Viola Davis Renovated Her Best Friend's Home Into a Chic and Relaxing Retreat

Viola Davis headed to Minneapolis to surprise her acting school roommate and best friend of over 30 years with a home renovation. With the help of Jonathan and Drew Scott, Viola gifted her friend a peaceful sanctuary where the doting mom can finally put herself first.

April 27, 2020

Photo By: DENNYS ILIC

Photo By: DENNYS ILIC

Photo By: DENNYS ILIC

Photo By: Dennys Ilac

Photo By: Dennys Illac

Photo By: Dennys Ilac

Photo By: Dennys Ilac

Photo By: Dennys Illac

Photo By: Dennys Ilac

Photo By: Dennys Illac

Photo By: Dennys Ilac

Photo By: Dennys Illac

Photo By: Dennys Illac

Photo By: DENNYS ILIC

Photo By: Dennys Illac

Photo By: Dennys Illac

Photo By: Dennys Illac

Viola Davis + Michelle O'Neill

Viola Davis and Michelle O’Neill have been best friends for 31 years. The two women first met at The Julliard School in New York City, where they bonded over their passion for acting. Eventually they became roommates, and the rest is history. While their acting careers went different directions — Viola’s to Los Angeles and Michelle’s to Minneapolis — they never lost touch. Throughout the years, according to Viola, Michelle helped Viola through bad relationships and was there when no one else was. And in 2012 when Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer, Viola was the first person she called. “I understand the givers in the world — I really do. But every once in a while, I think that the giver can get exhausted and drained and depleted and needs to be reminded that they’re a gift to people, too,” said Viola. “So, this renovation of her home is my gift to her.”

Together with the Property Brothers, Viola Davis headed to Minneapolis to surprise her “sister from another mister” Michelle with a renovation of her living room, dining room, kitchen and office space.

Behind-the-Scenes Selfie

Prior to demo starting, Viola and her 9-year-old daughter Genesis Tennon grabbed a quick selfie with Jonathan and Drew Scott. Following in mom’s footsteps, Genesis recently made her acting debut as the voice of Vivi in The Angry Birds Movie 2.

Demo Ready

She might know how to get away with murder (she's lead actor in the hit series by that name, after all), but home demolition was new to Viola. If anyone can help you get into the role of contractor though, it’s the Property Brothers!

The Living Room, Before

Noting how important family is to Michelle, Viola wanted to give her a living space that would allow her to connect even more with her loved ones. The previous living room felt tight, with furniture just fitting into the space. Michelle’s record collection overwhelmed what little storage there was.

The Living Room, After

By removing a hallway closet, Jonathan and Drew were able to expand the living room creating more space for, well, living. A new and super sleek fireplace unit replaced the armoire as the focal point in the room — not to mention, it’ll provide some nice warmth come wintertime in Minneapolis. Floating shelves and built-ins with smart storage solutions for Michelle’s beloved record collection help make this space not just chic, but functional.

The Kitchen, Before

Dated floors, yellow-green walls and an awkward window into the dining room left much to be desired in this kitchen. Noting how great of a cook Michelle is, Viola wanted her friend’s new kitchen to be an open and updated culinary playground.

(Sledge)hammer Time

The wall between the dining room and kitchen had to go in order to create space for a peninsula and additional cabinetry. Eager to help give Michelle the kitchen of her dreams, Viola picked up a sledgehammer and went at it. “Viola doesn’t just play a badass on screen,” said Jonathan. “She is the real deal in real life, and she has no problems showing it.”

Material Girl

Michelle knew that Viola, Jonathan and Drew were renovating her home, but the details of the renovation were a complete surprise and left up to Viola to decide. Knowing her friend would hate a stark white kitchen, Viola and Jonathan came up with a plan for three-toned kitchen cabinets. “I want something that has warmth to it,” Viola said.

The Kitchen, After

With the wall out of the way and the old kitchen window closed off, additional cabinetry and a peninsula were made possible. A medium-toned oak hardwood runs throughout the space; and a marble backsplash kicks the sophistication up a notch. State-of-the-art appliances elevate the space even further, rendering it a kitchen fit for a chef.

The Kitchen, Before

This additional angle of Michelle’s kitchen shows just how limited storage and counterspace was.

The Kitchen, After

Because one window was sacrificed in order to expand the cabinetry, it made sense to replace the former sink window with an even bigger one — that way the natural light wouldn’t be compromised. To ensure the kitchen wouldn’t be too white, Jonathan and Drew used maple for the pantry and fridge surround. Though it hasn’t been pictured, the front panel of the peninsula is very similar in color to the blue door shown here.

The Dining Room, Before

There was nothing wrong with the original dining room per se, but Viola really wanted an open concept floor plan for Michelle due to the fact that she enjoys entertaining. By removing the wall between the kitchen and dining space, Michelle could be part of the action even while in the kitchen cooking for family or guests.

The Dining Room, After

Michelle’s new chic dining room features a round table for six and a playful light fixture. A new and bigger window lets in even more natural light. Beyond light purposes, replacing the windows also allowed Jonathan and Drew to better insulate the space. According to Viola, Michelle’s home could get so cold that she’d never take her coat off — even in bed!

The Living and Dining Space, After

This angle offers a nice look at the entire living and dining space. The same medium-tone oak floor from the kitchen runs throughout both of these spaces. Removing the former plaster popcorn ceiling would’ve been messy and time-consuming, so Jonathan and Drew opted to cover it with quarter-inch drywall instead.

Bonus Room, Before

Viola had two big must-haves at the start of the renovation. The first was an open concept layout that would allow Michelle to easily entertain and connect with family and friends. The second was a Zen space just for her friend — a space where Michelle could relax and reset. Given that this bonus room was on the first floor of the house, Drew and Jonathan decided it would be the perfect spot for a home office/retreat.

Michelle's Office, After

What was once a spare room is now Michelle’s sanctuary. Just about everything is new from the floors and windows to the wall color and furniture. Blue paint with charcoal undertones sets the tone of this relaxing space. And Michelle is sure to get a ton of use out of her new vintage-inspired record player.

Michelle's Office, After

Michelle’s new wall-length stone desk is gorgeous, but it was the framed photos and artwork above it that really got her attention. “That office to me was [like] walking into memory,” Michelle said. “There’s pictures of my kids. There’s music and art … It’s just very powerful to see it in front of you and know you got a lot of people in your life that love you.”

Love You Like a Sister

“Certainly, the renovation of this house was motivated by love and trying to give a friend a gift of sanctuary and a home — a home that reflects all that she is,” Viola said. From Michelle’s perspective, Viola and the Property Brothers knocked this renovation out of the park. She was eager to start cooking and looked forward to waking up the next day to drink coffee by her new fireplace.

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