The challenge: Katie and George Vander Weit rarely used the formal dining room in their 1999 two-story home in Prior Lake. Their kitchen had a good-sized eating area that was used for most of the meals, so the dining room became a miscellaneous storage space and a catch-all for Katie’s in-progress craft projects. “It really bothered me because people could see it from the front door,” she said.

The home didn’t have a designated mudroom, so there were piles of shoes everywhere and coats draped over chairs, said Katie. The couple wanted a mudroom that could be entered from the garage. George, who often works from home, also needed a larger office. Their goal was to make existing rooms more efficient and functional by creating a mudroom and an office for two, with space for storing everything from office supplies to sports gear.


The project team: Architects Rosemary McMonigal and James Arentson, McMonigal Architects, Minneapolis, 612-331-1244, Construction by Al Smisek Builders and Mark Designs, Savage.


The solution: McMonigal and Arentson designed a floor plan that converted the underused dining room into a two-person office and study space that was nearly twice the size of the old office. The old office became a mudroom with a new doorway, so it could be entered from the adjacent garage. “The home had plenty of space,” said McMonigal. “But it was in all the wrong places for their lifestyle.”


Everything in its place: McMonigal filled the new mudroom with abundant storage cabinets, many with pull-out bins. “I love the shoe storage on the wall,” said Katie. “And now there’s a place to take off your shoes before walking on the wood floor.”

The couple chose grab-and-go coat hooks instead of individual cubbies. “The open hook strip is a more flexible adult space for down the road,” said Arentson.

Each family member has a storage drawer in the built-in bench, which also doubles as place to drop groceries when coming in from the garage. George has a tall cabinet to store his biking and running gear. An electronics charging station is outfitted with drawers to hold cellphone equipment and tablets. “A mudroom is a transitional space,” said Arentson. “The two existing windows bring in lots of natural light to make it a nice place to enter the house.”


Multi-use office: Katie and George each have their own walnut-topped computer desk in the new office. A window seat and built-in bookshelves on the window wall make the room feel more balanced.

“Pushing the desks to either side allowed us to maximize desk space and keep the large window,” said McMonigal. Cabinets organize office and craft supplies. New glass-paned French doors between the office and living room allow natural light in, while muting the noise from when their children are practicing music.


Keeping in character: The new clean-lined oak cabinetry was stained to match existing light golden oak in the home.


Sliding barn door: Katie had seen the space-saving “fun” feature at a Parade Home, plus it was less costly than a pocket door.


The result: The active family of four gained highly organized spaces without adding square footage or moving or tearing down walls. “The remodeling kept costs down and minimized disruption in their daily lives,” said McMonigal.


Harmonious home: Before the improvements, the Vander Weits weren’t efficiently using the whole house. And the kids could never find their shoes. “There’s less stress and chaos,” said Katie. “It’s a calmer way to live.”




star tribune/aia everyday solutions

Everyday Solutions appears once a month in the Homes section as a showcase for projects, by AIA Minnesota member architects, that solve a homeowner’s everyday design challenge. The program is a partnership between the Star Tribune and the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects.



Everyday Solutions features projects by AIA Minnesota member architects that solve a homeowner’s everyday design challenge. To submit a project for consideration, please send uncompressed JPEG images of the element or space, before and after photos and a brief description of the story behind the project to Angie McKinley: mckinley@aia-mn-org