Photos by Wing Ta
“I never thought, ‘Let’s live next to a stadium,’ but it’s pretty fantastic,” says Christopher Strom of his south Minneapolis home. Located on a corner lot across the street from a busy school sports field, Strom’s 1926 abode creates connections and neighborhood stories.
In fact, a tall-windowed room on the home’s rear corner lets in all the conversation the local architect could ever want. From inside the space, the family can spectate a track and field meet or converse with neighbors walking to and from the nearby farmers market. When temperatures turn, storm windows seasonally convert the same porch into a quiet and cozy family room.
One could argue Strom’s friendly demeanor translates into his own architectural style, which he describes as ‘warm modern.’ “I like things fairly minimal in design, but that can sound monastic and austere,” he explains. “‘Warm’ means comfortable and gracious without rigidity. If I were to design my own home, I would create a modern space with lots of glass. I would explore different materials and use metal, concrete, and wood together.”
Instead, Strom embraces this specific style of work in clients’ new construction projects. Christopher Strom Architects, his eponymous architecture firm in St. Louis Park, also aids homeowners with remodeling needs. “New construction is great because you can start a new story yourself,” Strom says. “With additions and remodels, you edit existing stories, working with the old and the new, the found and the created. We make sure homeowners understand that design is not an answer—it’s a conversation.”
During this process, Strom and his architects engage clients with questions about their expectations and desires. “We reduce it to the essentials and make it beautiful,” he says. But what are Strom’s essentials? What does he look for when he enters a home?
“I don’t know if there’s one thing,” he reflects. “How solidly does the front door close? Do I feel like a guest? Is this an interesting space? Do I get a view to the outdoors or just to other rooms? Is there somewhere I want to sit?”
For Strom, it’s as much about the actual sitting as it is about seeing the place he wants to sit. The architectural idea of “prospect and refuge” says we seek environments to explore and places where we can take rest. Strom’s home has those places, and he seeks to create that for others. It’s less about escape and more about our awareness of surroundings.
“There is beauty in constraints and doing the best you can with existing spaces,” he says. “Like with my home—it has history and connections to the neighborhood, and it has been made more interesting by its rough edges. Just like people we all know.”
Influencer | Christopher Strom
Do you consider yourself a scientist or an artist? I’m an artist. I think about architecture more in terms of a vision. Yes, I use science-based methodology to realize that vision, but in the end, I’m conceptual.
Which trend do you want to set yourself? I would love to get people to build smaller. Smaller homes allow for so much efficiency and allow us to create more potent work that doesn’t feel limited.
Does Minnesota have a style? I think there’s a local style, although I can’t define it. The climate makes our buildings sturdier and thicker, and we love our connections to the outdoors. Individual neighborhood styles are evident across the Twin Cities—defined in part by people and their surroundings.
What’s your stress reliever? My family is my best stress reliever. My wife and two sons (6th and 8th grade) keep me laughing.