Driftless Home & Garden: ‘The Bohemian Palace of the South Side’ – Slifkas build their unique forever home

Alex and Jenn Slifka recently moved into their new home south of Spring Valley. (submitted)

When salon owner Jenn Slifka and her husband, Alex, bought their first home just shy of a decade ago, they chose an old farmhouse that was situated on 10 acres south of Spring Valley, Minn. 

Over the next nine years, the couple juggled spending family time with their three sons, owning/operating numerous businesses in downtown Spring Valley, and completing projects to fix up their aging homestead.

“It had been remodeled a few times and had different additions,” Jenn said. “There wasn’t anything about it that offered a lot of character or seemed original to the house.”

Alex, a woodworker by trade, and Jenn decided that the old farmhouse needed so much work, it would be easier to raze the structure and start fresh. Realizing a pre-planned house design might be too generic for what they wanted in their dream home, Jenn and Alex designed their house together and drew up the floor plans from scratch.  

They explained, “Once we got the plan drawn up and sized, we sent it to an architect to get actual blueprints to work off of. We wanted a simple esthetic: simple roof lines, just a big square house.”

The plan was for Alex, his friend and fellow carpenter DJ Lloyd, and Alex’s father, retired carpenter Jeff Slifka, to build the house together. Once the house plans were finalized, fire departments from Spring Valley and Wykoff gathered in late April 2023 to undertake the controlled burning of the old farmhouse.  

Alex stepped away from running their family-owned restaurant, Stellar 181 Taphouse in Spring Valley, to begin construction on the family’s new home. Meanwhile, the family lived in two campers on their property from the latter half of spring until Thanksgiving. 

They utilized their separate workshop as a kitchen and laundry area, and as the weather turned cold, celebrated Thanksgiving by moving into the newly-completed garage. 

In March 2024, the family was able to move into their house, despite much of the interior being incomplete. Alex, Jeff and Lloyd did all of sheetrock, taping, mudwork, window and door installation, and all finish work including painting, flooring, tile, tri and countertops. Framing was completed by Alex, Jeff and Lloyd, with all three Slifka sons helping frame along the way. 

“All of the trim was crafted from logs that came from trees cut down in Spring Valley,” said Jenn. “The one thing we saved from the farmhouse was a set of French Doors that went into the master bedroom upstairs — we do plan to use them in the new house.”

The countertops in the kitchen are crafted from walnut wood collected from the trees on the land where Alex hunts deer. They ensured the wood used was the same type of wood also used in the Stellar 181 taproom. 

The exterior of the house is all black, and the custom-made siding, roof, trim — everything but the front door — is Amish-constructed white oak. The entire downstairs is made up of sealed concrete with heated floors, with high ceilings and large windows throughout to let light in.  

With three growing boys who are avid fans of all things outdoors, the property is perfect for them. A large “hangout area” for the boys was constructed above the garage, complete with a huge living room area, three bedrooms, built-in queen size bunkbeds for visiting friends, a laundry room and a bathroom with three sinks. “There’s even a urinal!” exclaimed Jenn. 

Inside the main portion of the house, the decorating style is described by Jenn as “a little boho, a little bit antique, incorporating Alex’s deer mounts and hunting finds.”

Decorated with numerous plants and succulents, the open-concept living area reflects Jenn’s passion for gardening. Even the kitchen is geared towards her love of plants. 

“Our kitchen is huge, but I don’t really cook,” Jenn disclosed. “We secretly set it up as a planting space for me, as I love my plants more than cooking. But I do hope to cook more once we have a more functional kitchen!” 

The open shelving in the kitchen is crafted from the same walnut as the countertops, and Jenn hopes to have all of the IKEA cabinets assembled over the next few weeks. 

While running numerous businesses and juggling her family, Jenn admitted that construction will hopefully be complete in the next few months. “There are so many custom projects, it is taking a lot of time,” Jenn lamented. Humorously, she added that she is looking forward to the attached garage, saying, ‘It’s my very first time using a garage!”

Jenn and Alex have dubbed their dream home “The Bohemian Palace of the South Side,” and are enjoying the ongoing process of constructing their dream homestead.

“This really is a story of two hardworking business owners who are finally doing something for their family. Every penny we have ever earned we have reinvested in our businesses … this is our first time doing something for us — a home we can enjoy for the rest of our lives … enjoy with our kids while they are still at home. It is definitely set up to be our forever home.”

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