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Category: Design

[ Lakes Area Home Tour ] Sneak Peek: Ottertail, Minnesota

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Studio Three Beau   Mark your calendars for the fourth annual Lakes Area Home Tour. This self-guided tour of seven homes takes place for…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Studio Three Beau

Mark your calendars for the fourth annual Lakes Area Home Tour. This self-guided tour of seven homes takes place for one day only, on September 29. To give our readers a sneak peek, we met up with tour coordinator, Emily Dreyer, to walk us through one of the stunning, featured homes owned by Paula and Casady Thiel of Ottertail, Minn. If spectacular homes don’t pique your interest, maybe their charitable cause will. Find out how taking a tour will benefit the 549 Family Foundation and go on to support the valued student programs in their Perham, Minn., area school district.

Take a Tour / Help a Student
“The Lakes Area Home Tour started in 2015 and has been a great way to showcase many of the beautiful homes in our area, as well as help our local vendors promote their businesses and the work that they do,” said Dreyer. The 549 Family Foundation is based in Perham, Minn. and composed of 250 alumni and community members who work to counteract budget cuts and provide creative contributions to programs, activities, educational tools and facilities.

Featured Home Sneak Peek:
The Thiels – Ottertail, Minnesota

Casady and Paula Thiel with their son, Phoenix, and French Bulldog, Betty

When Paula and Casady Thiel, along with their son Phoenix, began the design of their rural home, they were not without inspiration. Their gorgeous lot is uniquely positioned between three lakes, just outside of Ottertail’s city limits. Employing the help of talented friends, family and RHET Architecture, Casady and Paula Thiel constructed a dream team of creative visionaries to complete their build.

Although a design we’d classify as one-of-a-kind, this type of project is one of many for the Thiel family. They’ve become well-known in the area for their artistic endeavors with scrap metal and salvaged materials. Take a drive down Main Street in Ottertail and we have no doubt you’ll be able to spot their family’s handiwork. In fact, you can tour one more if you’d like – Paula Thiel is the owner of Ottertail’s infamous Red Brick Boutique, also designed in their signature style and located in the restored Ottertail Creamery.

Inspiration Sparked
Influencing the home’s design was the initial work of Casady’s father Pete Thiel, the founder of Firestarters Worship Center in Ottertail. Pete Thiel’s desire to create a unique space for his ministry and restore the old Ottertail Creamery, eventually led their entire family to become local experts in making use of salvaged materials. For the Thiels, the family that builds together…stays together.Casady and Paula Thiel began their build in September of 2015, reaching out to RHET Architecture to help with the layout and placement on the lot. From the beginning, Casady Thiel, who runs his own tile business (Thiel Tile & Stone), worked closely with architect Rhet Fiskness, to make the most of the beautiful, three-lake lot, positioning all of their main living spaces south, toward the lake.”Technically, this is lakeshore, but as you can see this is a backlot of Donald Lake. The lot is split in half by Three Lakes Road with Long Lake; our lakefront is across the street on Portage Lake,” explained Paula Thiel.

Just in the entrance, the Thiel’s design-forward thinking is in full force. Referring to the rough-sawn red oak, Mid-century modern chandelier and vintage tin ceiling tile, Casady Thiel sums up their style as ‘rustic elegance’; a complementary combination of Paula’s career in fashion and Casady’s in construction.

Head up the stairs to the great room and office, and you’ll find the stairwell’s glossy, wood-paneled walls – a unique take on an ordinary building material. “This is actually B-grade plywood from Menards that we stained and polyed,” said Paula Thiel. “We went through a lot of plywood at the store, trying to find the best pieces. They ended up looking really random because some of them took stain better than others.” To finish the pieces, the Thiels worked with their friend Wendell Danielson who helped them roll on a high-gloss floor polyurethane and cut each one into 32×48 panels – getting roughly three pieces out of every sheet of plywood. “I think the sheen is the reason this design works,” said Danielson.

Custom fabrication by local welder James Virnala was used in the making of the raw steel stair railings. Throughout the home, Casady Thiel’s eye for perfection takes center stage with the precise install of raw steel wall panels with exposed bolts and steel trim work.

Open-Concept Living
The East wing of the house features an open concept with the kitchen, living room and dining room sharing one unified space. Rough-sawn oak flanks the ceiling while Carrara marble countertops and custom tile designate the kitchen space. “Casady found the tile at Menards, but they were sold as 12x12s. It just didn’t look very interesting, so he cut them down to 6x12s,” explained Paula Thiel.#1, 14
The living room is a favorite spot for the Thiels to relax, build a fire and take in the view. With only one TV in the home, the outdoors is considered their primary source of entertainment.
The Thiels have 4,000 square feet of rough-sawn oak, so in some areas, it’s white-washed and in other areas, it’s the raw, natural color like on the ceiling in the family room, kitchen and dining room. “We found the red oak from a guy in the woods up by Park Rapids, Minn. When we found a material that either Paula or I really liked, I would just buy a lot of it, so we actually had to use it,” laughed Casady Thiel.

Inside the master bath, Casady Thiel used rustic corrugated metal on the ceiling, antiqued brass plumbing fixtures, vintage pendants and his wife’s white Carrara marble tile as the elegant focal point. “Since tile is what I do for a living, I had to go big with the shower,” he laughed. “We just did marble everywhere in here.”

Just a few steps away, the couple created closet perfection with an inexpensive IKEA system that fit so well, it left them with only 1/8-inch to spare. According to Casady Thiel, about 80 percent of the closet is currently his wife’s terrain, inhabited by an array of personal favorites from her clothing store, Red Brick Boutique. For this project, Andrew Campbell helped with the framing and finish work.With his prior construction experience, Casady Thiel was able to work on the entire building project from start to finish, with help from friends and family. “My dad helped me with the foundation and fireplace masonry and my father-in-law helped me frame it,” he said. “We also had Andrew Costin of Costin Construction and our long-time friend, Wendell Danielson, helping with a lot of the work.”

Extraordinary Exterior
With their picturesque lake view setting, the Thiels chose to keep their exterior as organic as possible with elements like rough-sawn wood, salvaged corrugated metal, and raw steel which will naturally age with time. “I’ve always like the look of the shed roof and modern lines, but with rustic and salvaged materials,” said Casady Thiel.”Rhet came up with the idea of doing a sort of ‘pod’ design so that the materials would be different on each section of the house,” said Paula Thiel.#15
“To make this work, we sided it with all different styles of accent panels. Call it O.C.D., but I really needed all of the exterior windows to align,” laughed Casady Thiel. The section encompassing the living room is in a naturally rusting raw steel, while the master’s exterior is wrapped in salvaged, corrugated metal they purchased for 25 cents a square foot in Fergus Falls.Look closer and you’ll find rough-sawn wood on all of the soffit and fascia, which is carried over to the exterior, underneath the lean-to. Also on the roadside, the garage entrance doors have been wrapped with raw steel for a more cohesive exterior design.

In the Future
On the lakeside, the Thiels ongoing plan is to build a boathouse and continue working on the lakefront area which already includes a finished volleyball court. On the exterior, they will be building a Juliet-style deck on the second level coming out from the upstairs office and great room. They also plan to design a trellis over the garage doors to bring in more of the rough-sawn wood elements.

Find the Finishes:
Architect –  Casady Thiel, Rhet Fiskness, RHET Architecture, Fargo, N.D.
Landscape – Paula Thiel with floral by Swedberg Nursery, Battle Lake, Minn.
Plywood walls and tile supply – Menards
Tile design & install – Casady Thiel, Thiel Tile & Stone
Countertops – Carrara Marble, Syverson Tile & Stone, Fargo N.D.
Masonry – Casady Thiel and Pete Thiel
Metal fabrication – James Virnala
Master closet system – Ikea
Construction – Andrew Costin, Costin Construction, Wadena, Minn., Pete Thiel, Casady Thiel, Andrew Campbell
Woodwork – Casady Thiel, Pete Thiel and Wendell Danielson



Take a Tour
“This year, we have homes in Perham, Frazee, New York Mills and Ottertail,” said Dreyer. “We want to have a little something to inspire everyone in their own decorating, remodeling or building projects. The homes range in sizes, decor styles, locations and more. We try to pick homes that have done some updates, are new builds, or have interesting features that would be fun to see. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and I think people just enjoy seeking that inspiration out and then bringing it to life in their own space.”

Tour Sponsors:
The tours Title Sponsor is Lumber Depot of New York Mills, Minn. “They have been our Title Sponsor for the past few years, and their knowledge and expertise in the building industry has been instrumental throughout the planning process,” said Dreyer. “Their goal is to help people find inspiration that suits their lifestyle and make their spaces uniquely their own.”Each home also has designated ‘Host Sponsors’ which are businesses in the community that are affiliated with the home on some level. These sponsors are present in the home on the day of the tour to showcase their business and assist with the tour traffic. “This year, you’ll find Bremer Bank, New Horizons Realty, Hilltop Lumber, Refreshing Designs & Karvonen’s, United Community Bank, and Thiel Tile & Stone at different homes on the tour. They change each year based on the different homes that will be featured,” said Dreyer. The tour also consists of “Friend Sponsors” and “Neighbor Sponsors” that can support the tour while marketing their products and services.



Lakes Area Home Tour:
Saturday, September 29, 2018
9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Cost is $25/ticket with proceeds benefiting the 549 Family Foundation.
[Tickets come with a coupon for a free seasonal beverage at Brew Ales & Eats in Perham!]


Find Tickets At:
Nest, Bremer Bank, Refreshing Designs in Perham or at Lumber Depot in New York MillsPurchase Tickets Online:
Facebook – Lakes Area Home Tour
https://www.facebook.com/events/1477321369012671/For more information:
Facebook Page – Lakes Area Home Tour
* Be sure to ‘like’ their page to see updates and sneak peeks of each featured home!To Support 549 Family Foundation, contact:
Emily Dreyer
800 Coney Street West, Perham, M.N.


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Back to School [ Growing Kids Preschool & Childcare ]

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by M. Schleif Photography After 25 years in the business, Growing Kids Preschool & Childcare of Fargo needed more room to grow. Finding a great,…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by M. Schleif Photography

After 25 years in the business, Growing Kids Preschool & Childcare of Fargo needed more room to grow. Finding a great, central location with plenty of square footage, CEO Kim Kelley and her staff, packed up the playground and headed down the road to a new building near the Multiband Tower. To transform the space, which was once occupied by cubicles and offices, Kelley used her personal passion for design to create an open concept, in a nurturing atmosphere. See inside Kelley’s vision for a brighter future, with opportunities to learn and play, around every corner.


Growing Kids, Growing Spaces
As a place designed to nurture growth, Growing Kids has become a trendsetter. Kelley’s future vision called for less confined spaces and more room to expand their offerings. Gathering her own creative ideas and concepts, Kelley recruited the help of a friend, Terry Stroh of T.L. Stroh Architects to redefine the layout. It wasn’t long before their new space became a vibrant environment, with a focus on gathering, learning…and fun.

Learning…Room by Room
With six specific areas from infants to toddler and school-age groups, each room’s entrance has a color-coordinated number on the door, reinforcing colors, shapes, numbers and letters as the children transition through the rooms. For a fun feature at their feet, Kelley used custom-ordered carpet tiles to create coordinating color arrows for each room. Throughout the rooms, kids have their run of seven miniature playhouses and an array of fabric tents ready for fun.

This wing is specially designed for ages three through school-age. “This space is ideal for early childhood development. It checks every box for creating successful learners, creative minds and confident children,” said Kelley. “That is a dream for most educators.”

Infants have their own entrance as well as an indoor and outdoor play area, complete with a turf base and white picket fence. This wing is designed to cater solely to infants six weeks to two-years-old.

Happy Gatherings
When they moved into the new building, the large communal area’s high walls were completely grey, so adding a crisp, white coat of paint with a hand-painted navy pinstripe brightened up the expanse. “We have over 20,000 square feet to work with, so I wanted a big open space where the kids could come out and be together, instead of just being confined to their rooms,” said Kelley. “This is also where they have snacks and eat lunch together.”

Before lunch and snacks are served, the kids happily head to the wash and drink station, which is one of the features that Stroh helped Kelley design. With simple wall decals and white subway tile, this space encourages and makes cleanliness fun.

Designing a Brighter Future
Even though Kim Kelley’s first priority is always the children she cares for, her passion for design shines through in the everyday environment she creates for them. Outside of Growing Kids, Kelley has managed the builds and remodels of two houses and four cabins over the years.

“I had collected ideas from magazines and traveling of what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted clean lines and I tried to keep our decor simple – with childcare and fire codes, it limits what we can put on the walls. We stuck with mainly primary colors and clean lines that really seem to create a soothing environment for the kids,” said Kelley. “By putting the numbers, colors and words on the walls, it was a way for the kids to learn as they go about their day. I also started collecting street signs at the flea markets in Detroit Lakes and the Fargo Antiques & Repurposed Market, so you’ll see those near the entrance with working street lights around the building. We love how open this building is, with the high ceilings and large windows for bringing in natural light.”

To create an inviting entrance for both wings, Kelley worked with Dakota Construction to help her build their wood and corrugated metal entrance signs using letters from Hobby Lobby. The corrugated metal was a design feature that was then carried through to the restroom design. The wood benches were custom-built by a local craftsman, then painted by Kelley.

Playground Paradise
Dakota Playground took on the task of transporting the large playground equipment over to the new site. Her husband, Brad Kelley, constructed a wood border with recycled tire mulch under the playground. To complete the playground’s design, Kelley recruited Mike Nicholson of Custom Landscaping to build up the area around the playground and make a foundation, with the end goal of creating an artificial turf running track. “Every day, the kids grab their sunscreen and spend hours out here playing on the equipment and racing around the track – they love it,” said Kelley.

The most recent addition to their expansive outdoor space is the new backyard playhouse. The interior of the playhouse is already underway with the shiplap going up and a porch being built within the month. “We have so much outdoor space here, so we wanted the kids to be able to really use all of the spaces, inside and outside,” said Kelley. “We’re also planning the build of a basketball court off to the side that we hope will be completed soon.”


“We believe in the power of play. This space gives the children the room to develop, play, giggle and be a kid while they are learning. That is exactly the vision we had for Growing Kids.”
Kayla Cichos, Director – Growing Kids Preschool & Childcare


For the Kelleys, caring for children seems to run in the family. While Brad Kelley takes on the majority of his wife’s design projects for the children, their daughter, Hannah, recently graduated from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., obtaining her degree in early childhood education. After graduation, she has since moved back to work full-time at Growing Kids, alongside her mom.

“When the kids come here, they always feel safe and know that they’ll have a great learning experience. It’s a fun environment where they have a lot of room to play!”

Hannah Kelley

In the Future:
What we haven’t shown is the additional 6,000 square feet in the upstairs loft. Right now, part of the space is being used for on-site dance lessons offered to children during their daily schedules. This fall, they will begin offering piano lessons on their upstairs grand piano. With an idea to utilize the rest of the space, Kelley is working on a plan to create a miniature city with individual buildings for the children to play in – think post office, bank, school, grocery store and everything in between.

About Growing Kids:
Kim Kelley and her staff typically care for around 120 children with 56 preschoolers in the fall. Both Kelley and her director, Kayla Cichos are on site every day. Cichos manages all of the day-to-day tasks like parent communication, enrollment, accountability for all of the different age groups, staffing and overall organization. Shannon Rubertus, assistant director, handles direction of the infant and toddler wing, “Baby & Co.”

“Because we offer care to all ages, many of the kids have been enrolled since they were young infants and continue into their school-age years,” said Kelley. “We love that many of the kids get to grow up here alongside their siblings. We hope the memories they build here, last a lifetime.”

Find the Finishes:
Architect – T.L. Stroh
Stripe painting – Chuck Gingerich, Final Finish
Wood signs – Dakota Construction
Vinyl lettering – Lisa Palmer, Dabblin ‘n Design
Custom carpet tiles – Carpet World
Outdoor turf prep & install – Mike Nicholson, Josh Kellar – Custom Landscaping
Stuffed animal heads & wall art – Target, Hobby Lobby
Miniature playhouses – Costco, Sam’s Club
Rugs – Ikea
Miniature Adirondack chairs, Teepees, exterior turf – Sam’s Club
Street Signs – Fargo Antiques & Repurposed Market, Shady Hollow Flea Market
Melamine cabinetry and cubby stations – R.L.Engebretson
For more information, contact:
Growing Kids Preschool & Childcare
Kim Kelley, CEO  |   Kayla Cichos, Director
4324 20th Avenue South, Fargo
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Luxury & Livability

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by J. Alan Paul Photography This month, we met up with a local builder, Robert Leslie, to see inside his extraordinary personal home in The…

Words by Tracy Nicholson

Photography by J. Alan Paul Photography
This month, we met up with a local builder, Robert Leslie, to see inside his extraordinary personal home in The Wilds of West Fargo. This stunner by Designer Homes is 6,700 square feet of the latest design trends and amenities, you need to see before you build. Step inside their laid-back style with high-tech entertaining, and fun-filled features around every corner. As a family retreat for Robert, his wife Melissa, and their three children, home is truly where the heart is.

Positive Energy
When Designer Homes’ founder, Robert Leslie, decided it was time to rebuild, the goal was all about fusing extraordinary design with the latest in technology and amenities. “This house will host private tours, by appointment, so that we can walk our clientele through all of the different ultra-custom features that are now available,” said Leslie. “Our clients deserve to know the latest trends and technology in new homes, and it’s our job as home builders to always be educating ourselves on new trends, as opposed as just knowing how to build. I personally work with clients on every build when it comes to the design elements of their home; I really pride myself on the relationship I have with each of those clients.”Nearly every inch of Leslie’s six bedroom, six bath home is automated, controlling each room’s specific lighting, shade controls, media, security and audio settings. “It’s great to be able to show people all of the different things we do, and also showcase our subcontractor’s work.”

Laid-Back Luxury
“Our family and our style is laid back; it’s kick your feet up, enjoy your home and enjoy your family,” said Leslie. “We’re not fancy people and I appreciate every style of living, but for me, I wanted our home to be a place where we could just be at home and be comfortable.”

Near the great room, Leslie displays Designer Homes’ custom wood wall and geometric patterned stair railing, fabricated by Straightline Design. These are just a couple of the endless features that Designer Homes can bring into their homes, giving each client their own signature look.

Pristine Privacy

To offer their homeowners a well-rounded experience to complete the interior or exterior design, Designer Homes offer additional services through two different divisions. “Through EnVision Builders, we are able to provide the install and design of decks, fences and basement finishes. We also offer designer window treatments and window films through our subsidiary company, Designer Window Treatments,” said Leslie.

“A lot of people don’t want to put blinds on their windows, but they still want their privacy. This is a linen look and it’s simply a film we apply to the windows; if you get tired of it in two years and you want a different look, you peel it off and you can easily replace it. All of the windows on the back side of the house have a custom film which blocks out around 99% of ultraviolet rays. This will help protect your flooring, furniture and cabinets from fading.”

Heart of the Home
In the kitchen, Leslie designed the custom cabinetry with Braaten Cabinets and worked with Spaulding Stone to create the three-inch-thick, quartz waterfall countertop. A gourmet kitchen and appliance package is featured, including a more modern, raised dishwasher design.

Entertaining is made easy with a spacious butler’s pantry which doubles as a second kitchen. This space showcases multiple storage options, another set of gourmet appliances and unique amenities, hidden behind closed doors.

Contemporary meets Vintage 

For Melissa Leslie, the home’s host bar, pantry and built-ins provided the perfect backdrop for her vintage dishware collections, in cheerful tones of Hazel Atlas, Jadeite, Blue Charm and Ruby Red. “It adds a pretty pop of color, but I also think it makes a house feel like a home because of its sentimental value,” said Melissa Leslie. “My inspiration comes from my grandma and my mom; they always made meals the most important part of our day as a family.”

To perfectly complement the space, Designer Homes custom-built Leslie’s one-of-a-kind dining table base with three-inch-thick quartz to mimic the adjacent kitchen design. Furniture design is just one of the many features his company can now offer clients who crave custom.

Masterful Suite
Custom dresser built-ins with waterfall-edge, quartz countertops, white shiplap and tray ceilings make this suite any homeowner’s dream. Their masterful retreat also comes complete with a private patio, double crown molding and LED strip lighting.

Inside this Designer Homes master bath, the Leslie’s start their day with plenty of natural light, gorgeous ceramic tile, clean white finishes and a spacious walk-in shower. “I love big spaces, so to me, this is how I want to start my day,” said Leslie. “The tiled walk-in shower has interior and exterior controls, glass doors with a custom film for privacy, as well as more appealing, tile drain basins. It’s also a steam shower with two separate steam units and five shower head options for each person.”


Lower Level Luxury
In the Leslie’s lower level, Designer Homes worked with Straightline Design to create the custom wine racks in a glass-enclosed space between the bar and theater areas.


With custom wood columns and LED lighting, guests are greeted with thick quartz, waterfall countertops and seating for four. This alcove features a beverage center, ice maker, dishwasher and wine bar with a separate chamber for temperature control.


“We have seating for 12 and we worked with Custom Cinema & Sound to incorporate the best theater features like silver lenticular screen technology, so you can watch a movie and get a perfect picture, even with the lights on,” said Leslie. “It actually has the LED built into the back side, so you can change it to over 100 different colors.


Extraordinary Exterior
“Tricked out and lit”, might be the most accurate phrase to describe the Leslie’s stunning exterior with stamped concrete and stone surroundings. Directly off the home’s back entrance, guests can enjoy the pond view through tempered glass railings in the patio’s dining area, fire pit, playground or custom-designed, outdoor kitchen and grill station with granite countertops.5721
In the backyard, Leslie wanted the pond, but not the slope. As a solution, he incorporated an eight-foot retaining wall that extends all the way across the back, with varying levels stepping down to another level-ground yard near the pond.
If that’s not enough to keep you entertained, keep walking and you’ll find the salt water pool with automated cover, spa, built-in fireplace cove and the garage room; which is fully equipped with a poolside bath, flat screen, state-of-the-art sound system, smart home technology, cozy seating, game room and built-in storage room. There’s also wireless hubs throughout the entire house, so you never have a poor signal, even around the pool.

Leslie’s stunning, fireplace cove is a jaw-dropping, limestone haven with a massive flat-screen, fireplace, automatic shade controls to control sunlight, wind and mosquitos – as well as color-changing LEDs to coordinate with your favorite team.

“As a builder, I feel it’s our responsibility to have a design background. For me, when I built this house, I didn’t just design a house, I designed the home around this location,” said Leslie. “We kept every detail of this land in mind and designed the home around maximizing the space and the views.”

Building Better

We all know that Designer Homes can wow us with their ultra-custom, luxury line of homes; but if given the challenge, they’re ready to show off what they can do in other areas. “People don’t know that we can build high quality in a lower range like $275,000 to $500,000 including lot,” said Leslie. “This year, we’ll still be focused on the high-end, ultra-custom homes, but we’re excited to showcase a few examples of this type of high quality at a different price point.”

Find the Finishes: 

Builder – Designer Homes
Designer – Cheyenne Jundt, Designer Homes
Cabinetry – Braaten Cabinets
Countertops – Spaulding Stone
Furniture – Scan Design
Tile & flooring – Floor to Ceiling Carpet One
Home automation & theater system – Custom Cinema & Sound
Window films – Designer Window Treatments, a division of Designer Homes
Power shades on patio doors – Pella Windows
Power shades in bedrooms – Kateva
Glass door fabrication – Frontier Glass
Fixtures, lighting, plumbing and appliances – Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery
Theater seating – thetheaterseatstore.com
Metal fabrication – Straightline Design
Spa & fiberglass pool – Hot Springs Spas
Playset – Rainbow Play Systems
Plumbing & HVAC – Precision Plumbing

Drywall – Red River Drywall
Exterior dryvit and stone install – Ottertail Stucco and Stone
Siding – Knoke Seamless Siding
Concrete and stamped patios – All-Finish Concrete
Fence – Envision, a division of Designer Homes
Electrical – K&D Electric
Home security – Laser Systems
Landscaping – Scenic Landscaping
Sprinkler system – Aqua Lawn
Stone supply & fireplace – Hebron Brick

For more information, contact:

Designer Homes/Remax Legacy

4342 15th Avenue South Suite 105, Fargo


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Restoring Home [ Mosaic Design + Build ]

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis Photography Mosaic Design + Build is not your typical remodeling contractor. Owners Melanie and James Iverson were recently remarried and know a…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography

Mosaic Design + Build is not your typical remodeling contractor. Owners Melanie and James Iverson were recently remarried and know a thing or two about rebuilding broken pieces to redefine a space, or their own life…hence the name “Mosaic”. With Melanie as the interior designer and James as the project manager, we were thrilled to go on a journey with them as they gave us a tour of three recent remodels, with the last one giving us a glimpse of their own fixer-upper. Together, this dynamic duo is perfecting the art of restoring home.


#1. Boho Minimalist Makeover

When Krysta and Matt Bye were ready to downsize and take on a fixer-upper, the couple contacted Mosaic Design + Build to transform their 1928 character home in North Moorhead. With only a couple of months of pre-planning and one week to do the actual remodel, Melanie and James Iverson hit the gas, working day and night to complete the home, just in time for their closing day. See inside the Boho minimalist makeover that gave new life to this home’s good bones.

The Goal
The Byes had most recently lived in a home that had far more square footage than their smaller family of four required. Their ultimate goal became to downsize and take on a fun remodel. They decided that if they downsized strategically, the result would allow them a home they loved, and a life they could live to the fullest.

Although the Byes were initially considering buying a more extensive fixer-upper, they came across this home and felt it was a gem they couldn’t pass up. “James and I walked through the home with them before they bought it, then we put a bid together so they would know ahead of time how much to budget for the project.”

In the Details
Even though it’s an older character home, this gem has all of the updates one would need, including Smarthome features. “There’s really nothing big that they had to do to the home, mainly just cosmetic updates,” said Melanie Iverson. “One of the unique things about working with a smaller home is there is very little wasted space. Here, every inch of this house is functional or at least aesthetically pleasing.”

Fortunately for the Byes, one of the couples that had previously lived in the home had been a professional millworker. He was the one that designed all of the stunning beams, existing floating shelves and coffered ceilings. The following owners had painted the entire main level a dark chocolate brown and red with navy blue upstairs, leaving the home feeling very dark throughout.

The Remodel
Since the home was never actually listed because the past and current owners knew each other, Mosaic was able to get in last week, and about one week prior to the closing. “One of the first things that we did is to repaint every inch of the home,” said Melanie Iverson.

“On the main level, we used a light grey (Heron Plume), which looks great with the white subway tile and truffle-toned grout we installed in the kitchen. We kept the existing ceiling millwork, cabinetry and countertops. We replaced the lights throughout and have completed the upstairs remodel, except for decor. We basically spent an entire week just updating the finishes so that the new owners could move in last night – they’re closing on the home is today.”

Mosaic knew this project was going to have to work on a tight schedule, so Melanie and James had every inch mapped out with idea boards and knew exactly how they wanted to piece it together. “For the furnishings, Krysta and I had gone shopping quite a while ago and picked out all of the furniture, lighting and samples – we had been going back and forth since the beginning of May,” said Melanie Iverson. “We bought some things together, checking out pieces online and worked together on the placement of the furniture. They’re amazing clients and it’s been a really fun project to do.”

Boho Minimalism
“We call this style Boho Minimalism, just because it’s not the traditional Bohemian style, which tends to be a lot busier,” said Melanie Iverson. “We have the dark, warm tones of the existing millwork, bold pops of rich color and texture, with some larger patterns mixed in. Krysta was really fun to work with because she was excited to take risks. A lot of homeowners I’ve worked with in the past get really worried about colors and prints, but she was really bold and brave, so it was fun getting to work with her. When we spotted the teal linen recliner chairs, we both looked at each other and thought…we need to get these chairs. The sofa is a soft-blend grey linen which looks amazing with the fun checkered and magenta pillows from The White House Co.”

“For the tablescape, I found all of the decor at The White House Co., then placed a captain’s chair at the end that would not obstruct the pathway,” said Melanie Iverson. “Eventually, we will have a bench on the kitchen side of the table, so that will help to open up the pathway even more.”

Near the entrance, Mosaic has taken a plain wall and created a fun focal point with a mirror, bench, bold pillows and a live-edge wood slab, installed like a floating shelf. “I like doing really neutral colors on walls and then changing out the furnishings with those bright colors,” said Melanie Iverson. “Compared to repainting, it’s not as costly to buy new accessories like pillows or throws.”

Meet the homeowners: Krysta and Matt Bye
“This process was awesome, it went so smoothly and Melanie and James made it really easy. We had fun collaborating on design ideas and I’m thrilled with how the space turned out and the vision they brought to life. I had a concept in mind and a feel that I wanted – Melanie took that and ran with it, creating a kind of Mid-century modern, Bohemian feel,” said Krysta Bye. “The bones of the space were really great, so it was fun to be able to come in and transform it.”

In Progress:
This month’s issue shows the Bye’s home after a couple of months of pre-planning and one week’s worth of work, almost solely on the main level. What is not shown, is the upstairs remodel which consisted of replacing the stairwell and upstairs flooring, and updating the master bedroom, office and bathroom. After Mosaic completes the upstairs decor, Krysta’s office, just off of the master, will be transformed into her creative suite, helping her to work from home as a musician and entrepreneur.

Find the Finishes: Move-In Makeover
Paint color – Heron Plume, Sherwin Williams
Furnishings – Slumberland, HomeGoods
Checkered and magenta pillows – The White House Co.
Pink pillows – HomeGoods
Live-edge slab mantle – Dakota Timber Company
Boho rugs – Amazon
Live-edge side tables and dining set – Slumberland
TV cabinet – Ikea
Stairwell carpet – Carpet Garage
Triangle wall art – Hobby Lobby

#2. Rose Creek Remodel

As the senior pastor and co-founder of Burning Hearts Church, Jana Sawchuk’s home is meant to be a sanctuary, but there was nothing soothing about the honey oak that seemed to be everywhere in her home. Built in 1996, Jana and her husband, Dr. Ted Sawchuk were ready to either love it or list it – but either way, they knew it was time to remodel. To manage two bathroom remodels and a fireplace refacing, the couple worked with Mosaic Design + Build to complete all three projects in less than one month.

“Their old bathrooms kind of looked like something you might see in a rental unit, just very basic fixtures and cabinets,” explained Melanie Iverson of Mosaic Design + Build. Overwhelmed by their outdated finishes, the Sawchuks had considered selling as a solution. “I realized that If we wanted to sell our house, we’d have to update it,” said Jana Sawchuk. “So, we decided to follow through with the updates, but live in it updated, rather than sell it.”

The Goal
Although the couple has three grown kids, they are still in the stage of sporadically coming and going. In fact, all three had planned on being home for the summer, so it was a major goal to have the bathrooms completed before the start of the summer. Since they had two other bathrooms to use, Mosaic worked on both remodels at the same time. They also asked Mosaic to take on a resurfacing project with their fireplace surround in the great room.

Coastal Vibes
For style inspiration, Mosaic relied on Jana Sawchuk’s love of travel and the beach. She had once lived in Hawaii and many of their family vacations were centered around surfing. Finding a way to diffuse the honey oak and infuse a bright coastal vibe would become their end-goal.

Upstairs Bath
To complete the upstairs bath, Mosaic completely gutted the space down to the studs. To achieve more efficient use of the space, they swapped the single, lower vanity for double sinks and designed a new walk-in shower with a unique swiveling glass door. Honey oak was replaced with crisp, white subway tile and the clean lines of shiplap. Outdated fixtures made way for articulating sconces, brushed nickel fixtures, marble counters and square sinks.

“Jana really wanted a floating shelf, so we used a piece of reclaimed wood, running it from one end to the other for display. We used a 3×6, extra-wide subway tile with extra white grout – we didn’t want to see the grout at all, just to give it that really clean look,” said Melanie Iverson. “We also added some outlets to bring it up to code, so if the family ever decides to sell, they’re not going to have any issues.”

“I knew I really wanted the shiplap and definitely a half shower door – I don’t like shower curtains and I don’t like full doors, I think they’re dysfunctional,” explained Jana Sawchuk.
To properly install the swivel door, the team had to adjust the plumbing – moving it to the other side where it made more sense. According to Iverson, there were about 110 different options for the swiveling door, but this is the one their plumber recommended as one of the sturdiest and safest options. Beyond the swiveling glass door, Melanie Iverson designed a marble hexagon mosaic pattern which was added to the niche in the shower wall.

Unable to make this bathroom larger due to the layout, Mosaic laid the flooring in a more strategic way to make the room appear larger, without adding square feet. “Knowing that we’d have to re-sheetrock and texture, we covered all of the stairs and flooring with plastic. We just did a lot of additional cleaning so that they could maintain their normal lifestyle.”

Lower Level Bath
In the lower level bath, Mosaic opted to keep the tub surround but replaced the flooring with a more grey-toned luxury laminate. Melanie Iverson worked closely with the Jana Sawchuk to choose the finishes, consisting of a new black oak vanity with marble top, antiqued gold lighting and reclaimed wood towel hooks.I really liked Jana’s style that brings in that light, airy beach vibe, and there’s also a lot of personality in this design,” said Melanie Iverson. “It’s been really fun working with her and bouncing ideas off of each other.”

Fireplace Reface
For the final phase of this remodel, Mosaic took on the forest green marble of the fireplace surround in the great room. This would be a less extensive project that would mean painting the gold detailing black and replacing the green facade with a crisp, white marble.

The Result
“We completed all three projects in under a month. I think there is real value in working with a design/build,” said Melanie Iverson. “We can move swiftly through the project because there’s only one point of contact. It’s an aspect that really saved them money and time.”

“With Mosaic, I have a mentality that I want to do as much for the client as we can, with the least amount of stress,” said James Iverson. “So, we deal with the contractors, we handle the scheduling and really, take care of everything – then communicate it to the client. We have a lot of strong relationships within the trades, so that really helps us to get the job done well.”

Feedback from the Homeowner: Jana Sawchuk
“James and Melanie were great to work with and very creative  – they understood what I wanted right away, and I’m not your normal North Dakotan,” laughed Jana Sawchuk. “I’ve worked with other designers, and the house ended up looking how they wanted it, not what I wanted. I knew that Melanie really understood what I wanted. That reclaimed wood shelf and some of the other things that I asked for, were not easy tasks, but they were willing to work with it. On the contractor side, James was great managing all of the other subcontractors and they got it done very quickly. We have more projects to do, so we plan to work with them again.”

Find the Finishes: Rose Creek Remodel
Wall paint – Reflection, Sherwin Williams
Lower Vanity – Joss & Main
Upper Vanity – Wayfair
Laminate flooring  – Carpet Garage, Dilworth
Articulating sconces – Build.com
Glass shower door – Custom Design Plumbing, LLC
Subway tile – Menards

Mosaic Tile (Bathroom Niche) – Syverson Tile & Stone
Reclaimed wood shelving – Tornell Construction
Fireplace marble – Home Depot


At Home with Mosaic Design + Build

Last, but certainly not least, Mosaic Design + Build gave us a glimpse inside their own fixer-upper. After recently getting remarried, James and Melanie decided to embark on a fresh start with a new home. One month after their closing date, we visited the couple to take a quick tour at the start of their project, and their personal mission of restoring home.

Phase 1: Lower-Level Den
The day after we closed, James started demolition on the lower-level den, so that’s where we began our renovation. It had that old, 70s-style paneling and James gutted it entirely off of the walls and fireplace,” said Melanie Iverson. “He installed the sheetrock, did the tape, texture and mudding, ripped out the old carpet and installed the new flooring. I took on the painting and design finishes.”

“On the fireplace, I decided to white-wash the brick because it was old and almost too yellow for me. I picked up the live edge mantelpiece at Dakota Timber Company. This is part of their Urban Reclaimed collection that is sourced from boulevard trees taken down by the City of Fargo,” explained Melanie Iverson.

Their new home has a pool in their backyard and hot tub just off of the kitchen, so they wanted to make sure that the flooring could handle water. “With our kids, Carter, almost 13 and Gracie, 11, we decided we needed totally waterproof surfaces, so James installed a luxury vinyl plank flooring. We will eventually be doing this same flooring up the stairs and on the main level as well.”

Fusing Styles
“I personally love more of a Bohemian, eclectic style, mixed with some Mid-century modern. I really enjoy mixing patterns that you wouldn’t typically see together,” explained Melanie Iverson. “I think it feels fresh and different. A lot of people think they could never do that in their own home, but with the right ensemble, it can be beautiful.”

“Most of the time, in each room, I find something that I hate so much that I think I will love it – something that really pushes my own boundaries. That happens to be that zebra chair. It’s so ugly, I just love it,” laughed Melanie Iverson. “I also did some jewel-tones in here with a goal for it to feel somewhat coastal. A lot of the clay pots and baskets around the room are from my mother-in-law – she was downsizing, so I inherited those things. She just had some really interesting pieces, including the two art pieces behind the lamp.”

“For the artwork above the mantel, I found the painting of the woman for a dollar at a rummage sale and wasn’t even sure if I liked it, but it works really well in this space. The floral painting over the sofa is also a rummage sale find, and the brightly colored face painting in the corner was going to be thrown away, so I snagged it. I just like to surround myself with really interesting pieces,” said Melanie Iverson. “The coffee table was first made by Grain Designs in a grey-toned wood, but for this room, I needed it to be lighter, so I painted over it with white.”

Meet the fifth member of the Iverson family; Samuel Kingston Lover Jackson Keisha Ojuri Iverson. Yep, all of those names. “He was a rescue dog I got when the kids were seven and eight, and I knew he’d be our dog throughout their childhood,” said Melanie Iverson. “We kept talking about names, so I said, to heck with it. Let’s just name him all of the names that we love, that we can all agree on.” Bison fans might recognize Carter’s pick of Ojuri from their past roster, Sam Ojuri.

Phase 2: The Spa Room
Just beyond the kitchen, the Iverson’s new house has a gorgeous spa room with fun architectural details in pine and brick. Before their cosmetic makeover, this room was mint green with all walls finished in pine. To brighten up the space, they opted to paint the shared wall white for a more modern approach.

“With a house like this, there were a lot of things that needed to be fixed or worked on. For us, it’s a perfect house because everything does need to be redone,” said Melanie Iverson.

“When we had younger kids, I always thought I wanted to be on the same floor with them, but after spending some time in very close quarters, I realized now that they’re almost 13 and 11, that we needed our space,” said Melanie Iverson. “With a four-level split, each of us can have our own space and quiet. Especially with us having a business where we work from home, we really needed that separation, but the space will really flow, so it will still feel cohesive.”

Marriage + Mosaic
James and Melanie were remarried in September last year, and they knew that this next season of their lives with their children, was really important. This time, they would invest wisely in their family and their time. “I had been working for a non-profit and I was tired – I knew I need a change of pace where I could spend more time with our family. I had gone back and forth on deciding whether to go back into interior design consulting, which is what I did in the past with Melanie Michelle Designs. I knew I really enjoyed it and I feel like I was created to create,” said Melanie Iverson.

“In November, when we started dreaming about what our new lives would look like, we attended a conference and this woman that heard our story had said, ‘Your lives are interesting, it seems like, through your first marriage and divorce, everything shattered. It seems that God is placing you back together and making a really beautiful mosaic of what was once broken.’ That really spoke to both of us,” said Melanie Iverson.

Launching a New Life
“While we were processing what to do, the idea of starting this company, really came to us. In January, James decided to quit his job and we would launch Mosaic Design + Build.
When I met James, he was a commercial paint contractor and when we were married, he had worked for over 12 years as the building and grounds manager for a local company, managing the remodel of their commercial space. After that was completed, James gained valuable experience working in flooring and drywall alongside contractors, often doing remodel projects for family members. So, these days, I help create the space and he does all of the heavy work,” laughed Melanie Iverson.

“In our old house, when we were first married, she had created the vision. We started that project married, then we got divorced. I finished her vision in order to be able to sell it. When you look back on it, it’s actually kind of cool because, even with all that was going on at that time, I still kept her design going in that house, which I think is really kind of significant with where we ended up with Mosaic,” said James Iverson.

I really enjoy working on our home, it’s almost therapeutic in a sense,” said James Iverson. “Why not do one more thing that we can work together on? We actually do work pretty well together – we have a lot more fun, then we have trying times.”

New vs. Old
Just as in their own life, Mosaic Design + Build has a mission to collaborate with homeowners so that their vision comes to life. “It’s more than just remodeling, it’s restoring home. So many people feel like they have to build new to get what they want. I love new builds, but I think something that is at the core of what I believe, as far as what we do, is that you can absolutely love what you have,” said Melanie Iverson. “Sometimes it just takes a fresh coat of paint or a second set of eyes to be content and happy with some of these older homes. Once you give them a little bit of an update, the result can be beautiful.”

In the Works:
What’s next on their agenda? The Iversons plan to repaint the entire main level and knock the wall out between the kitchen and family room, upgrading the floor plan to a more open concept with a shiplap ceiling. They will be refacing the kitchen cabinets, installing new tile, reclaimed wood shelving, and building an 8×4 butcher block island with drop pendants.

Find the Finishes:
Sofa – West Elm
Downstairs side tables – thrift stores
Coffee table – Grain Designs
Floral pillows & chair  – The White House Co.
Downstairs rug – Dakota Boys Ranch
Pillows, fiddle figs and snake plants – The White House Co.

For more information, contact:
Mosaic Design + Build
P.O. Box 455, Fargo


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Designing Our Dream Wedding

Words by Lindsey Christie Photography by Uppercase L Photography As an interior designer and local business owner, my work becomes quickly intertwined with my personal life, and I truly wouldn’t…

Words by Lindsey Christie
Photography by Uppercase L Photography

As an interior designer and local business owner, my work becomes quickly intertwined with my personal life, and I truly wouldn’t want it to be any other way. This past November, I started my business Lindsey Grace Interiors in Fargo, N.D. That same month, my now husband Jared, proposed and we decided to purchase our first home. It’s safe to say this past year has been the busiest, but most fulfilling year yet. I am so grateful that my amazing clients share so much of their daily lives, dreams and every part of their journey with me. It’s that connection that takes any project to the next level. For that reason, it was an easy decision to share the most special day of our lives with you all – and the journey it took to design our dream wedding.

Setting the Scene
I knew exactly how I wanted the evening to look and feel, but I also knew that planning an event for 200 plus people wasn’t my area of expertise. I quickly enlisted Sadie’s Couture Floral & Event Styling in Grand Forks. I had been to several events that Sadie had created, and an added bonus – one of my best friends from high school is her assistant. After meeting with Sadie and Jalen, I knew they we would make the perfect team to bring my dreams to reality.

Through working with Sadie I also learned that she and I share a similar background. I recently moved my career from Minneapolis to Fargo. I absolutely love the Fargo community, the growth, and of course the people. There truly is no place like it. My business has been created off of my experience working in both New York City and Minneapolis, but also the needs and wants of the local community. As a designer, one of my top goals is to always listen to what my clients want, while bringing a fresh new perspective to the Midwest design industry.

In 2010, Sadie sold her floral company in Minneapolis and moved back to Grand Forks, bringing her talent for event planning with her. Clients would come to her with their ideas and style boards, but the elements were just not readily available in North Dakota. For that reason, Sadie scaled her business to offer floral and specialty decor elements to meet the demands of the local community.

The Details

Of course, the biggest decision is setting the date, and everything flows from there. We had our engagement pictures taken in Minneapolis immediately after becoming engaged because I wanted to make the most of the fall foliage. We had an instant connection with our photographer, Amanda at Uppercase L Photography and when she agreed to come to Grand Forks to photograph our wedding, we were so excited. I knew I wanted a June wedding, and the 16th has a special meaning for us in many ways. Also, a deciding factor was that it was the only Saturday in June that Amanda wasn’t already booked.

I had never realized the huge role good photography plays the day of the wedding. Amanda and her co-shooter, Trish, kept our timeline running so smoothly while capturing every special moment of the day.

For the venue, I knew I wanted something different, fun and intimate. Growing up in Grand Forks, most special occasions for our family are spent celebrating at Sky’s. When we approached them to host our reception, they agreed and I was ecstatic. We had several meetings to narrow down the details. This included the food, of course, but also the cocktails, service and overall layout of the event.

The Big Day

Each guest was able to start the cocktail hour with our signature cocktails. Mine was the “Blushing Bride”, a spin-off of a cosmopolitan, and Jared decided on a cucumber Moscow mule we named the “Mister Mule”.

For dinner, the chef did an amazing job. We served grilled, Faroe Island king salmon, finished with Sky’s famous North Dakota prairie sauce with a black bean rice and the most wonderful smoked brisket, mashed potatoes and asparagus.

I also wanted to make sure our wedding was personal. I brought the ideas and the entire team executed them perfectly. I knew I wanted our wedding to feel feminine and gorgeous, but also relaxed and fun. The first thing we decided on was the color scheme. It all started the same way most clients bring me their inspiration for their homes – a Pinterest board.

We decided on French blue floor length linens, mixed with blush pink, ivory and gold details. Since the decor of Sky’s leans more toward a masculine and industrial feel, we had to work on how to blend the two very different styles. We decided to remove all the existing chairs in the restaurant other than a few of the French round back chairs at the head table. Then we brought in gold chivaris chairs, complemented with gold charger plates at each table setting.

To bring in the blush, ivory and gold in the color scheme, we turned to the floral arrangements. My all-time favorite flowers are peonies, so we mixed those in with a gorgeous combination of hydrangeas, roses and ruscus greenery. To bring in the drama, Sadie created arrangements of various heights based off of various table sizes. The French blue candles and brass holders created such a romantic feel.

I am obsessed with stationery and I put a lot of time and detail in selecting and designing our invitations. I wanted them to match the feel of our entire wedding day, and also be super functional when it came to navigating the day and of course RSVPs. I chose Shine Wedding Invitations and they were so easy to work with.

For the place cards and table numbers, I found a wonderfully talented local business – Lettering By Samantha. Samantha created custom marble tiles with each guest’s name and table number to help navigate the seating chart. She also designed and created each table number to coordinate. Each place setting had a tiny box of pink macaroons, which were baked locally by Acres & Company.

One of the biggest challenges of our venue was the strict number of guests that we could seat. For that reason, we expanded the seating area to the skywalk connected to the restaurant. It created a unique experience for our guest to be able to dine over the passing traffic and be immersed in all of the downtown action. Our head table was placed in the center of the restaurant. I loved this idea because we were surrounded by all of our loved ones.

Sweets  + Settings 

Not only did Mindy of Acres & Company make the tiny macaroon gift boxes, but she also created an entire dessert buffet. Along with our three-tier cake, we had mini 6” naked cakes, cake pops and cupcakes. This was a huge hit with our guests and each item received raving reviews. I sourced our custom cake topper from Etsy along with the bride and groom signs on the back of our head table chairs. Paper Petals By Sophie created a gorgeous backdrop for the dessert table with custom paper flowers to match our color scheme.

Last minute, I decided to place polaroid cameras next to our guest book, to create a fun little photo booth-feel on our dance floor during the cocktail hour. It was so fun to look back on, not only the sweet messages everyone left us, but also have fun pictures of everyone that came to celebrate. It was truly the best day of our lives. It’s all because of our amazing family, friends and of course each one of the amazing vendors that contributed to our day!

Wedding Day Breakdown:
Design – Lindsey Christie, Lindsey Grace Interiors
Event decor & floral – Sadie’s Couture Floral & Event Styling

Photographer – Amanda Hammarstedt, Uppercase L Photographer & Trish Burtzel

Venue – Sky’s, Grand Forks

Food & drink – Sky’s Fine Dining, Grand Forks

Reception stationery & marble tiles – Lettering By Samantha

Cake & desserts – Acres & Company

Paper floral decor – Paper Petals By Sophie
Invitations – Shine Wedding Invitations
Cake topper & bride/groom signs – Etsy

For more information, contact:
Lindsey Grace Interiors – Fargo
LindseyGraceInteriors.comSadie’s Couture Floral & Event Styling
899 2nd Avenue North, Suite 1 – Grand Forks


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Paradise on the Peninsula [ Whitefish Lake, Minnesota ]

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Chelsie Elizabeth Photography Just 30 minutes North of Brainerd, nestled in the red pines of Whitefish Lake, the home of Kevin and Cindy Roberg…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Chelsie Elizabeth Photography

Just 30 minutes North of Brainerd, nestled in the red pines of Whitefish Lake, the home of Kevin and Cindy Roberg is a testament to creative architecture and distinguished design. To create their dream home on the peninsula, the couple assembled their dream team with Travis Miller of TWM Architecture, Brittany Wille of Redstone Interiors and contractor Jake Wille. Together, they would design and build a rustic, contemporary home that would gather the family for generations to come.

History of
Donaldson Island
The Robergs chose the property thanks to their good friend and realtor Rob Birkeland. “He felt the location was special, even though the building envelope was a challenge due to setbacks with the lake on both sides of the parcel of land,” said Kevin Roberg.

According to the Robergs, the property had once been owned by Keith Donaldson who was CEO of the Donaldson Companies out of Minneapolis. He had gotten permission in the mid-1900s to link the mainland with what was then called Donaldson Island. “After the road was completed he built the main home and a tennis court. The Donaldson estate was once known as a destination vacation place and became popular for its parties in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Eventually, meeting tough times, Donaldson would subdivide the rest of the land and sell some of the property to others. Where the tennis court once resided, the Robergs envisioned their dream home.

Getting Started
The Robergs met Miller while working on the design for their South Dakota property, Sutton Bay Club through RemWhirl. Miller helped design their home on the property where they would move to in 2012. “When we moved away from South Dakota, we immediately contacted him as we felt he was a good fit for us since not only was he a talented architect, but one who listened carefully to what his clients were trying to create,” said Kevin Roberg. “Plus, we frankly just liked him and when you design a house, it is in everyone’s best interest to get along.”

Setting Goals + Gathering Inspiration
“Kevin and Cindy came to me with concepts and photos of other cabins, pointing out specific aspects that they liked of each one. We dissected the project so I had a clear vision of their goals and expectations,” explained Miller. “They wanted something that was rustic but had a light and airy feel, so it became a combination of rustic and contemporary. They had previously lived in cabins that I would consider more lodge-like. They were log-sided and had a large volume of spaces. This time, they wanted something different – cozier and brighter, but still wanted it to fit with the character of the neighborhood.”

“I’ve always enjoyed what I call ‘mountain architecture’, mixing of style and materials, so I studied a lot of homes you’d see in Colorado or Montana and tried to put my own spin on it,” said Miller. “They didn’t want a great deal of square footage, but at the same time, wanted to make the cabin live larger and be comfortable for their day-to-day activity as well as host family and friends. The lot was the main challenge, getting them the space they wanted and fitting it onto the property with the lake setback and the road setback.” The lot is 1.8 acres with 1.3 of it considered upland due to the West bay’s wetland status. The Robergs have 260 feet of frontage on the East lakeshore and 276 feet on the West wetland side.

Lakeside Design
For the Robergs, their interior goal was clean lines with warm tones. The main living space needed to suit their needs as they aged and the natural light needed to be captured. “We wanted lots of windows for light so that we could accentuate the natural beauty of our peninsula lake location,” said Kevin Roberg. “Having the morning sunrise on the main lakeside and the sunsets on the back bay side was a plus we wanted to take advantage of every day.”

“Travis was a pleasure to work with since he listens to his customers so well. He is creative yet practical, and constantly keeps ‘value’ of the design at the forefront of what he creates,” said Kevin Roberg. “We had an overall theme of ‘Rustic Contemporary’ and a set of functional criteria – main floor living for Cindy and myself, lower level for family and friends, screened porch that would be our main living area and two large wood-burning fireplaces. Travis was the key to putting everything together and it was a true collaboration.”

For the interior’s design, the team worked with Brittany Wille of Redstone Interiors. “We had also worked with her on our Sutton Bay and Los Cabos building projects. Just like Travis, she was creative yet pragmatic,” said Kevin Roberg. “We had built two other lake homes in more of a traditional log or rustic style and felt that now was a time to separate our cabin from the traditional ones from a style standpoint. We felt the rustic, contemporary style would fit the region, but be more modern in look, yet very warm in feel.” For the rustic collaboration, flooring was chosen in a resawn white oak, with cabinets and beams in rustic alder with a stained finish. To achieve the brighter side of their design, the team relied on enamel-painted, poplar ceilings in a 1×6 shiplap.

Heart of the Home
To carry their signature style to the heart of the home, the Robergs worked with Scott Ivy of Ivy Cabinets on their gorgeous kitchen, incorporating clean lines and rustic alder textures. “He’s a very talented young man who made a rather small space seem larger due to his ability to create a great deal of storage in a limited space,” said Kevin Roberg.

Capturing Sunsets
The Roberg’s screened-in porch has already become a family favorite and daily retreat. “It has tremendous views on three sides, comfortable furniture and a centerpiece fireplace that gets used often,” said Kevin Roberg. With the combination of EzeBreeze windows and the wood-burning fireplace, this porch was designed to be utilized nearly year-round.

Birds-Eye View
A late addition to the original design, Cindy Roberg came up with the idea to incorporate a guest suite above the garage. The suite features its own entrance, living room, bedroom and a spacious bathroom. “Travis made it happen and now all our guests want to stay there instead of the main house,” said Kevin Roberg. “We put in a breakfast bar and also a refrigerator so that guests can have their own place to just enjoy. The small deck outside the front entrance also has the best sunset views of the entire property. We call it the ‘Eagles Nest Suite’ since there used to be an eagles nest in a 150-year-old white pine just outside the window next to the bedroom.”

Boathouse Bliss
Recent changes to the county’s building codes allowed the Robergs to build up to a 120-square-foot “boathouse” by the lake, as long as it met certain setback requirements and building codes. “We took advantage of this opportunity and built a wonderful combination office, lakeside bar and just plain ‘hangout’ by the lake,” said Kevin Roberg. “It has a bar, large bookcase, refrigerator, ice maker and chairs that make it a great escape when I need to get away.”

“We love the final product and absolutely love our home,” said Kevin Roberg. “We love it so much we created a family cabin trust so that it can remain in our family for generations. Our children and grandchildren love it too and are often sharing the home with us.”

Into the Woods
“To achieve their rustic, contemporary exterior look, we used a product called Rough Rider, combined with timber accents, aluminum windows and a lot of glass,” said Miller. “Rough Rider is a natural wood siding that has an Eternity Finish. The finish process enhances the grain in the wood and accelerates the weathering process, so ultimately it looks like old reclaimed wood but has the characteristics of new siding which provides the protection needed to make it low maintenance.”

For the home’s stunning landscape, the Robergs relied on Reid Price of The Woods Landscaping. “We had worked with Reid on a number of projects over the years and he is very creative, listens well and performs at the highest levels,” said Kevin Roberg. “He turned an old, tired tennis court into a masterpiece, park-like landscape.” Adding to the outdoor appeal, the team managed to save the majority of the mature red pines on the site which helped keep the character of the property.

Meet the Architect: Travis Miller

Miller grew up in Fairmount, N.D., and attended NDSU receiving his architecture degree in 2002. “I had college friends that lived in the Brainerd area and really fell in love with the lakes, woods and all of the outdoor activities available,” said Miller. He has worked for Widseth Smith and Nolting in Baxter, Minn., and RemWhirl in Crosslake, Minn., where he ran the architecture department until starting his own firm, TWM Architecture in 2011.

Find the Finishes:
Architect – Travis Miller, TWM Architecture
Contractor – Jake Wille
Interior Design – Brittany Wille, Redstone Interiors

Cabinetry – Scott Ivy, Ivy Woodcraft
Landscaping – Reid Price, The Woods Landscaping


For more information, contact:
TWM Architecture
Travis Miller
11443 Co. Road 77 S.W., Nisswa, Minn.


No Comments on Paradise on the Peninsula [ Whitefish Lake, Minnesota ]

Living & Dining at the Lake [Middle Cormorant Lake, Minnesota]

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by Travis Beauchene, Studio Three Beau We’ve gotten to know Moorhead resident, Laneil Skaff, over the past year and she has never disappointed with…

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by Travis Beauchene, Studio Three Beau

We’ve gotten to know Moorhead resident, Laneil Skaff, over the past year and she has never disappointed with her remarkable, at-home culinary skills. With each passing month, her brilliant recipes have become a fixture in our pages. While last month she gave us a glimpse of her Tuscan adventure, this month she once again teams up with her daughters, Julie Stoe and Jenna Stowers, to show us three simple and fun lake recipes their family loves. To immerse ourselves in the lake life, we visited their newly renovated, Middle Cormorant lake home to see how their family lives and dines on the water.The Skaff family built the first cabin on the property in 1990. Add nearly 30 years, and their now-grown family had over doubled. Realizing it was time for a renovation, Laneil and Sam Skaff recruited more family to help – Brad and his dad Dewy Vesta of R.V. Construction. With a goal to stick with their current footprint of 1,800 square feet, the Skaffs collaborated with architect Herman Novak, certified kitchen designer Bill Tweten of Western Products, and the Vestas to make the same amount of space feel like a home that’s twice the size.

The Renovation
To start their renovation, the entire lake home had to be gutted and completely reworked from top to bottom. Like many older lake homes, the prior footprint had a floorplan that was much more divided, making the space feel closed in and less efficient. The kitchen was much too small for their growing family and with grandkids running in and out, there needed to be a bathroom with easy access from the door. “Because we had to use the same footprint, the only other thing I asked was that we keep at least the same amount of storage.””Before the renovation we had a lot of carpet, so that was another thing that we really wanted to change,” said Laneil Skaff. “We replaced that with a linoleum vinyl plank – it’s really easy to clean up after when you have wet kids, bathing suits and sand.”

Raise the Roof
In the more communal space of their lake home, Brad and Dewy Vesta raised the roof to give the illusion of more space. “We took out the original scissor truss ceiling that was up there and we raised it 42 inches by taking that out and putting in I-joist beams,” said Brad Vesta. “Basically, it’s a truss that Mid-States made for us and instead of fastening it together like they usually would, my dad and I put up each end one-by-one with a pulley system. We bolted it all together while we used a temporary wall on each side to hold the roof up until the truss was in place. Then we covered it in reclaimed lumber from Dakota Timber Company.”

The Landing Pad
Tweten’s cabinetry design started at the front door with a unique landing pad accommodating every family member and guest. Custom built-ins were created to provide a drop zone and charging station for computers, phones, keys, sunglasses and even the kid’s lifejackets. “Bill really was so good at thinking about every little detail. I didn’t want my computers and the phones cluttering up the island, so this is a great spot to keep everything organized,” said Skaff.”We originally had the life jackets up higher on a bar in the old cabin, but it just made more sense to make the bar lower so the kids can learn how to hang up or grab their own life jackets,” said Jenna Stowers. “When you have eager ones ready to swim it’s a really easy place for the kids to grab a life jacket and go jump in the lake.”

Another spot in the landing pad is designated for a giant basket of Crocs. “They’re our all-purpose lake shoes,” laughed Skaff. “Everyone can find the basket, you take out a pair that fits you and that’s what the whole family seems to wear all weekend.”

Island Ambitions
To make their kitchen worthy of large family gatherings, the Skaffs worked closely with certified kitchen designer, Bill Tweten of Western Products. With a need to squeeze a lot more function into the same square footage, this was one room that required extreme efficiency and sneaky storage. For the finish, the Skaffs chose a unique, pigment white for their upper and perimeter cabinets. “I wanted it to be a softer white and as cabin-like as possible, so with this pigment stain, you can still see a little of the grain coming through.”S

The island, finished in a deep Slate stain, was designed with distinguished storage encompassing every inch. “One of my favorite features are the big, deep drawers. I’ve got all of our dishes in the drawer – we have a drawer for glass, one for plastic and one for paper products. Don’t mind the ants on the glass dishes, those are painted on ants – a fun set my sister gave me,” laughed Skaff.(beach towel storage – island)
In the island, Skaff has a designated spot for her cookbooks as well as a place reserved for an item their family is in constant need of – beach towels. “The girls really helped me by reminding me of what I had, what I needed to make room for,” said Skaff. “One of the big things was that we always had a huge basket for beach towels. So, I said, ‘When I take down all of the walls, where’s that going to go?’ That’s now the upper part of our island – the two drawers on this side are all beach towels. Bill really helped me think through and provide some great solutions for the storage and things we had to have to make it all work.”

Dining at the Lake
To design their new dining room, the Skaffs relied on beautiful built-ins and a custom-made table by Josh Humble of Finnu. Their table for 12 was built using redwood pickling barrels hailing from California.Laneil Skaff had chosen the drop-down chandelier but soon realized that it was not meant for installation on their slanted ceilings. To remedy the design dilemma, Brad Vesta used reclaimed lumber to create a flat base for the fixture to hang evenly.

Master Suite
In the master suite, the family worked with Tweten to design a wall of built-in cabinetry for drawer space and office, using every inch of the rooms available space. “On the back wall, we did a white-washed shiplap from Stenerson Lumber,” said Brad Vesta. “To get a more rustic look, we didn’t prime it. That way the knots could bleed through. Then we did two coats of paint and one coat of clear so fingerprints can be easily wiped off.”  In the bedroom and throughout the lake home, windows were replaced with a pre-finished pine from Pella’s Designer Series.The Skaffs refurbished their existing night stands with chalk paint from Eco Chic Home and kept the style uniform, relying on comforting quilts for every room.In the master bath, Laneil Skaff chose a wood-look porcelain tile with a quartz seating area in the shower. “It’s the lake cabin and I just wanted it to feel like a lake cabin. So, when they started laying this tile, Sam called and asked if there was something wrong with it. I had to explain to him that that’s how it’s supposed to look,” laughed Skaff. “I just love the old, weathered wood and beachy textures. I also wanted a matte finish for the vanity, so we used a Corian from Western Products.”In the guest room wing, even the Skaff’s hallway is beautifully accented with gorgeous pieces like the reclaimed wood and dock cleat coat hanger and one-of-a-kind barn door. “This wood was actually from the old redwood deck that we took out during the renovation,” said Brent Vesta. “I brought Finnu a bunch of the wood and they used the larger dock cleat for the handle.”“I love the barn door because all of these colors are different stains that we had used on it over the past 30 years,” said Laneil Skaff. “Finnu used different planing techniques and worked hard to keep that original finish.”

Fun & Functional
With an idea that spurred from Pinterest, Laneil Skaff found an industrial solution to a create fun and functional sleeping space for six. “Brad and my son, Nate, built this set of bunk beds in the kids’ room, then my boys finished the other set. Brad was really the engineer to help us with the design using industrial plumbing pipes.” The design consists merely of 2x4s fastened to the wall with the piping grounded to the floor for support. For the smaller beds, Skaff used crib mattresses, then baskets and hooks for efficient storage.“We just tried to keep everything looking as much like the lake as possible. So, you’ll find a lot of reclaimed wood, vintage skis and paddles, along with comfy quilts in each room,” said Skaff.”All of our closet systems are from Smart Spaces. They came in and customized them to every room for us,” said Skaff. “She really used our space wisely. We designed most of the closets with enough space to fit a smaller crib, so the kids can have the babies close by, but also be able to close the door a bit, so they can still use the room.”


Midwest Nest is always thrilled to join Laneil Skaff and her daughters, Julie Stoe and Jenna Stowers in the kitchen. Gathering around their beautiful new island at the lake, they shared three recipes they love to serve up, with a side of sunset.

Chicken-Farro Salad

(Serves six meal-size servings)
This salad uses the grain Farro – it is an ancient grain that an excellent source of protein, fiber, and nutrients like magnesium, zinc and some B vitamins. It has a nutty flavor and chewy texture. With a great mix of sweet and salty, and a mild dressing to tie it all together, this makes a great summer meal.


½ cup pearled or regular farro

6 – Ounces (about 9 cups) mixed baby greens (I like to use some iceberg lettuce in this salad for the crunch)

1 ½ – Cups leftover cooked chicken – coarsely shredded

1/3 – Cup unsweetened dried cranberries (can also use dried blueberries, currants or cherries)

1/3 – Cup chopped dates

2 – Ounces Manchego cheese –
shaved with a vegetable peeler

¼ – Teaspoon salt

¾ – Cup vinaigrette

¼ – Cup chopped Marcona almonds


Bring two quarts of salted water to a boil. Cook according to directions on box – it will be different depending what farro you get. Pearled farro will cook faster. Cook until tender. Drain well and spread the farro on a pan to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the greens, chicken, cooled farro, cranberries, dates cheese and salt. Toss with ½ cup of the vinaigrette, adding more as needed. Garnish with almonds.

Champagne Vinaigrette

(Makes one cup)


¼ – Cup champagne vinegar

1 – Tablespoon honey

¼ – Teaspoon salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

¾ – Cup canola or vegetable oil


Put the vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a blender. Pulse to combine the ingredients. With the machine running, drizzle in the oil. Blend the dressing until it is well emulsified and thick. Refrigerate. Shake well before using.


Easy Rhubarb Pie

We are often making this pie as we are finishing up meal prep. It takes under 10 minutes to make and then off it goes to the oven while we are eating supper. A pot of coffee gets made, get the bowls, spoons, napkins, and of course ice cream and we’re off for a sunset cruise on the pontoon. A perfect way to end a day at the lake!



2 – Cups flour

¼ – Teaspoon salt

2 – Teaspoons sugar

2/3 – Cup vegetable oil

4 – Tablespoons milk

4 – Cups rhubarb- finely diced


1 ½ – Cups sugar

1 ½ – Teaspoons cinnamon

2 – Eggs, beaten

½ – Cup flour

1 – Tablespoon melted butter


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium-size bowl, place all crust ingredients – EXCEPT the rhubarb. Mix with a fork until well mixed. Crust will be crumbly. Set aside ½ cup of the crust and press the remaining mixture in a 9” deep dish pie pan or a 9” round cake pan – pressing crust on bottom and up the sides of the pan. Pour rhubarb on crust and distribute evenly.

In a medium-sized bowl (I often use the same one), combine all the filling ingredients with a whisk until well blended. Pour over rhubarb and spread evenly.

Crumble reserved crust over the top of pie.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Serve warm with Ice cream or whipped cream.

Variation: This recipe works well with peaches or apples.


Brazilian Cheese Bread

Pão De Queijo
A perfect little gluten-free bread bite to go with any salad. We first discovered these little bites of goodness when we celebrated the opening ceremonies of the Olympics when they were held in Brazil. 


1 – Egg –room temperature (can place in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes to gently warm egg)

1/3 – Cup olive oil

2/3 – Cup milk

1 ½ – Cups Tapioca Flour

½ – Cup queso fresco, feta, or parmesan cheese – grated

1 – Teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Use a spatula to scrape down sides to be sure everything gets mixed in. Pulse a few more times. Do not over mix. (The more you mix, the tougher the dough)

Generously grease mini muffin tins with cooking spray and pour batter into 24 muffins.

Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, until they are puffed up and a golden brown. Eat while warm with a drizzle of honey, or my favorite, butter!__________

Find the Home’s Finishes:
Contractor – Brad Vesta and Dewy Vesta, R.V. Construction
Architect – Herman Novak Designs
Cabinetry Design – Bill Tweten, Western Products
Cabinetry – Crystal Cabinets, Western Products
Closet shelving systems – Smart Spaces
Pine windows – Pella Designer Series

Tile – Syverson’s Tile
Countertops – Corian, Western Products
Fireplace wood/steel art – Grain Designs
Reclaimed truss and dining chandelier wood – Dakota Timber Company
Dining room table & bench – Josh Humble, Finnu
Dining chairs – Restoration Hardware
High island stools – CB2
Low island stools – Crate & Barrel
Masonry – Winter Masonry
Siding – Iron Grey, by Hardie Board
Drywall – Amundson-Klungtvedt DrywallFor more information, contact:
R.V. Construction
Brad & Dewy Vesta
Bradley.j.vesta@gmail.comWestern Products
Bill Tweten, CKD, CBD
474 45th Street South, Fargo

No Comments on Living & Dining at the Lake [Middle Cormorant Lake, Minnesota]

Hub41 [ Cornering Lake & City ]

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Scott Amundson The beachside strip of West Lake Drive in Detroit Lakes, Minn., is easily one of the summer’s hottest lakeside destinations. It’s home…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Scott Amundson

The beachside strip of West Lake Drive in Detroit Lakes, Minn., is easily one of the summer’s hottest lakeside destinations. It’s home to Lakeshirts, Lakeside Tavern & Brewery, Zorbaz, The Pavilion and a slew of beach bums ready to relax and bury their toes in the sand. Last summer, the strip got a little hotter with the opening of Hub41, a new restaurant designed by Chris Hawley Architects and owners Gretchen and Nate Hunter. See how this team created the perfect beach bum hang out with a stunning rooftop view and eclectic surf and turf menu.

Taking advantage of an old water park site that had been sitting vacant, owners Gretchen and Nate Hunter, set their sights on creating a new concept in beach dining. Just a stone’s throw away from their other property, the Fairfield Inn & Suites, this corner spot on the strip would provide a beach bum experience worth the drive. Wanting a casual beach vibe and killer lake views, the two recruited the help of Fargo’s Chris Hawley Architects to design their vision, and Detroit Lakes contractor, Josh Lessman, to build it.

Creating a Concept

When the Hunters built the nearby hotel, Fairfield Inn & Suites, they left a pad site that was originally intended for a single-story building. “The only stipulation was that it had to be 3,800 square feet on one level. We actually went back to the county and asked if we could split it into two – that would put us at 1,800 square feet on each level,” said architect Chris Hawley. “We just saw that on the first level, you can kind of see the lake, but mainly the view is of parking and boats. If we added a second level, guests would be able to take in the entire view of Detroit Lakes. In this project, the design had to more about the view than the building.”

For Chris Hawley Architects, their design process started with a little outside inspiration.  “We looked at ideas from a restaurant in Minnetonka that they liked – there were also a few residential projects that they thought were funky and pretty cool,” said Hawley. “I think the one thing they wanted was to differentiate themselves by not having the classic cabin forms you’d expect. They didn’t want the cutesy cottage feel – they wanted it to be more contemporary and edgy and just have a little more fun with it in terms of design”

“Really the whole project was about creating the perfect rooftop patio,” explained Hawley. “So, when you look at it, the design’s success is determined by having as many people sit outside as possible. This is a year-round restaurant, but like all lake restaurants, their whole livelihood is based on three months of having access to the exterior.”

Hot Curb Appeal

On the exterior, a sleek, contemporary design, bold pops of mod color and a tiki bar-type patio are bound to lure you in. But, look a little closer and you’ll see an ancient Japanese technique. The black siding is all charred wood, also known as shou sugi ban. “The owners actually did the charring. The beautiful thing about it is that once you char it, it has natural weather, rot and UV resistance, so you basically don’t have to touch it again. Bugs don’t like it and creatures don’t like to live in it.”

To fabricate the exterior signage using steel and exposed bolts, Chris Hawley Architects employed a hefty foundation to ensure stability for the massive, backlit logo.

Creating Calm

Like many larger lakes, the wind can take a toll on anything near the shoreline. With a rooftop patio plan in place, the team needed to ensure that guests would get a calm dining experience versus being literally blown away. “Rooftop patios are great, but if you’re getting drilled by the wind, nobody is going to enjoy it. To solve this, we used black glass as a windbreaker about five-feet in the air. When you’re sitting up there, you feel pretty tucked in and it gives you a nice little break from the wind,” said Hawley.

Inside Hub41 

Creating the perfect destination for beachgoers meant designing a bar and dining experience that would be fun, creative and non-fussy – a place where flip-flops and beach towels would be welcomed attire.

Guests will find a crisp white palette with details like black plywood with cedar strips, industrial plumbing pipe, exposed I-beams, a corner fireplace, a contemporary twist on sliding barn doors and birch bench seating. “The details are pretty fun, they did some really great workmanship and yet it’s not fussy, it’s simple and creative,” said Hawley. “Josh Lessman did all of the construction on this project – he did a really great job, especially considering it was a very fast-track kind of project – we started in Nov and it was open by May of last year.”

“This is obviously a fun strip down in Detroit Lakes and a building like nothing else on the beach.”
Chris Hawley, Chris Hawley Architects

Embracing the Outdoors

To bring the outside in, the design playfully utilizes the exterior siding elements and cedar slat detailing. Both levels feature an overhead garage door making the exterior and interior a unified space. “The cool thing is that no matter where you’re sitting in the bar, you’re looking at the lake,” said Hawley. “Instead of your back turned to the water and the bartender looking out, it’s the opposite. This is obviously a fun strip down in Detroit Lakes and a building like nothing else on the beach.”

“The one thing about doing an overhead door is that you can’t do anything overhead, so you have really limited storage in that area. The cedar slat details were one of the solutions to get as much storage as we can in a space that is occupied by an overhead door,” said Hawley. “The exterior siding became storage shelving for the bottles, glasses and other bar items.”

If you’d rather grab a booth, the dining areas offer plenty of natural light and interesting design details to create a true beachside experience. “This is just a really durable design and a little wear and tear will only give it more character. The blue material panel is all technically, exterior siding, but we’re using it in a pretty economical way,” said Hawley.
“In other areas, the same siding that we painted blue, we just painted black and screwed on the batton. I think of it like the rainscreen is the black panel, but then the wood is kind of the armor. This project is a very economical approach to design. It really takes common materials and uses them in a very creative way, but not breaking the budget.”

On the Menu:

If you think the design is creative, just wait until you experience their menu featuring weekend breakfast, lunch and dinner. “They have really good food, with kind of a funky menu – I’d say it’s a modern interpretation of a surf and turf,” said Hawley. For a taste of what Hub41 offers lunch and dinner guests, starters include the falafel, California sushi rolls, sweet potato nachos, Cajun shrimp bucket, Scotch eggs and lobster fries. Dinner will definitely delight with eclectic entrees like the shrimp po’ boy, muffuletta, chicken and waffles along with gnocchi mac and cheese, fish and chips and bangers and mash.

Find the Finishes:

Architecture & Interior Finishes  – Chris Hawley Architects

Project Manager – Wayne Schommer, Chris Hawley Architects

Contractor – Josh Lessman, Ledgestone, Inc.

For more information, contact:

Hub 41

104 West Lake Drive, Detroit Lakes





Chris Hawley Architects

2534 University Dr #3, Fargo





Ledgestone, Inc.

421 West Main Suite 104, Detroit Lakes





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Las Vegas to Little Cormorant [ Sugar Island – Little Cormorant Lake, Minnesota ]

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by Dan Francis Photography Fargo native Jack Lavelle is no stranger to creating hospitable surroundings. His company, PWI Construction, recently completed the remodel on…

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by Dan Francis Photography

Fargo native Jack Lavelle is no stranger to creating hospitable surroundings. His company, PWI Construction, recently completed the remodel on the last of 7,000 high-end hotel rooms on the Las Vegas strip. While he’s lived in Las Vegas for the past 18 years, Lavelle has since retired and headed home to the more serene surroundings of his lake home on Little Cormorant. Follow along as we take a tour of his “Sugar Shack” project that’s become a family affair.

Sugar Island on Little Cormorant Lake has been a prized getaway for Lavelle’s family for the past nine years. Returning to the area after an accomplished career managing the construction for a long list of high-end hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and prestigious boutiques, Lavelle wasn’t quite ready to hang up his hard hat.

The Making of the Sugar Shack

Four years ago, Lavelle’s family of contractors drew up a sketch and asked Designer Brent Behm of Ruki Modern to assist with the contemporary, lakefront build. Managing the project was Lavelle’s son-in-law, Eric Berg of Eric Berg Construction and son, Ryan Lavelle, of Invecta Construction Management. With a family of experienced contractors at the helm, Lavelle’s lake home became exactly what he asked for – an informal retreat centered around family, friends and fun.

From left, Brent Behm of Ruki Modern, Ryan Lavelle, Jack Lavelle (not shown, Eric and Jessie Berg)

Architectural Ambitions

“The whole front of the house is all public space and the bedrooms are just a minimal line of five bedrooms along the back,” said Behm. “It’s a super simple concept- everything is about the social aspect and communal space overlooking the lake. The form of the building really followed the program of the building – the lake view first and then the bedrooms being secondary in the purpose. This is what evolved out of that purpose.”

“Ryan and Eric really simplified the construction and kept the project at a reasonable budget. The guys didn’t have any grand vision of what the exterior should look like, this is just how it evolved after all of the plan elements were met,” said Behm. “The goal for this home was pretty loosely defined, it was mainly about providing as many bedrooms as we could and a large space to entertain. From the back, when you’re driving up, the house doesn’t look like anything extravagant, but it really climbs up toward the lake.”

“I think he’s got the right idea for how to live at the lake. Most people want their bedroom window overlooking the lake. For Jack, he said the opposite, ‘Why would I want my bedroom overlooking the lake? That’s where I sleep’.”

Brent Behm, Ruki Modern

The More, The Merrier

With three grown children and seven grandkids, Lavelle’s lake home is typically hopping with family, friends, kids and dogs. Between the home, the camper he parks in the side yard and the three sheds, his lakeside property easily sleeps 30. Not only does he not mind the crowds, he encourages them. Each summer, Lavelle throws a “Sugar Shack” bash for 150 of his closest friends and family, complete with a food truck and his son Ryan Lavelle’s band, Three Legged Horse, entertaining the crowds.

To accommodate the guests he’s happy to entertain, the bedrooms were kept modest and efficient, tucked away in a quiet corridor at the back of the lake home. “In terms of the bedrooms, it first started out as an idea for a separate building, but that’s kind of what it is,” said Ryan Lavelle. “The five bedrooms, two bathrooms, mudroom and laundry located in the back, can be completely closed off from the common space. Guests who are visiting for the day, usually don’t ever see that part of the home, which isn’t all that common.”

Sugar Shack Shakedown

Residing on acreage equivalent to three spacious lake lots, Lavelle doesn’t waste an inch. One-level living and a commercial-sized deck, with Western Sky rocks from Wyoming, wraps the entire front of the 2,996 square-foot lake home, stretching out to a massive front yard. Entertaining the crowds is made easier with a spring-fed lake on 400 feet of beach, a treehouse, volleyball court, pickleball court, guest sheds, fire pit and enough space to accommodate multiple campers and tents.

Entertaining well is a top priority for Jack Lavelle and his family. Not surprisingly, he’s even designated a theme song for his Sugar Shack retreat. “I lived in Vail for a year-and-a-half and became a fan of the band Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. I’ve decided our theme is, ‘I Need Never Get Old’,” laughed Lavelle. “Now, my kids listen to them and Ryan even learned one of their songs – it’s his band’s most requested song.”

Garden Shed Getaways

The Lavelle family built the three sheds four years ago and the grandkids named them the Eagle’s Nest, Bear’s Den and Butterfly Cabana – the Bear’s Den is where Lavelle prefers to sleep. “The Bear’s Den was originally a garden shed that we made into my bedroom,” laughed Lavelle. “In the others, there are two queen beds in each and they’re for guests and mainly the kids. Jay Ray from West Fargo, did the custom chainsaw carvings in front of each one.”

Swanky Interiors

“We knew we would have a heavy traffic flow in and out between the common space and the exterior space,” said Ryan Lavelle. “That was the factor that helped define this room to make it big, tall and provide the best view possible to see the sky and the lake.”

If the furniture looks familiar to you, chances are you’ve visited one of the hotels that Lavelle has built or remodeled. The majority of the furnishings and materials used in the house were salvaged from remodels in high-end, Rodeo Drive boutiques and swanky resorts.

Lavelle’s daughter, Jessie, and wife to Eric Berg, spearheaded the interior’s design with with assistance from her brother, Ryan Lavelle. Jessie chose all of the finishes including lighting, cabinetry, paint and fixtures, while Ryan added interesting features like the green-stained dooring throughout. Jessie was also tasked with the challenge of figuring out how to place all of her father’s salvaged finds and fuse them with newer decor items.

“Our dining room table came from a designer boutique on Rodeo Drive,” said Lavelle. “They had painted it shiny black, almost like a granite. We didn’t even know what was underneath until we got it from L.A. to my shop in Vegas where I had my guys strip it down and we realized it was wood.”

In the Lavelle lake home, even the kitchen makes use of some unexpected materials. “The granite came from a Las Vegas jeweler that had tried it out as flooring, but then changed their mind when they did the slip testing,” said Berg. “I worked with Granites Unlimited to template, cut and install it for kitchen countertops.”

Low-Maintenance Lake Living

Although Lavelle just recently retired, he still loves to travel, so for the exterior, durability and minimum maintenance was necessary. Everything on the exterior is done in a maintenance-free Azek composite material that was special ordered through Crane Johnson. Since this material had a little more natural variation of color like real wood, the team also used Azek as horizontal siding to distinguish the side entrance.

Due to the height and the way the roof pitches upward, the team used commercial storefront windows to achieve an unobstructed view. “Really, the best part of this design was bringing the outside in with that 30 feet of glass looking toward the lake,” said Eric Berg. “It had it’s challenging times, but it was really rewarding because our whole family now gets to enjoy it.”

Find the Finishes:

Design – Ruki Modern

Contractor – Eric Berg Construction, Inc.
Contractor – Invecta Construction Management

Cabinetry – Quality Cabinets

Chainsaw carvings – Jay Ray (jayraycarves.com)

Aztek siding and decking – Crane Johnson

Millwork – Simonson’s, install by Eric Berg Construction, Inc.

Countertops – install and template by Granite’s Unlimited

Tile – I’ll Tile & Stone

Carpet – Floor to Ceiling Carpet One



For more information, contact: 

Eric Berg Construction, Inc.

1257 3rd Street North, Fargo



Invecta Construction Management

Ryan Lavelle




Ruki Modern

Brent Behm




No Comments on Las Vegas to Little Cormorant [ Sugar Island – Little Cormorant Lake, Minnesota ]

Midwest Nestled [ Roy Lake, Minnesota ]

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by Scott Amundson Located on Roy Lake near Nisswa, Minn., this weekend getaway is a trompe l’oeil dream home that would pique anyone’s interest….

Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by Scott Amundson

Located on Roy Lake near Nisswa, Minn., this weekend getaway is a trompe l’oeil dream home that would pique anyone’s interest. Once deemed an unbuildable lot, the site was one of the last lots available in the Gull Lake chain, and not without reason. Never one to turn down an impossible project, the homeowner’s hometown friend and college roommate, Chris Hawley of Chris Hawley Architects, gladly accepted the challenge.

An Uphill Battle 

For CHA, turning an arduous hill into an award-worthy design took a bit of architectural mastery. “We were able to design this on a really steep site with some crazy topography and only 100-feet of lakefront. Getting the septic system and everything else to fit was a real challenge,” said Hawley. “There are basically four levels; the roadside where the bridge is, the lower level platform which is the main house, then the fire pit level and the last level down by the lake. They’re all tiered, so the fire pit is somewhat buried in the hill – it’s quite the perch where he can take in some awesome lake views.” To distinguish the varying levels, the team used split-stone, boulders and retaining walls.

In order to navigate the hillside, CHA had to do a lot of topography and the bridge became necessary to the design. “If you were to measure where the setbacks are from the lake, and look at the buildable area for the site, you would find about 16 feet of grade change from where you would typically have a house from the front to the back,” said Hawley. “To make this an efficient design, we had to tier it just to get the parking to work and make sure it still looked like a home from the roadside.”

If you sat down and made a list of all of the things this home needed to have, then told someone how much space they had to do it in, most people would politely decline the challenge. “It seems like an impossible task, and we certainly pushed the constraints of the lot lines, but it worked out so well and achieved everything he wanted with a really seamless design,” said Hawley. “It also helped that the homeowner was so open-minded, he loves great design just as much as I do.”

Bridging the Gap

If you’re lucky enough to be invited, you’ll have to walk the plank…so to speak. As a visitor, guests park in the driveway, walk over a charming cedar bridge and enter on the second floor.

“Guests have their own little entryway and there’s two bunk rooms and a secondary master bedroom. His mom and dad stay in the secondary master with a murphy bed that can be converted to an office,” explained Hawley. “When the homeowner arrives, he pulls into the garage and walks down the stairs to the main level where his master suite and the main living areas face the lake.”


The extraordinary exterior ties contemporary grey steel and black metal panels, with warm cedar and naturally rusting elements like the corten retaining walls and fire pit. The roof line is a gable with a pitch-break which was altered mid-way through the build to accommodate a bump-out for the second level rooms. The bump-outs gave them an additional two feet for the murphy bed on the second floor and the bunk beds. From left lakeside is the master bedroom, kitchen and great room, all with a remarkable view of Roy Lake.

Architectural Interior

“A really cool feature for guests is when they’re walking over the bridge, they can see all the way through the window to the sputnik lighting and the lake,” said Hawley. “Then you come downstairs and you’re struck with the larger view of the lake. Spatially, it’s a really fun space to be in. I love how three-dimensional his home is – it’s not like you are on an upper or lower level, you are living in a spatial volume. The interior is pretty wild when you consider how all of the rooflines fit together. ”

Throughout the lake home, reclaimed wood extends to accented areas from the great room ceilings to the powder room, master bedroom and sliding barn doors. Giving the home a modern and minimalist flair, the homeowner chose heated concrete flooring, mid-century modern lighting, colorful artwork and industrial metal elements to define the spaces.

A fun find for guests is the reading alcove underneath the stairwell. If you follow CHA’s work, you’ll recognize the cushion and upholstery work which is always done by Chris Hawley’s mom.

The fireplace in the great room is wrapped in steel-panels with four symmetrical boxes including wood storage, fireplace and media storage.

The stairwell to the second level bunkrooms feature vinyl plank treads with steel risers to coordinate with the raw steel paneled fireplace wall.

Intimate Efficiency
“The idea was that the homeowner wanted a really intimate space, but the irony of the design is that even though the rooms are on the smaller side, he can still have up to 40 people over and they will all have a place to sleep,” said Hawley. “In the upstairs alone, he can have 12 people between the bunk rooms and secondary master. Then he has additional space like the alcove under the stairs, living room and main level of the garage which can serve as an overflow room.”

Park at the Top, Party on the Bottom… 

For CHA, one of the project requirements was to create ample lake storage. What you see from the roadside is actually a pre-cast two-story garage, and the roadside represents the top floor. The homeowner parks on the precast deck, just like a parking garage made for two cars.

Below, on the lakeside, the main floor of the garage acts as storage and an occasional entertaining space. “His garage, facing the lake, can have 20 to 30 people there for entertaining and it becomes kind of a party room with heated floors and a sauna right next door,” said Hawley. Here, you can take a sauna and run straight to the lake. The homeowner loves cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, so this is a year-round lake destination for him with plenty of storage for his outdoor hobbies.

“It’s a classic Minnesota way of thinking to build a lake home and then want a Morton building for storage across the road. With this precast garage, we designed it connected to the house and it just looks much better since it’s integrated into the home’s design,” said Hawley. “It’s basically a concrete box, but a huge, practically indestructible space for him to store everything he needs.”

“You have to pour concrete to build a garage like this, and in most cases, people will work really hard to cover it up. We thought it was an awesome raw finish, so let’s just let it be the finish. It’s very contemporary, but I think it works well with this design,” said Hawley.

“He has a nice condo in the city, but he tries to spend as much time at the lake as possible, so this is more of his weekend home right now,” said Hawley. “We made sure to design it so that down the road, it can become more of a year-round residence. In my mind, his lake home is the best of everything, but it’s nice because nothing is super fancy, there’s not a lot of high-end finishes – it’s just really well put together.”

Find the Finishes:

Architect – Chris Hawley Architects

Builder – Vercon, Inc. (Baxter and Menahga, M.N.)

Landscape architect – George E. Prine III, DIG Garden Design
Landscape designer – Jamie Lipke, Backyard Reflections

For more information, contact:

Chris Hawley Architects

2534 University Dr #3, Fargo




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