Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography
When Cara and Cole Christenson found their beautiful pond lot in West Fargo’s River’s Bend development, they had not planned on building on it for at least a few years. Finding inspiration in Studio West Home’s work on the HBA’s Parade of Homes last year, their plans quickly progressed from ideas on the drawing board to reality. Working closely with Kirsten Waverek, Elliot Steinbrink and Trisha Stibbe of Studio West Homes, the team was able to bring to life a stunning two-story vision, with a fusion of classic design elements and coastal charm.
The Christensons built their rambler just three years ago, but last year set their sights on the beautiful pond lot with endless potential. Despite their plans to hold off on a new build, the couple couldn’t help but start dreaming up their new vision. They started meeting with various builders and eventually set their hearts on the signature style that Kirsten Waverek of Studio West Homes had become known for. “We had ideas in our head that were very broad, but one of the reasons we went with them is the trust that we felt right away,” said Cole Christenson. “We loved their style and their vision. We showed them what we liked in general, and Kirsten honed in and got us to where we are now. It’s been a great process and decision to work with them.”
Nearly a year later, after first meeting the Studio West Homes’ team, the Christensons are planning their May move-in date. Transitioning from a rambler with more industrial finishes, the family of three is ready for the more refined and classic design of their custom two-story. Encompassing 3,130 square feet with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths, every inch of the home speaks to the craftsmanship of the builder and personality of the homeowner.
Key Design Elements
“We came to Studio West Homes with five key things that we wanted in the home. Since our last home was a rambler, we wanted a two-story this time with a catwalk upstairs and a vaulted entry and living room,” explained Cara Christenson. “We also asked for a spacious master suite with a soaker tub and walk-out balcony, then a nearby bedroom suite for our daughter, Sloane.”
Letting the design evolve throughout the process, Studio West relied on computer-generated renderings to help the Christenson’s visualize the current state and eliminate any unwelcome surprises.
Planning the Design
To create their unique mix of traditional and classic elements, Cara Christenson created a Pinterest board and provided Studio West Homes with ideas and images to set the wheels in motion.
Waverek and Cara Christenson worked together to find the lighting online, in a mix of traditional, vintage and mid-century modern designs. “We wanted the home to feel very classic and traditional with an East Coast feel, but then liven it up with a few modern touches within the lighting choices,” said Cara Christenson.
To achieve the fused look, they chose antiqued Brass finishes in the main living areas and chrome fixtures in the bathrooms. White-oak laminate flooring and crisp white trim lend a beach house vibe while soaring ceiling heights create modern elegance. To unify the proportions between the kitchen’s 10-foot ceiling and the great room’s 20-foot ceilings, Studio West incorporated taller doors and custom-designed, seven-inch base trim.
Leveraging the 20-foot ceiling height in the entry, the team designed a grand entrance with a white-paneled, stairwell wall and white oak banister as the focal point. The more classically elegant entry design is their guest’s first glimpse of the home’s timeless style.
“Cara had wanted this light fixture for years, so the powder room design centered around the plaster white, vintage lighting, then extended to the Serena & Lily wall covering that she found,” said Waverek. “To create the double-shelf, wall hung vanity, we used a stained red oak to emulate the white oak look of the flooring.”
From Rustic Industrial to Classic Elegance
“Originally, we had planned to do reclaimed wood beams in the 20-foot ceilings of the great room, but as they started making their selections, we realized that they were going away from the more industrial design of their last home,” said Waverek. To remedy the design, Studio West switched the reclaimed beams out with a more traditional beam style, then added classic paneling to the fireplace and a unique white-washed look tile that Cara Christenson had found.
“For the great room’s blinds and our lighting, we had Jamie from Smart Home Technologies come in and do a walk-through,” said Cara Christenson. “All of our lighting is now on a Crestron system and we decided on doing electronic shades just on the lower portion of the windows since we don’t get much direct sunlight on that side of the house.”
One industrial element the Christenson’s chose to keep is the locally-designed Finnu Designs dining table by Josh Humble.
Just beyond the great room, the Christensons and Studio West have designed an open layout which is integral for entertaining and family time. The dining area transitions from the great room to either the sunroom or kitchen with close proximity to all three spaces. Keeping with a lighter, beach house vibe, Studio West worked with Wendt Custom Cabinets to create the contrast between the Simply White cabinetry and Stonington Grey painted island with antique brass hardware and classic subway tile. To add a modern element, wall-hung shelving was finished to complement the lighter tones of the white oak flooring.
Since the mudroom can be seen from the kitchen, the team needed to create a cohesive design between the two rooms. To do this, they chose the same Stonington Grey tone of the kitchen island on the mudroom cabinetry and drop zone.
Beach Bum & Bohemian
For the staging and design of the home, Studio West worked with the Cara Christenson to put a fun twist on their own personal style. “With everything being so light and bright we kind of liked it being a little bit beachy, a little bohemian, then mixing in a fresh green so it’s not just that typical home,” said Waverek. “There are some really fun accents, but it’s still that traditional, classic design with some really strong bones. Our hashtag for this home is #Studiowestcoastalcharm – it’s kind of that coastal style with the lighter wood and beachy fabrics and linens. Then we bring in a little bit of glam with all of the gold, velvet and pops of pink that Cara loved. A pop of color like this one can go a long way.”
“For me, this design was initially a little more challenging,” said Waverek. “Cara and Cole had gone to quite a few open houses and existing properties for sale, and they said they really loved this two-story entry and the look of the catwalk. That was a type of design that we hadn’t really done before, but I absolutely love the way it turned out. The design and layout definitely evolved as we went through the process.”
Upstairs in the custom-designed laundry room, the team chose a bold, yet classic hue of Hale Navy cabinetry with aged brass hardware and a patterned, sheet vinyl flooring. With the master closet located just behind the laundry room, it created a unique opportunity to incorporate a direct pass-through for their laundry basket.
Another check off of their wish list was the upstairs master suite. Studio West worked closely with the couple to design a relaxing space with plenty of amenities. “They’re both big readers, so it was nice to incorporate some built-ins for their books and a cozy sitting area overlooking the pond. Eventually, just outside of their bedroom there will be a walkout balcony deck,” said Waverek.
“Their master bath turned out beautifully with the herringbone marble tile and heated floors. We mixed in more modern fixtures in chrome with marble-look quartz countertops and the same Simply White cabinets as the kitchen perimeter,” said Waverek. “We also incorporated his and hers sinks with a side makeup vanity as well as a soaker tub and a custom tile and glass shower.
Making Pinterest perfection with the ceiling slant, Studio West created a charming space for their four-year-old daughter Sloane – complete with beautiful built-ins and a dreamy window seat for reading.
“We only build a handful of homes each year, so we get to know our clients really well,” said Kirsten Waverek. “We want every home to be personalized to the homeowner and really fit their personality. We love finding new ideas, so when clients come to us with organized ideas like Cara and Cole did, we know exactly which direction to go in. They both have phenomenal taste and we’re so excited to have gotten the opportunity to work with them.”
Find the Finishes:
Powder room lighting – Visual Comfort
Powder room wall covering – Serena & Lily
Great room chandelier – Circa
Great room blinds & Crestron lighting controls – Smart Home Technologies
Kitchen, bathrooms and fireplace surround tile – Floor to Ceiling Carpet One
Cabinetry and built-ins – Wendt Custom Cabinets
Antiqued Brass hardware – Wendt Custom Cabinets
Flooring – Floor to Ceiling Carpet One
Kitchen pendants – Rejuvenation
Kitchen sink sconce – Restoration Hardware
Master bedroom pendant lights – Serena & Lily
Countertops – Spaulding Stone
Master bath glass doors – Frontier Glass
Master soaker tub and fixtures – Northern Plumbing Supply / Waterfront Kitchen & Bath
Master bath lighting – West Elm, Wayfair
Dining room table – Finnu Designs
For more information, contact:
Studio West Homes