.


Kitchen-Dining Room

As with so many ‘60s homes, the original kitchen was small and closed off and the old basement bathroom was crude. There also was the matter of that pink tile and fixtures. We started with the lower level remodeling to give the family a reasonable retreat during the main level project. We converted the area that had been occupied by the old basement bathroom into a walk-in closet for the bedroom. Then we repurposed the old laundry/workshop area for a three-quarter bath with a nice ceramic tile shower and an adjustable hand shower.

Meanwhile, Jan had a full list of upgrades she wanted upstairs, starting with removing the wall between the kitchen and the dining room. The new, open kitchen/dining area would get white, ceiling-height cabinets, a built-in china cabinet, an accessible pantry with pullout shelves, a convenient drawer-style microwave, dramatic granite counters, lots of LED lighting, LVT flooring and new windows. Then the double-vanity main bath received a complete makeover with a sturdy vertical grab bar in the custom-tiled tub shower.

After bracing the ceiling to eliminate chronic cracking, we replaced the dated popcorn finish with a classy knockdown effect. We also patched the red oak flooring and applied a clear finish for a light, updated look.

We did the space planning and heavy lifting but Jan and Gary took the lead with surfaces. They chose Titanium granite countertops and travertine tile backsplashes.

Gary and Jan considered Tomco because they liked the work we had done at the homes of two close friends. Now they have their own reason to recommend us. Hear Jan share her Tomco remodeling experience in her own words in the video.

Over-the-top Thinking Avoids Post & Beam

When Tim and Amy Wysocki were ready for their third remodeling project since 2005 this year, they again contacted Tomco Company. The New Brighton couple was confident they could count on Tom Schiebout for quality work and a fair price. But this kitchen remodeling experience brought something extra.

Open kitchen

Tom had both designed and built their addition in 2005 and remodeled their master suite after that. He also had replaced all of their windows and most of their interior millwork. For this latest project, their friend who primarily designs commercial spaces had developed the remodeling plan as a gift. His concept was to remove two walls of the narrow galley kitchen and install a peninsula bar and ceiling height cabinets.

Instead of installing a post at the end of the long bar for a dropped beam to support the ceiling, Tom suggested placing the beam above the bottom chord of the attic trusses. That made possible a continuous, unbroken great room ceiling that spans the kitchen, dining area and living room. I can tell you from experience. You walk in the front entry and think, “Wow. This space is really big.”

Creative Problem-Solvers

It’s one thing to install a 22-foot-long engineered lumber beam when building a house with easy access for equipment. Getting one into place in an existing home is lot tougher. Yet it was just another day in the life of the resourceful Tomco crew. The solution? Cut a hole in the end gable of the attic and slide the 18-in.-tall  beam through the truss chords until the end rested on new bearing posts in the remaining walls. Then secure the bottom chords to the beam with special engineered hangers and install a broad patch in the ceiling drywall to help prevent future cracking.

Most people judge remodeling projects based on how they look and function. This hidden, over-the-top beam is a great example of why what you don’t see can be just as important. When I ask homeowners what they like least about their open floor plans they often point to an awkward post or dropped beam that breaks the view. Thanks to Tomco Company, these clients are spared.

Voice of Experience

After three major remodeling projects with Tomco Company, the Wysockis have some advice for fellow homeowners.

  • If you have strong feelings about a design feature, hold your ground. Amy knew she wanted dark cabinets with a distressed finish. “Black is the new gray,” Tom later agreed.
  • When the contractor strongly recommends something from experience, listen to him. “I’m so happy Tom talked us out of keeping the old drop-in sink and faucet,” Amy offered.
  • Make sure the features work for you. Tim loves the combination electrical/USB outlets at the counter between the refrigerator and the garage. And everyone likes the custom side-mounted spice cabinet built-in to the left of the refrigerator.

Drawing the Line on Master Suite Remodeling

One of the biggest questions when remodeling or creating a master bedroom suite often is where to draw the line. Expanding into adjacent spaces literally comes at a price. It’s important to ask yourselves. What is the resale impact from eliminating a small, unused bedroom? Will we achieve the right storage space where we need it? Will the new floor plan’s traffic flow and sight lines make sense?

This master project, which we recently completed in Anoka, illustrates a number of carefully considered choices. The old suite’s bathroom was too small and broken up and failed to take advantage of the scenic Mississippi River view. “There wasn’t even a place to put a scale on the floor,” the owner recalled. The suite also lacked a must-have walk-in closet, and furniture encroached on the sleeping area.

Call it robbing Peter to pay Paul, but Tomco Company managed to achieve all of the clients’ needs by simply reallocating the space and reorienting the new fixtures. In the process, we also enhanced the home’s universal design/aging in place appeal.

Start in the hall

We started by redesigning the tight, L-shaped hall to incorporate master bedroom and home office doors on clipped corners. A small bedroom was repurposed into a large master bedroom closet and a small home office. Meanwhile, the bathroom expanded into the old closet area to create a bigger space that features a larger shower, double vanity and more discrete toilet. We also incorporated built-in storage cabinets to eliminate bedroom furniture and make better use of a hall wall. And a slight expansion of the main bathroom made it more functional and beautiful.

Custom doors envisioned by the client played a leading role in the distinctive design. Narrow French doors were used for the walk-in closet and the office. The closet door features mirrored glass panels, while the office entry employs clear glass panels to spread natural light.

As built plan



Proposed Plan



Andover DIYrs Discover Benefits of Hiring Tomco Company Pros

Ted and Chris Moore photo

Ted and Chris Moore

Ted and Chris Moore are avid do it yourselfers. The Andover couple built their deck, installed hardwood flooring, reoriented the kitchen island and painted their house. But when it came time to remodel their master bathroom this year, they hired Tomco Company.

They wanted professional quality tiling, electrical and plumbing and an experienced general contractor to coordinate the various tradesmen and complete the project on time and on budget. With Tom Schiebout and Tomco Company they got both.

The Moores still were intimately involved in choosing design elements and features. For instance, Chris saw a cabinet on Pinterest with a cream colored case and natural wood doors and drawer faces stained different colors and accented by a mixture of pulls and handles. It was just the personal touch she wanted for her own master bath. Tom recommended knotty alder and designer Carol Klein consulted on selections.

The Moores also had their own ideas about the shower. Although clear glass shower doors are popular, the busy couple preferred an easy-care curtain to preclude having to squeegee after every use. And Ted had to have a built-in radio with good antenna and hardwired speakers over  shower and  the soaking tub (for sports talk radio, not singing).

Chris admits she needs one more thing to make her new bathroom complete – a clock. “I like the bathroom so much, I find myself lingering and lose track of time,” she confessed.

The couple also appreciated an unexpected advantage of hiring the pros. The large vanity cabinet wouldn’t fit through the bedroom door. So the Tomco crew raised it on scaffolding and brought it in through a second story window. DIYrs — Don’t try this yourselves at home!