Architects help you find your own inspired house

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 26, 2013 - 4:37 PM
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Architect Andrea Swan created contemporary open spaces to showcase the homeowner’s art in this makeover of a 1980s condo in a Minneapolis high-rise.

Photo: SCOTT AMUNDSON ,

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Even if you love your house, it’s likely that it has a few dysfunctional or outdated spaces. We’ve asked four architects for their ideas on remodeling and ways to achieve the home you aspire to, whether that will take floor-by-floor remodeling or just a little fine-tuning.

On Tuesday night at International Market Square, architects Andrea Swan, Paul Mankins, Michaela Mahady and Bob Mack will take your questions after a panel discussion exploring design and creative remodeling approaches.

Here, they weigh in on how to make your home more livable, your rooms more flexible and any remodeling project more affordable.

Andrea Swan, Swan Architecture, Minneapolis; swanarchitecture.com

Q: Name some of the most popular remodeling requests, aside from kitchens and bathrooms.

A: Knocking down walls to create open circulation and connections between living spaces. Abandoning formal dining and living rooms and going with one great room. Command centers for laptops and recharging electronics. Mudrooms added in older homes to store coats and backpacks. In my 1950s rambler, I turned a vestibule into a mini-mudroom.

Q: How can you stretch your remodeling dollars?

A: Come up with a long-range master plan of everything you want to do, then prioritize your projects and budget. You can save money by reconfiguring existing space rather than adding on. Shop around for tile and other materials.

Q: What are your favorite green products?

A: I like to use natural materials like limestone, clay and hardwood flooring that’s from Minnesota or the Midwest. I pitch Forbo marmoleum flooring to clients. It comes in cool, vibrant colors and is great for a mudroom, laundry room or kids’ room.

Q: What makes a home livable for the long term?

A: Flexibility is paramount. The formal study has evolved into an office that’s integrated in the family room so parents can monitor kids. The desire for families to be closer to one another is driving the design of more flex spaces.

Q: What can an architect bring to the table?

A: An architect can ensure that the big picture is fulfilled and the project is cohesive and consistent. Architects can offer ideas on how to save money without taking away from the integrity and aesthetic of the design. To maintain their licensure, architects have to keep up with the newest technologies, innovative materials and building codes.

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

A: It can be as small as helping someone choose exterior paint color and lights.

Paul Mankins, Substance Architecture Interiors Design, Des Moines; substancearchitecture.com

Q: Name one significant home design trend.

  • related content

  • “The bones of the house are from 1948,” said Mankins. “But everything else is new, open and contemporary.”

  • AFTER: Paul Mankins’ addition and renovation integrated parts of the old with the new.

  • Bob Mack’s addition turned this historic home into a charming Dunn Bros. coffeeshop, at left.

  • Condo renovation by Andrea Swan, architect on the Home of the Month panel.

  • The Smith Douglas More house in Eden Prairie.


  • ‘INSPIRED HOUSe’

    What: A panel discussion about home design and remodeling, plus the announcement of this year’s Home of the Month contest winners. The event, which features architects Andrea Swan, Bob Mack, Paul Mankins and Michaela Mahady, is sponsored by AIA Minnesota and the Star Tribune. Architects will also answer homeowners’ questions.

    When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 26.

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

    Tickets: $25 at the door; includes light refreshments. For information, go to www.aia-mn.org.

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