[Fargo's Urban Cabins]
Words by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography
When Plains Art Museum announced the theme of their 3rd Annual Progressive Architecture Dinner, "Urban Cabins", we were more than a little curious. This was our chance to see inside four of Fargo's most intriguing spaces, visit with the architects and owners, then sample an array of drinks and a spectacular catered course at every stop. Join the Midwest Nest team as we recap their September 28th event which introduced us to an "Urban Cabin" approach to home, architecture and art.
Art + Architecture
Each year, this highly anticipated event is specially curated by Sandy Thompson, Director of Development, and Andy Maus, Director & CEO at Plains Art Museum. The two search out the unusual, the sophisticated, the painstakingly detailed, and most often, the spaces and homes that many of us could only dream of residing in. While most of us play it safe, the faces behind these spaces push the envelope to design an experience, reinvent the norm, maybe even create something that's never been seen.
This four-home tour is designed to introduce the community to the idea of art plus architecture. Every home's tour lasts roughly one hour and ends with a conversation between the homeowner and the architect, offering an open forum for guests to inquire. All proceeds from the tour sustain PlainsArt4All, the Museum’s free general admission initiative.
Tour #1: Matt Chamber's Mod Bachelor Pad | Downtown Fargo
[Hors d'œuvres: VIP Restaurant & Catering ]
Serving small bites like smoked salmon, cucumbers, and dill with Caprese, | Cuban, blackberry mozzarella, and melon prosciutto and blue cheese skewers
About the Home:
Located in Downtown Fargo, Chamber's home was built in 1969 as the architecture firm for Clark & Holman. Originally, the second floor was the firm, and the first floor was commercial space that was rented out. The open atrium in the back was once a true terrarium, glassed off with plants and trees. Chris Hemmah, a local graphic designer, and his ex-wife, Julie Hemmah, bought the building in 2008, devising plans to redesign it as a home. While Stahl Architects of Fargo is the architect of record, Dave Uhlir is primarily responsible for the home's design with collaboration from the Hemmahs. The green and gray grid work exterior was inspired by Palm Springs architecture and designed by both Chris Hemmah and Julie Hemmah.
Fun Fact: The house was featured as Wall Street Journal’s “House of the Day” in October of 2010.
Meet the Homeowner: Matt Chambers
As the third owner, Matt Chambers' mod bachelor pad in Downtown Fargo is still heavily influenced by the home's original design which was inspired by the past owner's love of Palm Spring's architecture. The renovation was done prior, and it came complete with many of the Hemmah's Mid-century modern art and furnishings. "I like the idea of keeping those things because the whole place is just designed to fit and work together," said Chambers. To get the home staged and ready for the tour, Chambers brought in Trever Hill Design to give the home a few custom touches.
"I love gadgets and connective things, so I've been constantly adding more cameras and speakers; the wiring in here has more Cat5 cables in the walls then probably most new businesses. Between the sound systems, the TVs, my car, and the radiant heat, it's a very nice gadget house. Chris and I have since been in touch - the more I've gotten to know him, the more I realized that we are of kindred mindsets."
"A lot of the artwork was Chris and Julie's, but I did bring over a few of my own - including the 1947 map in the dining room and square print in my bedroom - that's one of my favorites. It says, 'I love you', but it was from when my niece was three and she'd scratched it out on a little three-inch by three-inch paper that was on my fridge. I blew it up and made that print out of it," explained Chambers.
"It's a very unique place; I don't know if it'd be for everyone, but it's definitely for me. This home has such amazing attention-to-detail."
Meet the Architects: Stahl Architects & Dave Uhlir
Phil Stahl had met Chris Hemmah while at neighboring businesses and the two had quickly become friends. Hemmah brought the project to Stahl, but unable to take on more work, he referred it to a young colleague, Dave Uhlir who became the primary architect. Uhlir currently works as an architect in Minneapolis.
"He said he needed three bedrooms, an office, a kitchen, living room, dining room, home theater, an art gallery, four stall garage, and an outdoor space - so right away, I'm thinking, that's going to cost about $1.5 million, 5,000 square feet and about an acre of land. He said he had about 3,000 square feet, it's in Downtown Fargo, and he only has windows on one side, but let's get to work," laughed Uhlir.
"The design was just making it as efficient as possible, compressing spaces, minimizing hallways, make every room usable, but not too small. To make the connection, we broke up the space with three areas, putting bedrooms on two ends, then an open living space in the middle," said Uhlir.
"It was a 100 percent collaboration between Julie, Dave, Phil and myself," said past homeowner, Chris Hemmah. "Dave worked directly with us on the design, but Julie and I had very strong ideas and did a lot of the design work ourselves, modifying his concepts. We tested his patience with our own design input - but he did a fantastic job and provided just what we needed."
"Chris did his own construction management and it turned out to be a great project. We didn't go too heavy on expensive materials - it's gypsum board, paint, LVT flooring - we tried to let the space speak for itself. One of my favorite spaces is the atrium - it was kind of a 'found' space," said Uhlir. "To them, it was their outdoor space, but it gave us that light on both sides of the building and a wow factor. It's an exciting element that ties the two floors together."
Tour #2: Marjorie Schlossman's Artist Studio & Garden / Main Avenue, Fargo
[ Salad Course: Chef's Table Catering ]
Garden Harvest salad with Green Goddess dressing
While most of us have driven by Marjorie Schlossman's art studio, located on Main Avenue in Fargo, not many have had the pleasure of seeing inside. One day it was holding its longtime place as Gene's TV Clinic, and the next day it seemed to have transformed into something otherworldly. Covered by English Ivy within a trellis structure on all four exterior walls, the building's curb presence was intended to be discreet.
The Landscape: Baker Garden & Gift
As you enter the property, the building's design begins where you park. Ryan Hoss, who's now retired from Baker Garden & Gift, worked with Schlossman to design a permeable parking lot, created to have grass grow in between the pavers. "I remember him talking about this project in 2012; the whole concept was to create an oasis within, so that when you get into the garden, you forget where you're at," explained Eric Baker, owner of Baker Garden & Gift.
"On site, two buildings were falling down with a lot of concrete and gravel. To get plants to grow, we excavated about two feet and dug up all kinds of stuff, including that grave marker from 1893 that's now in the corner of the yard," said Baker. "We brought in engineered soil, the best possible soil that you can grow something in."
Meet the Owner & Abstract Artist: Marjorie Schlossman
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