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Continued: Architects share trends, tips to make your home a perfect fit

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 20, 2014 - 8:14 AM

Q: How can you improve an older home’s aesthetic?

GW: Once you have to replace the windows, it’s a good time to put in larger windows — especially in the back of the house. Many older homes don’t have windows facing the yard or southern exposure. If possible, install low-maintenance, durable fiber-cement siding. Remove the old combination storm windows on a glassed-in porch, and open it up to let in more light.

Q: How can you make an older home work better for today?

JV: Try to repurpose existing spaces, and open them up to more light. Examine your family dynamic, from raising children to empty nesters, to rework spaces to fit your lifestyle. Don’t get caught up with what the market says you need.

Q: What small improvement made a big impact in your older home?

SN: I replaced a dining room window with French doors that give a view of the garden and invite you to step out to the outdoors. Adding the right door in the right place is pretty inexpensive vs. adding on a room. Fixing the connection between the house and the back yard is a big deal.


Q: What are some trends driving technology, materials and design?

MS: Living more sustainably with everything from the low-tech — a place for composting and collecting recycling — to high-tech automated home systems that control lighting, sound and temperature.

We’re using more quartz surfaces than granite. People like the tonal sleek contemporary look, and it’s easy to refresh with paint and accessories over time. Countertops are a matte finish rather than high-gloss. Backsplash matte tiles that look like concrete are popular.

GW: Clients are much more aware of sustainability, greener ways to use resources and overall energy efficiency. The energy code will get stricter, and that will affect design. Solar panels may be mandated at some point. People are more open about using metal and fiber-cement siding, which has been exploding over the last 10 years. Taking down walls in older homes and creating open floor plans are a big trend.

JV: Design-savvy clients are more concerned with the quality of space, what resonates with their lifestyle and the property they purchased — not a huge amount of square footage that lacks details. It’s a much more casual way of living and entertaining. Architect Sarah Susanka brought this principle to the foreground — but it kind of fell on deaf ears until the recession. Now more people are downsizing to a simpler lifestyle and want a more direct connection to nature.


Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619


    What: A panel discussion by local architects about home design and remodeling, and presentation of this year’s AIA Minnesota Home of the Month winning residential projects.

    When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thu.

    Where: International Market Square, 275 Market St., Mpls.

    Tickets: $18 in advance, $20 at the door, includes hors d’oeuvres buffet. Cash bar. Register by phone, 612-338-6763 or by e-mail (

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