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Our 1882 Holly Home Renovation Story



Hi! I'm Jill Johnson, and that's my husband, Todd, and our beloved chocolate lab Stark (yes, name inspired by Game of Thrones). We have decided to take this very big step in life and start our own business in the renovation industry. Todd and I recently finished our own home renovation in St. Paul, MN .... our Holly Home. Throughout our project, one thing became very clear: Todd has insane construction skills and knowledge (talk to him sometime about his upbringing, he's been involved in construction ever since he was a little boy!) We thought we would start by sharing a little background on our company, and tell the story of our Holly Home!


After meeting and falling in love at Iowa State during college, Todd and I decided to continue pursuing each of our dreams in the Twin Cities. I attended the University of Minnesota for grad school, while Todd started building a career for himself in the real estate business. His passion has always been home renovations and remodeling. In the fall of 2014, he started seeking his first Twin Cities flip home --- originally was looking for a "quick flip", single family rambler. Then I got a call one day that he found something "a little different, but you definitely have to see it". He brought me to a run-down home, originally built in 1882 that definitely looked like it had seen better days!


Todd knew this was a diamond in the rough from the first time he saw it....I on the other hand needed some convincing. I had never been a part of a renovation project outside of my avid HGTV viewing, knew absolutely nothing about construction aside from knowing the difference between a hammer and a screw driver, and had no idea what I was getting myself into with Todd!!

To summarize our renovation story as concisely as I can, it went a little something like this:

  • Winter 2014: began working with out architect, Randy, on design. This included coming to the decision to tear the entire back of the house off due to crumbling foundations - - the first time Todd walked into the old pantry, his foot went through the floor due to rotting floor boards! We went through many, many, many revisions of the drawings until we had perfected the home layout!

  • Late 2015: we first began working with approving our renovation with the Saint Paul Historical Preservation Committee (HPC). I'll just summarize this by saying....a short 1.5 years later we were good to go!!

  • Summer of 2016: as we were waiting for final approvals, we began demo'ing the upstairs of the home down to the studs. Let me tell you this, HGTV lies to us when they show people demo'ing in nice clothes (sorry, I cannot believe that you actually participated in demo wearing Lulu Lemon), that it only takes 5 minutes of the episode and is all cleaned up when the commercial break returns!! (Despite their deception, I'm still an HGTV lover!)

  • September 11, 2017: WE BROKE GROUND! Why do I remember this date so well? Because we were getting married the following Saturday!. Nothing like cramming everything into one week, right?! We joked that we could have everyone over for a pool party in the giant hole in our backyard after our wedding!

  • Winter 2017-18: Over the cold, cold winter months (think same timing as Super Bowl LII) we continued to make progress on the home! The framing was completed, we added all new windows (in -30 deg real temp....yikes), and it felt like the home was coming together! We also started rough-ins for electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems...all would be new in the home.

  • Spring 2018: Our initial "dream move-in date" was May 5th, needless to say we didn't hit that. Let me tell you this, construction ALWAYS takes longer than you think it will...something Todd warned me about frequently throughout the project. We continued to plug away at the home: drywall, installing kitchen and bathroom cabinets, countertop day!, hardwood floors (original from 1882 on both levels!) and trim work.

  • June 29, 2019 at 9:00 pm: WE MOVED IN!!!! Originally, we were going to move in the following day, but with a 100+ degree forecast we decided to push through and just get it done! What a surreal moment to spend the first night in a home you dreamed of for years! (And yes, we spent the first 2 weeks sleeping on the floor in the study....I never said the house was finished when we moved in! All you need is a space to lay a mattress, running water, and a toilet!)

  • Summer 2018 - Fall 2018: We continued finalizing projects around the home. The master suite was finally completed in October of 2018. This was my most anticipated project to finish up at the home. Our blood (Todd needed 11 stitches during a tiling mishap), sweat, and tears had gone into designing the perfect suite for ourselves to continue our life in, we couldn't love the space any more!!

We just finished enjoying our first holiday season in the home and are loving everything about it! To finally be able to spend time with family and build memories in a home we had dreamed of for years is indescribable! We are so thankful to all of our friends and family who helped and supported us through our renovation, and will continue to support us as we start this next journey in our life!


Okay, this was more long winded than I anticipated. TBH, I've never blogged before, and don't really know what I'm doing. But they say fake it till you make it, right?!


Until next time from Holly Home, Jill J.




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