AIA Minnesota Guide to Good Design 2017

A sun room with walls made of glass looks out onto a lake surrounded by a forest as the sun sets.

COULSON. Photo by Carly Coulson


The American Institute of Architects Minnesota is the professional association for architects in Minnesota. With over 2,300 members statewide, it is a state component of the national AIA. AIA helps to build awareness about the value of architecture, and serves as the voice of the architectural profession and the resource for its members in service to society.

AIA Minnesota member architects are licensed by the state of Minnesota and adhere to the AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, assuring clients, the public, and colleagues of their dedication to the highest standards of professional practice.

 A living room built by Rehkamp Larson Architects featuring wicker furniture and a red brick fireplace.

Rehkamp Larson Architects. Photo by Scott Amundson Photography


Most homeowners dream of either building their “perfect” home or remodeling their existing home in a way that dramatically changes how they live; a once-in-a-lifetime interior or exterior facelift.

Licensed by the state to practice architecture, architects are the only professionals with the education, training, experience, and vision to not only maximize your dollars, but also manage all aspects of your project from the beginning stages through the final construction. Calling in a qualified AIA architect is a surefire way to get the project off the ground, bringing you one step closer to your dream home.

 A living room built by U+B Architecture that features a small table with chairs surrounding it, a blue sofa and floor-to-ceiling windows.

U+B Architecture. Photo by U+B Architecture

Designing with personality

Anyone can alter a building; but not just anyone can alter a building with character, style, and imagination. An appealing design, improved functionality, and quality detailing all increase your property’s value. An AIA architect will work with you in great depth, tailoring the design to suit your personality, needs, budget, and lifestyle. They help to create an environment, not just a room with four walls.

An exterior of a home built by Sala Architects.

Sala Architects. Photo by Troy Thies Photography

Saving you money

An AIA architect can help you get the most bang for your buck by recommending specific materials and systems that fit within your budget, suggesting quality builders, even finding extra light and space you didn’t realize you had. Good design and planning can go a long way in helping you reap considerable long-term benefits.

 A stairway made of light-colored wood built by Locus Architecture.

Locus Architecture. Photo by Matt Munson

Professional training

It’s not easy trying to find a balance between function, aesthetics, economics, the environment, health and safety, and regulations and procedures. AIA architects, though, are trained to see the big picture, taking into account the many different aspects that go into good design. They know the industry inside and out, and they understand the regulations and obligations that come with planning and building to code. They can also help you prepare the documents needed to acquire various permits. Good architects will make sure a building is safely designed, and will last for many, many years.

 An exterior of a home designed by Design Filter with the Minneapolis skyline in the background.

Design Filter. Photo by Andrea Rugg Photography

Serving as your advocate

AIA architects work hard to represent you and protect your best interests. They review project materials, construction methods, and will act as your analyst, adviser, and intermediary. You make the decisions, but they make sure you have the information you need to make informed decisions. If a problem should arise, your architect will help you find a solution without compromising the design, your needs, or your financial investment.

Questions to ask Your AIA Minnesota Architect

• What do you see as important issues or considerations in our project?

• What are the challenges of the project?

• How will you gather information about our needs, goals, etc.?

• How will you establish priorities and make decisions?

• Who from the architecture firm will we be dealing with directly? Is that the same person who will be designing the project?

• How busy are you? Can this project comfortably fit within your other office projects?

• What sets you apart from other architects?

• How do you establish fees?

• What would you expect the fee to be for this project?

• What are the steps in the design process?

• What is your design philosophy?

• What is your experience/track record with cost estimating?

• What will you show us along the way to explain the project? (Will we see models, drawings, or sketches)

For more information: AIA Minnesota 612-338-6763 |

Featured Project: Christopher Strom Architects

 A pub bar built by Christopher Strom Architects.

The lower level was transformed into a mini pub. Photo by Alyssa Lee Photography

Old homes have character, but they don’t always have adequate space or functional layouts. The homeowners of this 1915 Tudor Revival in Minneapolis, near Lake of the Isles, hired Christopher Strom Architects to help transform the attic, the main level kitchen, and the basement into stylish areas used for hanging out, cooking (while watching sports), and entertaining. 

An attic was redone by Christopher Strom Architects to let in natural light.

The sloped roof was restructured to let in natural sunlight. Photo by Alyssa Lee Photography

One way they maximized existing square footage was through utilizing the attic, space that had been used strictly for storage since the home had been built. The sloped roof was restructured to create dormers—letting in natural sunlight and showing off views of the lake. The new space also features a window seat, bookshelves, and space for mechanical equipment. In order to use the room year-round, the addition of high-performance insulation also became part of the plan. The new-and-improved attic is a favorite getaway spot for the family’s young children.

 A kitchen was redesigned by Christopher Strom Architects to create a more efficient space.

A more efficient layout was created in the kitchen. Photo by Alyssa Lee Photography

In the kitchen, the homeowners wanted a space that feels historic, without sticking to just one style. They also wanted a more efficient layout and a place to gather and watch sports while preparing a meal. The architect translated these goals by taking inspiration from a turn-of-the century chemistry lab and the house’s own Tudor detailing. To achieve this stripped-down “lab” aesthetic, the design includes dark granite work surfaces and backsplashes, wall-mounted plumbing fixtures, narrow drawers, and tiled ledges to display bottled kitchen supplies. An island anchors the space, adding a natural, organic element to the black and white palette.

By clearing the unfinished basement  of pipes and building utilities, the lower level was transformed into a mini pub, with a beautiful expansive bar and entertainment lounge area, complete with a shuffleboard and pool table. An exterior door (à la “Cheers” style) allows guests to come and go without entering the main level. With planning, good design, and creative thinking, the architects gave this old home a completely new life.

By Special Advertising Section Editor, Chrissy Sarinske


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