What does an architect-designed home or renovation look like? At the Homes by Architects tour next weekend, it’s everything from a reinvented kitchen in a century-old Georgian to a sustainable, minimalist glass-walled abode on Medicine Lake.

The 23 residences open to the public include nine remodelings and 14 new homes representing a variety of architectural styles and budgets in the Twin Cities and western Wisconsin. The sixth annual event, hosted by the Minnesota Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), is also a chance to ask architects about a tour home’s design solutions or your own perplexing projects.

“Architects can rework spaces in an older home, so you don’t have to put on a huge addition,” said architect Ashley Mitlyng, chairwoman of the tour committee. “If you’re building new, they make sure it fits the site and the neighborhood.”

Five homes clustered together along the St. Croix River in western Wisconsin are an added bonus this year. “You can turn it into a nice weekend drive along the river,” said Mitlyng.

Here’s a snapshot of two projects on the tour: One is a brand-new residence tailored for a narrow lot, and the other is an expansion and remodeling of a St. Croix River getaway.

glass cabin in the woods


The home: A 1970 ranch house on the St. Croix River bluffs near Hudson, Wis.

The owners: Donna Avery and Tom Kigin.

Design team: Architect Mark Nelson, designer David Heide, interior designer Michael Crull and Kyle Thrapp, David Heide Design Studio, www.dhdstudio.com, 612-337-5060.

The mission: Avery and Kigin bought the no-frills one-level home in 1995 for its wooded lot on a bluff above 140 feet of shoreline. Plus it was only 30 minutes from their home in St. Paul.

The couple and their two daughters were content with the 900-square-foot weekend getaway, with its studio-sized kitchen and one eating area in the screen porch.

But during the winter of 2010, a broken water pipe soaked the interior. “The house was flooded, and water ran for three weeks before we discovered it,” said Avery. Mold and mildew had permeated the walls. She called her longtime friend David Heide, who advised them to keep the foundation, rebuild the interior and expand the living area with a main-floor addition.

By starting with a clean slate, Avery could have a real dining area for guests, a bigger, better kitchen and a comfortable living room with river views. But the most dramatic change was the direction of the design aesthetic.

“We live in a turn-of-the-century home in St. Paul,” said Avery. “I was craving a clean, uncluttered fresh start.”

Heide took her cue. “We wanted to design a clean and contemporary cabin in the woods,” he said, “but also use lots of warm, natural materials.”


Dream kitchen: The light-filled airy space is three times bigger than the old dark kitchen. The base of the center island is made of redwood recycled from the floor of the original screened porch — which was deteriorating and had to be torn down. “It was too precious to part with,” said Avery. “Re-using materials brings soul into the house.”

The redwood island and Douglas fir ceilings “bring warmth to the cool bluestone floors and stone countertops,” said Heide. Off the kitchen is a new eating area — which the family can use year round.

Modern living: The 325-square-foot living-room addition “captures the feeling of the home’s original screen porch,” said Heide, referring to the large picture windows on two sides. “You’re in this glass box out in the woods.”

He elevated the wood-burning fireplace to make it visible from the kitchen and the porch. The textural Chilton surround, which soars to the ceiling, is a contrast to the smooth surface of the bluestone floor and stone hearth. “The fireplace design walks the line between modern and earthy,” said Heide.

Dinner-party central: Heide replaced the old screen porch with a new version that extends farther out to accommodate large dinner parties. He also added a grilling deck with a stairway down to the yard.

Multifunctional lower level: Below the living-room addition, they added a 325-square-foot TV room that can double as a guest bedroom, thanks to a Murphy bed.

Proudest of: The integration of the roofline from the old part to the new part. “The extended roof plane created this huge volume and makes the house seem bigger than it is,” said Heide.

Biggest splurge: Pricey wallpaper on an accent wall in the kitchen. “David found this incredible wallpaper made from wood veneer and I said no four or five times,” said Avery. “But it really adds a layer to the room.”

Glad they did: Put in heated bluestone stone floors, which are durable and low-maintenance, throughout the home. “It makes it possible to come in the winter and be comfortable,” said Avery.

Best part: “Now that our cabin has everything, we can grow old here,” she said.

contemporary cottage

The home: Newly built traditional cottage-style two-story in Excelsior.

The owners: Larry and Becky Lembrich.

Design team: Architect Jon Colliander and interior designer Krista Zobel, TreHus Architects+Interior Designers+Builders, www.trehus.biz, 612-729-2992.

The mission: The Lembriches always wanted to live in Excelsior for its small-town ambience. They finally bought a narrow, deep lot with a ramshackle cabin two blocks from Lake Minnetonka. Their plan was to build an old-fashioned, cottage-style home that would blend with the older traditional houses in the neighborhood — and would also fit the narrow lot. They were impressed by the design proposals of architect Jon Colliander.

“I had a preconceived notion not to hire an architect,” said Larry, who is in the pre-engineered, post-frame construction business. “But after we met with the team and learned about the process, I changed my mind.”

Old-style: Colliander’s design combines modern functionality with old-house character to complement Becky’s vast collection of antiques and vintage decor inside and outside. An old-fashioned front porch welcomes visitors and offers a place to sit and chat with neighbors. The exterior is part whitewashed cedar shakes and part low-maintenance fiber-cement siding,“to break up the facade and make it less monolithic,” said Colliander.

Vintage cottage character: The 9-foot ceilings are covered with white shiplap paneling to define spaces. Larry chose wide-plank hickory flooring and doors for the wood’s knotty appearance. “We kept everything else toned down,” said Colliander, “so that the natural materials like wood would pop.”

Center stairs: “Stairs are an element you can have fun with,” said Colliander, who kept the center staircase open with a partial wall on one side that lets in light and creates an office nook.

Let the sunshine in: A screen porch in the original plan evolved into a fully enclosed, south-facing sunroom with paneled walls and white plantation shutters and a special spot to showcase a 125-year-old antique cupboard. “We kept it open so it flows into the dining room and kitchen,” said Becky.

Fits like a glove: Colliander was able to nestle the home on the narrow lot by designing a long, rectangular floor plan punctuated with a center staircase. The attached two-car garage is angled off the back of the home.

Biggest splurge: “Larry went shopping and bought a six-burner Thermador range, and he doesn’t even cook,” said Becky with a laugh.

Twist on tradition: The kitchen has a vintage vibe with a black beadboard covered island, Shaker-style cabinets and farmhouse sink. “The light fixtures are reminiscent of old jelly jars,” said Becky. An auto dealer spray-painted white Pottery Barn metal stools red to bring vivid color into the black-and-white kitchen.

Barn motif: Colliander designed a light well with two skylights above the second-floor landing. “It’s so bright and neat to look at the stars at night,” said Becky. “It reminds me of a hayloft.”

Unexpected upsizing: The empty-nester couple were planning on downsizing from their Minnetonka home. But for future resale — and the grandkids — they finished off the lower-level basement and a bonus room, bringing the home to 3,800 square feet.

The lower-level family room is outfitted with a massive stone fireplace. On the far wall is Larry’s dark-stained curved bar with an old-fashioned flip-up top. There’s even room on the floor for a future shuffleboard. “This is our last hurrah,” said Larry. “We thought we may as well do it right.”