Architecture + Design News

Here we periodically record ideas and happenings related to our work, interests, and community. We invite you to peruse and join in the discussion.

Custom Home in Randolf, MN

February 2nd, 2018 by Mary Schmelzer

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Working together with a family who had purchased a beautiful, secluded piece of property, we created a one-story home nestled in the wooded site which has access to the Cannon River.

One of the owners has a health condition which may result in a future loss of mobility. To prepare for this possibility, we planned for wide hallways, an extra space in the master bedroom and bathroom, and plenty of clearance in the kitchen and main areas. The laundry is on the first floor, and the entry from the garage is at an even level with the first floor. A large walk-in pantry reduced the need for as many high wall cabinets. The stairs to the lower level is also a generous width.

To meet the needs of a busy young family, cubbies in the mudroom corral each person’s hat, mittens, coats, shoes and backpacks. Right off the garage entry, it is a great place for all those daily items to stay, rather than creep into the kitchen and other living spaces. A family room, guest bedroom and bath were finished in the basement for play space and additional storage. A large, open kitchen means the kids can be involved in meal prep, or be at the seating area doing homework or eating a snack while Mom and Dad are working in the kitchen.

A screened porch allows the family to enjoy the views and nice weather but be protected on rainy days or when the bugs are out. Large enough for dining, it is an extra room that can be enjoyed most days of the year.
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A transitional-style kitchen, with open shelving, contemporary range hood and traditional-style cabinetry, is light and bright with the white counters and open storage, which also display the owners’ antiques and dishware.
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An ample kitchen island brings extra storage–and a place for the family to gather as meals are prepared.
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Cubbies just off the kitchen make a home for each family member’s coats, boots, and mittens.
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A walk-in pantry with wire drawers, shelves, and a chest freezer means that ingredients are always easy to get to and take storage pressure off the kitchen and bathrooms. It is also easy to stock and inventory when everything is in clear view.
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A spacious screen porch provides extra living space in warmer months.
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In the master bath, his and hers sinks bring function and ease to busy mornings. Wide, short windows mounted in the exterior wall behind the sinks (see reflection in the mirror) flood the room with light but eliminate the need for curtains or shades. The glass shower wall/door lets the light flow between the shower and the main bathroom. A zero-entry shower means if mobility becomes an issue, the bathroom is prepared. In the meantime, the large shower and openness makes for a spacious master suite.
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A tiled shower with glass walls makes the room soothing and bright–even in the middle of a cold northern winter.

Posted in All Entries, Portfolio + Projects

Project walk-through: classic, bright master bathroom

December 8th, 2017 by Mary Schmelzer

In a 100+ year-old house, the master bedroom finally gets its own master bathroom. After living in the house for a few months, the new owners knew they needed a master bathroom. Through the design process, we collaborated to create a space that would make getting ready for each day easier and more enjoyable. Claiming an unusual space that had likely been used as a nursery, the small space between two bedrooms became the full bathroom.

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In the newly-remodeled space, reclaimed French doors lead from the guest bedroom (used as a dressing room) into the master bath, creating a bright and inviting ambiance throughout the second floor master suite.
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Aesthetic & Inspiration
The clients were inspired by clean, neutral colors and an elegant, spacious, unfussy aesthetic. Bright, natural light was a must-have for this project, and the whole bathroom makes use of ambient and direct sunlight. Here, a glassed-in shower provides plenty of light and keeps the airy bathroom from feeling compartmentalized.

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Project Features
A pocket door provides access to the master bedroom without the door swing taking up floor space. The master bedroom’s original closets were removed to allow the bed to sit just under the slope of the ceiling, creating more space in the bedroom and easier access to the master bathroom.

The antique claw-foot tub was placed under the window, allowing beautiful light to flood the room. Clean, pale colors in the tile and wall paint keep the room bright while allowing accent colors to really pop.

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Finely-detailed cabinetry makes the most of the limited space. The sink area occupies what used to be a shallow closet with bifold doors, so cabinetry with varying depths keeps the bathroom from feeling cramped. The cabinet color, a soft dove grey, is soothing without feeling cold or clinical.

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Antique accents, like this reclaimed light fixture and intricate mirror, mesh with the new construction for a space that reflects the era the historic home was built in.

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When the guest room is not needed for company, light flows from the bathroom into the guest room, making it a cozy place for reading and providing plenty of space as a dressing room. All in all, the project brings new life to an old space, making this home more livable–for both the owners and their out-of-town guests.

Posted in All Entries, Portfolio + Projects

Contemporary farmhouse update

August 4th, 2017 by Mary Schmelzer
The contemporary farmhouse is sided and waiting for paint. The garage is now built.

The contemporary farmhouse is sided and waiting for paint. The garage is now built.

It’s been several months of construction and things are moving along with the contemporary farmhouse from the earlier post. There are a number of updates:

3 types of insulation

3 types of insulation

Insulation has gone in. Roxul insulation is being used in the walls and fiberglass batt insulation is going in the attic. Spray-foam insulation is applied to the window headers which tend to be places that leak heat.

Custom bookshelves in the living room

Custom bookshelves in the living room

The trim around the windows and doors, the baseboards, and the custom built-ins are being installed. Above you can see the custom bookshelves in the living room, sized to tuck under the windows, are being put to good use by the builder himself. During the design phase it is easy to say, “oh, we can plan that built-in for later, or maybe we can find something ready-made.” My experience has shown that later is often much later (years and years) and rarely can a person find a piece of ready-made furniture to fit and look built in. There are a few key places in a home that it just makes sense in which to include the built-ins right away. Heavy-usage rooms such as living rooms, kitchens and baths just function better right from the beginning if the built-in storage is included during construction. It also helps with flooring, lighting and electrical planning.

Soon to come is interior and exterior painting, cabinetry and flooring. Mark Allor, the builder, has been working with the Owners to keep the project moving along and getting their regular input on decisions that remain. Stay tuned for additional updates.

Posted in All Entries, Materials, Products + Finishes, Portfolio + Projects

An entertaining kitchen

June 20th, 2017 by Mary Schmelzer
The new kitchen is ready for friends and family or for a busy family's dinner.

The new kitchen is ready for friends and family or for a busy family’s dinner.

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Part of a house built in the 1970s, the original kitchen space wasn’t serving this active family very well. The well-used family room, while adjacent to the kitchen, was significantly separated so the cook couldn’t interact with the rest of the family. Also, the family wanted to entertain and felt that the place where their friends would congregate just didn’t have the space and flow to make for a good party.

Here are before photos:

the "before" kitchen had wallpapered soffits and tired cabinets

the “before” kitchen had wallpapered soffits and tired cabinets

The sink wall cut the kitchen off from the family room.

The sink wall cut the kitchen off from the family room.

We reconfigured the kitchen by closing off a doorway that looked through the adjacent hallway–and into the powder room. The range now occupies the space where the opening was. A big open curved peninsula provided a nice quantity of countertop for food prep, meals, and hanging out. Cutting back part of the sink wall allowed the peninsula to open up to the family room.

Traditional cabinetry dressed up the space. Removing the soffits allowed the cabinets to reach the ceiling. Several nice storage details were added to make the most of the cabinets: a pull-out pantry, a blind-corner base cabinet pull-out, a custom bookshelf at the end of the peninsula, and an above-counter microwave shelf.

This pull-out pantry can store lots of food.

This pull-out pantry can store lots of food.

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Several lighting configurations were employed to help light the kitchen: recessed fixtures, under cabinet lights, beautiful ice-cube-like pendants over the peninsula, and track lighting to enhance the cabinets and light the corners that could otherwise be dark.

The peninsula pendants look like melting ice and can be dimmed for different lighting needs.

The peninsula pendants look like melting ice and can be dimmed for different lighting needs.

Updates to the adjacent family room included a ceiling make-over where the dark “beams” and popcorn ceiling were removed; dark entertainment-center cabinetry was replaced with open shelving, new lighting and carpeting, and a pathway of ceramic tile where the carpet will get the most traffic.

The family room has a fresher, lighter look with open shelves and bright ceiling.

The family room has a fresher, lighter look with open shelves and bright ceiling.

Now the family is ready for a party–or for a family day at home–whenever the mood strikes. You can see photos on the portfolio page.

Posted in All Entries

Contemporary farmhouse underway

April 14th, 2017 by Mary Schmelzer
The farm-style house getting its board-and-batten siding

The farm-style house getting its board-and-batten siding

I’ve been working with an area couple who were ready for a smaller, lower-maintenance and a more- energy-efficient home. We began design work in tandem with their search for a building site. The Owners’ extensive exploration and patience paid off: they found a beautiful rural site that met their needs. In Michigan. Together we designed a home that is an appropriate scale for the site and hearkens to the agricultural area. The Owners themselves did significant research on heating/cooling systems, the building envelope and materials.

QuickTherm radiant floor system

QuickTherm radiant floor system

Part of the house has a full basemennt (for the mechanicals and for some storage) and the remainder is slab-on-grade. The Owners chose an innovative in-floor heat system, QuickTherm radiant installation panels. The panels are insulative foam, shaped with nodes between which the radiant tubes lie. Since the construction of the home began last fall, there was a need to keep the house progressing so it could be “buttoned up” against the winter weather. The ease of installation for the radiant floor system helped with the schedule.

The contemporary farmhouse on its site

The contemporary farmhouse on its site

Mark Allor, the builder, and his team worked steadily through the winter. By late winter, the form was complete. You can see in the photo above the way the house sits on the site and its volume compared to the land around it. Mark Allor Construction is from Dexter, Michigan (810-845-9084).

Now the work has moved to the inside with the heating/cooling, framing the interior walls, the plumbing and the electrical. Compared to exterior walls being set, roofing being completed or the foundation work, this is the point where homeowners may feel construction has almost halted. It is still moving on pace, and there are updates every day, they are just less noticeable than a crane setting trusses!

Stay tuned for more updates and photos as the house progresses.

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Waterville lake house update

December 15th, 2016 by Mary Schmelzer
The front of a new house on the lake in Waterville

The front of a new house on the lake in Waterville

Here is an almost-finished new home in Waterville. The photos were taken before snow, and before the last of construction was completed.
The owners, after shopping for an open lot, found a beautiful piece of property…with a house on it. Last winter/early spring they tackled the site work–removing the house and some trees and preparing the ground for construction. The house is slab-on-grade and one story.

The "mini-river"

The “mini-river”

The photo above shows the creative landscaping the owners have undertaken to move water from one side of the property to the other. The little “river” runs underneath the driveway and allows rain/snowmelt to travel around a sweet potting shed. The solution created an opportunity for interesting and unexpected landscape focal points. I can’t wait to see it next summer when the plants are growing.

The fireplace intersects the tallest ceilings in the main part of the house

The fireplace intersects the tallest ceilings in the main part of the house

Inside the house, the main living spaces have varied ceiling heights as can be sensed at the fireplace in the greatroom. The dining room is behind the fireplace and faces the front of the house. The photo below is the wall opposite the fireplace with a magnificent view to the lake. To keep the greatroom from being blinded by the sun (it faces mostly south) a roofed lanai with an outdoor fireplace lies just outside the French doors. The lanai also provides an indoor/outdoor connection to the house, the yard and the lake.

French doors open to the roofed lanai and out to the lake

French doors open to the roofed lanai and out to the lake

The pergola shelters a patio just for the master bedroom

The pergola shelters a patio just for the master bedroom

Beside the lanai, outside the master bedroom, is a patio with copper pergola. It provides a private, separate place for the owners to go outdoors in the mornings and evenings–checking on the lake, sitting quietly, and enjoying the first or last rays on the lake.

Check back for some finished-project photos coming soon!

Posted in All Entries

Sewing/craft/hobby rooms

October 26th, 2016 by Mary Schmelzer
This sewing room makes use of an unfinished basement.

This sewing room makes use of an unfinished basement.

For many of us, our home is our refuge. Some people take that one step further and have a retreat: a sewing, craft, or hobby room. Why would a person need a dedicated space? Hobbyists and creative people know that having a their own space makes it easier to spend spare time doing what is relaxing. On the other hand, clearing off the dining room table for a work surface, digging through storage bins for supplies, and remembering what was being worked on the last time take precious minutes away from the hobby itself. Sometimes these “pre” activities (and the clean-up) are such a disincentive that it seems too much bother to craft/sew/etc.

Your personal creative or hobby space doesn’t need to be an entire room or studio. It can be a spare bedroom, a desk area, or a closet and folding table. What is important is that it work well for you and how you want to use it. If you tend to get into big projects that require a lot of space or supplies to be spread out at one time (or for a long time) a room on which you can close the door may make sense.

In the sewing room above, I helped the owner configure the best arrangement for cabinetry, the location of the main sewing machine, a sewing area for an occasional friend, and a dedicated cutting/layout table. The table is extra-high (the owner is tall), is on locking casters, and has planned places for rulers and cutting mats.

Stock cabinetry provides closed-door storage for sewing supplies

Stock cabinetry provides closed-door storage for sewing supplies

If you are a long-time hobbyist, you know supplies (“stash” as it is commonly called) are fuel for your creativity. Tools, patterns and materials can quickly overtake work space or provide so much distraction that time or focus are lost. So, how do you store them but keep them within reach? Well-thought out cabinets, shelves, countertops and hanging space provide the right mix of storage, access, locate-ability, and work area. Planned work spaces help reduce the set-up and clean-up time, allowing for more fun. The sewing/craft room in the above photo has a bank of stock cabinets under the window which stores tools, fabric and books. A TV and movie collection make the room a fun place to sew while watching TV–or to keep up on the latest techniques by video. The countertop can be used for set-off space, display or planning the next project.

What is your biggest challenge with your creative or hobby space? I have several creative hobbies myself, so I am always looking for ways to make better use of my space and maximize the time I have to create. After all, it’s about the dreaming and creating, not the digging for supplies or tools or cleaning up so there is a place to eat dinner!

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