Homes by Architects tour features just-right designs

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 14, 2013 - 5:34 PM

Architectural problem-solving – from tight sites to tricky spaces – are on display during the Homes by Architects tour.

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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,, 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.”

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