We met our Scandinavian Modern Interior clients when they called us in 2018. A doctor couple, they had dedicated their lives to their careers, and were now ready to splurge on their personal space.
Passionate about design and detailed, high-quality solutions, they needed help with a design vision and master plan for their existing residence. They had inhabited their current home for almost thirty years and intended to stay in-place. They wanted to start with a well-designed process to finish-out of their lower level, to-date untouched and unfinished.
Our client was interested in a new high-end, modern design vision for the downstairs. Over the years they had considered many ideas and uses, but the solution had not become readily apparent to them. So they began their search for help on the design-side.
They had self-performed some general home improvement projects. In some instances they hired contractors to help complete updates. However, having been generally unhappy with the quality of the work by others, they had chosen to do work themselves for the most part over the last two decades. More recently they had engaged with a contractor who provided an updated entry and stair from main level to upper level.
They wanted a space to support personal well-being, replenishment, and relaxation. It needed to include a new bathroom, media space, workout, dedicated shoe storage, kitchenette, and office nook. Also, it needed more light and a walk-out connection to the outdoors.
But they were not sure where to turn to find someone to help with a modern, comprehensive design vision, who communicates clearly, and can then oversee the implementation of that vision.
Around that same time as they were considering what to do, they saw that New Modern House 1 was for-sale. They considered purchasing that property initially. Instead, they decided to just call HAUS. When we met, we learned that we had a lot in-common with regard to dedicated career pursuit, self-reliance, and desire for high-quality. For sure, we understood one-another on a personal level.
We listened to the Owner’s goals to finish the downstairs in a modern aesthetic. While reviewing work others recently completed at interior entry, stair, and railings, we noticed that the stair work appeared to be uneven, and uncomfortable to navigate. Upon further review, it became evident that the work did not meet building code, and was very difficult to traverse due to inconsistency of the treads and risers.
We hated to break the bad news, but shared our observation and we discussed options for resolution and how we could help resolve the issue as part of the lower level project. Owner also shared a story about previous water intrusion into the space. Contractors had previously piled soils and landscaping too high onto the existing perimeter walls also with improper drainage. We’d need to resolve that also.
We also reviewed other details, such as the existing HVAC runs, truss structure, and how we could conceal the mechanicals while exposing other areas for a modern, Scandinavian-influenced design solution. In addition, Owner wanted to discuss ideas for reusing some available smooth limestone wall caps previously acquired from a failed masonry wall installation.
Just how could we creatively incorporate all of these goals into the master plan?
The design plan included solutions to tie everything together into a comprehensive whole.
For instance, we designed a completely new stair to connect all three levels of the residence. We opened the walk-out lower-level with new windows + door to the outside. This brought-in 2-times more light and made for a more desirable inside-out relationship.
Also, we left some walls exposed concrete, and added a light gray tint and polish to the exposed concrete floors. To help bring the Scandinavian, we incorporated areas of rift-cut white oak to the exterior walls, cabinetry, and TV wall. The new architectural stair also utilized white oak for stringers, treads, and handrails.
Stainless steel rods closed the open riser gap, and vertical stainless steel cables infilled the guardwall gaps where required to meet building code minimum openings. White-painted Poplar makes-up the vertical guardrails and walls to share light between levels. Also, we worked with Owner and craftspeople to fashion a few custom furniture pieces into the mix.
We concealed HVAC + wire runs behind strategically-placed drywall ceilings and bulkheads. Also, we painted other exposed ceiling black, and added black track lighting to highlight the architectural focal points. The available smooth limestone wall caps create a modern fireplace surround. Precision installation was a must.
Due to our client’s interest in design and quality implementation, Architect suggested that Owner work with WERK | Building Modern for the construction implementation to make sure that the plan was followed to a “T” and Owner goals were fully realized in the construction phase.
Through the design process, from the big picture down to the minute details, we gained the client’s trust and affirmed that we would be the best fit for executing the design vision of their project. Owner agreed, and we rolled forward with the detailed implementation via WERK.
Even with a thorough design plan laid-out in 3D, we still had more detail design work to complete in working out stair and other details in the construction. Having the architect in-charge of construction meant the Owner received the benefit of design + build in one entity. This definitely streamlined communications and implementation of the details with architect working directly with the trade contractors daily.
In addition to correcting the issues with the previous stair improvements and water-intrusion issues, we also were able to reuse the limestone from previous projects while keeping things on-course during construction, which lasted from May 2019 to early February 2020.
With thoughtful and diligent daily oversight, we were able to bring the details together successfully with cohesive integration of all program elements. Now our client has a place to escape and relax or workout without having to leave the house while they contemplate their next project!
Project Info – Scandinavian Modern Interior:
Construction Process – Scandinavian Modern Interior
A Clean Slate:
Here are some existing photos of the existing space. We’re starting with a clean slate, but we’ll need to clean-up some existing conditions a bit before new work begins:
We’ll expose the existing concrete walls designated portions of the space. As a result, we decided to media-blast those locations to remove any dirt and debris. A bit of sealer and the walls are ready!
In addition to leaving some of the walls exposed, the existing concrete floor is to remain exposed. We also ground the floors to expose some of the aggregate and sand. We’ll re-clad the existing fireplace and convert it to a gas log system. We’ll open-up the exterior wall large windows to bring-in more natural light.
Materials are arriving for the architectural stair. We’ll construct the exposed portions of the architectural stair with white oak provided by Cox Interiors.
Selective Removal – Scandinavian Modern Interior:
While the space was a ‘blank slate’, we did have some demolition work to do to get ready for the new work. This included removing the ancient spray foam that had shrunk, cracked, and turned to dust in many locations; removing old drywall, pulling back the existing wiring, and opening up the exterior wall for the new windows. The project will receive over 200% more natural light as a result of the new openings.
We removed the existing insulation. Spray foam wasn’t always the great product that we know today. The former version did not age well and as a result had contracted, cracked, and crumbled, resulting in either under-insulated areas or uninsulated areas. We brought all project areas up to current standards and above.
As with many renovation projects, we found several other unsatisfactory conditions during the demo phase. For instance, while opening up the exterior wall, we discovered incomplete window flashings on original windows. With the wall opened up and exterior dirt pulled back, we were able to correct these conditions for the new windows. Having the architect involved during construction is a must. Who is acting on your behalf to ensure details like properly-installed window flashings are installed correctly (this time, anyway)?
Time to move:
With the new windows installed, it is time to get moving on more interior items – we are framing walls and working on the stair opening. While modifying the existing conditions, we noticed several conditions that were not satisfactory structurally. Many of the framing members didn’t have proper hanger hardware. Also, in one instance a wall was chopped up in order to run a couple of air returns. We could have minimized delays and ignored those conditions. However, inadequate conditions should never be ignored or covered up without review. We took the time to review each of the conditions with the client and explain why these are not okay. While these fixes ultimately cost additional money, we want to educate the client so they have a clear understanding of the issues and can make informed decisions.
Boulder Shoulder – Scandinavian Modern Interior:
Another important element of the space is the refreshed fireplace. Remember when we mentioned that during renovation projects you will find issues buried? While having both of the fireplaces inspected, it was noted that the upper fireplace was built in such a way that it constricted the flue of the lower fireplace. This means in order to have a functioning fireplace, we have limited options and choices of inserts. The current fireplace is wood-burning but we’ll be converting the fireplace to a vent-less gas-insert.
Do you recall us mentioning our client had apprehensions about contracting out labor? Some fifteen years ago, our client built a brick wall to serve as a barrier between their property and the adjacent road. During that project, someone other than our client made a mistake that resulted in the wrong limestone being purchased. Unfortunately, our client got stuck with this extra stone and the bill. Fast forward to today and we are integrating the stone into our design. The new fireplace will be clad in limestone as mentioned earlier. We spent time with the owner, hand-selecting the pieces and picking which pieces are to go where on the wall.
The owner spent time hand-processing and cleaning the pieces of limestone. There are a few pieces that may become custom furniture pieces later in the project but we’ll revisit that. We are sending the stone out for final cutting before it returns for installation.
Typically, your CM-Construction Manager is handling all of the coordination of materials and labor that go into your project. If the architect is involved during construction, they’re able to correspond with the CM to ensure any questions and adjustments are made with the design vision in mind. After all, you did pay for the design. Wouldn’t you want to ensure you’re getting exactly that?
If the architect is not involved in any capacity during construction, it’s likely that you will not get the design for which you paid – or even realize the design-intent. Our client immediately recognized the value of keeping the Architect involved during the construction process and hired us as the Construction Manager through our sister-company, WERK. In doing so, we’ve streamlined the communication channels. Architect collaborates directly with trade contractors and Owner without the middle-person.
Stair Master 3000 – Scandinavian Modern Interior:
The main stair is beginning to take shape now that we have corrected the structural issues. Based on our observations during demolition, we are happy that “they don’t build them like they used to”, haha. It appears that framers were cutting a lot of corners then, figuratively and literally. We are constantly monitoring and double-checking to ensure that we build to the drawings and specifications.
The stair will be one of a few showpieces of the project. It’s important to make sure that we properly execute all of the details to the highest level of quality. If one element is off, it affects subsequent details. The owner mentioned that after-hours he was checking the new framing with lasers. He noted that the tolerances were all within 1/16th of an inch!