The houses on this year's Homes by Architects tour range from a green refurbished 1880s Victorian to a modern mansion on the St. Croix river bluffs.
Architect Tan Nguyen transformed a 1990s traditional two-story into a sleek modernist dwelling where a Golden Valley couple go to unwind at the end of the day.
Architect Ashley Mitlyng reconfigured a Minneapolis Tudor to give a family of five a to-die-for kitchen, plus today's must-have mudroom.
These two vastly different architect-designed transformations are among the 16 homes open Saturday and next Sunday for the Homes by Architects tour.
The Minnesota Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) organizes the popular event, now in its fifth year. Dale Mulfinger, founder of SALA Architects, got the AIA on board after he visited an architect-focused home tour in San Antonio in 2006.
Although the Twin Cities area offers many home tours, including the juggernaut Parade of Homes, AIA members felt that architect-designed projects weren't getting enough exposure. "We wanted to give people an inside look at what architects do and how they can take advantage of their education and design skills," said Sara Whicher, the SALA intern whom Mulfiger recruited to head the tour planning committee.
One goal of the tour is to demystify the process of working with an architect, said Mitlyng. "People often think architects' work is out of their price range or scope. They can find out how an architect can creatively use existing space and how they can save money by building smart."
Last year, the AIA sold more than 2,500 tickets, with about 800 people visiting the showiest homes.
"The first few years we had to recruit architects and sponsors for the tour," said Whicher. "Last year they started calling us."Sleek and serene
The home: Traditional two-story built in 1998 in Golden Valley.
The owners. Jay Hudson and Susan Burton.
Design team: Tan Nguyen, Nguyen Architects, www.nguyenarchitects, 612-789-9287; Crown Construction, Golden Valley; interior design by Michael Rabatin, MJR Design Studio, 612-616-9685.
The mission: Although the home had expanses of glass, tall ceilings and open spaces, the main floor, including the kitchen, felt confining and closed in. The interiors, which were stuck in the '90s with a stone fireplace and beige carpet, weren't the couple's style.
"We both grew up in the Toronto area, where Scandinavian contemporary design was popular," said Hudson. "That minimalist aesthetic was appealing to us."
Hudson and Burton also wanted to finish the lower level to hold a game room and fitness area. The upstairs master bathroom, with its space-hogging whirlpool tub, needed major updating.
"The owners wanted a serene environment, with clean and orderly spaces to come home to," said Nguyen.
Kitchen connection: The old upper cabinets and large breakfast bar blocked the view and cut off the kitchen from the rest of the living spaces. Nguyen designed a new clean-lined contemporary kitchen anchored by a charcoal Caesarstone island that also serves as a prep and dining table. The openness encourages easy flow to other rooms.
Pièce de résistance: Nguyen tore down the dated faux boulders around the hearth and replaced them with a sleek see-through linear ribbon fireplace. The surrounding black granite slabs, in varying thicknesses and lengths, give the wall depth and character.
Cool curves: Nguyen wove a circular motif into the peninsula, soffit and Futuro Italian range hood to soften the home's linear lines.
Create ambience: Lighting, such as the LED-backlit glass backsplash in the kitchen, "can change the mood," said Nguyen.
Clutter catch-all: On the far kitchen wall, Nguyen installed a "command center" that doubles as a mini-office with a computer desk, storage cabinets and even a paper shredder.
Eye-pleasing palette: Dark African mahogany veneer cabinets and Brazilian cherry flooring bring a warm contrast to the white and gray walls.
Biking and gaming: Hudson and Burton head down to the 1,658-square-foot finished lower level to work out in their cycling training center, outfitted with thick rubber floors.
"The fitness center isn't for everyone, but it's a big part of what we do every day," said Burton. They shoot snooker in the adjacent game room. "We liked the idea of having a snooker table," said Hudson. "People play it in Canada."
Bathroom makeover: The purple walls and big tub are gone. Nguyen designed a spa-like setting with heated floors, curbless shower positioned under a skylight and a wall of cabinets to keep toiletries off the vanity top. The finishing touch is Italian brushed-metallic mirrors above the sinks.
Biggest splurge: The granite slabs around the fireplace were pricey. "But I love the design," said Hudson. "It's an artistic piece."
Best part: Hudson and Burton agree it's the heated master bathroom floor. "There's nothing like getting out of bed and putting your feet on a warm floor," said Burton.
The home: A 1924 Tudor facing Minnehaha Creek in south Minneapolis.
The owners: Jackie and Todd Carter and their three children.
Design team: Architect Ashley Mitlyng, Kuhl Design +Build, www.kuhldesignbuild.com, 952-935-9469 ; interior designer Shauna O'Brien.
The mission: The Carters bought the Tudor in 2008 because they liked its smart layout and handsome character in the front of the house. However, the back held a 1960s-era kitchen with few counters, a refrigerator stuck in the pantry and no eating space for a family of five.
"It was cut off from the rest of the house, and it was difficult to prepare a meal and keep tabs on the kids," said Jackie.
The house also lacked a main-floor mudroom and bathroom, a typical shortcoming in older homes. And the upstairs bathroom was so cramped that the Carters bumped their heads on the slanted walls.
"Our plan was to maximize the existing space as much as we could," said Mitlyng. "And we didn't want an addition to look like a barnacle, but be consistent with the Tudor style."
Goodbye, porch: Kuhl Design+Build relocated the new L-shaped kitchen in the footprint of a seldom-used screen porch to maximize its natural light and easy access to the dining room and deck. Then they added 250 square feet off the back of the house to create room for a spacious center island that doubles as an eating area. A new cozy family room is off the kitchen.
Multifunctional family room: It's outfitted with a matching built-in cherry wood buffet for storage and serving food and an audio-visual cabinet below a flat-screen TV. "We didn't want a great room -- just a comfortable place where people can spill over from the kitchen," said Todd.
Modern family must-haves: Mitlyng gutted the original butler's pantry by the back entry and used every inch of the space for a handy mudroom and compact powder room. "Now the kids can come in the back door and head straight to the mudroom with their boots and backpacks," said Jackie.
Party central: The hub of the house is the 4-by-7-foot center island, which is big enough to accommodate five chairs for casual meals, with storage space for pots and pans, and enough surface for the kids to spread out homework. Their parents like it, too. "When we entertain, we love to have people sit and talk to us while we're cooking," said Jackie. The black honed-granite island is 2 inches higher than standard to accommodate the tall couple.
Staying in character: Mitlyng retained some original windows and doors and replicated millwork from the old part of the home.
Upstairs improvements: The compact 200-square-foot second-floor addition above the new kitchen houses a new master bathroom with double sinks, as well as a laundry room. "People said I was crazy to have the laundry room right next to our bedroom," said Jackie. "But now it's not such a chore anymore."
Glad they did: "I like to cook and we host Thanksgiving, so I'm happy we splurged on professional-grade appliances," said Todd, pointing to the six-burner Wolf range.
Best part: "Now we can work on spelling words while making breakfast," said Todd.
Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619