Any parent knows that raising children takes years of putting their needs ahead of your own, until one day you can send them off into the world to be successful adults in their own right. And after the last child leaves, couples are faced with novel concepts like time and space—and even money—which opens up possibilities for a new chapter as empty nesters. These two Woodbury couples embarked upon this time in different ways, proving that a so-called empty nest is really anything but empty.
For Minnesota natives Steve and Rita Hallstrom, schooling and wedding costs for their two daughters kept some dream home updates on hold. “I had always wanted to take the wall out between the dining room and the kitchen, but it was one of those things that had to wait,” Rita says. The Hallstroms built their home in the Evergreen neighborhood in 1981.
“Last year, we started talking about our plans for the future. We’re still both working and we’re not ready to leave Evergreen,” says Rita, who also helps watch her twin grandchildren and frequently assists her aging parents.
“We love the beauty of the neighborhood and we love our neighbors. We feel very safe here, and it’s a nice place to come home to,” Steve says. The couple enjoys taking walks around their neighborhood, as well as golfing and traveling.
When they were finally ready to move ahead with some house changes, the Hallstroms hired local remodeler Ispiri to renovate the main floor of their 3,000-square-foot, split level home. The three-month remodel, focusing on a brand new kitchen and creating the open concept floor plan they’d always dreamed about, was finished last June.
The U-shaped kitchen was gutted, and a wall to the dining room was removed to open up the space, providing an easier walk out to the deck and backyard pool area. The kitchen features gleaming white custom cabinetry and top-grade appliances, including a built-in Miele coffee station, as well as a brand new island.
“I love to cook,” Rita says. “I’d never had an island and it’s really nice to have. I’m excited to bake cookies with my grandkids, that sort of thing. [The kitchen] is a great place to congregate.”
“I love the openness; it makes it more livable,” says Steve, who also enjoys watching sports on his new TV, viewable from anywhere in the kitchen.
Enjoying their updated space, the couple agrees that they are here to stay. “Our yard does take a lot of upkeep,” Rita says. “There’s a lot of cleanup in spring and fall and that starts to get old. But when we start weighing the pros and cons, it’s still in favor of staying here. We are going to take it as it comes.”
After years of running a house and life with their twin boys, Tom and Michelle Campbell found that, by downsizing their home, they could start running together. “The kids were moving on to their next phase and we wanted one for our life,” says Michelle, who with her husband, has been a Woodbury resident for 27 years. With their boys now seniors in college, the couple considered their next move. “It was important for us to stay in Woodbury,” Michelle says. “We feel we’re at home here and have access to everything we need.”
The Campbells agreed that the maintenance and responsibility of their older home was a factor in the decision to move. For Michelle, the decision to move came with weighing the pros and cons. “The yard got to be a lot; Tom travels internationally, so the upkeep of the house was a bigger burden on me,” Michelle says. “I also still wanted the boys to have a place to come home to during college and in case they needed to move home to find a job. But the boys told me to go for it.”
“I was a bigger proponent of moving,” Tom says. “All that was really important to me was a nice basement and a three-stall garage, and we got that.”
The couple found their friend and realtor Chuck Eckberg to be very helpful navigating the process and options for their next home. They eventually settled on building their detached townhome at Villas of Wyncrest, located in northeast Woodbury. Their home was finished last August. “These are single family homes, but have an association that takes care of the ‘snow and mow,’” says David Frosch, owner of Michael Lee, the development’s builder. Frosch also happens to be a resident of Villas of Wyncrest. “Most people don’t want to give up having a single family home after they’ve owned one, but they want something smaller with low to no maintenance,” Frosch says. “This is the next generation of baby boomer housing.” Michael Lee is currently building a similar villa community in Woodbury, called Pioneer Point Villas, at Dale Road and Pioneer Drive.
Downsizing from their larger five-bedroom, four-bathroom home to a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home, the Campbells agree, did require some de-cluttering. However, with the customization available in the Villas of Wyncrest, they were both able to get things in the new house that were important to them. For Tom, his TVs were the first thing to go up. “I also ran my own video security system and custom wiring for Internet TV and speakers,” says Tom, who, as an IT design engineer, enjoys having the latest and greatest technology available.
For Michelle, her boys still have a room to come home to if they need that option, and she also created a special nook in her bedroom just for her. “I love to read, and we added a private spot set aside with a chair and lamp,” says Michelle, who also hired a Woodbury-based interior designer.
Now, Tom and Michelle can focus less on home projects and yard work and more on enjoying their time running and taking vacations. “Tom has always been a runner and I wanted to learn,” Michelle says. “And there was always upkeep in the yard, or something I thought we should have been doing. Now with the new house, it’s something we don’t have to worry about.” The couple now runs regularly, training for distance races, including several marathons around the country.
“It’s very freeing,” Michelle says. “I don’t regret this at all. We have a great house and we are enjoying this next phase.”
(Exterior photo courtesy of Campbells; Interior photo courtesy of David Frosch)