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Ryan Johnson, Published November 16 2013

Contemporary flow: Former grocery store gets lengthy renovation by Fargo furniture maker

FARGO - Preserving the past wasn’t on Steve Revland’s mind when he decided to convert a small 1930s grocery store into his home in north Fargo.

“I wasn’t concerned with character,” he said. “I was concerned with how my wife wanted it to look.”

Revland purchased the property at 616 Elm Street N. in 1986, drawn to the boxy building’s potential as a place to build wood furniture. With its open floor plan – one 40-by-30-foot space with no interior walls other than a few support beams down the middle – the structure that originally housed a mom-and-pop grocery store was a perfect fit for the furniture maker, entrepreneur and owner of the Uptown Gallery in Fargo.

“I just had to put in a furnace,” he said. “I didn’t do much of anything, because it was wide open.”

But the building that housed several small businesses over the years, including a frame shop and an upholstery store, got a big makeover in 2002 when Revland built a 1,000-square-foot detached work studio in the backyard and made the original structure into a one-bedroom dwelling that his brother and sister-in-law lived in.

Revland and his wife, Mary, found themselves needing a new home when they took a flood buyout for their house near the Moorhead Country Club a few years ago. The Fargo native decided it was time to move back across the river.

“Fortunately, I had held onto this property,” he said. “I took a year and a half off from work and gutted it and turned it into this,” he said.


Revland and his wife had a similar goal in mind for their new place. They both wanted a contemporary style and open floor plan that wouldn’t feel cramped in the 1,360-square-foot, single-level home.

It was a style that was present in their Moorhead house, he said, though not quite like this.

“The last place was contemporary, but it was always kind of makeshift,” he said. “It was always kind of in progress. This time around, I’m a little more mature.”

Revland tore out the walls that had made the building into an adequate living space for his brother and started over, which also gave him the chance to improve on flaws he’d noticed since purchasing the property decades before.

Except for electrical work, he did all of the renovations himself – though he admitted the project was an ambitious one.

“If you ever want to lose 40 pounds, take a year and a half off of work and just do something as insane as I did,” he said. “I even jackhammered out the entire perimeter of the inside of the basement floor and put in drainage tile.”

The project required $40,000 worth of materials, including 150 sheets of sheetrock, cypress hardwood floors cut by Revland and a custom set of kitchen cabinets – the first he’s built – covered in a green, high-gloss plastic laminate.

He finished the work in March of 2012, and the Revlands have called this property home ever since.

But much of the upgrade work isn’t visible to visitors, including an additional wall Revland built just inside the original exterior wall to keep the house cozy, energy efficient and quiet, even in the busy residential Oak Grove neighborhood.

The end result is an inviting two-bedroom, two-bathroom house that feels bigger than its footprint, with the front door leading into an open living room that flows into a spacious kitchen connected to a dining room.

Finishing touches, including lime green dining room chairs, stools and a large sectional in the living room, as well as his handmade retro cabinets, make the home seem like it’s inspired by futuristic sketches from a designer in the 1960s. Think “The Jetsons,” Revland said – without Rosie the robotic maid.

The couple most enjoys the new kitchen, he said, and with its marble-like solid surface countertops, a large island and high-end appliances, it’s well-suited to be the home’s focal point. A window of glass blocks above the countertop fills the room with light while still offering plenty of privacy from nearby neighbors.


Revland wasn’t worried about keeping original flooring or accents as he started the contemporary remodel, but he did leave the building’s chimney in place. The stack of bricks now climbs one of the dining room walls, and while it’s not in use today, he said it adds “aesthetic value” to the home.

The Revlands also were able to incorporate three light fixtures from their old house in Moorhead. The identical hanging pendants that now illuminate the kitchen island and dining room table have a mid-century modern look, fitting in well with the retro-inspired contemporary surroundings.

There is one notable absence – Revland’s own distinctive wood furniture. The only piece in the house, a small accent table made of cottonwood, holds up a photo frame near the front door.

“Obviously, I love what I do and I love my work, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it,” he said. “But we just decided we were going to utilize every square inch of that space with built-in storage and stuff like that, and there wouldn’t be any room for furniture.”

He does have plenty of his furniture in progress in the backyard studio, just a 10-second walk from the back door across a large courtyard made of pavers that he laid down over the layer of asphalt that once was a heavy-equipment parking lot.

The 18-month remodeling project has paid off, Revland said, giving the couple a perfect retirement home in this “quaint” neighborhood.

“We will be here forever, unless something happens to us,” he said. “We’re not going anywhere.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587