When Texas native Susan Denk found herself living in Minnesota, she knew what she wanted to do: build a company grounded in quality. And with the initial help of a fellow creative partner, that’s exactly what she did when she founded White Crane Construction in 2002. The Minneapolis firm, which specializes in residential remodeling, has won numerous awards over the years, including a national Contractor of the Year award. “It’s all about people,” says Denk, who now has 30 years of industry experience under her belt. “We focus on working with clients to help them realize their dream, and we work with subs who reflect our values.” Those values include making sure clients are involved in every step of the process and completely on board with every detail, from conceptual design to weekly meetings with project managers–qualities that continue to help set Denk and her company apart from others.
How did you decide a career in the trades was for you?
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I graduated from college, but I knew I liked the trades. I was artistic and loved working with my hands. But I wanted to manage creative projects as well and maybe run my own business, so I got my MBA. When I moved up here to follow a relationship, I just naturally thought I’d stick with what I loved to do.
How do you approach an older-home remodel?
We love, love, love anything vintage, so we help the client figure out how to update and upgrade a house without sacrificing its character and charm. For instance, we tell the client when something like the old knob-and-tube wiring has to go, and most houses these days are going to need central air. But we work with clients to make a design that’s right for them. For example, I’m really proud of a Tudor upgrade we did. The couple loved the Dutch design sensibility, and they wanted to incorporate that feel in their remodel. So we used lots of rich textures and a fairly neutral color palette with soft blues and browns. It’s really just lovely.
What room typically changes during a remodel?
Families these days don’t want or need a formal dining room. But they do need a place to gather around a table. We usually open up the floor plan in an older home and focus on flow, so there’s a big workspace for the kids to do homework while Mom and Dad are getting dinner ready.