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The Billionaire Estate Sale

Before the pandemic, I enjoyed the hobby of tracking interesting stories. I’d visit abandoned structures and historic places. I’d investigate unsolved mysteries tied to my area. Then, I’d photograph and write about them, and publish them here. I never realized how much I enjoyed doing this until I was forced to stop. 

Then suddenly, an opportunity presented itself. My alarm on Saturday woke me up at 6 a.m., so I could drive out to the affluent part of the Cities and secure an entry ticket to an estate sale.

Only, this was no ordinary estate sale. This one was held at the colossal estate of a billionaire, and the story behind it is fascinating.

He made his fortune in business, buying the struggling companies and turning them profitable again. He didn’t have the best reputation regarding his character, but his business sense was obviously unrivaled. In April 2019, the billionaire murdered his wife and killed himself inside the home. A basic Google search will easily pull up the news articles.

-Listed on market in June for $12 million

-6 bedroom, 10 bathroom

-30,000+ square feet

-Built in 1939, has 8 fireplaces

-Pool, 3,500 square- foot guest house

-Has 750 feet of shoreline on Lake Minnetonka and another 200 feet on Lake Tanager 

-$85, 590 in property taxes

-Initially sold off a portion of his 32 acres intended for development

When I heard this sale was scheduled, I decided to follow my curiosity. I think I was expecting the interiors to rival that of the James J. Hill House in St. Paul, because I’ll admit to feeling a bit disappointed when I ventured inside. Looking past the sale set-up, I noticed I wasn’t wowed or charmed by the architecture or foundation of the decorating. It felt ... tacky. At the same time, it seemed to humanize this wealthy family who felt so far removed from my own experiences. It made me sad. To think of what happened within these walls, and then there I was browsing the material possessions that represent their lives, their family, their memories to haggle down in price. The dish ware that meals were consumed from, the statues sculpted by the wife, the trinkets on display, books shelved throughout, and the sitting rooms - what conservations were had? What moments shared? Was there laughter? Were presents unwrapped Christmas morning after the sounds of excited children ran in? The estate and its neglected grounds were now merely a silent shell of itself.
The saddest thing I encountered was a heart-shaped crystal paperweight that was engraved with the phrase, “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.” I felt chilled to the bone knowing what had taken place a little over a year ago.

In the end, I did purchase a painting by the murdered wife for my own house, and with it, comes an interesting story to tell about it. The jury’s still out on whether or not the painting is haunted or not.

Updated Front Landscaping

Another one of our projects in quarantine regarded our front landscaping.

Here is a picture of the front of the house on the day we moved in:

Since then, everything died.

I was not blessed with a gardener's skill, unfortunately. With that said though, Nick and I still value curb appeal. It just now required extremely low maintenance plants that were forgiving and easy.

So one afternoon, armed with $183 in new plants from our local garden center, Landen eagerly used our tractor to rip out the two dead bushes. We added new lanterns to the beds, and planted flowers. Landen was a huge help.


We planted a trio of day lillies in place of the dead shrubs.

Four hibiscus were planted in the longer bed. A pair of bright pink ones bloom beneath the guest room window.

And the new lanterns we installed, which are incredibly bright. We have them set on a timer.

Bye, Bye Beige!

Let's start at the beginning.

On the day we moved in, the walls in the kitchen and along the back of the living room where a boring, textured beige. You've seen this picture quite a few times by now:

We slowly began updating to suit our style and preferences.

New flush mount here ...

New cabinet and drawer pulls there ...

Oh, what's that you see? A deep moody blue was sampled next.


One of the projects we tackled during quarantine involved a lot of paint. That beige had to go!

First up, the back wall with our big, beautiful picture windows received a few coats of that deep, moody blue.

I didn't realize how big of a pain in the ass it would be to paint an eggshell sheen over that textured, beige Ralph Lauren color. We used rollers with 3/4" nap, and painted long strokes from the floor to the ceiling after edging. The rollers had to be fully saturated with paint, and the new strokes had to overlap the old in order to ensure an even sheen. It was tedious work. But, I also absolutely refused to skim coat. In the end though, I loved the result.

The rest of the walls in the kitchen and garage entry were painted a basic gray. This combination worked well with the colors in our new tile floor.


Remember what the goofy closet looked like before?

After we installed the pull-out drawer for the bins in the pantry and removed the pocket door, I put a fresh coat of gray paint inside the closet as well.

Our most-used coats will hang here, eventually. We bought a Command hook for the broom, and the shelf holds a basket for Nick's shoe shine supplies, and our 'social distance' masks, gloves and wipes for the pandemic. Madelyn is considered high-risk, so we did what was necessary to keep her healthy. I like how simple and straightforward it is. I'm still trying to figure out a system for storing and drying our winter clothing when the season Minnesota is famous for comes to town.

I don't dare show the floor of the closet since it's piled with our shoes. Here's a picture of my new runner, which I LOVE, instead -

(I found it at Home Goods.)


And finally, we updated the rest of the lighting in the kitchen, dinette, living room and entry space. I love Edison bulbs, and we found lights in a finish that matches the cabinet and drawer pulls.

This light hangs above the runner in the entry.

This spot quickly became my favorite in the entire house. I adore how nicely the door and windows frame the woods that surround our property, and that blue ties it all together. It makes our deck look all the more inviting too.

This pendant hangs above the sink. You can also see the new gray paint color.

We replaced the boring old ceiling fan, ensuring the new one had lights!

It was nice to have these projects to work on while we stayed safely at home.

The Pantry, Reconfigured

As previously stated, the 90s are alive and well, at least in the aesthetic of our home.

Very little of it aligns with my taste, so while I've been eager to begin putting my stamp on things, I made sure to sit with everything for a while. I wanted to get a "feel" for the house, the layout and the surrounding area. Since everything here was functional, I wasn't in any rush.

Now, I believe there is always a better way to utilize space, and we recently reconfigured one of ours.

The kitchen has a lot of storage.


In the nearly two years we've lived here, we've never once used the garbage compactor installed within the pantry wall to the left in the above image. 

To the left of the desk is a narrow "galley" with a small closet on one end and garage access on the other. Up to this point, our garbage and recycling bins were kept in that closet. A pocket door closed off the space, making it feel claustrophobic. We had to enter the house single file.

We decided to remove the garbage compactor and install a pull-out drawer for the bins.

I painted the interior and the new shelf bottom, leaving the final installation up to the men. We also tore out the pocket door and removed a large portion of the wall, which really opened up the space.


This reconfiguration flows so much better for us, for our needs, and with how we live in our home.

Tile Install and Other Updates

Dear Diary,
When it comes to projects, it's imperative to prepare and budget for the unexpected.

You just never know what you'll discover when you rip out flooring that is 25 years old.



I hated the square, Miami Vice-looking tile in our kitchen. We discovered that, when the home was built, concrete was poured as a base. It was an insanely labor-intensive process to remove, during which I reassured everyone that I loved the new tile I had picked out!

The pattern in this tile reminded me of the waves on nearby Lake Marion. There is a mix of blues, grays and browns that flows with our hardwoods and the direction I wish to see the design go.

Someday we'll update the appliances ...


We also discovered a rotten subfloor because the door that leads out to our deck was improperly sealed. A new door was purchased and repairs were made. It was an added expense of approximately $2,500 but it had to be done.

We ordered a lot of take-out during this time. I like that the windows and the new door are cohesive in size and shape. Natural light floods this part of the house. I could go on and list all of the other things I long to update, but like the appliances, it'll come in due time.


Lastly, I want you to look at the spaceship-looking light over cooking area of the kitchen. I hated that damn thing, and when it was turned on it made this humming sound as though it were summoning the mother ship.

We sent it packing, and refreshed the space with this.

It ties in with the updated drawer and cabinet pulls.

Quick Cabinet Refresh

Dear Diary,
I never thought I'd come to the strong defense of hardwood cabinets.

But here we are. (In fact, I kind of love them in this house!)

Still, I wanted to find a way to pull them out of the early 90s and into this current century.


There was no coming to their defense. I'm fairly certain they're original to the home's 1994 construction and design choices, and I don't have anything nice to say about them.

I wanted something simple yet substantial. I wanted something that was current yet would withstand passing trends. With this house, I'm leaning towards darker finishes to complement the moodiness of the hardwoods, and the first step came in the form of 3" bar pulls.

We found a really good deal on them at Menards (forward our mail here please), and purchased 7 boxes for less than $175 plus an $80 mail-in rebate. I spent two days switching them out and polishing the cabinets. Polishing brought out the wood grain, which made the hardware really stand out.

The kitchen, hall cabinets, guest bathroom and master bath received this upgrade. I was so excited that such a simple change could have such an impact on the look and feel of the spaces.


The hinges were also updated.

As you can see in the pictures above, the hinges were that same faded brass color that seemed to age the woodwork. The darker hinges changed that aesthetic for the better.

I'm currently searching for new doorknobs, light switches and outlet covers to match.

It's also inspired us to upate our home in other ways ...

To be continued.