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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Michigan Contemporary Farmhouse Update

April 19th, 2018 by Mary Schmelzer

House
In late 2016, two clients broke ground on a beautiful rural site in Michigan. Their energy-efficient farmhouse has been featured on the blog, first here and then again here. With the project being built hundreds of miles away, regular site visits are a challenge for me, so it was a delight to receive an email from the clients with updates. All the text quoted below is from the homeowners, lightly edited.

Homestead

“The really good news is that the design of the house is working out very well. The layout provides good separation between public and private spaces. It’s great to roll out of bed and into the kitchen. The house is cheerful and full of sunlight. The small front foyer is a delightful detail that is enjoyed from the music room, and the staircase invites further exploration to the second floor. Sight lines are long but broken up by small angles and structural details. The great music room is wonderful: it can accommodate 2 lazy retirees or a small crowd of energetic children + dinner guests. The long narrow dining hall is perfect for buffet dinners; guests drift into the music room to have their meal, rather than hanging out in the kitchen (hooray for efficient galley kitchens). We are hard pressed to think of how to improve the design, given the challenges of the property with its drainage swales, cemetery and neighboring pipeline. Thank you Mary for your expert input, patience and perseverance during the design process. Yes, we finally got the stairs in the right spot!

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“Roxel insulation [a kind of bat insulation made from stone and other minerals, and pictured above] has changed their name to Rock Wool. So far, we are oblivious of its existence: warm walls, no smells, no nothing. We have noticed a very nice reduction in sound transmission from outside noises. We missed an opportunity by not having it installed in some of the interior walls. Absolutely, we would specify it again.

“We are very sympathetic about the allergies. We have noticed a dramatic reduction in dust with the complete lack of carpeting. Hooray. The Sherwin-Williams low/no VOC interior paints are excellent: no smells or off-gassing. The Summit engineered wood flooring is wonderfully neutral. No smells. It is absolutely worth the added expense to specify the no-VOC materials.

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Above, the custom-sized towel bars are just one of hundreds of details that make the house unique.

“In-floor hydronic heat is different. We like it. The neighbor’s children love it on their bare toes. Clean, no wind chills, no dust flying around. In spite of all kinds of pumps, valves and mechanisms spinning away night and day during December (pre-Christmas low = -14°), the electric bill was about $75. The propane bill was considerably higher! We need to get curtains in the windows to cut down on heat transfer. Yes, the wood stove really works to keep things warm, and the AC circulation fan does a good job of distributing the heat throughout the house. One consequence of hot water heat is a dry house. Good news: the house has finally dried out after last winter’s drenching, and we have gaps along the caulk fills all over the place. The other downside is a tendency to have scratchy noses; we just need to purchase a small portable humidifier to take care of that problem. After fighting the mildew in our Lakeville home, it is a vast relief not to have to live with that health hazard.

“We are anxiously waiting for spring and all kinds of major projects. Final grading to deal with ponds of water; gutters and downs; hardscaping and landscaping; lots of tree planting and gardening. Meanwhile, we are applying the final rehab details to our shower and hope to start using it in the next week. Progress.”

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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.

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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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On the lake and loving it

July 7th, 2016 by Mary Schmelzer

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The dining/livingroom with a great big view to the lake

Last summer I helped some homeowners remodel their new lake home. The basement ended up getting torn down to the studs to update wiring, eliminate mice and add insulation. It was a mess, but it turned out beautifully. This summer they’ve been able to spend their time enjoying the lake instead of remodeling.

We updated the lower-level master suite. It walks right out to the lakeshore and the morning view of the lake is incomparable. The master bath includes a “his” vanity area and a “hers” area, both a little different in feel, but coordinating.

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“His” bathroom area, with masculine light fixtures, colors and a good-sized closet for daily essentials. The barn door closes off the toilet room.

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“Her” vanity area is lighter in feel with a marble counter top and ocean-inspired colors.

The showpiece of the master bath is the custom-tiled shower. With white subway tiles as a field, the couple used a glass tile mosaic behind the shower faucetry to mimic a waterfall. The blues are used throughout the master suite, evoking a feeling of calm and the lake.

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It is so gratifying and fun to see a project come to fruition. Starting with floor plan ideas, figuring out the scope of the project and selecting design elements and finishes finally results in a space that is fresh, functional and enjoyable. It is always a joy to meet with homeowners that I have walked with through this journey of possibilities to construction. Enjoy your updated home!

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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

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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)

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