Greg Kraus, a project designer with the firm of Otogawa-Anschel Design-Build in Minneapolis, Minn., said he’s got a simple rule of thumb for dealing with a client that pays big, big dividends in the long run.
“I always tell them, ‘tell me what you consider to be your reachable dreams and what you consider to be unreachable dreams,’” Kraus said. “And the reason I do that is I think it’s easier to take a big idea and focus it down and make it fit the client’s budget, than to approach it the other way around, where you’re constantly trying to fit a new element in.
“Making a list of everything they might possibly want not only helps you go through and decide on priorities, it gives you the flexibility to say, ‘Hey, while I was doing the design, I realized we have a great space for those books you said are languishing in boxes in the basement.’
“You add things to a design based on what you have, rather than try to shoe-horn it in,” he said.
When Kraus met Matt and Chris Massman, the couple pointed him to their largely unfinished and drafty attic and asked him to design a master suite with a bathroom and a good sized closet, a decent home-office space, and still allow room for storage and a possible second bedroom for guests.
Oh, and there was one more thing, they wanted to keep the entire space as wide open as possible.
“The nice thing about working in Minneapolis is people will call and say, ‘We want to a remodeling project, and we want it to be green, and oh, by the way, it’s a master bedroom or a kitchen or whatever,” Kraus said.
“Selling green isn’t the challenge – our founder Michael Anschel has done a wonderful job promoting here in the twin cities and across the country as well. Sometimes the biggest challenge is finding green products that fit the client’s budget,” he said.
To help meet the Massman’s budget, Otogawa-Anschel did the design, and the homeowners did most of the construction with the help of a local handyman.
The designer said he also relied a great deal on the reuse of material, including leftovers from a kitchen remodel the Massman’s had previously done themselves.
“They had salvaged some of the cabinets from the original kitchen, and we able to take a former pantry and convert it into a linen closet for the new bathroom,” Kraus said.
He also reused the couple’s existing hardwood, Douglas Fir floors, and recycled tile in the master bath.
“We also did open shelving, rather than closed cabinets, so that we could save on the amount of material used,” Kraus said.
While the designer said he typically avoids using carpet in projects because it traps allergens and is often “in itself, a kind of nasty product,” he did use a little bit in the Massman project, choosing a wool carpet with a natural backing and then tacking it down with a low-VOC adhesive.
“One of the things that helped us achieve our green goals was the openness the client wanted,” Kraus said. “Keeping the space largely open allowed natural light to flow through the space, and reduced the need for artificial light, and where we did employ artificial light, it was all energy efficient.
“At the same time, because it was a largely wide open space, the client could open a window and it would allow for a cross wind up there, creating a natural cooling effect in the summer,” he said. “Again, it was a matter of being green, but also doing it within budget constraints, so what you have in a case like that is a challenge to be creative about manipulating the existing space.”
In creating the office area, Kraus removed the existing dropped ceiling, and then wrapped the structural posts running from floor to ceiling with recycled Douglas Fir, creating the allusion that the rooms were separated by big, heavy timbers.
“It’s always important to remember that you shouldn’t not use you talent for designing for affect just because you’re designing to be green,” Krause said.
“In the case, of the posts, that was definitely a case of taking a green approach to creating a visual illusion. The same could be said about the simply act of removing the dropped ceiling,” he said. “For this project we didn’t add any dormers or change the roof line, but by making these changes, we made the rooms seem larger.
“Being green, at its most basic, is very much trying to use what the house already has,” Kraus added.
Other green features included the utilization of spray foam insulation to ceil the building envelop and, the one extravagance, the installation of a mini-split air conditioner, which Kraus described as “uber efficient” at keeping a fairly wide, open space, cool.
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