Midwest Nest Magazine

Midwest Nest Magazine

Culture, Entertaining, and Home Design

Category: Culture

A Repurposed Life – The Grain Elevator Project: Phase 1

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis Photography Historic photos and plans provided by Dahm’s Design Scott Dahm photographed with his golden retriever Piper, inside his Baker, M.N., grain…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography
Historic photos and plans provided by Dahm’s Design

Scott Dahm photographed with his golden retriever Piper, inside his Baker, M.N., grain elevator home.

This winter’s record-breaking, low temps haven’t been easy for anyone, but if you’re Scott Dahms and trying to renovate a grain elevator, it’s been an epic challenge.
Just a short drive south of Sabin, Dahms’ industrial home is located in the town of Baker, M.N. Although it’s a work-in-progress, it’s come a long way since day one when it was considered merely a dilapidated landmark along highway 52. When we found out he was currently residing in it with his two sons, we had to get a glimpse of what it’s like to renovate and live in a rural grain elevator.

Don’t try this at home. Scott Dahms is a licensed architect and contractor with his business Dahms Design. Even he doesn’t recommend taking on a project like this unless you either have an unlimited budget or the skills to do the work. Even with the knowledge, you’re likely going to need the help of someone like his project manager, Tom Meyer, and a whole lot of patience.

Phase 1
Since purchasing the elevator for $15,000 on Craigslist last December, Dahms has transformed the space into a shop and apartment space he’s proud to call home. Those who at one time thought he had lost his mind with this purchase, are now taking another look. Dahms and Meyer have countless hours of sweat equity into demo work, preservation and giving the space basic functions like running water, heat and electricity. Beyond these challenges, Dahms was able to create a kitchen near the main entrance, a dining room, office, bathroom and lofted family room with a second-story bedroom. While some of the spaces are completed or near completion, many of the rooms are a work-in-progress. For Dahms, building basic function and making it livable for him and his two sons, was the main goal. The additional space also needed to function for his architecture and contracting business, Dahms Design.

Rural Life in Baker
Dahms’ grain elevator is located in the small, rural town of Baker, Minnesota, and township of Alliance, just to the South of Sabin. Local historians can tell you that in the 1930s Baker was once a booming town often visited by those grabbing a train ride to the popular dance hall. With the addition of the interstate system, the hustle and bustle slowed and now a mere 55 people inhabit the town, all eager to share their stories. “When we first started working on it, there was a person a day stopping in to tell us a story from the past,” said Dahms. “Either their dad once worked here or they did. I’ve got a newspaper clipping that one guy dropped off from when the previous elevator that was here, burned down. Another guy dropped off an old stapler and actual grain bags from when it was the Red River Grain elevator.” The elevator has actually had three lives when it was still in business, with a couple of fires prompting rebuilds.

“When we first started working out here in March or April, we came in and started throwing stuff out and people would come by asking what we were doing. You could just see the questioning in their eyes of what we were trying to do. After about three or four months, people started seeing that we were making headway. I think they started to actually believe that these guys might get something done,” laughed Meyer.

“We’ve been extremely blessed with the surrounding community. It’s been such warm welcome,” said Dahms. “One of the first days I was out here, using a weed-wacker to cut down weeds, one of the farmers came over and said, you know, why don’t I bring my machine over here and I’ll get this done. I’m not very good at asking for help on things, but the next day I came out they were completely gone. He had done the old trees, brush, ditch, everything,” laughed Dahms. “Sometimes people just stop by and see how we’re doing.”

Weathering the Elements
“We bought this thing in February and we just went gangbusters on it all summer long. It was too big of a project to get completely buttoned-up by the time we needed. Plus, that surprise cold-snap in October, we thought that was it,” said Dahms. “We also had to keep revenue coming in from our other jobs. So, when we go in the other shop room, you’ll probably see drifts inside from the other night. When the storm came through, it went from nice in here to freezing the pipes in a matter of a few hours. We were smart enough to put in shut-offs so I can easily shut things off and drain lines if I have to. You almost have to change your way of thinking in terms of what a normal home does.” For Dahms, one of the biggest challenges right now is the plumbing. The property is not big enough for a drain field, so in terms of septic, he relies on tanks. As Dahms explained, this is a big project he needs to tackle before moving on to the other spaces.

“The thing with this project is, you get frustrated, but you just have to laugh,” said Dahms. “This project is overwhelming, but it’s exactly how I want it to be. I’m going through a propane tank about every two to three weeks which is usually $600 to $700 dollars. But, I don’t write a check to a bank or landlord every month, so when the first of the month comes, I’m not stressed out about it.” One small perk is that Dahms actually gets free internet by allowing the provider to use his elevator as a tower. He also won’t likely have a cooling bill in the summer. There happen to be two, 20-feet-deep pits on the other side of the elevator with ice build-up in them. With a little pipe fabrication, these will serve as free, geothermal air-conditioning.

Ignoring Rationale
If anyone’s wondering what inspires someone to take on a project of the magnitude, Dahms will tell you that it was a lot of life changes. After a divorce, he bought the elevator and a Porsche he’s wanted since he was eight-years-old. “It’s a total 180 of what I was doing before, which is exactly where I think I was meant to be,” said Dahms. “Sometimes you can’t bring rational thinking into it because it can kill the dream so to speak. For everything I know as an adult or as a responsible person, it doesn’t make sense. A banker is not going to step in and borrow money for this. What’s my resale value on this? Someone could buy it, but if I ever have an issue and have to go to a realtor and have them list my house, it’s not going to work. It’s a huge gamble but worth it.”

“Sometimes you can’t bring rational thinking into it because it can kill the dream so to speak.”
Scott Dahms – Dahms Design


Climbing Mountains
“We still have a long way to go in here. We’ve gone through a good number of guys this year. What we are doing is not for everybody, it takes a special breed I guess,” said Dahms. “I figure what better way for an architect and contractor to show what you can do than take on turning an elevator into a house. I’m proud to say it’s Dahms Design. Not everyone can do this type of work,” said Meyer.

“When you step back and look at this place, it’s a man and a mountain, really. The way we’ve approached this is small, little hills. We’ll get to the top eventually.”
Tom Meyer, Project Manager, Dahms Design

“I knew it was either going to be the best thing I ever did or the worst. I have a great support system of friends and family, so if I failed I knew I’d just start all over again and figure it out.”
Scott Dahms, Dahms Design

Living Space:
With a view to the prairie and railroad beyond, Dahms built his living space within the old bin site of the elevator. Using many of the original bin walls, which display the unique, stacked wood referred to as cribbing, Dahms has lent his living quarters an organic and raw warmth. Not at all influenced by design trends, he instead lets basic function and the historic elements of his space speak for themselves. In fact, Dahms takes pride in using salvaged material whenever possible, utilizing his own design sense to make it work. He estimates that around 80% of the finishes he’s used to build the living spaces have been salvaged or repurposed.

On the second level in loft-style quarters, is where Dahms’ bedroom, another small loft and future second bathroom are located. The space is functioning right now but is currently another project Dahms plans to complete down the road.

Displaying a bit of the elevator’s original character and personal nostalgia, Dahms displays skateboards and vintage signs on an original wall that once occupied the old manager’s office for the elevator.

What looks like an old chalkboard on the wall of the shop is actually the original bin board that was once used to identify all 42-grain storage bins. It’s been here so long that there’s no point in moving it as you’d still see the impression of where it was. Meyer pointed out that between 33 and 35, you’ll find the open bay where Dahms’ apartment is now located. This spot was once the location of three of the elevator’s bins.

Raising the Roof on Raising Kids
“Now that we’re in, the boys love it here. They’re eight and five and this place is kind of like Peter Pan and the island for them. Our first summer was great when the boys didn’t have school. We were working on this place, we had a firepit and we were grilling out every night.”

For Dahms, part of the fun of raising two boys in a rural environment is creating an authentic, small-town atmosphere for them to grow up in. “To open the garage door and watch your kids roll out on their dirt bikes, that’s pretty cool,” said Dahms. “There are a couple other kids in town and they come over. I set up a pool and trampoline for them. So, now the other boys will come over and swim, get out and jump on the trampoline, then go ride their dirt bikes around, have Nerf gun wars and build forts. It’s exactly the scenario that everyone talks about when we were their age. It’s kind of how the old neighborhoods used to be. I don’t have to be some helicopter dad, I know all of the other parents.”

Phase 2:
The goal we have for the winter is to try and find the right contact to take out all of the machinery that’s on the other side. Through that door is all of the old machinery that goes up to 75 feet. Once we get rid of that, we can get into that space and reconfigure our shop so a lot of it will go there. Eventually, we will have to repel down the inside of it and power wash each bin.” No stranger to the dangers of this project, Dahms is determined to find a means to conquer it.

In order to plan his next move on the remainder of the elevator, Dahms tracked down the original plans so he can better understand the complicated spaces and challenges that exist within his home’s walls.

On the Horizon:
Once the original equipment is removed in the bin space, Dahms has plans to put his focus on creating two bedrooms for his sons. “Anything I do in here is not going to be conventional. My boys are going to have double-decker, two-story rooms, so almost like little apartments. I’m just toying around with so many ideas. With a space this big, we could have a 75-foot rock-climbing wall if we wanted.”

This is one of the elevator’s original bin corridors separated by a door that leads to his apartment. There are countless corridors just like this one that Dahms has big, future plans for.

Beyond the living spaces, Dahms has been toying around with what to do with the additional square footage and height. One of his ideas for the future is to create studio spaces for artists to come and work. “I think having an element like that with my boys growing up here, would be extremely valuable to them,” said Dahms.

A skateboarder at heart, Dahms considers himself a big kid who has no intention of growing up. Inheriting some ramps from Watertown, South Dakota, Dahms plans to build a skate park on the north side slab. “I grew up skateboarding – if you were skateboarding in the 80s in North Dakota, you were automatically classified as drug-dealing satanist,” laughed Dahm. “It’s kind of one of those classic stories where teachers think you’re never going to turn out to be anything.”

These days, Dahms still enjoys tooling around on the skateboard, but he also loves being an unorthodox architect and contractor. “It’s fun, but I don’t wear nice shoes and I like having a level of knowledge that in this day and age people treat you for what they see at face value. I like just flying under the radar a bit. I’m 44 years-old and I don’t consider myself a grown-up. Why would I start now?”

Interested in following Dahm’s upcoming elevator adventures?
Midwest Nest Magazine will be keeping in touch with Dahms over the course of this project. Keep reading for exclusive follow-up stories on the grain elevator’s progress.

For more information, contact:
Dahms Design
Scott Dahms

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Vintage Winter

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography You may remember Vonda and Jim Leiner from last month’s issue when we showcased their fall design while they hosted…

Words by Tracy Nicholson

Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography

You may remember Vonda and Jim Leiner from last month’s issue when we showcased their fall design while they hosted a dinner with their brick-fire pizza oven. This time, we’re back to give you a glimpse of their winter wonderland. Every year, the Leiners decorate their home, not just for the holidays, but as an ode to the entire winter season. They love to entertain and guests equally love to visit, exploring the couple’s seasonally-changing decor and rare, vintage finds.

Inspired by Winter 
When it comes to the holidays, the Leiners believe that each and every room should have a touch of winter wonderland. “It’s for us just as much as it is for entertaining,” said Vonda Leiner. “People usually can’t believe that we have our tree’s lights on so early, but to me, they’re just lights. I don’t think of it as just for Christmas. So, for the winter months, I kind of prefer more of a winter scene.”

One of the features Vonda Leiner is most excited about this year is her dining room centerpieces comprised of an unexpected item, repurposed tree stands, painted white. Only one is a newer version, while the other two are rare vintage finds.

Their centerpiece isn’t the only unexpected decor. If you look closely at the table runner, you’ll see that Vonda Leiner used shipping paper that is typically used for wrapping fragile items. They also love changing out the decor on the large branch hanging over their dining table. For the winter months, each branch is adorned with a mix of new and vintage snowflake crystals. To the Leiners, anything and everything is capable of architectural artistry.

The Leiner’s massive, vintage pendant lights came out of the old Dayton’s department store. Vonda Leiner worked there for about 20 years and when they were going through remodels, employees were offered a chance to bid on various items.

“It’s not your normal looking kitchen because there aren’t a lot of cabinets,” said Vonda Leiner. “Most of the storage is hidden.” The drawers below the authentic, brick oven pull out to hold approximately 500 pounds. The butcher block island is solely comprised of pull-out storage and the refrigerator is hidden behind the knotty alder facade. Jim Leiner, a custom cabinetmaker at Wood Specialists for over 30 years, specially designed the commercial-size sink to include cutting boards while creating a special baking section for Vonda Leiner which simplifies clean up. There’s a hidden TV, microwave and two dishwasher drawers. Every bit of cabinetry and all of the custom finishes were designed and completed by the Leiners.

“With Jim being able to build the cabinets and do all of the finish work, that really helps us be able to live in this type of home. Anything that you can do yourself like the flooring, landscaping, painting – that’s an investment. This house comes from a lot of nights, holidays and weekends of hard work,” said Vonda Leiner.

“Winter is my favorite time of year, so I love when the snowflakes are sticking to the outside of this window. I try to bring that snowy look inside,” said Vonda Leiner. Lending a snowy facade to her kitchen window, these pots were once brown, terracotta that she painted white and finished with glitter to match the painted deer stags overlooking her wooded backyard.

Repurposing the Past
“Jim and I love going to flea markets. That clock is actually an old picnic table, then we found the hinges at another place and thought, why wouldn’t these hinges be cool as the quarters on the hour, then get a clock kit and put it together? I also have a lot of things from family,” said Vonda Leiner. “I like things with Karma and I think there’s a spirit that they give from the past.” For holiday decor, Vonda Leiner kept it natured-inspired with pinecones, trees, deer stags, white lights and greens.

Ski Lodge Love
If you’re a guest to their home, you’ll notice several Maplelag prints, vintage skis and various nods to winter lodges. Jim Leiner grew up in Montana and these pieces represent a small remnant of his past and a beautiful inspiration to them both.
Vonda Leiner’s winter vibe begins in the fall when she changes out the yellow, floral “summer pillows” for warmer throws and ski lodge-inspired, cross pillows.

With the high ceilings in their family room, the Leiner’s use a vintage, red-painted table to elevate their Christmas tree to new heights. At the base of the tree, they incorporated a galvanized tub to hide the tree stand.

Just off of the kitchen and past the antique, red doors the Leiners display an array of vintage and antique chippy items, her mom’s artwork and a winter-inspired mix of pillows with Kriss Lecocq’s grommet adorned linen pillows.

The Leiners found the powder room’s vanity at an antique store in Stillwater, S.D. For a different vibe, they installed a tin ceiling and salvaged shutters. Vonda Leiner happened upon the shutters en route to the dumpster, while working at Scheels Home & Hardware years ago. “For us, our style is just us and it evolves over time, we don’t go to the furniture store and buy the set,” explained Vonda Leiner.

“For the office, we just tried to decorate it more like a library or a men’s club, so that’s why I did the pheasant feathers and pinecones,” said Vonda Leiner. Jim Leiner built the elaborate ceilings and knotty alder built-in details that can be converted to a guest bedroom with a murphy bed. The desk is said to be from a train station in Sioux Falls, S.D and the vintage, leather chair is from an antique store in Arizona. Elaborate stained glass and antique windows accent the more masculine space. “I did a special wallpaper technique in this room and we used 10-inch-wide, plank floors that we hand-drilled and hand-hammered old-fashioned, square nailheads into. Then we took chains and pry bars to distress the wood.”

Winter Warmth
“In the winter, decorating for me is kind of like how we dress, we layer things more. So, in the spring I take down some of those layers and replace the winter pillows with floral pillows. I worked with Julie Alin for a little while at Scheels Home & Hardware and she and I were once managers at Dayton’s. The design department at Scheels used to call me “Mrs. Waverly” because I like mixing fabrics and patterns,” laughed Vonda Leiner.

In the entry, the Leiners repurposed an old dentist table underneath a beautiful, cross-stitched art piece crafted by Vonda Leiner’s sister. If you noticed the jars on the floor, you’re probably wondering why. “We feed our squirrels and they’ll come up and eat peanuts right out of our hands. So, our little friend Karly lives next door and she always wants to eat the squirrel’s peanuts, so we finally got a jar just for her,” laughed Vonda Leiner.

In the style of an outdoor kitchen, complete with crown molding, the Leiners have a grill with custom hood venting, popcorn maker that Jim Leiner refurbished as well as a chef’s chalkboard. The Leiner’s Diner neon sign was a gift from a neighbor. “Jim should get just as much credit in the design, he’s very creative and has an eye for art, design and scale,” said Vonda Leiner.

On the porch, you might notice a large tree branch as an architectural focal point. When the Leiners were first building their home, they saw that their neighbors were cutting down trees and they asked if they could have it for their decor.

In the planters, Vonda Leiner uses galvanized pipe, real berries, greens from Hornbacher’s and oversized pinecones. To warm up their outdoor spaces, the Leiners use blankets they found in the military surplus section at Fleet Farm. “Our old neighbors and longtime friends cut boughs for us out at their lake cabin. So I put these greens everywhere and up in the beams in the entry,” said Vonda Leiner.

“We were at an auction and we saw this mailbox, it used to hang on a building. We actually had to go outside and call the U.S. government to make sure that we could use this as a mailbox. As long as it’s at the right code height and distance from the road, they were fine with it,” explained Vonda Leiner.

In the backyard, Jim Leiner used two sizes of galvanized, stock tanks to create a fire pit, complete with a permanent gas line from the house. Pink winter berries and green boughs accent vintage, metal pots leading to the back patio.

A Labor of Love
“I’ve never followed what’s happening in the design world. Jim and I have never built a house for resale. We build it to what we want to do, then if it sells it sells. And with this house, I didn’t want when people walked in, for them to be able to say, “Oh, that was built in 2009,” based on the trends. We actually built this in 2004. If you noticed on the front porch, we have the galvanized tin up on the ceilings and in our back sunroom off of our bedroom, we have sliding barn doors. We tried to do a different ceiling in every room. So, I kind of feel like we were doing some of these things before they were trendy,” laughed Vonda Leiner.

“This is our fifth home and we started with a 90-year-old home in North Fargo. When Jim and I first got married, we didn’t know that we could do this together,” said Vonda Leiner. We just started and the latter four houses we’d design, then have a contractor get us to the sheetrock, and after that, we’d physically do everything ourselves; landscaping, sprinklers, decks and basement. We’ve put our hearts and souls into it. I don’t want to just say it’s a house that somebody built. It was really built with love and every ounce of sweat, energy and tears. “

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Family & Food – 6 Must-Have Holiday Recipes from the Kitchen of David Baxter

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photos by Dan Francis Photography If your holiday menu is still at-large, this is one story you need to read. Meet David Baxter, he’s the key…

Words by Tracy Nicholson

Photos by Dan Francis Photography

If your holiday menu is still at-large, this is one story you need to read. Meet David Baxter, he’s the key to your best holiday meal yet. During the week, he’s a State Manager with PMA/Washington National and travels between four states focusing on supplemental insurance. Arriving back in town on Thursday nights, Baxter shifts focus to his two other loves, family and food. Married to interior designer Ami Baxter, these two are a well-oiled machine in the kitchen and know the secret recipe for entertaining with ease.


Prime Rib Perfection
The perfect prime rib can be tricky, so before we share David Baxter’s recipes, we asked him to share a few of his grill master secrets. “The biggest thing I always make sure to do when grilling, is to bring the meat to room temperature before I put it on the grill. If it’s frozen or even somewhat cold, the meat won’t get as juicy,” said Baxter. “Also, this makes a big difference with the seasoning. When you put salt on the meat and put it right on the grill it does something different. But, when you season it and leave it, the salt will actually penetrate and can help break up the fat a bit. When you’re going to put something on the Green Egg, it pays to take your time. I always tell people to over-season since you will naturally lose a lot in the process of cooking.”

Big Green Egg Vs. Gas Grill
“The first thing we ever made on a Big Green Egg was chicken, and when we were done, I tried an apple pie on it,” said Baxter. “After that, I was hooked and we never went back to a gas grill. Our friends from Alabama, Anna and Dustin Harris, who used to live in Fargo, had three of these Big Green Eggs. At that time, I didn’t know anything about them. He showed me how he cooked brisket, an amazing breakfast entree and Boston butt which is like pork shoulder. So, he’s the one that actually showed me how much better it was than gas grilling.”

For Baxter, patience is a virtue that is required in the kitchen and especially while grilling up his masterpieces. “I think that if you master the low and slow concept on the Big Green Egg, and learn to be patient, that’s the best way to cook,” said Baxter. “A lot of people like to turn the grill on for five minutes and be able to throw their steaks on it. At the end of the day, if you want something that tastes amazing, it takes time. You can still cook fast things on it, but it probably takes about 15-20 minutes to be ready to grill. I like the Big Green Egg because it can keep everything at a constant temperature, very low, with consistency. After a while, it’s kind of like a Dutch oven with the added flavors built-in.”

Garnishing Greatness
Every good chef knows that creating over-the-top dishes requires proper seasoning and the perfect, complimentary garnish. To take his grilled carrots to the next level, Baxter relies on candied bacon for a little crunch and sweetness.

When it comes to prime rib, he is all for garnishes with a punch of flavor and varying textures. “Some people like mushrooms on steak, but I prefer them on prime rib with a bit of fried onion and coarse horseradish,” said Baxter. “To make the mushroom garnish, I just used a little bit of butter, oil and balsamic vinegar with about a 1/4 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce. Then I get the mushrooms hot and keep flipping them until they’re soft and just a tinge crispy.”

Southern Inspiration
“Ami and I went to this place out in Nashville a month ago and they did a whipped feta honey and served it with warm, pita bread. We loved it and it has such a smooth consistency, so I thought it might be the perfect addition to mash potatoes. The pomegranate as a garnish and in the gravy gives you just a little bit of sweetness to compliment the savory.”

“For the gravy, I used Four Roses Bourbon, but the trick is to put the bourbon in after the onions start to carmelize, letting the alcohol burn off. You want the aged, oak barrel taste that bourbon has, not the alcohol taste,” said Baxter. “Then I start to dilute it down. When I did my carrots, I basically did a crudite putting it in boiling water for five minutes. So I kept that carrot water and used some of it to dilute the gravy. Also, when your prime rib is done, make sure to put a cast iron skillet under it to gather the drippings to include in your gravy. Another tip is to use cornstarch as a thickener, not flour. Cornstarch won’t leave a floury aftertaste and your gravy will stay clearer and more flavorful.”

Labor of Love
In their household, David Baxter does most of the heavy cooking, while his wife, Ami Baxter manages the sidelines, cleaning up after each course and often prepping and chopping ingredients. Even though she can hold her own in the kitchen, she prefers to take a backseat to allow David to run the show. “It’s a good trade-off, she doesn’t like to cook and I don’t like to clean,” laughed Baxter.

Reinventing Recipes
Ask Baxter his thoughts on altering recipes, and he’ll tell you that being precise is over-rated. “A lot of people look at a recipe and they have to follow it step-by-step. If I don’t have the exact ingredient, it challenges me to figure out another way. Baking is a science, but cooking is an art. When you’re cooking, the amounts don’t need to be perfect,” said Baxter. “I think really good cooks, over time, continue to change their recipes. I grew up watching both of my parents cook and my Aunt Kathy, who wrote a couple of cookbooks, would always spend time teaching me in the summertime. From this, I learned that I have to be patient and not afraid to fail. I’ve had plenty of things not turn out the first time. It just takes time to improve and learn what works and what doesn’t.”

Entertaining with Ease
Through trial and error, Baxter has learned to have a plan of attack when entertaining. “Figure out your menu in advance and make sure all of your ingredients are prepped and ready to use the night before,” explained Baxter. “You’ll notice some of the ingredients are repeated throughout each of the dishes, so you can multi-task the prep of those. The biggest reason why people get frustrated in the kitchen is that they waste too much time focusing on prepping and chopping for each dish, one at a time. The same goes for seasonings. I usually have mine measured out and ready to go before I start cooking.”

Plating Perfection
If you want to make sure everything is hot when you plate it, Baxter suggests knowing how long everything takes to cook and scheduling a time to work on them in order of cook time. “It also really helps to have someone help and hold you accountable for each dish. Ami and I make a good team that way, she makes sure I have the right ingredients and helps keep track of every step so each dish is hot and ready for plating at the same time.”

Get the Recipes:

Rosemary and Garlic-Crusted Prime Rib
1. 5lb bone-in prime rib – bring to room temp over 4-5 hours.
2. Heavy coating with a seasoning of your choice when prime rib is at room temp.
3. Fire-up Big Green Egg to 550 degrees with lump.
4. Add 4 blocks of wet hickory and let burn until heavy white smoke stops and grill hits 500 degrees again.
5. Put prime rib on indirect heat for 30 mins. Put a cast iron skillet below prime rib with 1/2” water to catch drippings.
6. Shut down all vents completely.
7. Let prime rib stay in the Big Green Egg until internal temp hits 135 degrees.
8. Pull off prime rib and let rest until internal temp hits 140 degrees (medium rare).
9. Garnish with horseradish, sautéed mushrooms, fried onions and Au Jus.

Pomegranate Au Jus
1. Sauté 1/4 cup of yellow onion and 1 clove of garlic with 1 tablespoon butter.
2. Add 1/4 cup of pomegranate juice, 1/4 cup of pomegranate seeds and 1 ounce of favorite bourbon. Reduce to simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Add in prime rib drippings (approximately 2 cups) with 1 cup of water and continue to simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Strain Au Jus through a filter.
5. Bring Au Jus back to a simmer and thicken with cornstarch. Add cornstarch until you feel the Au Jus getting ever-so-slightly heavier. It will continue to thicken on its own.
6. Remove from heat after 5-7 minutes of thickening. Set aside covered.


Whipped Feta and Honey Mash
1. Boil 9 large, peeled potatoes until cooked through.
2. In a separate bowl combine 1/4 cup of honey, 1 1/2 cup of feta, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1/2 cup of cream cheese. Whip ingredients until the consistency is smooth.
3. Add in potatoes and blend until smooth.
4. Garnish with tarragon and rosemary.


Candied Bacon, Grilled Carrots
1. Peel 8 large carrots and trim tops.
2. Lay out 8 strips of applewood bacon on a cooking sheet with tinfoil. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of sriracha over bacon – about 3 drops for each piece.
4. Bake at 325 until edges begin to crisp.
5. Quickly remove bacon from cooking sheet and transfer to a non-stick parchment paper until cooled. Then chop bacon into garnish size pieces.
6. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil and submerge carrots for 4-5 minutes until softened. Dry carrots thoroughly and toss in olive oil and salt.
7. Add carrots to high heat on Big Green Egg for 1-2 minutes on each side until grill marks form. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes.
8. Cut carrots diagonally and garnish with candied bacon.


Grilled Zucchini & Summer Squash
1. Cut 2 medium zucchini and summer squash in half, lengthwise.
2. Toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper.
3. Add to high heat for 3-4 minutes each side until cooked through and grill marks form.
4. Remove from heat and diagonal cut. Garnish with Irish Cheddar Cheese.

Savoring the Leftovers
Baxter is known for honing his culinary skills while entertaining guests, but only his family knows how creative he can be with the leftovers. After you’ve made his prime rib perfection, you’re going to need a plan to make something spectacular, so not one single morsel goes to waste. We asked Baxter to offer up some culinary advice and one of his family’s favorite recipes for making good use of great prime rib.

Remnants of the Holidays
Baxter suggests saving the ends of vegetables that get chopped up, so they can be frozen and later made into vegetable broth. “When you’re ready to use them, throw them in a pot with some water, let them rest for four hours on simmer, then strain out the vegetable remnants,” said Baxter. “You can pretty much do the same for any chicken remnants and bones to make chicken broth.”

Fast Food at Home
The Baxter’s live an extremely busy life with their three children under the age of eight, Fuschia, Scarlett and Harrison. Ami Baxter owns her own Interior Design firm, while David Baxter is on the road for work, traveling Monday through Thursday between four states.

“When the kids get home, they don’t want to wait an hour or more to eat, so I like making a meal plan for the week,” said Baxter. “In our house, we love leftovers. When I get back into town for the weekend, I’ll plan out my meals, sometimes making a big pot of soup for them, chicken or lasagna. Then Ami and the kids will use those leftovers through Thursday night when I get home, then we do it all over again. If you cook prime rib on Sunday, you know that you can probably have two or three meals from the leftovers. We would then do stroganoff, beef stew and probably thin-sliced prime rib sandwiches.”

Leftover Prime Rib Stew
1. Trim 1 1/2 pounds of the leftover prime rib. Remove all the visible fat and cut into 1/2” chunks.
2. Heat a large skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and the prime rib. Season lightly with salt and pepper and brown on all sides, about 3-5 minutes total. Transfer the meat to a plate.
3. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the skillet. Add 2 large diced carrots, 2 diced celery, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 large, diced potatoes, 1 medium, diced onion and cook until lightly colored, about 3-4 minutes.
4. Stir in the 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour. Add 1 cup of merlot red wine and simmer, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add 2 cups of beef stock, 4 fresh thyme sprigs and 1 bay leaf. Bring the ingredients to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the carrots and potato are fork tender, about 7-10 minutes.
5. Finally, add fresh peas and the prime rib along with any accumulated juices, cover and simmer until the meat is heated through, about 3 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.

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Leela & Lavender A [Fashionable] Force for Good

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis You may have noticed a boom in women-centric businesses lately, specifically in the Shoppes at BLU Water Creek on 45th Street South…

Words by Tracy Nicholson

Photography by Dan Francis

You may have noticed a boom in women-centric businesses lately, specifically in the Shoppes at BLU Water Creek on 45th Street South in Fargo. Driven by a need to re-define retail and make giving back their bigger purpose, this location became a perfect launching pad for Laura Polanski and Jill Shea’s stunning boutique, Leela & Lavender. See inside their aptly-designed space which caters to women, gives back to the community and happily accommodates everyone in the family.

Celebrating their grand opening on November 9th, founders Polanski and Shea, were also celebrating the career history that brought them together and helped hone the retail experience that would be the foundation of their current dream. Prior to Leela & Lavender, Shea spent 24 years as a Senior Retail Executive at the corporate office of Vanity. Polanski had worked with her there for 12 years in the same position, and their store manager, Angie Sunde came on board after working with them for 10 years at Vanity. “Angie’s been an amazing part of this, she has a background with vast experience in sales, store management, marketing, visuals and social media. So that really combined with our backgrounds helped push us in the right direction,” said Polanski. These days, Shea and Polanski have given themselves new titles, founders of Leela & Lavender as well as Chief Style & Culture Curators.

Re-inventing Retail
“We’ve been in retail our whole lives, so this has definitely been our passion. After Vanity closed, we knew we still wanted to continue in the industry and stay in Fargo,” said Polanski. “We always felt, even when we were at Vanity, that there was something missing in the retail space and we really wanted to re-invent it. We wanted to go outside of the mall and felt there was still a need for women; a place for women to go and have fun and shop. So, that’s what kind of started all of this.”

Compared to their previous roles in fashion retail, Polanski describes it as “the same and different”. Different in the sense that they are not a mall retailer. “We are not targeting a certain demographic or age. I really feel that fashion is a taste level. It’s not an age-level anymore. All women should be able to shop together, regardless of their age and we want to provide fashion for the woman who wants a great shopping experience.”

“I really feel that fashion is a taste level. It’s not an age-level anymore.”
Laura Polanski, Co-founder of Leela & Lavender


Browsing the new store, shoppers will find gorgeous displays that interestingly mix home and office accessories with jewelry and gift items. “We just really looked at what categories of giftables would resonate with our customer’s life,” said Shea. “What is she doing and what does she need in her life? So that’s why we chose Leela Office, Leela Bar, Leela Baby, even Leela Men’s because we know she’s also buying gifts for the men in her life.”

“We really want shopping to be fun again. We talked to a lot of people and they said, I don’t shop because it’s not fun,” said Polanski. “I don’t like shopping. I hear that over and over again – I want new clothes, but I hate shopping. And so, we wanted to bring the fun back. We really shopped for the gift items that we look for and wanted the store to have a sense of humor with what we chose. We asked ourselves, what made us happy? What made us feel good? How do we give that to our customer?”

An Inviting Experience
When Shea and Polanski were creating their concept, they realized the environment was just as important as the product. “We wanted to be inviting to everyone in her life. So, our space is geared to accommodate kids by providing a toy box area for them with snacks, a bar and TV area for the men and a changing station in the bathroom for families. We just want to make sure everyone is really comfortable here,” said Shea.

“Whatever our customer is doing we wanted to embrace it and welcome that in our store.” The bar area also serves another purpose, as a space for trunk shows, personal appointments and even an open invitation to their shoppers to host private parties. Throughout the store, they offer many charging stations so their shoppers can stay connected. “We know that the mobile devices in her life are important, so we have these little signs going on all of the stations that say, “You can never be overdressed or over-charged.”

Honoring Time & Budget
Part of their concept was the theory that they needed to honor their customer’s budget and time. “Everything that we do, we ask, ‘Are we honoring her time? Are we making it easy for her? Can she dress head-to-toe for any event in her life and can we make it fast?’ We’ve had a really good response to our price-points and offer pricing in every category, moderate all the way to premium,” said Polanski. “So, if you’re a trendy college student and you’re on a limited budget, you can find great fashions here. If you have a little more disposable income or just want to invest in jeans or shoes and throw on a more moderate-priced top, you can really find all price points here.”

Style Catalysts
For those that don’t consider themselves fashion-forward or just don’t have the time to shop, Shea and Polanski offer one-on-one help from their Style Catalysts. “Our Style Catalysts will be able to outfit people from head-to-toe,” said Polanski. “We also have a style profile online where people can go, fill it out, and we can pull outfits or she can stop in and get in-and-out fast.” They will also be providing services such as Style Assessments, “Happiness in a Box” subscription services, alterations and personalized, styling appointments.


Trying on a New Concept
The dressing room area is something that their team worked extensively on. “We want women to feel comfortable in the dressing room,” said Shea. “We wanted the rooms to be spacious and be able to lay out outfitting in them and they needed to be bright. Then we had to include a little sitting area that would be comfortable for friends and family.”

“We’re just as passionate about interiors as we are with fashion,” said Polanski. “Through our travels, Jill and I have always loved both the fashion of the home and the fashion of clothing. The store’s design just came from a combination of our love of travel over the past few years. We combined our different styles together and that’s what made this.”

Partnering for a Passion
My favorite product is Kendra Scott jewelry. She is also a woman-owned business that she started herself. She based it on the pillars of fashion, family and philanthropy. I’ve always admired her and her jewelry,” said Polanski. “As far as I know, we’re the only store in Fargo that carries her line.”

“We have really tried to partner with people that also give back, so for us partnering with her is almost a double give-back,” said Shea. “A lot of the people that we’ve partnered with also give-back, so displayed signs throughout the store showing that is one way we put focus on that aspect.”

If the Shoe Fits

When Shea and Polanski were building their concept, one area they felt deserved more attention and selection, was shoes and denim. “To do this, we created the little fireplace, cozy area with the shoe destination,” said Shea. “We also felt that we could really deliver a nice denim destination with the moderate to the premium brands. Jeans are hard to shop for, it’s not something people usually look forward to. But, it’s still the foundation of everybody’s wardrobe. We worked really hard at having an assortment of sizes that can span all figures and all price-points. We also chose different shapes to accommodate different body types and make it a little bit easier on the shopper.” Leela & Lavender are also becoming known for offering special orders to ensure their clients receive the perfect sizing.

Personalized Shopping
While some new store owners may have concerns regarding online shopping and the recent bout of store closings, Shea believes that retail isn’t dying, it’s just changing. “If we can disrupt and do things differently, the customer will notice and it will be the way retail should be. Laura and I have shopped the world, to places like Asia and Europe and we’ve been able to really absorb what’s out there and really pull what we like,” said Shea. “We want everything in the store to be fun and that’s different than other retailers. It’s not all about price and making a profit for us. It’s about being passionate about what we love to do and giving that to our customers. And hopefully, they can see that. That’s why so many big retailers aren’t making it, there’s no sense of personalization anymore, why not go to Amazon instead? So, we wanted to fill that gap and provide a unique and more personalized shopping experience.”

A Force for Good
Shea and Polanski firmly believe that fashion and business can be a force for good. Both are fortunate in their own lives, but they know that not everyone has had those same opportunities. “We feel that fashion can inspire confidence in women and we really want to be that spark that just makes a woman rise-up and be her best self,” said Shea. “We want to give back and do great things for women and children to make sure they can live their best life. To do this, we decided to donate a portion of our profits to the F-M Women’s Foundation. We selected that organization because it’s an umbrella of women-based charities. It’s the Jeremiah Foundation, The Girl Scouts, Dress for Success, YWCA and many more. We also love the phrase, “Giving is Always in Style”. We put that phrase on every tag in the store. We feel like if we’re trying to be a business with a force for good, it might encourage others to live in a similar way.”

Behind the Name
When Shea and Polanski discussed a name, they went back to everything that inspired them, trying to keep it whimsical and light.”We loved the word “Leela”, it means great adventure and great discovery,” said Shea. “It can also mean “divine play” in the game of life. We kind of taglined ourselves “a style adventure” because of the experience we wanted to offer on what to wear for work and trends, or casual and comfortable. We also like the significance of lavender. It’s a classic, elegant scent that really can signify pampering or spa-like experiences. It went back to pampering our customers and helping them to be their best self. The name together really resonated with us.”

The logo was designed using two symbols with a sentimental meaning. The first is a Celtic symbol which stands for love and family and the second is a Hindu symbol that stands for happiness. “That’s really everything that this brand stands for, so we sent it off to our graphic designer friend, Christine Vangsness and asked her to make something that symbolizes our goal,” said Polanski. “She blended the two symbols together and sent us maybe 10 different examples and we bot thouhght, this is it. We love the symbol and we use it throughout our store and bag design. Everything we do, we want that logo on there so we’re always reminded to honor the customer’s time and budget, keeping family and happiness in mind.”

Leela & Lavender
Shoppes at BLU Water Creek
3265 45th St. South, Suite 116, Fargo

10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday – Thursday
10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday (holiday season hours will be extended)

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Progressive Architecture Tour

Words by Susan Hozak-Cardinal Photography by Dan Francis Photography Leave it to the art community to create an event pairing food, wine and a tour of three amazing homes, all…

Words by Susan Hozak-Cardinal
Photography by Dan Francis Photography

Leave it to the art community to create an event pairing food, wine and a tour of three amazing homes, all in the same night. The 2nd annual Progressive Architecture Tour from Plains Art Museum took place on September 23 and walked guests through three homes of area architects and owners to share their stories and insights about the making of their dream homes.

The Crew
I, along with my husband Jason Cardinal, photographer Dan Francis and contributors Trever Hill and Jesse Masterson, were ecstatic to join a small group of 42 people touring three notable homes. It was a day and evening full of excitement, questions, and the chance to meet and mingle with the homeowners and architects. All proceeds raised from the event went to help support the PlainsArt4All initiative to keep the museum’ general admission free.

If you missed out on the tour, no need to fret. Grab yourself a snack and glass of wine and join me as we tour three homes with three different courses.

Progressive Architecture Tour: House #1
Owners | Sunny Clark and Marc Wilson
Architects | DandE Lab, Malini Srivastava and Mike Christenson
Course #1: Hors d’oeuvres | Luna, Chef Ryan Nitschke

The first home we visited was the Horizon Home in Moorhead. When we arrived, we were greeted by Sandy Thompson. Thompson is the Development Director at the Plains Art Museum, and he and his staff did a wonderful job of organizing the tour for everyone to enjoy. Thompson encouraged the crew to enjoy the hors d’oeuvres prepared by Chef Ryan Nitschke from Luna while touring the home. Towards the end of the hour, we would all gather together to hear from the home owners and architects.

Let the Tour Begin
Off we went. We loved the clean lines of this house. We also loved the simplicity of the home in that everything seemed to have a purpose. No space was wasted space. Yet, it was so bright and inviting too. Every room and layout of the house made more sense after hearing from the owners on their story towards the building of their energy efficient masterpiece.


Marc Wilson, Homeowner
“Like with any budget, we had to think about things that mattered to us and things that didn’t matter to us. We looked through Dwell Magazine for ideas. We knew we wanted a sheltered effect in the backyard. We knew that we didn’t care about big spaces like big bathrooms and that we did want a nice sized kitchen and living area. We also wanted to be environmentally friendly and playful at the same time.”

Owners Sunny Clark and Marc Wilson found the perfect fit with architects Malini Srivastava and Mike Christenson from Design and Energy Laboratory, LLC (DandE Lab). DandE Lab provides affordable, high-performance, energy-efficient architectural design and won the 2014 AIA North Dakota Honor Award for Residential Architecture for the work done on the Horizon House. Energy efficiency, no waste, and leaving the smallest carbon footprint were top priorities of this project.


Mike Christenson, Architect
“When we got together to talk about this project, we all just seemed to click. This was a very enjoyable project to work on and we made a lasting friendship.”

Malini Srivastava, Architect
“What was really interesting about this project was that the conversation was about having a spatial quality but not a big house. So the connotation was about how it would feel, and so the answers weren’t obvious, but we knew we would get there. Marc and Sunny had a list, and together we developed a design concept around it. They were willing to experiment and go on an adventure.”

Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency
One example of moving forward on being energy efficient, yet cost effective, is with the windows. Windows that are high performance are usually very expensive. Through the company, they were able to use rejected high performance windows that were not used in other projects because of size or color.

“My idea of being green comes from multiple things – less material, less energy, being resource conservative,” said Srivastava. “Windows can be weakest part of the equation in trying to get the home air tight. We would continually test before we finish to make sure the house was as air tight as we wanted it to be before moving forward.”

“Travis (VanDoren) was an amazing builder. We can’t even tell when the wind blows,” said Clark. “We look outside and see the trees moving but everything inside is so quiet.”

Clark also explained how they purposely decided not to put an air conditioner in the home. They experimented on how to keep house cool in summertime by opening windows at night, letting fresh air in, and shutting it down during the day. There is radiant heat as well – no ducts, no forced air. This was one of many aspects where Clark and Wilson had to juggle with priorities. Another was with the size of their master bath. They didn’t feel like they needed a large master bath in comparison to having a larger kitchen and living area, where most of their daily family activities happen. They were also able to cut down on costs by doing some of the finishing work themselves, such as making the cabinets and the doors.

The Ever-Changing Process
Although Srivastava jokes about how slow the designing process took in order to get to where everyone wanted to be, Clark and Wilson didn’t think that at all. In fact, they felt like it was Christmas every time they got to meet with Srivastava and Christenson to make decisions on each phase.

“Marc and Sunny were as much of design process as we were. We did drawings as multiple options as a way to figure out where we are going,” said Srivastava.”As architects, we do work that lasts a long time. It’s easy to make mistakes and hard to know when it’s right so we have to take time to use models and drawings as a way of having conversations with the homeowners.”

Progressive Architecture Tour: House #2
Owners | Sarah and Chris Hawley
Architect | Chris Hawley Architects
Course #2: Salad | Mosaic Foods, Chef Eric Watson

The second home on tour was Casa Hawley, home to Chris and Sarah Hawley. When we arrived at the home, Thompson explained to us that he and Chris Hawley worked together on creating this tour for the Plains Art Museum and will be teaming up for future tours. At Casa Hawley, the group enjoyed a salad by Chef Eric Watson from Mosaic Foods, and roamed around once more, taking in the thoughtful architecture, art and home.

Architect and Homeowner
This home was unique to the others on tour because Chris Hawley was both the architects and homeowner. Hawley explained that his wife and family were living in an 880 square-foot house and thought, enough was enough, they needed a bigger space. They thought about building a new home but that changed when Chris Hawley noticed an “ugly house” for sale that was built in 1968.

Chris Hawley, Architect & Homeowner
“That has got to be the ugliest house. Who would be dumb enough to buy it? These were my first thoughts. But during the second weekend of looking at the house, I told my friend, you know what, there is something there. The neighborhood is right, the space if right, and there is something about the quality of the construction.”

Sarah Hawley, Homeowner
“Chris did a sketch within an hour. He has such a vision and I tend to trust him with most things. When he showed me the sketch, I loved it. I love modern and that is definitely our style. As soon as I saw that sketch, I knew that he could pull it off.”

And the adventure begins…

During the Q & A with Chris and Sarah Hawley, we learned about some challenges they faced during the remodel and what steered them towards certain aspects of the home. Chris Hawley said that one thing they went back and forth on was the kitchen. They were deciding if the kitchen would just be opened up partially, but decided to make it big and open, warm and entertaining. “The kitchen island made sense for us and how we live,” explained Chris Hawley. ” If we need formal dining, we use the screen porch for that. We live on the end of this table. We live very informally.”


And then there was a water mishap when it rained during the process of changing the roof. “It became challenging for the family. Yes, it was stressful with the flooding, but we made the most of it. What can you do? I said, let’s play ping pong. I’m a pretty good sport,”laughed Sarah Hawley.


Reflection of Us
Even with the challenges involved, the finished product of Phase One was a success. You can still see some of the original parts of the house with the pink and avocado bathrooms. So far, the house has a very polished and modern look, but the basement, Phase Two, will have a dramatically different look. It will be more industrial with exposed concrete and a family game room. But like the home above, it will be a reflection of Chris and Sarah Hawley and their family.

Chris Hawley, Architect & Homeowner:
” I’m a minimalist and like reusing things. The table is from wood from an old restaurant in Minot and with repurposed spikes from that project as well. This house is a reflection of us. There is art from my brother or friends, each with personal stories that are near and dear to us.”


Progressive Architecture Tour: House #3

Owners | Rondi and Keith McGovern | Fargo
Architect | Chris Hawley Architects/Interior Remodel
Entree | VIP Room, Chef Anthony Bachman
Dessert | Nichole’s Fine Pastry, Pastry Chef Nichole Hensen

The final home on the tour was what Fargoan’s refer to as, The Fargo Laundry Building, home to Rondi and Keith McGovern. When we arrived, we divided into two tour groups. My group went with Keith McGovern and the other group with Rondi McGovern and Chris Hawley. Keith McGovern assured us we were in the group that would get a thorough run down of the place and he was right. There was just so many fascinating and story-filled parts to this home that I am going to have to just share a few with you.

Wait…what? A Laundry Building?

Keith explained to us that after going through three floods, he wanted to move somewhere where he didn’t have to worry about that again. So while he and his realtor were hard at work looking for a house, Keith McGovern suddenly came across an old laundry building for sale. He immediately called up his realtor, Dave Noah, and said, “I can fix anything. Call those guys, I want to buy that building.”

Our tour started in the large garage/shop portion of the building, the same area that Keith McGovern had first looked at as well. “When I walked into this room, I decided that I wanted to buy this building,” Keith McGovern said. We were now in the original room where Leef Cleaners received laundry in 2,000-pound totes. This place use to have washing machines, all sorts of pipes, with lint and soap scum everywhere. This all required a massive cleanup but has now transformed beautifully into a shop, and garage complete with a mudroom and gear room.


Keith McGovern, Homeowner:
“I have to give credit to our governor, Doug Burgum. When he came over and I told him my plan, he said, if you are really going to do this, you need to call this guy, he’s an architect. His name is Chris Hawley.”

Chris Hawley, Architect:
“Keith gave me a call Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. and wanted to see some drawings the next day. After seeing the first sketch, I had until Friday and stayed up all night Thursday and those are the two drawings I came up with, and what is cool about it is that it didn’t change much.”

From Drawing to Reality

“I can’t stand CAD and I let Chris know that,” said Keith McGovern. “Chris is an amazing artist so he drew everything for me. We ended up with these drawings and then the building itself.”

The Basement
The laundry building use to be its own self-contained building in 1923. It had its own water treatment, power plant, and fire system. In the east wall, a train would drop off coal which would then be shoveled into a huge boiler. The McGovern’s transformed this basement area into a gym which they now refer to as “The Pit”.

The Pit
“This is the cross-fit gym where the kids work out, and this is the normal gym or Rondi’s gym,” said Keith McGovern. “Her gym area used to be offices for Leef Cleaners.”

Grand Staircase
The staircase was hard to get approved because there are no legs and Keith wanted to be historically correct. The staircase actually bolts together and they assembled it on-site.

Indoor/Outdoor Patio Magic
Keith McGovern led us into a brick room and surprised the crowd with what would undoubtedly be one of the most unique rooms in the city. He explained that he wanted an indoor patio that was essentially, outdoors. A moment later, concrete blocks started to move and a rustic garage door opened to reveal a heated, indoor, swim spa. This area was originally the site where trucks backed up to doors that were operated by heavy, concrete blocks. To preserve the history of the building, Keith McGovern kept the original doors and replicated the massive, concrete counterweights.

Happily Ever After
During the Q&A portion after dinner, we found out that Keith and Rondi McGovern were once prom king and queen. With such an extensive project, the touring crowd wondered if there were any design battles between the “royal court”, and also what it was about Fargo that made them want to keep their roots firmly planted.

“Rondi’s family brought us here and the wonderful people of Fargo kept us here,” said Keith McGovern. “We were really in sync in how Rondi and I functioned on this project. For the structural and mechanical areas, Chris and I worked together. Certain rooms were Rondi’s so I had no say in those,” he joked. “Rondi did save the day by telling me not to frost the windows in the bar area. That would have made a big difference if we did and you couldn’t see outside. Rondi was with me the whole way, and with Chris’s hard work, we were able to pull this all together.”

The Tour Concludes
Through the Progressive Architecture Tour, organized by the Plains Art Museum, we were able to see three incredible homes in different stages of development and thought-process. What most people can only imagine from the street, this tour group, comprised of architectural admirers and dreamers, got an up-close and personal glimpse inside their doors and greatest design ambitions. Although each home and family revealed a different lifestyle, they all shared one commonality. Amidst an array of challenges, they had a vision and a dream to create a space that felt like their version of home.

With Gratitude
To all of the homeowners and architects, thank you for sharing your story, your personal space and your unique vision. To the chef’s who created each sumptuous course along the way, thank you for sharing your talents.

For more information about the Progressive Architecture Tour, contact:
Plains Art Museum
Sandy Thompson, Director of Development
704 First Avenue North, Fargo, N.D.

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Live, Laugh, Love – A Night of Wine, Wishes and Pizza

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by AB Images Have you ever been to a live auction and wondered what it would be like to attend one of the elite dinners…

Words by Tracy Nicholson

Photography by AB Images

Have you ever been to a live auction and wondered what it would be like to attend one of the elite dinners that are often up for bid? This Fall, we were invited to the beautiful, Sheyenne River home of Vonda and Jim Leiner to get a glimpse inside their authentic, Italian, wood-burning pizza party. This event was donated by the Leiners on behalf of Make-A-Wish, North Dakota at the 2017 Wine & Wishes event held this past Spring. Casting the winning bid, Angela and Joe Kolling had a reason for supporting this cause that was close to home. In 2009, their own daughter Morgan was once the recipient of a Wish. Driven to show continued support for other children with life-threatening illnesses, the Kollings gathered friends and family in a celebration of life, love and pizza.


Inviting seven of their closest friends to the dinner, the Kollings know too well the need for Wishes to be granted. Donating a dinner like this one can mean raising anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, all going towards granting children’s Wishes throughout the state.

The Power of a Wish
“It’s been eight years since we went on our Wish trip for Morgan and we have not missed a Make-A-Wish event since,” said Angela Kolling. “Make-A-Wish was wonderful in making sure that her wish happened. We had a setback the week before she was going on her trip and so they were good about making sure plans were changed to accommodate Morgan, and honestly, Make-A-Wish is one of the best organizations out there. It truly gives kids that are going through this, something to smile about and gives their family that little break and reprieve. Whether it’s a trip, a new bedroom or a new swing set; whatever the wish may be, they make sure it happens for that child and make each wish special.

After their daughter’s Wish was granted, the Kollings vowed to keep giving back. The group of friends they invited to the Leiner’s house comes every year to the Make-A-Wish event to show their support. “It’s nice to be able to share the night with them,” said Angela Kolling. “I think Make-A-Wish would agree, there’s no gift that’s too small. But, even just to get the awareness out there of the organization and what they do. You don’t have to give, you can also donate your time or help with the wishes, it’s not just about spending money.”


Donating an Experience

Co-hosting for the night’s dinner was Brad and Jennifer Dahl. Brad Dahl has been on the Make-A-Wish board for the past 12 years and he and his wife were the two that proposed the pizza party idea to Jim and Vonda Leiner. In past years, typically executive chefs had donated dinners, but the Dahl’s knew firsthand that the Leiners could create an experience that people would love to bid on. “This is more of an experience,” said Jennifer Dahl. “The food’s going to fabulous, I know that for a fact. It’s a beautiful home, there’s a set up to have a bonfire as well. This is a treat because we’ve been out here or a lot of pizza parties and there’s usually 10 to 20 people. It’s really fun and you can make your own or they’ll make one for you. Jim and Vonda have ruined pizza for us,” laughed Jennifer Dahl. “Once you eat their pizza, you don’t want to go anywhere else.”

Made-from-Scratch Wishes
To create an authentic, Italian experience for the Kollings and their guests, Jim and Vonda Leiner spent nearly 12 hours preparing and sauteeing every type of pizza ingredient imaginable. Jim Leiner made the pizza crust dough from scratch, planning for 16 pizzas.

To make the most of the experience, guests were invited to either create their own concoction or follow one of the Leiner’s favorite recipes they cleverly displayed on restaurant order pads.

“One of the pizzas that really throws people is our bratwurst and sauerkraut with mustard sauce. Also, the shrimp pizza is a signature that not many people have had,” said Vonda Leiner. “The shrimp pizza has a secret base, it’s something that Jim creates as he’s sautéing for the sausage, onions and garlic. This time he did more of a beurre blanc, so it has more of a lemon taste to it.”

“This peach one is our salad pizza and a favorite of ours, we got it from Muddy Waters, that was a restaurant in Minneapolis. There’s Parmesan, Mozzarella, Blue Cheese, Prosciutto, peaches, pears, toasted walnuts and arugula. Then we just drizzle it with balsamic vinegar,” said Jim Leiner.

For another popular pie, the Leiners use bacon grease as the base, Pecorino Romano, Parmesan cheese and a little Mozzarella. “If you look at different recipes, you can pretty much use any kind of cheese and pepper,” said Vonda Leiner. “It’s called Cacio e Pepe which translates to cheese and pepper in Italian. We’re planning a trip to Italy next year for our 30th wedding anniversary, so Jim’s actually learning how to speak Italian. Right now he’s about 40 percent fluent, he can read and write in Italian. I only know a few words, but he’s able to listen to it all day while he’s working, so he’s actually pretty good.”

Woodfire Whimsy
The Leiners wanted an authentic, woodfire pizza oven that could only be found in Italy. Jim Leiner, a long-time cabinet builder for Wood Specialists in Fargo, N.D., Installed the pizza oven, beautiful cabinetry and stone surround. The couple typically reserved pizza parties for the winter, and for good reason. Their authentic pizza oven gets up to around 800 degrees, sufficiently heating up the house.

“We roll the dough out, then place on cornmeal so it doesn’t stick,” explained Vonda Leiner. “The only other secret is not to add too much sauce to the very edge. Each pizza takes about three minutes in the brick oven.”


Tour the Leiner’s Home

Before guests arrived, Vonda Leiner gave us a tour of their stunning home. For new guests to the Leiner’s home, the experience starts at the street with a picturesque walk through a dreamy landscape framed with cafe lights, finally leading to their front porch, where Frank Sinatra is crooning through the speakers near the entrance.

Inside, it’s easy to feel as if one’s been transported to another, more exotic location; maybe a gorgeous Italian villa, a beautiful resort in the mountains or your favorite restaurant in Napa Valley. Vonda Leiner’s flair for design and detail is in every nook and cranny of their gorgeous home. She doesn’t follow the standard rules of design, and it’s utter perfection. In fact, she doesn’t follow trends, and her style cannot be defined in one word. Some would say it’s an eclectic mix of French country, vintage, industrial, contemporary, Italian and everything in-between. To combine all of these styles seamlessly, with family heirlooms, flea market finds and handmade items is a skill all on its own. Each room is a reflection of the Leiner’s 32 years together. One walk through the home and guests feel as if they’ve gotten a glimpse of their personality, their life, and their loves.

“Her home is beautiful,” said Make-A-Wish mom, Angela Kolling. “It’s nice to be able to come into someone else’s home and experience a different style of dinner. We’ve had dinners through Make-A- Wish where they come to your home as well. So, this had a nice appeal, to be able to go into a different house and be with our friends and family, those that are close to us.”

Seasonal Decor with a Spin
The Leiner’s table is set for Fall perfection. “We just hung the branch over the table last winter for Christmas and then we had antique icicles and snowflakes that hung off of it,” said Vonda Leiner. “After Christmas, we decided to keep it, we liked the architectural look and we didn’t want two more light fixtures in here because of the large kitchen pendants.”

“So, this was an old farm table, but in 2010, I almost started our whole house on fire with a mix of candles, wood, pine cones and fresh greenery,” laughed Vonda Leiner. “It had huge burn marks down the center and I couldn’t find a table to replace it so, we just tried to think of another way.”As a solution, Jim Leiner had a stainless steel top fabricated to fit the lower legs, lending the space a mix of farmhouse, industrial appeal.

An efficient self-taught designer, Vonda Leiner doesn’t decorate for one specific holiday, she decorates for the longer haul, focusing on the seasons. Her Fall decor for the dinner is a seasonal style which will easily last through Thanksgiving. “I’m not a big orange fan, but the white pumpkins are a must,” said Vonda Leiner. If you’re wondering about Christmas, she doesn’t like taking the decor down in four weeks, so Vonda Leiner opts for Winter-inspired decor to last through the next season.

DIY Masterpiece
After sheet-rock, Jim and Vonda Leiner are known to take over the project and physically do all of the home’s finishes themselves. Putting to good use Jim Leiner’s 30-plus years as a cabinet-maker at Wood Specialists, they were able to build their cabinets themselves and have him do all of the custom rock work, tile and almost every finish.

The Leiner’s master suite is an ode to love and family. Vintage photos of their great-grandparents represent both sides of their family, along with pieces from their past.


Organic Outdoors
Just off of the master suite, Jim Leiner built a swoon-worthy three-season porch with sliding doors to accommodate the seasons. A slightly more contemporary look at first glance, a second glance reveals an eclectic mix of vintage and flea market finds with a stunning view of the patio and woods beyond their home.

Outside on the patio, Jim Leiner cut 400-pound tree trunks to brace their table top. The table top alone is an impressive 1,200 to 1,300 pounds. The white handrail on the deck was found at an antique store and was originally from a hotel in Minneapolis.

“We’ve been here for 12 years. We wanted to keep the backyard rustic and we wanted it to feel like when you come out here, that you’re in Itasca or someplace like that,” said Vonda Leiner. “We’re just going to put down a little grass and those yellow, weed flowers that you see on the side of the road. We just want it to look really natural.”


Supporting a Wish

To understand the purpose behind events like the one Jim and Vonda Leiner generously donated, just ask Brad Dahl, a longstanding board member, and wish-granting volunteer. “The best part of being involved with Make-A-Wish is putting smiles on kid’s faces. We’ve got close to 50 kids that get Wishes granted in North Dakota. We have to raise money, the kids get a wish and we don’t want to have to deny it. It would be nice if this number would decrease, that means the kids aren’t getting sick with life-threatening illnesses. If someone wants to get involved with helping, any ideas are listened to by our executive director, Billi Jo Zielinski. When we had this idea, we went to her and she said, “Absolutely.” We didn’t know how it was going to turn out if anyone would even bid on it, but we ended up having a couple of different people that bid on it. Every little bit counts.”


“It’s great that people do things like this, it’s a great setting and something that’s really attractive to bid on at the event,” said Joe Kolling. “It’s something different and a lot of fun for a night out. To come to an event like the Make-A-Wish fundraiser, you don’t need to spend $2,000, you can go and spend $25 and still make a huge impact. It’s a fun night to go whether you win something nice or just donate a small amount. It makes an impact and it’s worth going no matter how much you can offer. Going to an event like this is a big eye-opener for someone who hasn’t been through it. The lasting impact that Make-A-Wish has on these families, I can’t describe it. To go to the event at least helps give some kind of perspective on what they do.”

“Joe and Angela’s daughter, Morgan, received her wish to go to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in April of 2009,” said Make-A-Wish North Dakota President and CEO, Billi Jo Zielinski. “After the trip, Morgan began coloring pictures and selling them to raise money for Make-A-Wish. From notecards to live auction prints, she has posthumously raised over $30,000 for other wish kids in North Dakota.”

“We could not grant the wishes to almost 50 children each year without the generosity of people like the Leiners, Dahls and Kollings,” said Make-A-Wish North Dakota President and CEO Billi Jo Zielinski. “Donated experiences like this go beyond just a moment at an event. They transform lives, one wish at a time. One of the Kolling family’s favorite mottos is “live, laugh, love” and you can bid on Morgan’s art piece with this motto, hear other wish children stories and enjoy wine from Happy Harry’s at next year’s Wine & Wishes event on Friday, April 6, 2018 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fargo.”

To donate time or help support a Wish, contact:

Billi Jo Zielinski
President and CEO
Make-A-Wish® North Dakota
4143 26th Avenue South, Suite 104, Fargo N.D.

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Lost River Treasure

Words by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis Photography, Family photo by Mandey Marie Photography Just over the Horace bridge to the west of the Sheyenne River, is 220 acres…

Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography, Family photo by Mandey Marie Photography

Just over the Horace bridge to the west of the Sheyenne River, is 220 acres of land that has been treasured by the Samuelson family for six generations. Nestled on the riverbank, the Samuelson’s 1889 homestead is part of the landscape that includes an abandoned river bed which is nothing short of postcard perfection. Jack and Rachel (Samuelson) Dwyer moved into the original homestead in 2009 after purchasing the home and part of the land from Rachel Dwyer’s grandmother, Sherry Samuelson. Like many family members before them, the Dwyers and their four kids eventually outgrew the home. Wanting to ensure the family’s legacy for years to come, the Samuelson family and the Dwyer family came up with a plan to keep the land in the family and also build the dream home their growing family desired.

Lost River Development Abundant trees and river views are just a couple of the reasons why the Samuelson family held tight to this coveted land. When Sherry Samuelson considered selling the land in 2015, Jack Dwyer, a lawyer who specializes in real estate and water law, delved in to see what they could do to preserve the land they had grown to love. Wanting to respect the Samuelson family heritage, he and Sherry Samuelson developed a plan that would give the Dwyers the space they needed and for the first time, allow other families to build their own legacy on the land.

“Sherry and I talked about it and we came up with a plan together to keep it in the family, and to develop it together,” said Jack Dwyer. “I would do the work and Sherry and her kids would maintain the ownership and try to create generational wealth and turn this change into a positive thing. The fact that three out of four of Sherry’s kids don’t get to enjoy the land, helped make the decision that financially it would be the right move for the family to develop it.” Samuelson saw it as a great idea. “I hope I do get to see all of it done. We have a lot of great memories here,” said Samuelson.

Close to Home
Unlike most development plans, this one would be a bit more sentimental. This new neighborhood consisting of 120 lots, needed to honor the Samuelson family and every street and park needed to be what they wanted for their own kids that would be raised on the land. “With the design, we worked very, very hard laying out the subdivision in a way that we can be proud of,” said Jack Dwyer. “We decided to create community space with walking trails and park space that’s centered in the development. The park will include a hockey rink, skating pad, warming house, shelter, and eventually two big playgrounds. There’s also a gazebo, soccer field, tennis court, youth baseball field and basketball court in the works.”


With the new layout of the subdivision, Jack Dwyer and Sherry Samuelson opted to create lots for all families, designating space for entry-level homes, mid and luxury homes. Lots are protected by the Sheyenne River diversion and range from $19,900 to $174,900. Currently, 30 lots in the first phase are sold with an additional 40 lots optioned to custom builders.

From Classic 1889 to Modern Day Mid-Century
For the Dwyers, they felt honored to be able to move onto the original homestead back in 2009. ” It’s a very special spot and really the best setting,” said Jack Dwyer. “We’ve always said that we have the best yard in Fargo.” “We haven’t had the greatest house and we didn’t have a garage or closets in the original homestead, but we had the best patio and really the most beautiful setting,” said Rachel Dwyer. “For years, we were trying to figure out a way to maybe make enough money to buy the whole place, and keep it forever,” said Jack Dwyer.

Building new was not the first plan the Dwyers had discussed. They had initially looked into remodeling the original house, so they had an architect draw up a floor plan which would then fix the original brick foundation. “Our bids came back basically what we spent on the new house, and we’d still be left with a house with mouse droppings in the wall, poor insulation and no ductwork,” said Jack Dwyer.

Despite a few setbacks from age and wear, the Dwyers were very happy with the home for many years. “We do love it, and we put a lot of energy and care into the original home. We put in new flooring, wall coverings and windows,” said Rachel Dwyer. “ It was kind of funny because my mom had done the same thing here in the early 90s. So, each person that lived here put their own twist on the house. With three kids it was starting to feel tight, but then when we had our fourth child and it got hard to find places for everything. I really was starting to yearn for my kids to have a nice, big place to play, but also a space for them to relax.”


History in the Making
Edward and Louisa Samuelson bought the original homestead in April of 1891. After Edward passed away in the early 1930s, Louisa Samuelson lost the land to a bank in a mortgage foreclosure in 1943. Edward and Louisa’s son and Rachel Dwyer’s great-grandfather Didrick Samuelson, who worked for the Horace Post Office for over 40 years, and his wife Mamie, were able to save up enough money to purchase the land back from the bank in 1948 and keep the land in the family.

“I remember the first time I came across that bridge, I thought, am I going to another country?” laughed Sherry Samuelson. “Uncle John who once lived here, I don’t think he had ever been further than Minnesota, and that was only a couple of times. Other than that, he didn’t go off of the farm.”

Didrick and Mamie Samuelson sold the land to their son Edward Samuelson and his wife Sherry Samuelson in 1965, who placed the land into a trust. For Sherry and Edward Samuelson, they would live in the upstairs of the 1889 home, a space that had been renovated into an apartment for prior family members. Her in-laws then resided on the main level of the home. Sherry Samuelson had often thought of Edward’s parents as her own. After raising two children in the upstairs apartment, anticipation of a third had them moving to a larger home in Fargo.

After Edward and Sherry were divorced in 1978, she decided she could not take the farm away from him, so she suggested he keep the acreage. When a neighboring 50 acres of wooded land came up for sale in 1997, Sherry purchased the additional acreage. Sherry Samuelson eventually purchased the Samuelson land from her ex-husband Edward Samuelson in 2006, and she purchased an additional 60-acre tract from another neighboring landowner in 2006. In the end, with a goal to keep the land in their children’s lives, Sherry Samuelson would end up the owner of 220 acres of untouched nature and the original farmstead.

The Lost River Route

In this area where the original house stands, there will soon be a cul-de-sac with larger lots. The original homestead will be taken out, but the barn will remain, leaving a small piece of the Samuelson legacy for future homeowners to enjoy.

On a walk to the riverbank, Jack Dwyer showed us his favorite spots, including the land he bow hunts on and a canoe landing where he often fishes. Phase two, which is not yet begun, will likely include the picturesque, untouched land beyond the clearing. Taking us into the meadow past the cul-de-sac, Jack Dwyer explains that this is the abandoned riverbed where water once ran through, hence the name of the development, Lost River.

Building a New Heritage

Just past Lost River road, down a street named after Rachel Dwyer’s great grandpa Didrick Samuelson, the Dwyers have completed the build of their new home. For the design of their dream home, the Dwyers worked with Jason Carpenter of Carpenter Homes. Going for a transitional design, they chose to intermingle craftsman quality with mid-century modern appeal. Even Rachel’s grandma, Sherry Samuelson was in agreement. “I was really pleased when Jack and Rachel built this, they’ve done such a good job,” said Samuelson. “I thought of building out here, but oh, I’d get carried away,” she laughed.

Throughout the home, the Dwyers opted do their own design, choosing much of their furniture from Scan Design in Fargo, N.D. “We just chose the things that we have always liked. We had planned to go to the cities to buy much of the furniture from Room & Board, but once we went into Scan Design, we found everything we needed and decided not to leave town. They had so many great pieces.” They also searched high and low for an oil-brushed, white oak flooring they had seen on Houzz, finally spotting the elusive flooring in the JW Kitchens showroom.


“In all of the really modern houses you see white walls,” said Rachel Dwyer. “But, we wanted it to stand out against our white cabinets and white trim, so we did Egret White (Sherwin Williams) so there’s some subtle contrast. Our perfect trim is no trim, but that’s not really an option. Our builder loves craftsman trim, so his perfect trim is as much trim as possible, so we found this to be a pretty likable balance. It frames everything out nicely, but it doesn’t have that typical strong, top molding like craftsman does.”

“We were really inspired by mid-century modern and Scandinavian style,” said Rachel Dwyer of their new home. “When we looked through Houzz, we were always drawn to walnut and also a glossy white. We ended up having Poss Custom Cabinets do all of the cabinets in a white slab with a European overlay and walnut trim. Everywhere except the kitchen, we did walnut with our built-ins.” Sharing the same design preference, Rachel Dwyer and her grandmother both love contemporary styling. “I had a home in Seattle and I told Rachel, her hardware in the kitchen is the same as I had in my Seattle home,” said Sherry Samuelson.


For the unique countertop, the Dwyers worked with Northern Stone. “They were great to work with,” said Rachel Dwyer. “We chose a lightly-leathered granite, so it has a matte look without having the ridges.” Coordinating perfectly, the backsplash is a wider subway tile, stacked, also in a matte finish.

For the powder room, Rachel Dwyer chose mid-century modern lighting, penny round floor tile and a stunning tulip wall covering with Scandinavian flair. “We even borrowed some pieces like that vase from my grandmother, she has very modern taste, so it’s fun to bring those into our new home,” said Rachel Dwyer. “I think I got my love of modern design from her.”

Find the Finishes
Homebuilder- Carpenter Homes
Powder room wall covering – Scandinavian Tulips, Wayfair
Lighting – Wayfair
Powder room and kitchen backsplash tile – Imperial Flooring
Kitchen and bathroom cabinetry, family room floating shelves – Poss Custom Cabinets
Quartz powder room sink and kitchen countertop – Northern Stone
White Oak flooring – JW Kitchens
Appliances – Rigel’s
Island stools – Scan Design
Dining table lighting – Lowe’s
Exterior landscape design – Boyle Landscape Architects
Linear fireplace – Hebron Brick
Fireplace tile – Imperial Flooring
Sofa, desk, dining table, rugs, chair, artwork & coffee table – Scan Design
Office artwork – Rando


For the exterior, the Dwyers chose privacy fencing on the side, then open-style fencing on the back to preserve the view to the river. “Peter Boyle of Boyle Landscape Architects actually transplanted flowers from the original homestead, so a lot of them are my great grandmother’s flowers, ” said Rachel Dwyer.

“One of Jason’s ideas to customize this house was to bump out the platform outside of the base of the house in the stairwell. It really did change the look of the house on the exterior,” said Rachel Dwyer. “Jason called us while we were in France in June and said, you know with your high pitched roof, why don’t we put a bonus room up there. There was already an artificial window for exterior appeal, so we thought let’s bump it out over here and make it a playroom, then bump the other wall out and create another bedroom. That’s when we decided not to finish the basement. With our boys sharing a room, our older son can move up to the third level when he’s ready.”

Homebuilder- Carpenter Homes
Exterior landscape design – Boyle Landscape Architects
Irrigation – Aqua Lawn Sprinkler Systems
Siding – LP Smart Siding


The Dwyers second level consists of a master suite, laundry room, kids bathroom, and three kid’s rooms with spacious walk-in-closets.

The Dwyers found the laundry room’s quartz countertop as a remnant at Northern Stone. “We just lucked out at getting the exact size we needed,” said Rachel Dwyer. They even managed to salvage some of the wood flooring from the old homestead remodel, gathering enough to cover the laundry floor.

Upstairs in the kid’s bathroom, they leaned towards contemporary with a walnut linen divider and double under-mount sinks in quartz. “Since there’s no closet here and I didn’t want to lose space, I had Poss custom design a space for rolled towels,” said Rachel Dwyer.

Find the Finishes
Flooring, shower tile and penny round tile – Imperial Flooring
Lighting – Wayfair
Quartz vanity counters – Northern Stone
Master bedroom – Bamboo furniture, Scan Design
Custom glass shower door – Red River Glazing

Saving a bird’s-eye of the river for their master suite, the Dwyers bedroom is completed with Scandinavian bamboo and contemporary stylings.

Mod lighting sets a mid-century tone for the Dwyers master bath.
Inside their spa-inspired shower, they chose a black penny-round tile complimented by a stunning, wood-look tile from Imperial Flooring.


“It’s so special that our kids are the sixth generation to live on this land. The new house is just a really functional space for us and we’re still here on the family homestead.”
Rachel Dwyer

While Jack Dwyer has his own law firm, Dwyer Law, Rachel Dwyer has a 14-year career teaching French in West Fargo and currently at Sheyenne High School. They’ve been married for 11 years and have four children, Jesse 8, Dahlia 6, Mikey 3 and Sophie 1.

For information on Lost River Development, contact:
Jack Dwyer

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Design + Discuss with Grain Designs

Words by Grant Koenig and Blain Mikkonen Photos by Grant Koenig, Dan Francis Photography, Kuda Photography, Nick Friesen Photography, and Shawn Thomas Creative For those that aren’t yet familiar with…

Words by Grant Koenig and Blain Mikkonen

Photos by Grant Koenig, Dan Francis Photography, Kuda Photography, Nick Friesen Photography, and Shawn Thomas Creative

For those that aren’t yet familiar with us, Grain Designs is based in Fargo, N.D. and started out of a joint passion to build and develop new ideas through furniture making. As designers, our minds are in constant pursuit of inspiration and Grain Designs became our outlet to create tangible products out of ideas. We also quickly realized that the furniture market was over-saturated with poorly made, generic pieces and we knew that we could provide something better. We don’t believe in buying new things day after day or year after year, we want the products that we create to hold value and function for years to come. Quality to us means everything and is more important now, than ever.

grain design fargo


Why reclaimed wood?
By choosing to work with reclaimed wood it has taught us to be mindful of the resources we have. This has enabled us to breathe new life into seemingly useless materials giving us the ability to provide a meaningful product and experience unlike anything else.

Fall’s Most Popular Products

grain designs fargoThe Frederick Farmhouse Table
Typically built with reclaimed floor joists out of barns or warehouses, this table has become a staple product for us and is continuing to evolve as design styles change.


The Sliding Barn Door 
This product has taken on a life of its own and has found so many more applications than we had originally imagined. They are most commonly used to replace existing swing doors however we have used them as window shades, large room partitions and even doors on dog kennels.

grain designs fargo


Custom Desks
Work spaces have become so much more flexible, and this had created a whole new market for us in both the home and business industry. The custom desks that we have designed are truly built with the user in mind and have featured everything from hidden whiskey storage to full magnetic, steel wall features.
Instagram Inspiration
In our constant pursuit of new ideas, we find inspiration from businesses across the country and throughout the Midwest, combining their ideas with our own local flavor. Here are a few outstanding businesses that are worth the follow.

Junkyard Brewing Company

This Moorhead, M.N. based brewing company has set out to not only create a delicious product but to facilitate a customer experience unlike any other. Stop by their Taproom in North Moorhead and get inspired with their weekly rotation of experimental beers and live music.


Jordan Iverson Signature Homes 

Three words describe this Eugene, Oregon home builder; architect, designer, visionary. It’s not hard to be inspired by Iverson’s fusion of modern and traditional design elements, materials and color palettes.

Workshop Denver 

Owner Brad Weiman started his Denver, C.O. venture as a construction and concrete furniture company, but over the past five years, they’ve grown to become much more. These days they are a design + build, construction and project management company that specializes in custom features. Follow them to see their take on creative applications of concrete and wood in countertops, custom wood cabinets and floating staircases in their portfolio of over 60 spec homes.


Contact us:
(by appointment only)
6218 53rd Ave S., Fargo, N.D.

(by appointment only)
4487 165th Ave SE, Davenport, N.D.

Blain Mikkonen

Grant Koenig

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