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.

Drumroll, please, for color of the year:

November 16th, 2015 by Mary Schmelzer

White trim really stands out against an orange wall

White trim really stands out against an orange wall


And the Benjamin Moore color of the year for 2016 is………not a color.
What? It’s white. The actual number is “Simply White OC-117.”

White–and all neutrals–are vitally important in design, because they allow other colors to shine through; create a backdrop for furniture, details and artwork; and can help set a mood whether it is modern, historic or cottage.

However, not all whites are created equal. Benjamin Moore makes a whole range of whites with various tints hiding in the mix. Rarely do I recommend “ceiling white” for a room: the home’s individual light and the color on the walls and floor impact the ceiling greatly. A ceiling white that doesn’t coordinate can feel cold, detached and sometimes dirty. Especially if you’re painting several ceilings or a great room ceiling, the right white makes a big difference.

My favorite white? Benjamin Moore’s “Swiss Coffee” #OC-45. It has a parchment-colored undertone that works well with warm colors and doesn’t look stark in winter light. The undertones make woodwork and cabinetry look established while still feeling fresh and clean.

Swiss Coffee with an auburn/red wall

Swiss Coffee with an auburn/red wall

If you’re interested in more real color, you can check out the ten colors to watch for this spring:
http://www.builderonline.com/design/pantone-releases-the-10-colors-to-watch-for-in-spring-2016_o

Here is another example of how bright furniture stands out against a neutral backdrop: I love how the repurposed mantle headboard feels so cheery and lighthearted. It doubles as great display too.

This bright turquoise stands out against the neutral wall paint.

This bright turquoise stands out against the neutral wall paint.

Try the new “color of the year” in creative ways and with other colors you enjoy. You may be surprised at how many ways you can use it. Just as you wouldn’t paint any other color (like “Marsala” the 2015 Pantone color) on every surface of your home, I recommend refraining from whitening your whole interior.

Posted in All Entries, Materials, Products + Finishes

This will get better….I promise

August 5th, 2015 by Mary Schmelzer

Carlone tear-out

I’m helping a family remodel an existing home. The home is on a beautiful lake and the location is ideal. Understandably, there were some areas of the house they wanted to update.

Upon making some changes in the lower level, they found signs of mice behind the drywall. Lots of them. And places with a lack of insulation. And smells of damp. And dangerous wiring situations.

Rather than do a “good enough” fix now then try again in a few years, the homeowners decided to pull down the drywall, rip up the carpet, tear out the old insulation, and expose the wiring. As you can see from the photo, it was a big undertaking and mess. (This is only a third of the lower level. The remainder was similarly torn apart.) It was disheartening to see energy, focus and funds go into the behind-the-walls improvements, but it is the right solution for the long-run. It can also be overwhelming to see your home torn down to the basics. But it will get better!

For these homeowners, it was the right thing to do. They feel this is their last home and they want it to be clean, efficient, warm and dry from the very beginning. Then they want to relax and enjoy it without worrying about which project they will need to tackle next.

Often, homeowners can’t tackle all the needed renovations at once. I help owners decide what makes the most sense and where their investment will be best used. I like to recommend upgrades that won’t later have to be removed as new improvements are made. Updates to a home are usually a balance of long-term payback, aesthetic upgrades (think no more yellow countertops!), efficiency, usability and cost.

At the end of this summer, these homeowners will be relaxing in their cozy, dry, critter-free family room, looking at the lake. What could be better than that?

Posted in All Entries

Outlets don’t go here

May 22nd, 2015 by Mary Schmelzer

During the demolition phase of a current project, the walls were stripped down to the studs. In a house that is almost 150 years old, you can expect to find signs of several different remodelings, additions and updates.

What you don’t want to find is this:
outlet photo

In an effort to save space/time/money, a previous owner had an outlet junction box installed into space carved out from a stud. What may or may not have been realized, is that the wall was originally the exterior wall, and holds up that portion of the roof. Compromising any of the studs in that wall (which didn’t have too many to begin with) could cause support problems that show up right away or at a later time. (Think about 30″ of wet snow on that roof and the weight that would be, for instance.) By removing all but the toothpick-y sides of the stud, the lumber really couldn’t do its job.

Since remodeling almost always unearths something unexpected, it makes good sense to hold a contingency in your budget. The more complicated your remodeling will be, the bigger the percentage of your budget should be held for “what ifs.” It is much easier to utilize unspent contingency funds at the end of the project (light fixtures, window treatments, furniture) than to have to cut back part of the project because you ran into something unexpected.

This wall was easily corrected by the addition of more support studs, and new wiring by a licensed electrician. The homeowners were wise to fix a potential problem with the wall while they have the opportunity….and not leave that surprise for the next time the home gets remodeled.

Posted in All Entries

Tiny houses

February 26th, 2015 by Mary Schmelzer

Have you been following the popularity of the tiny house movement? A few years ago, it entered the scene and people were seeing how very small a house could be built and still be occupied. Now there are many people who are willingly choosing to scale down their living quarters and the stuff they keep and store.

Whether you are trying to see how “small” you can live or not, thoughtful use of your space and the way it functions is always in style. I spoke with a couple last summer who built a house almost 20 years ago. They had a formal dining room included in the plans and built. During the time they lived there, they never used the dining room for its original intent. Yet, they paid the mortgage on it, insured, and heated/cooled that square footage for almost 20 years. What could that space or that investment been used for that would have brought more joy or more use? Could they have upgraded a different room? Could they have invested in other money-saving fixtures which would have been paying them back all along?

Good design isn’t just for looks. It’s meant to help you decide what you need, and what you won’t need for the long run, and to help you put your money where you want it. Unless, of course, you’d like a room that you only see when it’s time to dust it (ha!).

Posted in All Entries

Helping Habitat for Humanity

November 17th, 2014 by Mary Schmelzer
These kids will get their own homes this year through Habitat for Humanity

These kids will get their own homes this year through Habitat for Humanity

It is my honor and privilege to serve on the board for Rice County Habitat for Humanity, our local chapter. Through the work and generosity of many volunteers and donors, the organization has been able to build four new homes in our county this year.

Four new homes is a wonderful accomplishment in itself, but what is underlying is far more important. Four houses equals four homes for four families. Families that will be put on firmer ground for future financial success and stability. The children that live in these four houses now have a place to call their own, and the comfort that it will be theirs for the long haul. Communities also benefit from stable families in many ways.

Part of the mission statement for Habitat for Humanity is that it, “Brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope.” What a great mission!

If you would like more information on what Habitat does, how you can volunteer, donate, or get involved in another way, check out the web page or call the office (507-744-2933) for more information. I would be happy to share my experiences too.

Posted in All Entries, Community

Home plans (“blueprints”) now on the menu!

October 29th, 2014 by Mary Schmelzer

Do you need plans (“blueprints”) for your new home?

Are you planning a new home and have a pretty good idea what you want and some ideas of how you want the house to look?

Recognizing that not all people need the same level of design service, VIVUS now offers a plan-creation service for those people who need fewer design options and less-detailed customization.

Your home will be drawn custom for you, with the layout and the look that you want, on your building site. When finished, your plans will allow you to get construction pricing, to secure a building permit, and allow you to make all the selections that will go into the finished project. We work with you to provide a home that is exciting, functional, and attuned to your budget.

Additionally, if there are rooms or details you want to be further customized (built-ins in a great room, or custom-made cabinetry and details in the kitchen) those services can be added to make your new home reflect your style and allow you to get accurate construction pricing including those more-detailed areas.

Find more information here.

Don’t know which level of service you need (home plans vs. highly customized home)? Schedule a meeting and we can help you decide which arrangement better suits your needs.

2014 blueprint graphic

Posted in All Entries, Best Practices, Portfolio + Projects

Northfield: the best US city for well-rounded retirement

October 29th, 2014 by Mary Schmelzer

Northfield has recently been named the best city in the U.S. for a well-rounded retirement, according to MONEY Magazine.

Well, now the secret is out! But what they didn’t say in the article is that it is a great town for those who belong to any age group.

Here is the article and some feedback from our local newspaper.

And here is the original article.

Whether you are contemplating a move to our area or already live here, VIVUS is available to help make your home the best retreat in your corner of the world.

Downtown Northfield's Bridge Square, (Photo courtesy of Northfield News website)

Downtown Northfield’s Bridge Square, (Photo courtesy of Northfield News website)

Posted in All Entries, Community