Magnificent Mansion Makeover

Art Celebrates Life

Based on a recommendation from Vujovich Design Build and a portfolio review, Knutson commissioned artist Jennifer Rousseau Reigel to paint a mural on the domed ceiling of a reading room adjoining the library. Because this residence was originally built in 1928, Knutson gathered images from the 1920s and 1930s and gave these to Reigel as a reference. The mural includes local icons, such as Charles Lindberg with his plane and a John Held Jr. drawing. Fanny Brice, Josephine Baker, the Chrysler Building, a dirigible and a coffin-nose Cord automobile also are celebrated in the mural.

The adjacent custom-made stained-glass window has symbols Knutson chose to convey his love of the written word: the Lamp of Knowledge, the Latin words “Ex Libris” (meaning “from the books”) and a book press.

By dropping a ceiling in above the library, Vujovich Design Build was able to convert unused air space atop the former great room into dressing rooms for the master-bedroom suite on the second floor. The hardware found in these areas was created by Minnesota-based artist Brian Leo who is well known for his expertise in creating custom metal castings.

“There wasn’t a single handrail in this place when I moved in,” Knutson says. “So I had Stewart Schwinghammer make these. They are truly works of art, and they are sturdy! [Arnold] Schwarzenegger couldn’t pull these out of the wall.”

The completed retrofit achieves the precise blend of art, architecture, literature and history needed to aptly express and further inspire Knutson’s creativity.

Photos Courtesy of Vujovich Design Build Inc.

Project Team

  • Design Development and General Contracting: Vujovich Design Build Inc., Minneapolis,
  • Preliminary Design Concepts: David Heide Design, Minneapolis,
  • Interior Architecture: Walsh Design Group, Minneapolis,
  • Custom Castings and Hardware: Brian Leo, Minneapolis, (612) 861-1473
  • Custom Railings and Grilles: Stewart Schwinghammer, Saint Augusta, Minn., (320) 656-9988
  • Mural Art: Jennifer Rousseau Reigel, Minneapolis,
  • Resources and Materials
  • Plaster-cast ceilings: Fischer and Jirouch, Cleveland,
  • Stained-glass window: Gaytee Stained Glass, Minneapolis,
  • Tile: North Prairie Tileworks, Minneapolis,
  • HVAC registers: Reggio Registers, Leominster, Mass.,
  • Light fixtures: Rejuvenation Hardware, Portland, Ore.,

About the Author

Heather Beal
Heather is a published author, freelance journalist, and artist with 20+ years of experience writing about the arts, architecture, urban revitalization, business and cultural trends, and all aspects of the built environment. She has also photographed people and places throughout the Upper Midwest, across the United States, and abroad. Her award-winning photos have been selected for curated exhibits, included in international presentations and reference libraries, published by magazines, books, and newspapers, and featured by various interactive media.

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