star tribune /aia everyday solutions: Everyday Solutions appears once a month in the Homes section, showcasing 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.


The challenge: Homeowner Jim Cook is a duck hunter who got hooked on collecting antique duck decoys in the late 1970s. Over the years, he amassed about 300 rare decoys, dating from the 1890s to 1950s, by renowned carvers such as Elmer Crowell and the Ward Brothers. Cook and his wife, Diane, had recently moved to a 1990s-built house in Eden Prairie but it lacked display space for the decoys. "I wanted shelving and lighting that would really show them off," said Cook.

The team: Architect Paul Hannan, SALA Architects, Minneapolis (, and interior designer Maureen Haggerty, mint (, with Carol O'Brien.

The solution: Hannan transformed a 900-square-foot bonus room above the Cooks' garage into a gallery-like setting with strategic lighting to showcase the wooden duck decoys. "When we did a mockup of the whole system, Jim's face lit up," said Hannan.

Elegant entry: To create a more sophisticated entry to the room, Hannan removed the existing French doors and a closet and designed an archway, flanked by additional display shelves for the decoys.

Illuminated waterfowl: The display shelving system incorporates three types of LED light fixtures. Hannan also painted the walls, shelves and millwork the same neutral "cloud white" color. "When you turn the lights on, it gives the illusion that ducks are floating in space," he said.

Design tricks: Each shelf is curved to emphasize the decoy's style and species and to show the ducks off as a singular element, said Hannan. The custom-made wood shelves also slip over supporting steel brackets for a clean aesthetic. "I wanted the design elements to be understated, so the decoys took center stage," said Hannan.

Best part: Cook can read or watch TV in the furnished room, which is filled with his mallards, redheads, canvasbacks and other waterfowl, including his most cherished piece, a rare wood duck carved by Joe Lincoln. "I know where I got each one, what year it was and who was the carver," Cook said. "I love being surrounded by the ducks. I've been lucky to have been able to acquire them."


To submit a project for consideration, please send uncompressed JPEG images of the element or space, before and after photos if available, and a brief description of the story behind the project to Stephanie Pelzer: