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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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.

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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.

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Old house, new kitchen

February 25th, 2016 by Mary Schmelzer
The finished kitchen

The finished kitchen

I had the pleasure of photographing this finished kitchen designed for a house built in 1889. The kitchen/laundry area had last been remodeled in the 1960s and was due for new finishes, new appliances and a new layout for a busy family.

Besides having a better-functioning kitchen, the owners requested a mudroom with a cubby for each family member and a half bath separated from the main kitchen. By reworking the space previously occupied by the laundry machines and back entry, we were able to accomplish both rooms.

The home has beautiful, tall ceilings which allowed the cabinets to be extra tall and to allow for a large pair of windows where there had previously been a bay window. Light cabinets, white woodwork and reflective wall tile maximize the natural light. The space under the stairs (which had earlier served as a half bath) has now become a walk-in pantry for foodstuffs and small appliances.

Here is the “before” kitchen:

The circa 1960 kitchen.

The circa 1960 kitchen.

Here is the 3D model for the design:

The 3D computer model used during the design process.

The 3D computer model used during the design process.

Soapstone for the countertops, contemporary lights with a nostalgic flair, and painted wood paneling and trims blend the spaces into the old house while allowing the remodeled rooms to perfectly fit today’s living style.

The mudroom

The mudroom with a cubby for everyone (including the dogs!) with outlets for charging phones and tablets.

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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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