Everyday Solutions, a new partnership between the Star Tribune and the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects, will appear once a month in the Homes section, showcasing projects, by AIA Minnesota member architects, that solve a homeowner's everyday design challenge.

The challenge: At first, Jennifer O'Brien and Paul Bastyr wanted only a bigger garage for Paul's race cars. "But that led to a new kitchen and another bedroom and bathroom, and suddenly we were doing the whole house," said O'Brien, referring to their 1950s Edina rambler.

The existing kitchen was dark, with little counter space. The small kitchen also housed a big kennel for their dog, Otto. "Having it there gives Otto a place where he can watch us, but he's not underfoot," said O'Brien. But the massive metal kennel took up most of the eating area and would look clunky in the sleek new remodeled kitchen.

The team: Dan Nepp, principal, and Janet Lederle, project manager, TEA2 Architects, Minneapolis (www.tea2architects.com) and contractor Jack Carter, Uber Built, Minnetonka.

The solution: The TEA2 team designed a sapele wood kennel, in place of a lower cabinet, and tucked it under a counter, matching the wood and stain of the kennel to the cabinets. The new tile floors are an easy-clean surface for inside the kennel. The combination of white enameled upper cabinets and sapele lower cabinets and the built-in kennel "gives the kitchen clean lines and helps the space feel bigger," said Lederle.

Chew-proof: After O'Brien pointed out that dogs chew wood, the TEA2 team made some modifications. "We had the cabinet maker line the kennel with a metal mesh," said Lederle.

Safe haven: The vertical slats allow Otto to see what's going on, yet give him his own refuge, said Lederle.


In and out: The door swings open at one end and slides back into the kennel, giving Otto the freedom to go in and out. "He's figured out how to get the door open himself," said O'Brien.


Pocket protector: A glass pocket door confines Otto to the kitchen when the couple are gone, but lets in light and views.

Pet perk: The counter above the kennel is deeper than standard, creating a handy food-prep station. The counter also holds a microwave oven and cabinet that stores a food processor to mix ingredients for Otto's special diet. The deeper counter is flush with the refrigerator for a seamless, cohesive look.

Best part: The kitchen cabinet kennel is just a small piece of a major rambler redesign, but it plays a big part in the couple's everyday lifestyle.

"We love having Otto always there with us," said O'Brien. "And if anything drops on the floor -- he'll get it."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619