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Making a house a home

A personal touch is all it takes

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Oct 10, 2021

Dan Handberg and Mary Kennedy stand outside of her house on the south end of Main Street. Kennedy purchased the house in November of 2020 and has done some remodeling in the interior of the dwelling.

As she sits in the dining room of her house located towards the south end of Main Street in Blue Earth, Mary Kennedy recalls the reasons which led her to make the decision to purchase this particular home back in November of 2020.

“My boyfriend, Dan Handberg, and I had noticed this house and thought it had a stoic look to it. The driveway slopes up from Main Street so the house sits above the street,” she explains. “I saw a lot of potential to make the house my own. It has a huge yard and I have a huge dog, a golden doodle named Raven. It also came with two fireplaces and a picture window over the kitchen sink, which were all features I liked.”

Then there was the location.

“I love being close to work and close to the swimming pool,” Kennedy, the Blue Earth city administrator, says. “Although it is technically not a requirement to live in the city for my job, it is appreciated and it is nice I was able to find a house in town. I have family in Fairmont, Mankato and Buffalo Center, Iowa, so Blue Earth is kind of centrally located for me in relation to my family members.”

Kennedy, who grew up down the road in Fairmont, first started working in Blue Earth in January of 2019 when she was hired as the Economic Development Authority specialist for both the city of Blue Earth and Faribault County. She came to the city after earning her Bachelor of Science degree in urban and regional studies.

“I had just finished my education at Minnesota State – Mankato when I was hired,” she comments. “I actually drove from Mankato to Blue Earth while I worked for the EDA.”

She had tried to find a place in Blue Earth but was not having any luck.

“I was looking to rent and there were not very many options available in Blue Earth,” Kennedy shares. “I eventually found a place to rent in Fairmont which cut down my driving distance.”

She became Blue Earth’s city administrator in the summer of 2020, just a few months prior to purchasing her home.

“It is my first home. It is an exciting, but sometimes scary, feeling,” she notes.

Once the purchase of the house was complete, Kennedy began taking steps to make the house her home.

“The roof was new after being reshingled following the hail storms which came through Blue Earth,” Kennedy says. “There were no pressing issues which needed attention on the exterior of the house.”

The first task to accomplish inside of the house was to remove the carpet from the main living room area.

“I knew my dog would be inside so I did not want carpet,” she explains. “I wanted something which would be easy to clean.”

With the carpet gone and no furniture in the house, it was time to move on to the next step.

“Dan and I decided to remove the ‘popcorn’ texture from the ceilings in the main living area upstairs and have an ‘orange peel’ texture on the ceiling instead. It is a dirty, dusty job to remove the old texture, so the time to do it was before we put new flooring in,” Kennedy states. “We had family and friends who came and helped. Everyone stayed busy and we got the job done. “

A decision was also made to make a change in the main living room area.

“There had been a cabinet which came out from a wall into the room,” she says. “We decided to remove it and it made the room feel like it was more open and larger. We also replaced the wood box of the fireplace upstairs and converted it to an electric fireplace.”

With the demolition and dirty work done, it was time to begin putting her touches into the home.

“We decided to paint every room on the main floor,” Kennedy mentions. “A fresh coat of paint brightens up the rooms and we were able to pick a color to match our furniture.”

When it came time to pick out flooring, they turned to Armon Decorating for assistance.

“We are fortunate in this area to have so many local businesses we can turn to when doing building or remodeling projects. We purchased our paint from Lamperts and we happened to choose Armon’s for the flooring,” she comments. “There are so many benefits from doing business with people locally, people you know.”

One of Kennedy’s concerns when choosing her flooring was finding a product which would be dog friendly and easy to take care of.

“When we went to Armon’s, they suggested installing vinyl plank and that is what we did in the living room, kitchen and dining room areas,” she says. “We also replaced the carpet in the bedrooms.”

A decision was also made to install some new light fixtures.

“We replaced a total of four fixtures in the main living room and the kitchen,” Kennedy notes. “It provides those areas with a more modern look.”

A few other, simpler changes were also made.

“We replaced the hardware on the kitchen cabinets,” Kennedy shares. “It is a real easy thing to do and it gave the kitchen a completely different look.”

Planning ahead, she says there are some things to be done outside of the house.

“I think the sidewalk needs to be mudjacked to be evened up,” Kennedy shares. “There is a set of stairs which leads to another entrance door and either the stairs and the door both need to be replaced, or the door needs to be eliminated. And I have always pictured having navy blue shutters on my tan house.”

Asked what advice she would give to people contemplating remodeling their home, Kennedy offers this advice: “Do your research and do not be afraid to ask for help. Ask merchants for their advice. And, I believe using local stores and contractors is very beneficial.”