How to reinvent your home

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 17, 2012 - 10:48 AM

Want to remodel your home and make it more livable for today and the long term? We asked five architects to weigh in.

ROSEMARY MCMONIGAL

McMonigal Architects, Minneapolis

Q What are some smart ways to spend your remodeling dollars?

A Kitchens and bathrooms are always expensive, but they're a good return on the investment and bring great enjoyment. Kitchens are the room where everyone gathers. While a kitchen doesn't have to be gigantic to be successful, careful attention to the space and details will result in a creative and functional solution.

Q What's another popular remodeling project?

A Mudrooms are up there with kitchens. It's for the boots, shoes, backpacks, all the things that hit the entry when you first come in. Instead of an addition, we can change door swings, and borrow space from another room or closet.

Q What green features and products do you encourage a client to include?

A Good insulation, new energy-efficient windows or added windows for cross ventilation to reduce the need for A/C in the summer. Use products from renewable materials or buy products with a long life that can be repaired. Buy local such as Marvin and Andersen windows. People are asking for linoleum because it's made of natural materials -- linseed oil and cork -- and outperforms petroleum or vinyl products. We often use it in bathroom floors, mudrooms and entryways. I like dual-flush toilets because they save water and make people aware of their water use.

Q Where should you never cut corners in your remodeling budget?

A Anything related to the exterior skin of the house -- windows, insulation, waterproofing. Make sure they are good quality and properly installed to avoid costly problems in the future. None of these things should be compromised to gain a higher-priced amenity on the inside.

WADE WEISSMANN

Wade Weissmann Architecture, Milwaukee

Q What are some trends in remodeling?

A You'll be hearing the term "passive house" a lot more. It's a concept of building a house with well-insulated products that allow for incredible climate and energy efficiency. People can live using very little energy. There's a passive house by Dennis Wedlick in a northern state in which they never had to turn on the heat.

Q Which remodeling projects give homeowners the most bang for their buck?

A Mudrooms, kitchens and bathrooms are dollars well spent because they allow a family to live more harmoniously and help you save time in the long run.

Q What are some ways to save money on remodeling?

A Prioritize the needs and narrow the wish list. Focus on a smaller scope and invest the dollars it takes to do it right. The least number of areas you affect, the lower the costs.

Q What are some features that make a home livable for the long term?

A Special spaces that allow a client to thrive make it a forever house. For example, an amazing kitchen for a fabulous entertainer, a killer closet for a fashion diva or a killer workout room with a state-of-the art spa for a jock.

CHRISTIAN DEAN

CityDeskStudio, Minneapolis

Q What's a popular remodeling trend?

A Opening up the kitchen to the rest of the house and connecting it to the back yard with windows or sliding doors. We can work within the footprint and knock down walls. It can transform a house.

Q Why should someone hire an architect?

A You'll get the most from your construction dollars, from a planning and designing standpoint. We're able to think creatively within the home's constraints, such as moving a staircase and opening up all kinds of design possibilities. We're also sensitive to the existing house and neighborhood.

Q What are some ways to save money on remodeling?

A Strike a nice design balance between a modern updated addition and the old part of the home without having to renovate aspects of the old spaces. It's a cost-saving strategy.

Q How can homeowners use their sweat equity to stretch their remodeling dollars?

A We've been doing a lot of kitchens with Ikea cabinets. Owners unpack and build the basic boxes, and the contractor installs them.

RICH LAFFIN

Richard Laffin Architects, St. Paul

Q What are some current remodeling trends?

A A lot of my clients want to make room for expansion of their house to allow extended family members to live with them. We may do a refinished basement or third-floor apartment. Cities are reinterpreting their codes to allow a second living unit on a site such as a mother-in-law apartment above a garage.

Q Why should someone hire an architect?

A An architect is trained to balance all the elements of a successful design. Good design is sculptural and reveals beauty.

Q How can homeowners use sweat equity to stretch their remodeling dollars?

A Some people do demolition, painting and staining themselves. But I talk to them realistically about how much time it will take.

Q Which features can make a home livable for the long term?

A Flexible spaces that have the possibility of multiple uses. Rooms that can be turned into sleeping quarters for overnight guests or to play music.

DAN NEPP

TEA2 Architects, Minneapolis

Q What's at the top of many clients' "must-have" lists?

A Mudrooms in older houses. We try to beg, borrow or steal space from anywhere we can. So many kids have activities, with so much stuff, and it can create daily frustrations without an adequate mudroom.

 

Q When is a job too small to hire an architect?

A There's rarely a project too small. We've refaced fireplaces and done an entryway. It's not project-based. It's really whether the client values an architect's skills.

Q What are some ways to save money on remodeling?

A Determine if there's a way to re-use existing spaces in a different way by knocking down walls and reconfiguring spaces, rather than adding square footage. For example, turn a rarely used formal living room and dining room into an open family area.

Q Which features can make a home livable for the long term?

A Good planning that results in easy flow from room to room, lots of natural light and outdoor views, but yet have privacy.

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619

  • related content

  • Projects by Christian Dean, CityDeskStudio.

  • AN EVENING OF ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN

    What: "Reinventing Your Home," a panel discussion by local architects on remodeling and building, moderated by architecture writer Linda Mack. The event, which features architects Dan Nepp, Christian Dean, Rosemary McMonigal, Wade Weissmann and Rich Lappin, is sponsored by AIA Minnesota and the Star Tribune. The Home of the Month contest winners also will be announced.

    When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 21.

    Where: International Market Square, Lyndale and Glenwood Avenues, Mpls.

    Tickets: $16, includes appetizers, $20 at the door. To register, call 612-338-6763 or go to www.aia-mn.org.

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