5 Ways the Konmari Method Can Make Your Home Remodel a Success

February 15th, 2019 by Mary Schmelzer

The Konmari method–and tidying up in general–has grown increasingly popular in the past few months. Whether you are spring cleaning or getting ready to remodel your home, you can find real value in organizing your belongings. Today, we’re going to focus on using the Konmari method (or any organizing strategy!) to make planning your remodel or build easier.
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Getting organized showcases your home’s character–as it is!
When your home is cluttered, it’s tough to appreciate what you already have. We start seeing the boxes, totes, and piles instead of the way natural light pours through the windows, or a room’s cozy proportions, or the nice decor hidden under the piles. We start to overlook the charming parts of the house, and often fail to notice that there are maintenance needs that should be obvious. Keeping things tidy allows you to appreciate what you have now while planning for something new.
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Getting organized helps you get clear on your values
When getting ready for a remodel or a new house, it’s critical to know yourself–and be honest about what you value. If you are a book lover with several overflowing bookshelves, are you really going to switch to an e-reader when your new home or remodel is done? It is better to plan accessible, beautiful storage for the books you love than to force yourself to forgo something that brings you joy. The same goes for collections and hobbies: if there are items/activities that fulfill you, work with your designer to plan for a place for them instead of hiding your favorite things away in boxes and bins.
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Getting organized makes sure you don’t waste precious space
I often help people plan for a remodeling after they’ve given up on cleaning, since they know everything is going to be removed anyway. This actually makes the design process harder. Having a concise inventory of what will be staying with you helps plan for the correct amount of storage and display. Beginning in a new space with the proper storage/display makes keeping the house organized easier going forward.
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Getting organized helps you choose the right storage space
Careful storage is better than a lot of storage. Walk-in closets are not better if they are just black holes where you only access the first 24” in the front. If you do best being able to see everything at once, plan for flat closets that open to view. Big linen closets stuffed full of old pillows no one wants to use can be replaced with more storage in the bathroom, a small closet by the bedrooms, and then an out-of-season bedding area elsewhere.
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Getting organized saves you money in the long run!
There is a real cost to storing things you don’t really want or need. I’ve helped people plan for large garages and finished basements to store the same (large!) quantity of boxed-up items they have in their current home. Each part of this storage has a cost: the construction cost; the ongoing heating/cooling costs; the maintenance and insurance costs for that square footage. Are the things in those bins worth keeping after considering the construction and future dollars you are committing to them? This can also be true of “buyer club” shopping: what is the cost of the extra space you are using to save a few dollars on bulk paper towels?

By being deliberate with what you keep in your home, you can find more joy in what you already have and save money in the long run–all while working with your designer to create a space that serves you better. If you think your home could use an update, new closets, or a do-over, get in touch to schedule a consultation.

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An Old-House Attic Becomes New Family Space

January 22nd, 2019 by Mary Schmelzer

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The Owner wanted to know if we could reinvent the attic in her 100+ year-old house as a place for her teenage children to hang out. She was using the attic as it was built: the place to store things that she rarely needed to access. She dreamed of having a space where her kids could hang out with their friends, where she could know who was visiting without giving them ongoing oversight.

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The attic had been remodeled in the late 1960s or early 1970s, with a wall framed in to make what may have been used as a bedroom. The remodeling was done in a make-shift fashion and the rest of the attic was essentially unfinished. The windows were single-pane and there was no insulation in the walls, offering no barrier against Minnesota’s bitter winters. But the attic had character, including wide-plank original floors and windows overlooking the side yard and a beautiful park across the street.

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After walking through the attic, we envisioned a space that was much more wide open, with lots of natural light. Storage would still be available, but it would be contained to the kneewall closets and in storage furniture. The attic would be warm and cozy in the winter but cool in the summer, with year-round views of the outdoors. We knew it was important to have a space that could be used by the kids and their friends–so durable finishes and easily-arranged furniture were a must.

As with any remodel in a century-old home, there were plenty of quirks and design challenges. For instance, the attic stairs were more of a ladder than a staircase. There was no room for a new stair, so we worked with the building official to make them as safe as possible.
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Finishing the ceilings required insulating to the current residential code–causing the ceiling heights to change considerably, and insulating/finishing tricky spots around the gables and kneewalls. We worked on-site with the contractor to find the best way to frame in these non-standard areas, creating effective and homeowner-friendly solutions in the process. An additional quirk: the heating and cooling system, which was too complex to extend to the attic. Instead, the solution was a mini-split system that serves just the attic. Heating/cooling can now be controlled independently of the rest of the house whenever the room is used, which is often.

These challenges often lead to creative solutions and energy savings. It will be interesting to find out how much lower the overall heating costs are since the remodel. The original attic had no insulation, so any winter warmth seeped out the top floor. Now, insulation holds heat inside, and the door at the bottom of the staircase can be closed when the room is not in use.

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An important consideration in this project was allergens. One child has severe allergies, so it was critical that we found finishes–and insulation!–that would not trigger a reaction. Instead of carpet or an engineered flooring, the family took it upon themselves to reuse the original floor. After lots of vacuuming out the cracks between floorboards, countersinking nails, and general cleaning, the boards were painted a nice clean neutral grey. The floor adds immense character to the space and allows light to flow in and bounce around, and saved on material and installation costs for new surface coverings.

Another clever solution was to carve additional storage out from behind the bookcases. The shelves aren’t mounted to the wall, so sentimental but rarely-accessed things can be stored safely and out of the way.

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In the end, the family found a lot of flexible, comfortable square footage–without putting on an addition. The kids love having a hang-out spot to share with their friends, but when they are gone, Mom sneaks up to the attic and has the whole room to herself. For her it is a getaway. Instead of cramped, chaotic, and cluttered, this attic now feels serene and relaxed: the perfect place to unwind after a busy day.

If you have an attic, basement, or bonus room that could become family room and want to make sure you get the most out of your space, contact us to schedule an initial design consultation.

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Custom Kitchen Remodel in an Historic Home

July 30th, 2018 by Mary Schmelzer

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Mostly original, the kitchen in this over 100-year-old house had just worn out. The owners made a valiant effort to work in it as long as possible, but the lack of light, worn out-surfaces, inefficient storage and general layout didn’t serve these people who enjoy cooking. See the photos at the end of this article for the “before.” Kitchen windows were enlarged and a small doorway beside the range was expanded to allow a larger walkway and an eat-at island to be included in the space. The abundance of sunlight from the adjacent sitting area pours into the kitchen through the enlarged opening and through punched “windows” on either side of the range hood.

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The large range sits in its own alcove, freeing up the main part of the kitchen for prep, serving and clean-up. The alcove harvested a few square feet from the sitting area, expanding the functionality of the kitchen. Sometimes it only takes a few more square feet, or better-utilized square footage, to completely open up new opportunities. This was just the case. Custom cabinetry throughout allowed the homeowners to make the best use of every nook and cranny. Clever storage accessories allow for maximizing the storage in the cabinets themselves. Custom-made brackets under the wall cabinets and island counter hearken to the original kitchen and age of the home.

Inspired by the imagery of Greece, the homeowners partnered with a local ceramic artist to make custom tiles for their walls. Each was designed, carved, and fired especially for this project. Classically-inspired and yet innately local, they bring a worldly yet approachable feel to the kitchen, and make the tiled areas of the kitchen a conversation piece.
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Scattered amongst the commercially-made tile, the variety and artistry of the handmade tile elevates the entire kitchen.
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As a solution to the radiator pipes that had to be exposed, the same artist painted them with an underwater scene. It is a charming surprise. The home still uses radiator heat, and a slimmer, modern model was chosen to replace the existing standard one. Custom cabinetry surrounding the radiator allows the heat to flow out through the louvers, and small shelves are built around the radiator itself, perfect for bakeware and other smaller items. The pulls on the cabinet were specifically chosen as a place to hang a damp towel (which will quickly dry in front of the radiator). Granite counters were chosen throughout, and especially over the radiator: it is the place where the avid bakers can proof their bread dough.
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A custom-built, granite-topped counter is perfect for entertaining–or rolling out pastry.
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Light pours in from the sunroom, making the kitchen warm, airy, and inviting–rather than cramped and dark, like before.
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At the end of the island, on the sitting area side, a custom TV cabinet makes casual viewing easy–without the “black hole” effect a big screen can have on a room.
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Above the radiator, glass-front doors show off the homeowners’ stemware.

[CLOSING REMARKS]

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Before, the kitchen had random-height and random-depth cabinets that had worn out. Once the cabinetry was out, the walls were opened and additional insulation was added to the exterior walls, eliminating the cold spots in the walls and floors that the homeowners had before.
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Additional light was one of the big requests for the new kitchen. Careful lighting plans allowed for not only additional borrowed light and daylight, but considerably more ceiling light, new island lights and undercabinet lighting. The new kitchen has many more options for how it can be illuminated for working in, entertaining or general functions.

The end result is a kitchen that blends in with the rest of the house, but is a much more usable part of the house as a whole, now that it is better connected to the sitting area, and can be an eat-in kitchen or a place to drink coffee and converse with whomever is cooking. It is also a great place to entertain, allowing people to travel through and around without getting in the way of food prep.

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Custom Lake Home

April 19th, 2018 by Mary Schmelzer

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Project Background

After searching for just the right lot for the new home, the owners of this custom home found a lot that needed some clearing and the removal of an existing home. Starting with an outline for a home that was designed for Texas, we reworked some ideas to make the house buildable in Minnesota, orienting it to the best views, and with a more reasonable budget. The house is built slab-on-grade with frost-protected shallow footings. The mechanical room is housed in the garage and tricky ducting took place to get heating/air conditioning to all the rooms.

Main Floor Living Space

Custom cabinetry transforms the back entryway, storing outwear, gardening gear, and pet spplies with ease and elegance.
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The powder room is conveniently located between the back entry and main living space.
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A formal dining room is ensconced in custom trimwork and stone detailing, inspired by the local landscape.
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Off the dining room, the great room’s striking ceilings and full-height fireplace are both stately and welcoming. The main rooms of the house (dining room, living room, kitchen, and breakfast nook all feature ceilings of differing heights. The changes in ceiling heights make some rooms more cozy, more public, or frame excellent views of the lake.
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Dark timbering accents the ceiling’s shape and adds a traditional lodge feel to the space.
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Just to the side of the great room lies a sitting room, sunlit and overlooking the lake. It is a perfect place to still be connected to the main areas of the house, but in a more quiet, reflective space with views open to the lake and to the lanai with its outdoor fireplace.
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Glass doors lead to the patio, where an outdoor fireplace and soft seating promise hours of summer relaxation.
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Kitchen

In the kitchen, ample counter space and bar seating make cooking (or sharing) a meal easy. Wall-mount cabinets provide storage, while different mounting heights showcase the homeowners’ stoneware collection.
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Alcoves in the island provide additional storage for cookbooks and servingware. Natural granite countertops serve as a beautiful and functional workspace.
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Classic textures and colors bring the space to life–
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–while sleek steel appliances keep the kitchen feeling timeless, not dated.
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Master Suite

In the master suite, vaulted ceilings and glass doors overlooking the lake provide a feeling of spaciousness and light.
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A sliding door seperates the bedroom from the sanctuary-like master bath.
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A clawfoot tub next to big windows makes for a soothing soak any time of day.
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Double sinks and medicine cabinets keep the space organized and functional.
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Out the window, the property is lush and inviting–even in the rain.
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In addition to the striking architecture, the landscape around the home promises to mature to be truly remarkable. Part of the lot’s appeal was the opportunity for striking landscape elements. The owners are avid gardeners/landscapers and it will be fun to watch the plantings mature and the hardscapes evolve to create a complete package of home and setting.

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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.

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Bold, beautiful contemporary farmhouse

October 11th, 2016 by Mary Schmelzer

Farmhouse fireplace
This new home, built on a working farm, added fresh, bright colors to transform an open floor plan and to give liveliness to the rooms in constant use.

The fireplace wall, above, separates the kitchen and the living room. Since stone to the vaulted ceiling would seem too massive, a bright green color was chosen to cover the area above the mantle. The mantle was custom fit from a salvaged barn beam. Like the green? Try Benjamin Moore’s “dill pickle.”

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The daily mudroom entry also houses a shower–to rinse off daily work dirt–and the laundry machines. Visible from the kitchen, the orange color provides a sunny hue and a strong contrast against the white woodwork. Marmoleum flooring withstands the wear and tear of a well-used area and hides the farm dust and lint from the laundry machines. Benjamin Moore’s “Adobe dust” is a nice, terra cotta-type orange.

The neutral warm gray walls provide a backdrop for cabinets, tile and floors

The neutral warm gray walls provide a backdrop for cabinets, tile and floors

With all the color in view of the main living area, a neutral, warmer gray was chosen for the great room. The neutral color allows the white woodwork and cabinetry to stand out, but allows the glass tile, wood floor and furniture to look grounded without being too much of a contrast. “Abalone” by Benjamin Moore is a good, warm gray.

Farmhouse master shower

The master bath has a fun, unexpected shower floor. For people who make their living from the land, a nice connection to the earth was formed by using real stones for the shower floor. Subway tile and a glass shower door make it more contemporary. A custom seat was formed inside the shower to provide a place to sit.

“Farmhouse” can mean many things in the world of design, and this real working farm house doesn’t compromise style for daily functionality.

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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.

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