Fall Home: ‘We pretty much gutted it’

Two-year, $300,000 renovation project on South Shore Drive home is still ongoing.

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John and Kristi Slininger are all smiles as they show off the remodeled kitchen that was part of a two-year, $300,000 renovation project at their South Shore Drive home.
Vicki Gerdes / for Fall Home
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The first thing that grabs you when you walk up to the main level of John and Kristi Slininger’s split-entry home on South Shore Drive is the view: Three sets of sliding glass doors open out onto a large back deck that overlooks the shore of Big Detroit Lake.

But the view wasn’t always as expansive as it is now.

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The comfortable living/dining room area of the Sliningers' home includes an expansive view of their 175 feet of lakeshore on Big Detroit Lake.
Vicki Gerdes / for Fall Home

“We took out a broom closet at the top of the stairs so we could see the lake better,” Kristi said.

“The deck only had one set of French doors,” said John Slininger, adding that they “converted three windows into sliding glass doors,” and “almost doubled” the size of the deck, making it a darker colored wood.


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The Sliningers' home at 804 South Shore Drive includes a three-car garage, five bedrooms and four bathrooms to accommodate their family of six.
Vicki Gerdes / for Fall Home

The expanded deck extends the entire length of the back side of the house, and wraps around one side slightly, with an external staircase at the end that leads down to the lawn. The master bedroom on the upper level also now has a sliding glass door leading out onto the deck.

But those are just the most obvious changes. Since purchasing the lake home from the Solheim family two years ago, on August 1, 2020, the Moorhead couple has spent about $300,000 renovating the 4,500-square-foot structure to accommodate a blended family of four children.

“We pretty much gutted it,” John said.

“There really isn’t any area left untouched," Kristi added. The previous owners had just two children, she noted, so a big part of the renovation involved adding two bedrooms — one upstairs, one downstairs — and renovating the existing three bedrooms, along with the bathrooms.

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The Sliningers' master bedroom includes sliding glass doors that lead out onto the home's back deck, which overlooks Big Detroit Lake.
Vicki Gerdes / for Fall Home
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The Sliningers replaced a large tub in the bathroom off the master bedroom with this walk-in shower, which is controlled electronically.
Vicki Gerdes / for Fall Home

“We went from a 2½ bathroom house to a four-bathroom house,” said Kristi. “The guest bathroom by the kitchen was expanded from a half bath to a full bathroom by adding a tub/shower. Then in the basement, we added a new bathroom in one of the huge closets that we had for the bedroom. So now it’s an en suite bedroom/bath/walk-in closet.”

A large tub was removed from the master bedroom as well, and replaced with a large walk-in shower stall, including six electronically-controlled shower heads.

“We’re shower people,” Kristi explained.

They also leveled out the formerly sunken living room to make the entire living/dining room and kitchen area one level, as well as taking out a small half-wall and moving the fireplace to the center of the room rather than the corner.


The kitchen area was also extensively renovated, adding a larger pantry and removing a large, wrap-around island, replacing it with a smaller island at the center that makes the kitchen more easily accessible from the dining area.

The stairs leading down to the basement (and another set leading upstairs) in the Sliningers' split-level entryway have LED lights on both sides, which the couple installed themselves.
Vicki Gerdes / for Fall Home

Heading downstairs via the split-level entry, there is a small detail that might go unnoticed at first: The stairs have tiny LED lights running up the edges on both sides. The addition of the lights, which the couple did themselves, was described as “a labor of love” that took many hours for them to complete.

The Sliningers did a lot of the renovations themselves, especially the woodwork and sheetrocking, but they also had some help.

“We are big believers in supporting our local businesses and everyone we hired was from the DL area,” Kristi said.

Design 2 Sell and Allure, both owned by Skye Fingalson, were their “go-to” businesses for flooring, tile and countertops, Kristi said, as well as for most of the furniture. “They did all the decorating for us,” she added.

All of the doors, siding and other wood materials were purchased through Lumbros. Most of the wood on the lower level is cedar, and on the upper level, walnut.

The plumbing work was done by Seaberg Plumbing and Heating. Eric Melby did their HVAC work, and Code One did all the electrical work.

Mike Summers and his crew from Summers Construction “were our construction partners with all the ‘big jobs,’ like raising the sunken living room and installing all the new doors,” Kristi said, while Matt Wimmer did all the metal work, including the railings, entertainment center and metal countertops in the wet bar that were installed on the lower level.


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The home theater setup in the Sliningers' basement includes a projector system with a large movie screen that can be lowered from the ceiling via remote. There are also blackout blinds on the windows that can be lowered when using the screen.
Vicki Gerdes / for Fall Home

Speaking of the basement, the main living area has been turned into a comfortable home theater, with a large sectional couch and a huge movie screen that can be lowered down from the ceiling by remote when they want to use it. When they don’t, there are multiple windows looking out over the lake, with blinds that can be raised when they want to admire the view, or lowered along with the screen when they’re watching their favorite shows and movies. A full kitchen and wet bar were added to the basement as well.

Though the Sliningers aren’t yet year-round residents of Detroit Lakes, as two of their four children are finishing high school in Moorhead (the other two have graduated), they eventually plan to make their lake home into a year-round residence.

With that in mind, John said their two-year renovation project isn’t done yet. “We’re still working on it.”

The Sliningers' 175 feet of shoreline along Big Detroit Lake includes a dock with two boat lifts, accessible by a set of stone stairs.
Vicki Gerdes / for Fall Home

They plan to do some work on the front side of the house, including new garage doors, a larger support column and replacing the front steps and front door. On the other sides of the house, they want to add electrical outlets for the deck, and replace some siding, John added.

They also plan to do some landscaping work on their quarter-acre lot next summer and replace the driveway as well.

Some things, such as the existing triple-paned windows on the back side of the house, were removed and used elsewhere, and they did as much of the work themselves as they could.

Though they’ve had a big budget for the renovation, Kristi said it’s still important to set limits and stick to them.

“Everything costs more than you think,” she said, “and there are always surprises.”

“Know what you’re doing before you start, and be ready for some setbacks,” John added.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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