Warm Holiday Greetings From SALA Architects!

Posted by Bryan Anderson on 12.18.14

We live and frequently practice in a cold climate. We design homes and buildings to withstand our temperamental climatic swings and study best practices like insulation assemblies and vapor-permeable air barriers. We analyze R-value and can calculate conductive thermal heat loss. Like choosing between GORE-TEX and cable-knit sweaters, we select and detail these materials to thoughtfully express or reduce their visual impact without sacrificing performance. We are designers of the north! As I write this, snowflakes are actually swirling on the lightest possible current outside my window and the temperature is steady at 21...

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Passing The Test: Examining Home Energy Efficiency And More

Posted by Marc Sloot on 12.10.14

Who loves tests? Honestly, I have never been a big fan of tests. My wife. . . she loves ‘em, but then again she became a school teacher, so I guess that sort of comes with the territory for her. Some say spouses become more alike over time, so maybe that has something to do with the fact that I have found some tests that I would not do without. Maybe it's because these tests are easy. Easy tests make me feel good. The tests I am talking about here are key to ensuring my designs (your house) are more comfortable, operate more efficiently, and cost less to maintain. When the tests are performed and interpreted by...

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Sitting Lightly on the Land: Zumbro Zen

Posted by Eric Odor on 12.03.14

As my car rolled to a stop at the end of the cul de sac for the very first time I was struck by the heavily wooded and steeply sloping site which descended some 600’ south to the Zumbro River. My first thought was how to delicately insert a 2,500 square foot house with a two car garage onto such a beautiful site with the least impact possible. After looking at several configurations it soon became apparent that the best approach for solar orientation and site impact was to stretch the home across the slope, from west to east, to balance the cut & fill and virtually eliminate site grading....

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Finding A Solution To A Foundation Problem

Posted by Joseph G. Metzler on 11.26.14

It would be logical to think that if you were recreating something that once was supported on a porch roof, the porch roof would be the place to start. In this case things are not what they seem. While the existing porch roof we're using in this article did at one time support the upper gable roof, the support became inadequate according to present day building codes. The problems actually start with the porch foundation. The posts supporting the porch were resting on flat stones on the surface of the ground. As the ground goes through the freeze/thaw cycles associated with the changing seasons in cold weather climates, the...

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Still The Most Essential Tool of Architects After Hundreds of Years: Sketching

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 11.19.14

This blog post wouldn’t be plausible without the computer, and digital architectural drawings are great for detailed development, but the pencil sketch still remains intrinsic to conceptual architectural design. The simple medium of a dime store pencil and a blank sheet of paper is all one needs to begin to realize the form of building. It works outdoors in the cold, doesn’t need to be reprogrammed, and the “delete” button is as close as a waste paper basket or camp fire. The translation of sketch into French is esquisse, and when in the 1700’s the first architectural school commenced in...

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A Visit To An Irish Castle Turns Into An Architecture Lesson On Stone Work

Posted by Katherine Hillbrand on 11.12.14

My husband and I recently took a trip to Ireland to visit friends. We wanted to hear the Irish lilt, to see its quaint villages, and breath in the rolling green countryside. We also wanted to raise a glass (or two) of their famously fine ale.  We spent most of our time exploring the southwest countryside west of Cork.  It comes as no surprise that we were blown away by the beauty of Ireland’s patterned green hills and its tangible connection to ancient history. As we drove through the countryside on lanes narrow enough to worry about our side-view mirrors due to the vine-covered stonewalls and trimmed...

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Architecture at a Distance: Working Out of State

Posted by Bryan Anderson on 11.05.14

Most architects have a home base. A city or community they practice from, a geography known by heart. But a cursory look through many architects’ portfolios often indicates work flung far and wide. The myriad of ways architects can find themselves working in distant locales is more than can be detailed here, but there are lessons to be shared in this handful of projects that may streamline opportunity and create beauty through architecture at a distance. Get your architects in a row My colleague Paul Hannan recently contributed a detailed post about the qualifications and...

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Green is the New Black: Designing Sustainably. Part 2: Materials

Posted by David O’Brien Wagner on 10.29.14

In the past 20 years the building industry has seen an explosion of new materials come on the scene. Architects are challenged with keeping up with all of these available material choices, and evaluating which ones make the most sense for our clients’ needs. One can think of items like siding, roofing, flooring, countertops, tiles, windows, and light fixtures. Products to be selected, evaluated, purchased, and installed. Some of them are green, others not so much. While it may prove impossible in today’s landscape of construction and commerce to avoid “products”, I’d like to suggest that we might...

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Brace Yourself! A Method of Architecture Adapting to Climate Change

Posted by Eric Odor on 10.22.14

Recent weather patterns across North America have brought about more and more violent storms causing a rather alarming increase in wind born damage to existing structures. As a consequence, we architects are seeing ever more stringent building regulations concerning structural resistance to wind forces. The resultant details are fondly reminding me of my seismic days in Santa Monica, CA where moment frames, hold-downs, and shear panels were all the rage, as well as necessary elements of any design. Far from the seismic arenas of the western coast, a recent...

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Roman Recharge: A Visit To The Eternal City

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 10.15.14

I have a need to escape to Rome to recharge my architectural batteries in the eternal city. Ever since my first trip there as a student in the 60’s I sit in awe of the Pantheon, two millenniums in existence and still capturing the worlds attention. Compare that to the Minneapolis Metrodome, which was demolished after only 35 years of service. But my treasured visit each trip is to two small oval chapels a few blocks apart and but a few years separated in their creation. San Carlo alla Quatro Fontana by the architect Borromini’s is an example of the struggle for light in a tight urban fabric. Borromini sculpts an...

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Closing Up The Cabin .....Without The Commute

Posted by Eric Odor on 10.08.14

About eight years ago my wife and I were shopping for a lake cabin somewhere close by, since we weren’t too keen on the prospect of long weekend commutes, when my wife came up with the brilliant idea of eliminating the commute altogether. We were in the process of remodeling our 1300sf home in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis so we decided to float a 330sf screened porch between the existing house and the new garage, clad the interior entirely in cedar beams and boards, and christen it our “cabin without the commute”. After all, we live within four blocks of two beautiful city lakes...

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When Is An Architect Technically “An Architect” in Minnesota?

Posted by Paul Hannan on 10.01.14

Each quarter, The Communicator, the official publication of the Minnesota Board of Architecture, Engineering, Land Surveying, Landscape Architecture, Geosciences & Interior Design, is sent to those professionals licensed by the state of Minnesota.  Among other items, the publication gives updates to statute changes, information from the Board of Directors, and disciplinary actions administered from the Minnesota Board of Architecture. The majority of actions taken by the board are related to individuals who claim that they are architects, when in fact, by definition they are...

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The Dark Side…. Shadow Effects In Architecture

Posted by Katherine Hillbrand on 09.24.14

There are a bewildering number of solid materials that need to be joined together to build any structure.  Architects and builders use their best judgment in selecting materials and then puzzle out how these materials can be joined together to create, not just a sturdy building, but one that is useful, pleasing, inspirational and hopefully cherished for many years.  As designers and builders we are intensely focused on the tangible materials at hand. But as our buildings take form, other less tangible qualities emerge.  When completed, a building is often richer and more dynamic than the original conception. ...

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The Wee - Ely: Challenges Of Getting a Tiny House Built In The Wilderness

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 09.17.14

A recent client sought my help in designing a modest cabin, off grid, on a site near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. I’ve responded to similar requests before and found the challenge to be finding a builder willing to head into the wilderness, black flies, mosquitos, and all just to construct a small cabin. But this time I thought I had just the right person, Eric Mase of the Wee Cabin Company...

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Another Case of Less Is More: Reducing Square Footage For A Larger House

Posted by Eric Odor on 09.10.14

Mark and Mary came to me a few years back after visiting one of my houses on the AIA-Minnesota Homes by Architects Tour. They had recently purchased a split-level tract home that was built in the 1990’s in Northeast Minneapolis on a tract of land that was originally slated for a freeway off ramp. The home had a tortured plan made all the more difficult by an angled switchback stair that was turned 45% right at the split, which essentially made every room a frontage road around the stair. Even though it was only twenty years old the home was also terribly dark and dated. Mark and Mary knew that they were...

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New Laws for Home Sprinkler Systems

Posted by Paul Hannan on 09.03.14

Minnesota will be adopting the 2012 International Residential Code (IRC) and with it, the requirements for home sprinkler systems for single family and two family dwellings. The requirement, as adopted by Minnesota differs from the IRC by requiring sprinkler systems in only new homes 4,500 square feet and above. Despite the lobbying efforts by the Building Association of Minnesota (BAM) and the Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC), Governor Dayton did not sign a bill that included banning the requirement for the installation of the sprinkler systems. There is no doubt that these...

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Architecture Frozen In Time: The Historic Forestville Site

Posted by Bryan Anderson on 08.27.14

My summer began somewhat mysteriously in the year 1899—at least a few hours of it. My partner and I were enjoying a weekend exploring Lanesboro, Minnesota, and at the recommendation of a friend (thanks, Joel!), set out to find Historic Forestville in Mystery Cave State Park. What began as a predictable tour through a small state park led to a magical experience straight out of Brigadoon! Historic Forestville is a Minnesota Historical Society site staffed regularly by a dozen or so enthusiastic and entirely unselfconscious volunteers in period costume....

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Unexpected Issues When Building A New Home: Bad Soil

Posted by Eric Odor on 08.20.14

With a new home the earth is about the only unknown quantity. We recently had a small house with a detached garage torn down in an existing inner city neighborhood so that we could build a new, small, energy efficient house with an attached garage in its place. The old house and the two adjacent houses were all in good shape and showed no signs of settling. While removing the old house we discovered that the top portion of the site was a landfill with trash that had been burned. Layers of cinders and ash were our first clue, so we ordered a soils report. The soil borings told us that the top thirteen feet of the building site...

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SALA Is On The 2014 Homes By Architects Tour!

Posted by Eric Odor on 08.13.14

SALA has two fantastic houses on the 2014 Homes by Architects Tour which is produced by AIA Minnesota with media partner Midwest Home and silver sponsor Marvin Windows. This is one of those rare opportunities to actually walk through SALA homes and experience in person two rich tapestries of material and space woven into homes of delight. Paul Hannan and I each have one home on the tour that we would love to have you see! Here are the addresses and descriptions of each!

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Get Your Skin Out Of The Game

Posted by Marc Sloot on 08.06.14

How much skin do you have in the game? Having “skin in the game” is good for business deals, but not for homes. In home design, “skin” is another name for the shell of the building (i.e. exterior walls, roofs and floors). This is a classic example of “Less is More”, but why is this true, why does it matter? There are at least 3 primary reasons: 1.  The first reason is easily illustrated by an analogy to the human body. The more your skin is exposed to the elements, the more uncomfortable you are, and the more energy you expend trying to...

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The Value of Finding the Perfect View and How To Achieve It

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 07.30.14

View can be everything to a project, often the principal reason a particular site is selected. Designing to capture a view requires a few unique skills and creative methods. We recently were hired to design a home outside of Livingston Montana on an open hillside with a spectacular view to the Paradise Valley entrance into Yellowstone Park. We took pictures at the site and used them to study window patterns, which modulate the view. Patterns were cut out of a white sheet of paper and moved across photos of the views. We could thus study orientation window size and overall panorama simultaneously....

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Architecture Vogue: Horizontal Wood Plank Fencing

Posted by Ryan Lillion on 07.23.14

Yes, you read the headline correctly. The type of fencing around properties has turned into a recent trend. This flavor of the week appears to have started in the Los Angeles area where neighborhood house tear downs / large rebuilds are highly abundant (sound familiar South Minneapolis?). Typically these homes are one story bungalow ranch style and often there is a large backyard that the new foundation extends over. Lately it seems like every last one of these rebuilds are incorporating a horizontal plank fence. Some use blonde wood, some use darker wood. Some use alternating depths on the planks. Some have...

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4 Degrees of Renovation

Posted by Bryan Anderson on 07.16.14

Anyone who has ever undertaken a renovation knows they can be complex affairs. Unlike new construction where the promise of a tabula rasa offers idyllic possibility, renovations are filled with surprise and discovery. Managing—and enjoying—the process requires patience, flexibility, and a predetermined design approach that aligns a homeowner’s goals with the potential of his or her existing surroundings. Of the many forces at play in a renovation, few are predictable, but of those that are, scope creep can be one of the most invasive. The best defense against this formidable opponent is a good plan. The following...

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How do Memories and Stories Influence Architecture?

Posted by Paul Hannan on 07.09.14

As architects, we have the pleasure of working with our clients to achieve the design solution that will exceed their expectations.  The success of the project relies on many aspects that include the response to the site, the response to the program, and the joy they experience as a result of our collective work.  Additional outcomes that are difficult to measure are the memories and stories that will result from living in and using this livable architecture. Cabins tend to be a great repository of collective memories.  These beautiful structures often remain in the family for generations. ...

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A Cabinologist Invention: The Gin & Tonic Deck Rail!

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 07.02.14

Have you ever driven several hours to a lake cabin and walked out on the deck and said, “Wow, what a view!” Then you sat down in some casual deck furniture and were disappointed with the loss of that view due to an ill designed deck rail. You totally missed the loon passing by or your daughter’s first attempt at snorkeling? As a designer, I’m infuriated by such railways and have created a solution to deal with it. Railways have to meet a building code of 36” (residential) off the deck floor. Most builders fabricate a standard rail with heavy horizontal support boards at the top of the rail....

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Cabins and Clients of Lake Vermilion

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 06.25.14

Lake Vermilion in Northern Minnesota is best known for walleye and muskie, but for me it’s the great taste of sunfish. It may be a lack of patience on my part or the belief that in an hour and half I can provide dinner for two. Add a little fish batter from the local Homestead Mills in the town of Cook and a fine meal is on the cabin table. Finish it off with some wild raspberries drizzled with sumac syrup for desert...

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Gaining Solid Benefits With Board Formed Concrete

Posted by Katherine Hillbrand on 06.18.14

There are many exterior building materials that protect our homes from the elements. Using poured concrete for exterior walls can be one of the most enduring, fire-resistant, thermally retentive and maintenance-free solutions.  Though there are significant embodied costs to the manufacturing process of concrete, the overall impact on the environment is diminished by not having to paint or stain and by its permanence. After all, a concrete home can last without decay, for potentially hundreds of years. There are however, a few challenges, not the least being its perceived mundane aesthetic, even brutal...

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An Architect’s Little Dream

Posted by Bryan Anderson on 06.11.14

For the past two decades I’ve been dreaming up a little cabin for myself. How could I not?  For most of that time, I’ve been an architect working in the land of Cabinology! Countless cabin designs have been sparked and developed within these walls for eager and gracious clients to live out—and live in—their dreams. At SALA, inspiration often thrives in architecture created for relaxation. Long ago, my father bought a remote piece of land that sits vacant to this day. At various points in my life it has served as site and muse to my own dreams. In my last year of architecture school, it was the site...

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The Key to Successfully Adding to a Vintage Home

Posted by Joseph G. Metzler on 06.04.14

What is the key to successfully adding to a vintage home?  Is it the materials?  The building form?  The arrangement of spaces?  All of these depend on something more basic.  The key to success in all these areas is first understanding a home’s underlying rules. A bad addition follows rules that are different than used for the house. A bad addition follows rules that are different than used for the house.  Just what are these rules?  Every home is designed based on certain rules.  If a later addition follows a different set of rules than the original house, it will be...

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Passion: Reflecting On Residential Architecture

Posted by Paul Hannan on 05.28.14

Residential architecture is about passion.  It is the only building type that can directly affect the quality of life for the inhabitants on a daily basis.  A well designed and crafted home contributes to the well being of the owners. It adds to the quality of the site.  In an urban setting, it is a “good neighbor” that pays attention to the scale, proportion, and rhythm of the street.  In an exurban setting, it respects the character of the site and conveys the sense of belonging to its environment. Architects, who successfully work within the realm of residential architecture have a...

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Reconnecting with Family Roots: The Love Shack

Posted by Wayne Branum on 05.21.14

About 3-1/2 years ago John and Helen Shiely, purchased a property on the St Croix River in the city of Prescott, WI. Shortly after, they contacted me about renovating an old structure on the property that John’s great grandfather, a carpenter, had helped build. While growing up he had spent time on Lake Street in Prescott where other family members lived including his grandfather.  John and Helen live in eastern WI where they worked and raised a family. The connection to Prescott and maintaining family connections in the area motivated them to purchase the property and embark on a long and interesting project to create...

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How “Useful Beauty” Becomes Architecture

Posted by Katherine Hillbrand on 05.14.14

I was reminded the other day of a conversation that I had with a friend several years ago.  We were discussing the institutionalized segregation and polarization of ‘high art’ and ‘craft’ in American culture.  My friend, Del Stubbs, is a well-known wood turner, inventor of tools, apple grower, and philosopher and former vagabond. Years ago, when he was a young man, he spent some time living with the Reindeer People of Sweden north of the arctic circle.  It was while living in Sweden that he was introduced to the concept of “Sjlöd”. Roughly translated in...

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What Is A Grabin? Find Out Why You Might Need One

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 05.07.14

I believe someone introduced me to the word, “grabin” to describe a garage with a living space above. That might suggest it should be spelled, “garbin” …but that title just doesn’t have the same charm. With our steady flow of cabin projects we often get asked to design living spaces above a garage. This can be either as a guest cabin, or a first phase living quarters. Done in the metropolis and with garage attached to the home, this might be called the bonus room. Our cabin designs usually feature a detached garage and most have a modest second level in the roof. Zoning ordinances may or...

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“Let’s Do It!” Using Charred Wood to Create A New Wall

Posted by Eric Odor on 04.30.14

When Chris Meyer and I first met with our new clients in their home, one of them was pretty focused on the fire in the mantle-less see through fireplace. There was a fair hint of soot on the white brick above the firebox, which prompted us to ask about the frequency of use. The reply was “in winter”. Their project was to build a fire in the fall and let it die when the bluebells bloomed in spring. We talked about a new mantle for the fireplace and briefly discussed a ¼” plate of mild steel that we could let into the existing brick mortar joint. This concept expanded to plating the dining wall opposite...

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Appliance Strategies for the Old House Kitchen

Posted by Joseph G. Metzler on 04.23.14

Kitchens have seen more changes than any other room in the house.  Originally merely service spaces for cooking, kitchens were strictly functional and contained little in the way of cabinets.  Unlike today, the stoves, sinks, and eventually cabinets of early kitchens had legs and were much more like furniture.  While kitchens overall have changed dramatically, no aspect of the kitchen has changed more than appliances.  Ranges and refrigerators have seen numerous technological advances as well as drastic changes in appearance.  Other appliances that never existed in historic kitchens like microwaves and...

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The Best Place to Start a Renovation Project: Home Research

Posted by Joseph G. Metzler on 04.16.14

Every home has a history and knowing that history can provide useful information for anyone restoring or remodeling their home.  Research might uncover useful tidbits related to earlier changes or even photographs or original drawings showing long-lost features.  Resist the urge to plunge ahead quickly making changes and instead start with home research. People do find amazing things as a result of research.  I had a client once who tracked down the descendants of their home’s original owner who still had the original drawings.  With these drawings they were able to save the cost of documenting their...

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Client Satisfaction: The Story of a 12 Year Project

Posted by Wayne Branum on 04.09.14

Design Problem: Provide varied phased additions and remodeling to a 1960’s walkout ranch house set on a restricted site, constructed in four phases over a period of 12 years. Because the project evolved over a long period of time not all aspects of the total project were determined at the beginning but were developed one phase at a time following an accreted process.

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Why Does Architecture Become An Overnight Sensation? Part 3 of 4: Not So Big House

Posted by Ryan Lillion on 04.02.14

In this multipart post we’re discussing projects with our firm that found accelerated exposure and success beyond what the designer had anticipated. In Part One we discussed the lightning paced publicity of the ESCAPE project, which currently continues to receive a lot of unexpected attention. In Part Two the contrasting success of pre-World Wide Web times was delved into with Michaela Mahady's award winning Maple Forest design. In this installment we're not examining a specific project, but a book by one of SALA’ s founding partners Sarah Susanka titled, “The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live”. The book rarely needs introduction in the architecture community and features several projects Sarah designed along with a collection of other SALA projects with the “Not so big” concept applied.

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How Can Design Teamwork Make a Craft Beer Dream Come True?

Posted by Bryan Anderson on 03.26.14

What do you say when a past client invites you to help him realize his vision for a craft beer venture that began as a hobby in the garage? Depends on how good the beer is, right? Well, it’s darn good! So began the initial development of Lupulin Brewing in Big Lake, Minnesota. Jeff Zierdt, my client and friend, and his brewing partner Matt Schiller have both been amateur brewers for the past five years, but after winning numerous awards including a first place blue ribbon for their Belgian Dubbel at the Minnesota State Fair in 2013, the two realized it was time to share it with the public. They began...

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Why Does Architecture Become An Overnight Sensation? Part 2 of 4: Maple Forest

Posted by Ryan Lillion on 03.19.14

In this multipart post we’re discussing projects with our firm that found accelerated exposure and success beyond what the designer had anticipated. In Part One we discussed the lightning paced publicity of the ESCAPE project, which currently continues to receive a lot of unexpected attention. In this post we’re discussing another surprise success project, however we’re also contrasting the difference twenty years can make with how a project finds such popularity.

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The Moratorium On Tear Downs in Southwest Minneapolis

Posted by Eric Odor on 03.12.14

Last Friday morning a proposed moratorium on teardowns and major remodelings (1500sf or more) went into effect in five Southwest neighborhoods until the Minneapolis City Council weighs in on the matter. Most of us discovered the moratorium in an article in the StarTribune the following morning. Needless to say builders, architects, and landowners intending to build were up in arms. On the other side were the joyous supporters that have endured surprise teardowns, overrun silt fences, closed sidewalks, pre-dawn construction noise and finally an enormous house where a bungalow had been.

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Why Does Architecture Become An Overnight Sensation? Part 1 of 4: ESCAPE

Posted by Ryan Lillion on 03.05.14

The past couple of weeks at SALA have seen a a flurry of activity from a project we designed in conjunction with Canoe Bay called ESCAPE. This project has received an overwhelming amount of press from social media to The Huffington Post. This has all arrived at a pace that neither the client nor the designer ever expected. SALA has been in the residential architecture market for over 30 years and has designed thousands of successful projects, however few gain this sort of attention. The question that’s been on our minds lately is why do specific projects like ESCAPE capture such rapid public attention. What specifics about these selections evoke such...

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The Evolving Kitchen: Modern Conveniences and Historic Character

Posted by Joseph G. Metzler on 02.26.14

Over time our homes have changed drastically as the way we live in our homes has changed.  But no room has changed more than the evolving kitchen.  That evolution dictates special considerations when creating a historically appropriate kitchen today. Until the beginning of the 20th century a kitchen was little more than a room containing a cooking stove, tables for food preparation, and sometimes a sink.  Cabinets, called “dressers”, existed but these were usually found in the pantry.  The base cabinets were typically shorter and shallower than our present day cabinets with upper cabinets that...

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How To Get What You Want from Subcontractors

Posted by Joseph G. Metzler on 02.19.14

Details and techniques that are now in common practice are not always appropriate for the old house.  As a result, if you own an old home it can sometimes be very tricky to get what you want from subcontractors.  I was reminded of this when the fabricator providing my counter tops came by to measure. I had already provided plan drawings of what I wanted and they were taking exact measurements.  We had gone over some details including the thickness and edge condition when he mentioned, more in passing, that they provide a large radius on the corners. I was a little in shock that they would even think of...

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Green is the New Black: Designing Sustainably. Part 1: Energy Use.

Posted by David O’Brien Wagner on 02.12.14

As an architect at SALA I’m always exploring new ideas for protecting the land, for reducing our energy footprints, and for selecting materials and finishes that are both durable and sustainable. Sometimes these ideas come from the latest architectural journals I read, but just as often they come from observations on how our ancestors sheltered themselves, whether that be the low-profiled, solar-oriented sod houses of prairie pioneers, or in the snow-insulated and thermally-zoned igloos of the Inuit. In a recent presentation at the Lake Home and Cabin Show in Minneapolis, I talked about four important themes...

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Architect-Potter, Potter-Architect: How Design Can Influence Design

Posted by Wayne Branum on 02.05.14

Some time ago, before I became an architect, I was introduced to a book called, “Architecture Without Architects”. I suspect some have heard of this book. It was actually a catalogue from an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1964-1965. The author, Bernard Rudofsky, discusses the art of building as a universal phenomenon. He found in “primitive” architecture an applied intelligence to uniquely human modes of life. I was drawn to the work in this book because I found simplicity and directness in many of the forms with a sense of structural strength in the materials used. Many...

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One Of The Most Rewarding Stories of Architecture: Repeat Clients

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 01.28.14

One enjoyable benefit as a residential architectural service provider is working with repeat clients. You know their storyline, value system, and color palette. They reciprocate by knowing your process and design proclivities. Unlike the tax accountant who sees their repeat clients once a year or the dentist with six month checkups, there are no scheduled returns for clients of architects. After a quality home design we may see clients return five years later for a build out of their basement, fifteen years later for their cabin design, or never again. I’m struck recently with the proclivity of repeat clients...

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Does Google Know More About Your House Than You Do?

Posted by Ryan Lillion on 01.21.14

Why are you talking about tech on an architecture blog? Correct, this isn’t a post about architecture. At least, not yet it isn’t. Although, a lot of emerging technologies more than likely will be interwoven with such design much sooner than you might think. Last week Google purchased the chic thermostat company Nest for $3.2 billion. This amount is 5.8% of Google’s current cash on hand. In other words, the number of zeros that were on this check was a lot of money even for Google. This price tag was also ten times Nest’s current annual revenue. Clearly this acquisition was deemed a very...

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Showtime! The Home Show Season Has Arrived!

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 01.14.14

Speaking to an audience can always be challenging, for those of us who haven’t taken the Dale Carnegie course, but never more than at a trade show. These audiences sit in the broad open space of the show and viewers filter in and out dependent on the interest in the speaker. Speaker success can thus be measured by whether more seats are filled at the end of the talk rather than the beginning. Entertaining the audience builds critical mass and then others follow until there is standing room only. Knowing your subject is important, but delivering that subject enthusiastically and with humor trumps knowledge. I’ve...

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What You May Not Know About Building Or Remodeling On The St. Croix River

Posted by Wayne Branum on 01.07.14

Over many years of practicing architecture in Minnesota and Wisconsin I have been surprised by how many property owners are not fully informed about the issues involved with building new or remodeling their properties, especially on bodies of water. In this blog series I plan to provide some basic information I hope will help and inform property owners who may be thinking about building in the future.

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Reflecting On Time And Its Large Impact On Architecture

Posted by Katherine Hillbrand on 12.31.13

Sitting in my sleeping compartment on a train to Spokane recently, I found myself thinking about time, mainly because the train was nine hours behind schedule.  I had chosen to travel by train because I wanted to slow my pace, see the countryside, enjoy the journey itself and feel the rhythm of the rails.  Traveling through North Dakota in the dark I could hear the train whistle up ahead as I rocked to sleep.  The sound "Dopplered" through the night, reminding me that I was moving through a vast place. My sense of space and time deepened.

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How Architects Play a Key Role with Designing Interiors of Their Buildings

Posted by Joseph G. Metzler on 12.24.13

Architects have always played a key role in designing the interiors of their buildings.  And for some architects little has changed today.  I find a surprising perception among many people that the architect designs the building shell and exterior and everything inside is the work of an interior designer.  In reality, in most buildings the architect plays a key role on the interior, sometimes working with an interior designer, and sometimes working alone.

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Exceeding Client Expectations on Interiors Through Collaboration

Posted by Paul Hannan on 12.17.13

As architects, we have the opportunity and good fortune to be involved in a variety of design projects.  We work with many clients who have different requirements, challenges, and expectations.  Our challenge is to exceed those expectations while creating delightful and beautiful space for living. A key to a successful design solution is collaboration.  Collaboration between the client, architect, builder, and interior designer.  We all need to work together in order to exceed our client’s expectations. The architect and interior designer must share a common vision for our clients.  We...

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Urban Green: Achieving a Bold House Number

Posted by Eric Odor on 12.10.13

The Urban Green project by Eric Odor made front page of Houzz this week for a defining attribute of this home, its house number. This typical front facing exterior fixture was made prominent with some extra attention to detail and design. The simple elegance of form and material made Urban Green the perfect backdrop for some bold and beautiful graphics. Conceived as a counterpoint to the iron gray siding and the clear cedar boards, this bead blasted stainless steel plate leaves no doubt as to the address of this humble home. As fate would have it, the owners knew a graphic artist who designed...

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Architecture 101: So You Want To Be An Architect?


Every fall I speak to a classroom of students at Jefferson High School for their annual career day. I’ve taken to calling it my So You Want To Be An Architect? talk. It begins with this image and a question: Is this architecture? I became enamored with this little outbuilding a decade ago over frequent drives to visit my grandparents. On the crisp and perfect autumn day the image was shot, I went prepared with a camera, and even the clouds were in my favor. From the condition of the driveway and house in the distance, the farmstead is still occupied but the state of this perfect little building appears frozen in time....

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Thinking outside the (dumpster) box to get the Goods . . . of ReUse.

Posted by Marc Sloot on 11.26.13

Good for your Design, Good for the Environment, and Good for the Economy. I love finding synergies between my passions for beautiful design, sustainability and helping people. To this end, today I want to share some ideas that I hope inspire more ReUse in residential architecture. Good for your Design: In remodeling, ReUse can often allow you to achieve seamless authentic detailing so the finished project is beautifully integrated. I love when visitors ask, “So what did you change?”  I should also re-emphasize that beauty is a green building strategy itself. See my blog...

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Beauty. . . The Unquantified Sustainable Design Strategy

Posted by Marc Sloot on 11.19.13

With my interest in quantifying “green-ness,” which in part comes with my involvement with MN GreenStar, I find it interesting to explore the sustainable attributes of beauty in architecture. Can beauty be quantified? Most humans are hard wired to cherish and preserve those things that are beautiful and meaningful. I am no psychologist, but there is actually psychological research substantiating this phenomena. Wikipedia, posits that: “Konrad Lorenz first proposed the concept of baby schema (Kindchenschema), a set of facial and body features, that make a creature appear "cute" and activate...

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The Challenge of Keeping Old Cabin Charm When Remodeling

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 11.12.13

Photographer: Cheryl Koralik Cabin remodels and additions are as varied as the many existing structures at the lake or in the forrest. This creates a  plethora of client goals and constraining budgets. One frequent challenge is what to do with charming old log cabins. These structures often retain a century of glowing stories, however rarely posses modern conveniences or adequate bedrooms. Marlene Rance presented SALA Architects with just such a challenge after she purchased an antique cabin on a pristine lake in north central Minnesota. The "L" shaped log structure had been added to over the years and time had taken...

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Minimize Old House Kitchen Costs

Posted by Joseph G. Metzler on 11.05.13

Kitchens are generally the most expensive room in any house.  So it may seem a bit surprising that they are typically the most remodeled.  No room has been more affected by changing notions and technology than the kitchen.  And since for most people the kitchen is the center of modern family life, it usually as a high priority for remodeling.  Unfortunately there are also factors related to an old home that can increase the cost of a kitchen remodeling.  But good design can minimize old house kitchen costs. The increased cost can sometimes take homeowners by surprise.  You might not think about the...

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What You May Not Know About Building Or Remodeling On Water Part 2

Posted by Wayne Branum on 10.29.13

In the first installment basic information gathering was covered. I want to add a couple of possible setbacks I missed that can come into play such as wetlands, flood planes and easements. Now you are ready to begin thinking about what you can do within your zoning limitations. I thought case studies would be a good way for you to understand how the process can work. Here are two projects on Wisconsin lakes.

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How to Give a Brand New Cabin a Weathered 100 Year Old Look

Posted by Sara Whicher on 10.22.13

We started with a chunk of Western Red Cedar for a project we were working on starting in 2008. One of the goals for the project was to make the house look 100 years old as soon as it was built. We heard of a product called Lifetime.  We ordered a sample and applied it to a portion of our log.  At first the color was alarmingly green.  At first glance this was not a good sign, however within an hour there was a definite darkening of the log.  As per the instructions we placed it is the sun and within a week it was significantly darker yet. This log has travelled from BC to the Midwest and is a great tool for...

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Cabin Colors

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 10.15.13

I’m in favor of creating a little more color in this world. Nature gives us so many great examples, the intense yellow of an Oriole, the soft pink of the lady Slipper, or the majestic blue of a flax field in bloom. A decade ago a friend asked what color her cabin front door should be as she stood in front of the unpainted door wearing a purplish blue fleece vest. “Your vest color, blueberry, of course,” I stated with professional authority. Now, where can I employ moss green? I’ve just ventured from Ely, Minnesota visiting my fourth cabin where I specified a blueberry door. This color is such...

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Posted by Jody McGuire on 10.08.13

We all click on and watch an occasional TED talk now and then. They are like popcorn when you are hungry for little inspiration. I’m most often captured by the talks given by scientists and by teachers, people who are revealing the world as it is and also as they dream it could be. On September 20, 2013, I attended TEDCity2.0 at the TimesCenter in New York City. Ananya Roy began the day by asking, “just what makes a world class city?”  Mayors, artists, dancers, poets, policy makers, anthropologists, and photographers spoke about how complex, curious and critical that question is to our future. The...

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What You May Not Know About Building or Remodeling on Water

Posted by Wayne Branum on 10.01.13

How zoning can impact property owners planning to build. A blog series by Wayne Branum, AIA Over many years of practicing architecture in Minnesota and Wisconsin I have been surprised by how many property owners are not fully informed about the issues involved with building new or remodeling their properties, especially on bodies of water. In this blog series I plan to provide some basic information I hope will help and inform property owners who may be thinking about building in the future. The first and I think the most important item to know is your property is unique. Do not assume you can do...

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Good Neighbors: Respecting Existing Neighborhoods When Designing Homes

Posted by Paul Hannan on 09.24.13

Within the city, opportunities to build a new home face challenges that are often different than building in a suburban area.  The primary challenge is that vacant land is not readily available.  More often than not, a property already has a house on it that requires demolition in order to build a new home.  Sometimes a buildable lot becomes available when it was originally part of a larger property and has been sub-divided from that property.  Other times, a house has been removed previously or has been destroyed by fire, which creates a vacant property. In the case of the home I designed in Southeast...

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Name that Style! A Contest on the Homes By Architects Tour!

Posted by Katherine Hillbrand on 09.16.13

In a few days I will be struggling to find the right words to explain the style of a home that I designed for an artful couple who have generously allowed us to participate in the Homes by Architects Tour this coming Saturday and Sunday. This tour is an excellent way to share what we have designed together with a good many interested folks.  And I know that I will be asked to explain the style of the home. So much is written about architecture that makes it seem as if the designer had a single guiding principle or idea that, when constructed, can be easily classified in one of any number of styles.  But in...

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Home Convenience and Livability Without Altering Scale or Charm

Posted by Joseph G. Metzler on 09.10.13

Sometimes just a little space can make all the difference in the way a home functions and its livability.  That was the case with a home I recently worked on that will be included in the 2013 Remodelers Showcase organized by the Builder's Association of the Twin Cities.  The home had many of the problems common to any other 1914 home. The home had a kitchen that wasn't the greatest (even though it had been remodeled by a previous owner) and was isolated from the rest of the house.  There was only minimal physical and visual access to the rear yard.  The laundry room was in an...

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Discovering architectural opportunities through small gestures

Posted by Paul Hannan on 09.03.13

Architects who specialize in residential architecture have a way of seeing and discovering opportunities in our projects that often elude others.  We see space differently, we react to our clients needs in ways that are often unexpected, and we present solutions that exceed expectations.  Sometimes, within the context of a larger project, a “small gesture” provides large outcomes. One of the major program requirements for this remodel was to attain greater natural light.  This goal was daunting, due to the fact that the living area of the home faced north, and was built on a heavily wooded lot....

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Evolution of the pencil: An introduction to BIM Software

Posted by Bryan Anderson on 08.27.13

Surely we have all been captivated at various times by the wonders of technology. Whether asking Siri for directions or video conferencing friends and family in the palm of your hand, technology is subtly, but rapidly, raising our expectations. It is also changing the way we design and document homes and buildings. Not too many years ago our firm primarily drafted construction documents with a pencil, and now our favored utensils are being discontinued. Filling their place is a powerful new tool referred to as Building Information Modeling, or BIM. This three-dimensional software allows the user to virtually build a building...

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Adapt Your Old Home to Contemporary Life

Posted by Joseph G. Metzler on 08.20.13

City living is different from suburban living.  This is at least partially because the homes are different.  New homes, usually found where there is plenty of open land, often do a better job of accommodating our contemporary lives.  Those of us who live in old city homes often need to adapt to our homes.  But why not instead adapt your old home to contemporary life? More than anything else, isolated old house kitchens require us to adapt.  In most cases we simply put up with the isolation of anyone in the kitchen from the rest of the family.  New suburban homes recognize the kitchen as the hub...

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How the Westin Cabin was inspired by Edwin Lundie

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 08.13.13

Recently the Ninth Annual Edwin Lundie Tour took place along the North Shore of Lake Superior. One of the seven sites on this tour was a design of mine that was influenced by Lundie called The Westin Cabin. As an architect who has researched the designs of Edwin Lundie, one doesn’t have to copy him to have learned from him. Most notably I’ve learned to keep the footprint simple, preferably a rectangle, and the size modest. That way the added value can be realized in the quality and character of the materials inside and out. Lundie’s cabin designs for the North Shore of Lake Superior were seasonal structures...

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Zumbro Zen: A Stairway as a “frontage road”

Posted by Eric Odor on 08.06.13

The flat-roofed galvalume metal sheeting and glass bump out shown in the photograph of this sustainably sleek hillside home is encasing a straight run stair and its landings (glass). This idea of stair as “frontage road” can remove a circulation obstacle, and free up the otherwise open plan of a typically narrow solar oriented home and let the light, views, &  breezes have there way.

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Dog Days on a Screen Porch

Posted by Bryan Anderson on 07.30.13

The Retreat is the name our friends have given their get-away home in Western Wisconsin. It is aptly named because it is as suitable to a quiet weekend escape as it is accommodating an active group. In any condition, it always involves good food and great friends! Visitors enter the retreat on grade and ascend a stair to the main living area. The room is long and tall, with a high south-facing clerestory—or band of windows—and a continuous north-facing view of woods, wildlife, and creek. Known as “the campground,” the area beneath the living room shares the magical view but has long been open to the...

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The Love Story

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 07.09.13

This love story began 2 years ago when Joyce Mattson and Dennis Wille met Dale Mulfinger at the Lake Home and Cabin Show in Minneapolis. They were looking for the right Architect to design their family cabin on Bean Lake, just south of Hayward WI. Morning sunrise over Bean Lake. Dale Mulfinger and Sara Whicher have lead the way on this project which Joyce says, “has indeed brought Dennis and I even closer together”.  The photo below is a piece of the creative process the architect and client team visualized. This early schematic model of the cabin shows design where the loft overlooks the living area and the...

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An Incredible Homemade Castle in Colorado Tells a Scary Tale on Building Codes

Posted by Katherine Hillbrand on 07.02.13

Building code restrictions are in place to keep us safe and in good health, right?  With that in mind, I have to confess that I have been frustrated at times by the degree of code regulation.  But a few weeks ago I had an epiphany while driving through the mountains in southern Colorado. We had abandoned the freeway and headed up into the hills on the Greenhorn Highway in search of a trailhead. It was a perfect day for hiking, sunny and cool.  The air was laden with the smell of ponderosa pine and spring flowers.  I had my head tilted back enjoying the treetops and fluffy clouds as they whizzed by when I saw...

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Don’t Let Smoke Alarms Tarnish Your Decor

Posted by Joseph G. Metzler on 06.25.13

Most smoke alarms are just plain ugly.  Certainly as some have gotten smaller they are a bit less noticeable.  But their appearance can still be a distraction in an otherwise well thought out interior.  But there is a low-profile smoke alarm solution that is different and less noticeable than the others.  This low-profile smoke alarm looks so much better that I specify for all my projects. The Kidde Silhouette smoke alarm is designed to be mostly recessed into an electrical box so it only projects slightly from the wall.  It is hardwired but also has a sealed rechargeable battery backup that lasts the...

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Japanese Garden House ...In My Bedroom

Posted by Katherine Hillbrand on 06.18.13

I wake up early at our place in Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota in the summer because of a glow in our upstairs bedroom. The sun’s rays reach deeply into the room imbuing the smooth Port Orford cedar timbers of our garden house, or Japanese Machiai, with rose-colored light.  I savor the smell and lovely color.  You may wonder why there is a Japanese garden house in our bedroom. Naturally, there is a story behind it, The room was crowded and noisy.  The auctioneer was working the crowd.  There was no rhyme or reason to bidding prices but all raised hands were aimed at sustaining the Timber Framer’s...

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The Pay As You Go Cabin Dream

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 06.11.13

For many folks, cabins appear as luxury, only to be paid for by cash available. But there is a way to build your dream cabin – on a budget. After the land is paid off there are several options for a pay as you go strategy for cabin creation.

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Spend a Night with Wright

Posted by Bryan Anderson on 06.04.13

For anyone looking to expand on the typical Midwestern architectural pilgrimage to Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio in Spring Green, Wisconsin, consider a trip to Mason City, Iowa, where instead of settling for a 45 minute tour, you can stay—docent-free—in the recently renovated Historic Park Inn Hotel. Constructed in 1910, it is the only remaining Wright-designed hotel in existence, and a rare opportunity to indulge in the scale and intimacy of Wright’s Prairie School prowess for as long as you like. The pilgrimage continues right out the front door with a local walking tour. Mason City,...

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Small Home. Small Lot. Small Energy Footprint. Here’s How.

Posted by Eric Odor on 06.01.13

URBAN GREEN The Task: A small home on a small lot with a small energy footprint for a growing family. The Solution: This LEED for Homes, 2250 sq. ft. three bedroom house with detached garage is nestled within a 42’x128’ infill lot in Linden Hills. It features an eclectic blend of traditional and contemporary elements which weave it seamlessly into the existing fabric of this transitional neighborhood while at the same time addressing the client’s desire for sustainable living in the context of a more modern open plan. The home’s elegantly simple...

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81 Minutes After the Bridge Collapse

Posted by David O’Brien Wagner on 05.24.13

Sometimes, Architects Get to Make History. Most of the time, architects are focused on the present, or even the future. Clients come to us because they’re expecting children and their house is getting too small, or they are thinking ahead to retirement years, and want something smaller. Recently, I had the chance to go back in time, to August 1, 2007, to be exact. As anyone in Minnesota will tell you, that was a horrific day in our history. Just after rush hour that evening, with no warning, the I-35 W Bridge over the Mississippi collapsed, dropping nearly 300 people, and causing the deaths of 13. Like many others who...

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Real Rewards of Winning Awards

Posted by Wayne Branum on 05.09.13

Spring time is what some refer to as awards season in the Residential Architects community. A couple of the well promoted honors are The Home of the Month Awards by The Star Tribune, and the RAVE Awards by Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine. This year SALA was privileged to be the recipient of three 2013-2014 Home of the Month Awards that will be presented in The Star Tribune throughout the coming year. Of course it’s always wonderful to receive praise from one’s peers, but what’s even more rewarding is the public gets exposure and inspiration from past clients’ projects. I always have great satisfaction when...

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Bark Siding is Back

Posted by Dale Mulfinger on 05.03.13

One of the historic building products appropriate to cabins that has returned to the market is bark siding. Once popular to rustic lodges and cabins in the 1890’s to 1920’s it then disappeared due to blight in the chestnut trees from which it was harvested. Recent growth of yellow poplar has created a substitute product which is now available to the market through Bark House in North Carolina.       An excellent book, Bark House Style, by Chris McCurry and Nan Chase records the history of possibilities of this product.     At SALA Architects we are now in our second lake...

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Net-Zero Farmhouse

Posted by Eric Odor on 04.26.13

After a year of fine-tuning work has begun the NET-ZERO Farmhouse where our goal is to produce as much energy as we consume and hopefully more! Our approach here is an extremely tight and energy efficient envelop with triple pane windows, natural lighting and ventilation, and highly energy efficient fixtures and appliances to reduce the overall load balanced by a high efficiency wood burning boiler and an array of 16 photovoltaic panels to heat and power this 2000sf farmhouse. The excavation and footings are complete and the formwork for the Thermomass foundation is also nearly done with the concrete pour to come in tomorrow....

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Original Bookcase?

Posted by Bryan Anderson on 04.19.13

I enjoy books and over the years have collected quite a few, from slim paperbacks to oversized architecture tomes, but my partner and I recently moved into a house that offered no place to visibly store them. After a semi-exhaustive search, we identified a freestanding unit with potential, but wondered if we couldn’t design something built in for the same amount of money. I did a scaled sketch of the fireplace wall with a custom design and sent the drawing to three cabinetmakers for review and estimates.  To our delight, the high estimate came back at only a few hundred dollars more than the freestanding option....

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A Walk in the Woods

Posted by Katherine Hillbrand on 04.10.13

When my husband, Deane and I went for a walk in our woods a few years back, I needed to look down so that I could step over stones and the underbrush without getting tangled up and losing my balance.  Deane on the other hand, had his head tilted up and back.  As usual he found his footing easily while he studied the trees above us. We had been commissioned to design a barn that had the genuine feel of an old English tithe barn.  We talked to our client about using trees in their natural form as the supportive structure and using traditional square mortise and tenon joinery. (Imagine fitting a square joint into a...

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Since 1983, SALA has opened new possibilities through architectural design for clients and projects of every scale and sensibility. Our team of project architects and staff professionals work collaboratively to uncover ideas that contribute to the beauty and function of all that we create. The results are highly inventive, thoughtfully crafted, and intimately connected to the lives of their users. We see design as an exploration. What follows are small windows into the world of SALA Architects and its myriad efforts to enrich the human experience while sustaining the environment that supports it. The magic of Architecture has...

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