It wasn’t exactly love at first sight.

The fixer-upper farmhouse in Delano had lost much of its 1940s soul to a patchwork of dated renovations—endless plywood paneling,  low popcorn ceilings, and an addition in the late ’70s with an oversize family room. Designer Melissa Oholendt says her husband, Matt, “claims he sent me the listing as a joke.”

But the couple was motivated to move a couple of years ago from their small St. Paul house, where they were raising their toddler, Rowan, now 5. “We were very alone during the pandemic, with neither of us having family around,” Melissa says. A bonus of the 2,200-square-foot Delano cottage was that it came with a separate carriage house that would be ideal for both of their out-of-town families to stay in during longer-term visits. Also, Melissa downloaded the floorplan and began falling in love with how she and Matt could revive the house.

People want houses they can live in that feel life-friendly, and that means homes that are both functional and beautiful.


—Melissa Oholendt, designer and homeowner

It seemed like the ending would write itself. And it did—just not with the Oholendts living there. A second plot twist to their storybook ending came just after the couple finished the  arduous first phase of renovations. Matt had an unexpected career opportunity that he couldn’t refuse, one that would put them closer to family in Colorado.

The bittersweet scenario meant finishing the last of the renovations knowing they would soon have to move. And yet, they wouldn’t have it any other way. “We couldn’t sell the house 75 percent finished,” Melissa says. “Thankfully, Matt’s company allowed us time to finish, and that gave us time to enjoy the freshly renovated spaces for a couple of months before we turned the house over to someone else.”

From the outset, Melissa had a vision for the renovation: Working with the same footprint, the designer created cozy rooms by reworking the floorplan and applying fresh heritage elements. From millwork and light fixtures to hardware and furnishings, the interiors have a patina that looks like it’s been there all along.

Beginning at the front door, rustic brick floors encased within board-and-batten walls and wood ceilings tease what lies beyond. “Having brick floors in the front entry felt like the perfect answer to Minnesota winters, where floors need to take a beating and age over time,” she says. “It also adds a level of charm to not have wood floors everywhere.”

Whether Melissa is working on her clients’ homes or her own, form and function go hand in hand. “We don’t have rooms that are just for show. The mentality is that nothing is too precious, and we want to make sure things feel life-friendly,” Melissa says. On the main floor, Melissa reconfigured the oversize addition into a right-size family room with a mudroom and powder room on the other side. Throughout the main level and the upstairs bedrooms, natural light balances saturated colors to let spaces breathe. “I respond to moody spaces, and there’s a lot of natural light that comes into this house, so I knew it could handle it,” she says.

Other details, like marble and soapstone countertops in the kitchen, unlacquered brass hardware that has a perfectly imperfect finish, and vintage and antique furniture, give the cottage the storied history it never had. “Even though our tenure here wasn’t long, I didn’t want everything to look like it had just been renovated,” Melissa says. “I wanted it to feel like us.” Even with the story rewritten, the Delano cottage kept its happy ending.


Interior design: Melissa Oholendt, Oho Interiors, 612-405-0646, ohointeriors.com

December 5, 2023

12:00 AM


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