Home Design

Respectfully Preserved

Engaged couple Dawson Schefter and Karly Palczewski’s whole history has been written in North Dakota. And by renovating a 1922 home in the Clara Barton neighborhood of Fargo, they’ve taken some ND history and preserved it for even more memories to be written.

Photos by KP Photography by Karly Palczewski

Hailing from Langdon, Schefter claims he is a North Dakota boy through-and-through. He enjoys a challenging DIY project on the side while he works in consulting by day. Originally from Bowman, Palczewski is just as creative, working as a marketing graphic design specialist and also running a photography business, KP Photography.

It is an ambitious task to take on a historic home remodel. But it is especially ambitious to do almost entirely without outside contractors… and still plan to get married after it all! Jokes aside, the couple worked well together through the process. Palczewski admitted, “I can’t take a lot of credit for the work, [Dawson] did most of that work by himself!” While Schefter took the lead on the remodel, Palczewski visited on weekends and offered valuable support and painting abilities.

The couple got engaged in the house, took their engagement photos in the house and have Schefter’s proposal letter framed in the house…It’s a house full of love and memories!
Photo by FloraPine Photography

If they wanted the look of a new, modern home, they would have purchased a new, modern home. The couple wanted to maintain the historic details while bringing the home into the modern age. “As creatives, when we walked in the door it looked like a blank canvas to us. A lot of people would have been scared away from it, but the original hardwood, windows, doorknobs and those kinds of things we loved,” said Palczewski. In the remodel, those such elements were the ones they kept and gave special attention to.

According to Schefter, the floors were perhaps one of the hairiest and most audacious goals of the project. Of course, they wanted to keep the original hardwood, but the refinishing process turned out to be a bigger bite than Schefter imagined. “I had never refinished a hardwood floor and I don’t think I ever will again,” he joked. “I didn’t just do one room at a time, I did all 2,000 square feet of original hardwood floors. But I’m glad I did, it changed the whole vibe of the house.” Originally, the floors were a warm natural to cedar tone, complete with the dents and scratches one would expect from a nearly 100-year-old home. Now, the sophisticated chocolate tone contrasts beautifully with the crisp white trim and walls.

Another one of their favorite transformations came with the fireplace. It has been said time and time again that the fireplace is the heart of the home, and the homeowners wanted to make that true of this house too. In their floorplan, the fireplace is the first thing you see when you walk in the door. Its dark brick was painted white and the brassy casing received a matte black treatment, resulting in a brighter, more inviting feel. Throughout the house, Schefter added a number of smart- home technologies, and wiring up the fireplace’s mantle for television was one of them.

“It’s so much fun to come home when you have your space the way you want it.”

“We’re fortunate that we’ve not run into any big mechanical issues. The prior owners had taken good care of it in terms of electrical service upgrades, drain tile and things like that. They did some of those fundamentals that allowed us to really bring the place up. It just reminds you that everything is temporary. So we’re just taking care of the house for now – that’s how we look at it,” said Schefter.

On the few spots that weren’t salvageable, like some of the trim work and an entire bathroom, the homeowners tried to pick finishes that matched and complimented the rest of the house. Using hexagon tile and paint colors that are timeless, they wanted to keep as much as they could looking like it was all from the same era.

Besides the appeal of historic details like hardwood and doorknobs, the established neighborhood was a big selling point. “I wanted to be somewhat near downtown, and we are a few blocks away here. I love the community of Fargo and there are a lot of neighborhoods here, but I just love being able to come home and have the established trees and other young families here,” said Schefter. An additional selling point of the neighborhood was the backyard and oversized two-stall garage. Having grass space and a cozy screened-in back porch make for a perfect oasis in the quiet neighborhood.

“When I was driving through the neighborhood to get a feel for it before I pulled the trigger [on the purchase], there was a block party and it just reminded me of small-town vibes. And I would say that was the moment that I knew. Because we love the house and love the character but it’s important that you don’t spend all your time in this 2000 square feet, but the neighborhood itself,” Schefter recalled. As fate, luck or a really great Realtor (Mari Santoyo Perry) would have it, this home was actually the first one Schefter stepped foot in on his home search. Looking past all the work that needed to be done, it checked all the boxes and he knew this was it.

Once the heavy lifting was complete and their vision had come to life, the homeowners continued to make the place their own with decor and accessories. As with any house that becomes a home, this space is full of personal artifacts. Framed photos of Schefter’s family’s farm, hanging map prints of places they’ve lived, a prayer card from the church the Schefter family grew up in, a custom-made Grain Designs sign reading a favorite Teddy Rosevelt quote (“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”) and just the right amount of photos of the couple. “We’re both small-town North Dakota kids and a lot of our decor have stories behind them,” said Palczewski. Schefter finished her thought, saying, “The stories are super fun, and we like having those touchpoints.”

Speaking of stories, on Instagram, the homeowners created a digital scrapbook of sorts for family and friends to follow along: @fargoremodel. “We just really get a kick out of [the Instagram], because we never intended for it to become this thing that anybody would care about. It was just an easy way for us to show before-and-afters,” said Schefter. Not only does the couple have easily accessible before-and-after images from throughout the process, but they also have amassed some friends and followers along the way.

The Schefter-Palczewski home goes to show how personal a remodel can be. While bringing on a team of contractors and designers is an easy route, the DIY ambitions of a young couple presented with good bones are incredible. This care for detail and creative eye ensured the place perfectly melded the new homeowners’ present with the historic past.


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