Midwest Nest Magazine

Midwest Nest Magazine

Culture, Entertaining, Home Design, Fargo, Interior Design, DIY

32nd Annual Homes for the Holidays [Design by Christy Brawner-Riley]

Story by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis Photography To kick off the 32nd Annual Homes for the Holidays tour, by NDSU’s Alpha Gamma Delta Alumnae, we visited the 1923…

Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography

To kick off the 32nd Annual Homes for the Holidays tour, by NDSU’s Alpha Gamma Delta Alumnae, we visited the 1923 character home of Sara Oltvedt and Dan Olson, in Fargo’s Historic Hawthorne neighborhood. Each November, this tour partners area designers with local boutiques and homeowners to create stunning holiday scenes ready to inspire. This year, we followed local designer, Christy Brawner-Riley who showcased her recent refresh with holiday decor from Eco Chic Home.

Oltvedt and Olson moved into their 1923 Fargo home just three years ago and have recently been working with Christy Brawner Interiors to refresh their home’s layout and furnishings. As the fifth family to reside here in 95 years, the home had already gone through a handful of remodels and upgrades, many of them dating back to the 50s and 90s. When they moved in, they brought their own heirloom furnishings and so started the challenge of what to keep and what to respectfully set aside. As beautiful as their furnishings were, many of their existing pieces did not fit the light and bright look they wanted to incorporate. Very carefully, Brawner-Riley worked with the homeowners to update furnishings and room layouts to better suit their family’s needs.

Holiday Design
For the tour, Brawner-Riley worked with decor from Eco Chic Home in Fargo, to complete the homeowner’s nature-inspired holiday design. “Eco Chic has such beautiful greenery and some of the more natural elements that I wanted to bring in here. I didn’t want to go over-the-top Christmas, but I wanted it to have that classic Christmas feeling with warm and cozy elements,” said Brawner-Riley. To complement the Eco Chic Home decor, she also incorporated a few of her own holiday-inspired pieces.

Holiday Entertaining…Redesigned
Previously, this room was underused, but Oltvedt wanted this to be an area where she could have friends and family and entertain. “By changing the entire layout of the room and making the fireplace the focus, they will get a lot more use out of it and be able to sit comfortably and enjoy the space,” said Brawner-Riley.

“The pillows on the sofa were kind of our jumping off point – I found that fabric and loved it; it also had some of the turquoise in the chairs, so we had those pillows custom-made,” she continues. “This pattern was also the inspiration for some of the colors and more natural aspects of the tree in the nearby sunroom. They have a beautiful garden all around the house, so it’s kind of nice to bring that nature in. The house just lends itself because it’s so classic and centered around simplicity. All of the furniture in this room is new, except for the piano. I found the sofa and chairs at McNeal & Friends. Some of the smaller pieces like the side tables and coffee table were found on Wayfair.”

“Since it’s been done, I come out here every morning and I’m amazed that this is our house, it’s not just something from a magazine that I’ve seen and want,” said Oltvedt.

With subtle changes in furnishings and layout continuing in each of the rooms, the homeowners have a running list of areas to update in their historic home; including the fireplace’s stone surround and kitchen. To respect the home’s original charm and high-end finishes, each decision is a balancing act of new and old.

Treasured Tree
After Brawner-Riley had designed a new layout for the adjacent living room, it was decided that the Christmas tree would be better served in the sunroom, near their son’s chess table. “The new layout of the living room was designed as a space for entertaining, so we wanted to keep that as is and not obstruct the flow,” said Brawner-Riley.

“Sara had wanted to replace all of her Christmas decor, so, shortly after I found out that I would be doing the holiday design here, I stumbled upon everything I needed. I was out thrift store shopping (I’m an avid thrift shopper), I found all of the jewel-toned ornaments on this tree,” said Brawner-Riley. “I ordered the pompous grass from Hornbacher’s to bring in that feather element and I also brought in the peacock feathers.”

The Bar Harbor Room
The room where they spend most of their family time was dubbed the Bar Harbor room, long before their day. Recently, the homeowners were told by a local expert that it was likely built in the 50s, judging by the brickwork on the fireplace. The floorboards were predicted to have come from the original carriage house.

For the holiday decor, Brawner-Riley complemented the warmer wood tones and chose classic comfort with plush pillows from Eco Chic Home. “With this room being more of a family room, I wanted to go with a classic red for the tree and decor, and I designed for the little niches and kept it simple,” said Brawner-Riley.

2-2 (optional if needed) If not, pls put this sentence with the paragraph above.
The red bird on the coffee table is a treasured piece the homeowner bought for her very first home, many years ago at the first Junk Market held in Eco Chic’s parking lot.

Elegance at the Table
The dining room’s floral wallcovering and custom built-ins were originally designed by previous owners who lived in the home for 28 years. Working with the home’s historic charm, Brawner-Riley adorned the heirloom dining table with new, more stylized captains chairs and nature-inspired bird prints; tying in the nature print from the formal living room’s pillows. Fur placemats, aspen branches, fresh-cut greens and her own vintage bone china, set the tone for timeless tradition and elegance. Near the built-ins and console, she chose pine tree accents from Eco Chic Home.

Gallery Galleys
The Sara Oltvedt’s father is a well-known artist and former MSUM Art Professor, Carl Oltvedt. Nearly every piece of their collection is local or regional, with a few favorites from Bob Crowe, Kay Ornberg, Charles Beck, Dan Jones and many more.

Brawner-Riley found the console table near the front entry at SCHEELS Home & Hardware. The artwork behind the floral is a piece by local artist, Kay Ornberg. “Kay used to travel with my dad; this is a tree that she painted from a trip that my dad led in Scotland. My husband, Dan had this painting before we met, so when my dad came over for the first time to his house and saw the painting that he had, he said, ‘I know what tree that is!’ So, later he went home and dug through his photos and brought the photo of the actual tree.

Embracing Historic Character
“The bulk of what we’ve done is bring in the artwork and bring a more classic style into the home, just to maintain some of the character and integrity of the original finishes,” said Oltvedt. The entry, hallway, living room and kitchen were all updated by the most recent previous owners, who lived here for around five years. Linen and textured wall coverings were added throughout, and nearly all of the windows have been replaced in the style of the home’s original character. The hardwood floors near the front of the home are original and the window upstairs on the front of the house, French doors and entry all have original glass panes.


Giving Back by Design
“What really brings the designers, volunteers and homeowners together, in one collaborative effort, is knowing that the work we do gives back to the F-M community,” said co-chair Brenna Naseer. “Each year, we choose a different local charity to receive a share of proceeds from Homes for the Holidays. Last year’s event supported the Great Plains Food Bank BackPack Program and this year we chose Churches United for the Homeless. That is one of the biggest reasons why I love being a part of Homes for the Holidays – playing a small role in something that has made an impact for local people over so many years; it’s truly a great feeling.”

For more information, contact:
Christy Brawner Interiors

christy@christybrawnerinteriors .com


Eco Chic Home
3265 45th Street S. Fargo

Homes for the Holidays
Facebook at fmhomesfortheholidays

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Cookies & Cocktails [Chef Judd Eskildsen, Proof Artisan Distillers]

Story by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Micah J. Zimmerman Meet Chef Judd Eskildsen of Downtown Fargo’s Proof Artisan Distillers. Just beyond his kitchen, you’ll find an array of nationally-awarded vodka,…

Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Micah J. Zimmerman

Meet Chef Judd Eskildsen of Downtown Fargo’s Proof Artisan Distillers. Just beyond his kitchen, you’ll find an array of nationally-awarded vodka, gin and whiskey; proudly-produced from North Dakota agricultural products, and distilled daily. Those who visit Proof – The Tasting Room, would be remiss to overlook his spirited pairings. With a wide range of seasonal flavors, gracing fresh seafood, beef, pork and chicken, Eskildsen knows how to spin native ingredients with extraordinary flavors. This is a hands-on, foodie experience with spiked seasonings, distilled from scratch – only a few feet from the kitchen.

Pairing Cookies + Cocktails
Asking this master of meat to bake a holiday treat may have seemed like a stretch, but we promise, you’ll love his bacon, chocolate and peanut butter cup cookies. If that’s not enough, he served up one of his specialty entrees and taught us how to concoct a tasty Tipsy Mocha. This is one holiday menu that will bring the Christmas cheer, one perfectly-aged barrel at a time.

From the Chef: Judd Eskildsen
“I absolutely love cookies, but they have to be soft. Since I was asked to share a family cookie recipe or one of my favorites, I mixed it up a bit. I love chocolate chip cookies, but there are a million recipes for them. I also really love my Grandma Arlos’ molasses cookies, but I’m a chef, so I went ahead and created an over the top, one of a kind cookie – because it’s not every day that you get your picture taken for a magazine!”

Chocolate, Bacon & Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
1 – lb. bacon (chopped) – cooked until done, but not extra crispy
2 – c. flour
3⁄4 – c. cocoa powder
1⁄2 – tsp. baking soda
1⁄2 – c. softened butter
1 – c. brown sugar
1⁄4 – c. white sugar
3 – eggs
1 – tsp vanilla
14 oz. package mini peanut butter cups
1⁄2 – c. semisweet chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder and baking soda.
-Add butter, brown sugar and white sugar to a stand mixer, and mix with wire whip.
-Add eggs and vanilla to mixer and mix until smooth.
-Slowly add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl, and mix until a dough is formed.
-Switch to the paddle attachment, and slowly add peanut butter cups and bacon.
– Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes -Scoop dough and place on a greased cookie sheet, using a 1.25 oz scoop (#40).
Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack immediately.
Note: Cookies will not appear to be fully done, but they will continue cooking during the cool-down.

The Tipsy Mocha1⁄2 oz. 2 Docks Vodka
1⁄2 oz. 2 Docks Cream Liqueur
1 oz. 2 Docks Coffee Liqueur
6 oz. hot Cocoa or Warm Chocolate Milk

Add all ingredients to a coffee mug, top with whipped cream and garnish as needed. I used crushed, chocolate mint-covered pretzels from Costco.


The Tasting Room Menu
Eskildsen’s seasonally-changing menu is an eclectic mix of comfort food, elevated bar food and fine dining. His emphasis features fan favorites; from smoked and braised briskets to Southwest, steaks, sliders, authentic Italian pasta sauces and artisan burgers. Throw in his Chicken Wings Confit from the Shareables menu, ask him to pair it with the perfect cocktail, and you’ll likely knock out every possible craving.Chef Judd Eskildsen creates a bi-weekly Chef’s Feature dish that gives him the opportunity to get creative. A recent Chef’s Feature, the Manhattan Filet with Langostino Lobster, Vermouth Sauce, Aged Gouda Potato Rosti with Sautéed Asparagus, was paired with The Chef’s Shifter.“I like the idea of ‘elevated bar food’ when it comes to appetizers,” said Eskildsen. “We all love a great dish like the Steak with Langostino Lobster and Vermouth Sauce, but who doesn’t like chicken wings? You really can’t beat a damn good sandwich either, and if you don’t like tacos, we probably shouldn’t be friends anymore. I’m usually very humble about my food, but I have a hard time believing that there is a better chicken wing than mine. There may be better sauces out there, but not a better wing. I haven’t found a decent way to dip a wing, so that led to the creation of Buffalo & Bleu…why not mix it in right away, and skip the dipping part?”

Local Favorites in the Tasting Room

BBQ Beef Burnt Ends – Hickory smoked brisket with crispy onion and honey mustard aioli
Chicken Wings Confit – BBQ, Buffalo & Bleu, or Sambal Chili
Tacos – Braised beef, Mojo pork, Salsa verde chicken, BBQ pork

“I’m very confident in my BBQ abilities because of the amount of time I’ve spent working on them. Any time you see my name and BBQ, I highly urge you to be a part of it.”
Chef Judd (Justin) Eskildsen, Proof Artisan Distillers

Chef’s Shifter

1⁄2 oz. Glen Fargo American Malt Whiskey 1⁄2 oz Minions Old Tom Gin
1⁄2 oz. Sweet Vermouth
1⁄4 oz. Grand Marnier
1⁄4 oz. Maraschino Liqueur

Stir over ice for 30 seconds and strain into a rocks glass with a large ice cube and an orange peel garnish._______________________________________

Crooked Stocking Stuffers

Gift the host, stuff the stocking or brighten up your holiday party with Proof’s newest spirit, Crooked Furrow Bourbon Whiskey. Swing by their downtown distillery and create your own two or three-pack gift box with their hand-crafted collection including: 2DOCKS Vodka, 2DOCKS FirebyProof Cinnamon Whiskey, 2DOCKS Coffee and 2DOCKS Cream Liqueur, MINIONS Gin, MINIONS BARRELED RESERVE Gin, MINIONS OLD TOM Gin, MINIONS Vän Skap Aquavit, Glen Fargo – American Malt Whiskey or CROOKED FURROW Bourbon, and Harvest Blend-Blended Bourbon. You can also find their products at nearly 600 liquor stores, bars and restaurants throughout North Dakota and Minnesota.

Proof’s new Crooked Furrow Bourbon Whiskey was distilled and barreled three years ago. It has finally reached the age they’d been patiently waiting for. “The one thing about whiskey is, whiskey is not good until it is good, and there’s really no in between,” said Joel Kath, Proof’s founder and distiller. “Our initial limited release will expand to bar and liquor store shelves by January. However, we are not releasing all of the barrels at three-years; otherwise, we would never get any six, 10 or 15-year-old whiskey.”

One Batch at a Time

Kath takes pride in using locally sourced ingredients; North Dakota-grown corn and barley as well as oak barrels from Minnesota. “Our whiskey production is “one batch, one barrel” – and we patiently monitor it until it’s ready,” said Kath. “We’ve won over 20 national awards across our entire line of spirits and just made the cover of the premier trade journal for North America Distillers. One of four selected this year, out of 1,800 craft distilleries – right here in Fargo. We are all about the passion of the spirit; crafting quality spirits from local products. You can find our products at your favorite bar, restaurant and liquor store.”

Interested in a tour of the distillery? Kath suggests stopping in during happy hour on Wednesdays and Thursdays or calling ahead to schedule a group tour. If you’re interested in attending a seminar or special pairing dinner, follow them on social media for upcoming dates.


Meet the Chef: Judd (Justin) Eskildsen
Eskildsen was born and raised in Moorhead, Minn., and has been the Executive Chef at Proof Artisan Distillers since 2015. Although he has no formal training, he started young in his mom’s kitchen and has worked in restaurants since he was 15-years-old. Once having plans to go to culinary school, he instead took on an eight-year career as a welder. With nights and weekend off, Eskildsen used his spare time to pursue his long-time passion, eventually purchasing a smoker which dove him deeper into the art of BBQ.Realizing he needed to pursue his true passion further, Eskildsen headed back to the kitchen, working in some of the best restaurants in Fargo-Moorhead. In the summer of 2015, he was asked to create a cocktail party-style dinner featuring Proof’s products. His debut, as a chef who could master pairings, would become the catalyst for a new career in the kitchen of Proof’s Fargo distillery. Many would agree that Eskildsen’s culinary career has been aged to perfection.

For more information, contact:
Proof Artisan Distillers, LLC
Judd Eskildsen, Executive Chef

315 North 5th Street #100, Fargo


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The More the Merrier

Story by Tracy Nicholson Photography by M. Schleif Photography Famous for their holiday soirees, we consider Monte Jones and Jerry Erbstoesser, entertaining elites. After moving from their Downtown Moorhead condo…

Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by M. Schleif Photography

Famous for their holiday soirees, we consider Monte Jones and Jerry Erbstoesser, entertaining elites. After moving from their Downtown Moorhead condo last year, the two happily settled into the suburbs of West Fargo. While this summer we took you inside their first garden party fundraiser – nearly one year ago, we crashed their Christmas. See inside the couple’s festive, annual gathering, uniting their beloved, old and new neighborhoods with holiday cheer.

“Everybody, don’t be shy; if there’s a flat surface, park it,” laughed host, Monte Jones. A bit of advice when attending one of Jones and Erbstoesser’s gatherings – leave your formality at the door and get ready to mingle with the friendliest folks around. Don’t let the elaborate decor and Jone’s glittery attire confuse you; what appears to most as an exclusive soiree of who’s who in Fargo-Moorhead, is actually an inclusive celebration of neighbors and friends, old and new. Jones and Erbstoesser are born entertainers with a contagious enthusiasm for gathering in the name of friendship. If we had to guess their party-planning motto, we can only assume it would be, “The more, the merrier.”

Jones and Erbstoesser set the bar high when it comes to cuisine and cocktails. Both work in fine dining and catering with Delta Hotels by Marriot and Urban 42, so naturally, they recruited James Labonte, the hotel’s banquet chef to create an exquisite mix of cold and hot appetizers with an array of delectable desserts.

Guests happily grazed on antipasto platters, shrimp ceviche, crackers with brie, spiced walnuts and balsamic reduction, along with Southwest skewers and avocado cream, flank steak sliders and spinach and artichoke paninis.

“Our friends make us happy and that’s what makes this party – it’s all of our friends. It’s simple; we like all of our friends, so we assume that all of our friends will like each other. That’s what brings us joy,” said Jones.

For more information on Jones and Erbstoesser’s catering, contact:
Delta Hotel | Marriot
1635 42nd Street South, Fargo

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#RedBallProject [ Debut of Fargo-Moorhead’s Largest Public Art Display ]

Story by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis Photography, Dennis Krull – 5foot20 In case you didn’t notice the massive red ball around Fargo-Moorhead this past month, let us show…

Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography, Dennis Krull – 5foot20

In case you didn’t notice the massive red ball around Fargo-Moorhead this past month, let us show you its remarkable journey. The RedBall Project, created by artist Kurt Perschke, has traveled around the world and recently became a community phenomenon at seven must-see locations. To date, RedBall has made its debut in over 30 international cities, and is currently considered “the world’s longest-running street artwork”. To get the 250-pound ball to bounce our way, clay artist and MSUM Professor, Brad Bachmeier spearheaded the campaign, working closely with Andy Maus of Plains Art Museum and a long list of local supporters and sponsors. Follow along as we take to the streets for a recap of Fargo-Moorhead’s most impactful public art display, the RedBall Project.

Paving the Way for Public Art
Arriving in a crate carrying 250-pounds of inflatable canvas, the RedBall Project made its debut at Plains Art Museum on October 4. The artist, Kurt Perschke, had already visited in July and worked with the city to scout out seven different locations. Roughly the height of a semi truck, the RedBall Project traveled to a new location each day, disrupting the daily routine and encouraging the community to interact and take a second glance at beautiful locations we often overlook.

[Bringing the Ball to Fargo]
Location #1:
Plains Art Museum, Downtown Fargo

Location #2:
Minnesota State University Moorhead, Moorhead

“I don’t think we had initially realized how selective Kurt is about choosing communities for this project. He actually turns down roughly nine out of 10 inquiries, so we were extremely lucky to have been able to play host to RedBall.”
Brad Bachmeier, MFA, Professor – School of Art, MSUM

Location #3: Great Northern Bicycle Company, Downtown Fargo

Location #4: Lindenwood-Gooseberry Park Pedestrian Bridge, Fargo

“I think the RedBall Project was fabulously received in Fargo. It was wonderful to see the size of the crowds at each site and how great the attendance was. The best part was seeing the joy it brought to people of all ages, from toddlers to seniors. I think the project produced some really great conversations and awareness around public art that will be really productive for our metro moving forward.”
Brad Bachmeier, MFA, Professor – School of Art, MSUM

Location #5: Fargo Park District offices at the Depot

Location #6: Rourke Art Gallery + Museum, Moorhead

“The out of character snow event we had on the last day of the RedBall Project, in early October, turned out to be the perfect ending to the project; resulting in some fabulous photos in front of our iconic Fargo Theatre.”
Brad Bachmeier, MFA, Professor – School of Art, MSUM

Location #7: Fargo Theater, Downtown Fargo


“To me, the best artworks are those that appear simple but are actually complex. I feel that these works are a metaphor for people; you see someone or hear about someone – but, until you interact with a person, you don’t know them. I have never been a part of a project that was so incredibly simple, yet so impactful. Of the thousands of people that came out to see RedBall, several of them have thanked me for being a part of the team that brought it to Fargo-Moorhead. I think people loved it because it made them feel connected to the world, to each other, and to our built environment in a way that I think only it could do. Seeing it here reaffirmed to me that RedBall is indeed really about people – just as the artist (Kurt Perschke) intended.”

Andrew J. Maus, Director and CEO, Plains Art Museum


The RedBall Project is brought to Fargo and Moorhead thanks to support from the Fargo Arts & Culture Commission, Minnesota State University Moorhead, Plains Art Museum, Fargo Park District, Insight to Action/Carol Schlossman Consulting, Fargo-Moorhead Convention & Visitors Bureau, and other supportive partners.

For more information, contact:
Plains Art Museum
Andrew J. Maus, Director and CEO

Bradley Bachmeier

Program Coordinator and Professor of Art Education, MSUM
Art Therapy Program Co-Coordinator & N.D. Council on the Arts Board of Directors, Vice Chair


Or visit:

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Giving & Gathering

Story by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis Photography Recently, Midwest Nest donated an educational evening in the kitchen to the Pray for Gray benefit which took place this fall….

Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography

Recently, Midwest Nest donated an educational evening in the kitchen to the Pray for Gray benefit which took place this fall. Four guests were promised a behind-the-scenes seat at the table and auctioned off to the highest bidder – board member, Tom Shirek. Shirek had placed a handsome bid with the intent to send his wife, Sally Shirek, a Pray for Gray committee member, on a fabulous girl’s night out. To give the group an unforgettable experience, we called on four of the most talented at-home chefs we knew and two of the most giving hosts, Jim and Vonda Leiner. All graciously gathered and donated their time to display their skills in the Leiner’s beautiful kitchen. You’re invited to see inside their autumn-inspired evening, with four delectable courses – served up in style.

Be our Guest:
Thrilled with her husband’s gift, Sally Shirek wasted no time gathering her three friends,
Shannon Aannerud, Janessa Morrow and Allison Faller, to join in the food shoot fun. This VIP gathering began their foodie adventure in Leiner’s picturesque backyard, then headed inside for a behind-the-scenes tasting of four fall-inspired courses.

The Chefs
You might recognize our featured chefs, they grace our pages many times a year. Each at-home chef offers our readers an in-depth, but down-to-earth education in family favorites, comfort food, cocktails, desserts and specialty dishes they’ve recreated from their worldly travels. Our sincere thanks to hosts and chefs, Jim and Vonda Leiner, food blogger and at-home chef, Shayla Knutson of Sweetly Simple Life, our resident cheesemonger/”Culinary Masterson” (Jesse Masterson), and last but never least, our favorite family of world travelers and cuisine contributors, Laneil Skaff, along with her daughter Julie Stoe and daughter-in-law Christine Skaff.

Savoring the Season
This is the third time we’ve shot at the Leiner home and there’s no question we’d beg them to host again. In fact, the Leiners have become known for their gracious hosting, regularly entertaining on behalf of many different fundraising dinners. This is one couple who we consider experts in creating and capturing the perfect seasonal ambiance. Guests at each dinner enjoy a backyard riverside oasis, inviting ambiance and impressive tablescapes.21
One of the coziest features in the home is their authentic woodfire pizza oven from Italy. Jim Leiner is a long-time cabinet builder for Wood Specialists in Fargo. He installed the woodfire oven, crafted their beautiful cabinetry and created the stone surround. With the oven’s interior temps reaching around 800 degrees, fall is the perfect time to fire it up.

“It is all of the wonderful people we know and have gotten to know, gathering for causes and celebrations that are filled with so many stories and wonderful memories; that is what makes our house a home,” said Vonda Leiner. “Of course, it’s always fun to design and come up with new ideas to create an environment that makes people feel special, warm and cozy.”

Course #1: Jim & Vonda Leiner

Woodfire-Roasted Fennel with Prosciutto Pizza
Brush pizza dough with olive oil.
Top with fontina cheese, roasted fennel slices, prosciutto and red pepper flakes.
After baking, sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds, sea salt and balsamic vinegar glaze.

Woodfire-Roasted Harvest Butternut Squash Pizza
Spread chipotle oil on pizza dough.
Top with caramelized onion, butternut squash, mozzarella cheese, thin apple slices, chopped bacon and a sprinkle of blue cheese.
Garnish with sage and walnuts.

Tips: The Leiners use a basic dough recipe, but you can purchase dough or make your own. If you don’t have access to a woodfire pizza oven, you can also use a pizza stone in the oven at 450-500 degrees.“Jim and I have been blessed by the support of our community, as well as family and friends when dealing with our own health challenges. We love having the opportunity to help and give back when we can, by opening our home for others to enjoy.”
Vonda Leiner, Homeowner & Midwest Nest Cuisine Contributor

Course #2: Jesse Masterson
Kale & Brussel Sprout Salad + Fig Balsamic DressingIngredients:2 – Tbs. of olive oil

1 – Bundle of Kale, chopped

2 – C. of Brussel Sprouts, shredded

1 – Apple (sliced or balled – using a melon baller)

1 – Carrot, shredded

2 – Slices of bread

1 – C. walnuts



White cheddar cheese, sliced or shredded

Brie cheese, sliced

Fig Balsamic Dressing:

1/3 – C. of olive oil

1/4 – C. balsamic vinegar

3 – Tbs. of fig preserves

Preheat oven to 425°

1. In a large salad bowl massage kale with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. This helps make the kale not so bitter. Toss Brussel sprouts in with kale.

2. Toss walnuts in one tablespoon of olive oil and add a dash of paprika, cinnamon and cumin. Using a cookie sheet, bake the walnuts in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

3. Prepare the fig balsamic dressing. Whisk ingredients together.

4. Prepare the Brie and white cheddar grilled cheese. Once done, cut the grilled cheese into small cubes. Don’t cut them too small or they’ll fall apart.

5. Top the kale and sprouts with carrots, apple, walnuts, grilled cheese croutons and salad dressing.25, 26, 19
“I was able to find most of the ingredients at the Red River Market in Downtown Fargo. On the weekends from July through October, this is a great place to find fresh and local produce, floral, handmade goods and dishes from locally-owned restaurants. Make sure to check out their upcoming schedule of events at www.redriver.market.com.”
Jesse Masterson, Midwest Nest Cuisine Contributor

Course #3: Laneil Skaff, Julie Stoe, Christine Skaff
Pepita Chicken + Oven-Roasted Fall Squash with Brown Sugar Glaze
Chicken in Pumpkin Seed Tomatillo Sauce


Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
½ – Pound tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and halved (Cashwise, 4907 Timber Pkwy S, Fargo)

½ – Medium white onion, roughly chopped

3 – Tablespoons avocado or vegetable oil, divided

1 ½ – Pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved

2 – tsp. ground cumin, divided

2 – tsp. Mexican oregano, divided

1/3 – C. green pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1 – Large garlic clove, peeled and chopped

2 – C. Low sodium chicken broth

1/3 – C. Crema Mexicana or sour cream w/a splash of milk or cream

1 – C. Loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish lime wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

1. Roast tomatillos and onions: In a medium bowl, combine tomatillos and onion and toss with oil to coat. Transfer to a baking sheet and lightly season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes or until tomatillos and onions are dark and crispy on the edges.

2. Season chicken generously with salt, pepper, and one teaspoon each of cumin and oregano; set aside.

3. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add one Tablespoon of oil. Toast the pumpkin seeds in the hot oil, stirring continuously, until they have expanded and begin to pop; 1-2 minutes. Carefully remove one Tablespoon of the toasted pumpkin seeds, lightly season with salt and set aside for garnish.

4. Add garlic and jalapeno to the pan and sauté until aromatic, about one minute. Add remaining teaspoons of cumin and oregano, roasted tomatillos, onion, ½ teaspoon of salt, and chicken broth; bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
5. Remove saucepan from heat, add cilantro, then pour into a blender and puree until smooth. Tip: Take the center knob out of the blender and place a paper towel over the hole – otherwise, you will have a hot explosion on your hands!
6. Once pureed smooth, pour back in pan, add cream (or sour cream) and reheat over medium-low heat. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

To pan roast the chicken: With a large heavy skillet, over medium-high heat – add remaining oil. When oil is simmering, place thighs (or your preference) presentation side down in the pan. DO NOT move them around. Cook until evenly browned, about five minutes. Carefully turn thighs over and finish cooking; by either placing cover on and turning heat down to medium-low or finish in oven. Roast until the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees, or about eight minutes.

To serve:  Spoon ¼-inch of sauce into warmed shallow serving dish. Arrange pieces of roasted chicken on top of the sauce. Drizzle sauce over chicken until well coated and garnish with pumpkin seeds and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and extra sauce on the side.

I learned how to make this at a cooking school; it’s easy to make, but it has really interesting, warm flavors that mix a bit of Mexican with a bit of fall. The tomatillos grow in a husk and have a denser texture with a little bite to it. The pepitas (green pumpkin seeds) give the dish a hint of fall without screaming pumpkin. It’s great served with plain rice, jasmine rice or a simple risotto. I prefer to use chicken thighs because they’re so moist and flavorful. You can even double the chicken and still only make one recipe of sauce. The sauce can be made up to two days ahead of time. If you have leftover sauce, try it on cheese quesadillas, steak, fajitas or fish tacos.”  Laneil Skaff, Midwest Nest Cuisine Contributor


Brown Sugar Glazed Fall Squash


Variety of fall squash – Laneil used acorn and buttercup


Salt and pepper

2- Tbs. Honey

1 – Tbs. Butter

2 – Tbs. Brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees


1. Wash squash and slice in half – top to bottom. Dig out middle seeds, then slice  ¼ to ½-inch slices. Place on foil-covered sheet pan.

2. Melt butter, using a pastry brush, brush each piece generously with butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Place in oven and bake for five minutes.
4. While squash is baking, make glaze. In a saucepan over medium heat, place honey, butter and brown sugar in pan and cook until brown sugar is melted.

5. Take squash out of oven and brush with glaze. Return to oven and bake for five to seven more minutes or until tender and glaze has caramelized.
(Time will vary depending on thickness of squash.)

Dessert Course: Shayla Knutson of Sweetly Simple Life
Pumpkin Crème Brûlée
4 – C. Heavy cream
8 – Egg yolks
1 – C. Sugar
1 – C. Pumpkin
1 – tsp. Vanilla
1 – tsp. Cinnamon
½ – tsp. Ginger
¼ – tsp. Cloves
¼ – tsp. Nutmeg (freshly ground)
6 – Mini pumpkins or six, 4-ounce ramekins

Preheat oven to 300 degrees
1. In a small saucepan, heat whipping cream and spices over medium heat, just until bubbly. Remove from heat; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine egg yolks, sugar, pumpkin and salt. Beat with a whisk or mixer just until combined. Slowly whisk the hot whipping cream into the egg mixture.
3. Use a small serrated knife to cut off the top half-inch of the baby pumpkins. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Place the pumpkins in a roasting pan.
4. Divide custard mixture evenly among the pumpkins or ramekins. Place roasting pan on oven rack. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the pumpkins or ramekins. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until center appears nearly set when gently shaken.
5. Carefully remove pan from oven. Remove pumpkins or ramekins from water; cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill for at least two hours or up to 24 hours. Before serving, let custards stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
6. Pour a thin, even layer of sugar over the refrigerated custards, ignite the torch, and use slow, sweeping motions. The sugar will melt slowly at first and then caramelize.

“This is a normal creme brulee, but I added pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices for a seasonal touch. Expect your creme brulee to be less firm than usual. You can use regular ramekins, but I thought the presentation would be more festive to serve it in carved-out, mini pumpkins. I would suggest preparing this recipe a day ahead of time. Also, cook time will vary with pumpkins versus ramekins; due to the moisture, plan for a longer bake time with pumpkins.”
Shayla Knutson, Sweetly Simple Life & Midwest Nest Cuisine Contributor
Follow on Facebook or Instagram @sweetlysimplelife

“Thank you to all the local chef’s involved for the wonderful meal, and especially Jim and Vonda for hosting the beautiful evening and delicious food. Thank you to Midwest Nest for the donation of the food shoot package for the Pray for Gray Gala and all of the generosities in this community. My friends and I had a great time and will forever cherish the memories together!” Sally Shirek


About Pray for Gray
Pray for Gray was founded by Julie Fletcher and is currently the only North Dakota 501(c)3 nonprofit brain tumor organization. The organization’s goal is to educate and raise awareness of brain tumors, to help meet the needs of other brain tumor patients and their families. Through their annual events, they strive to raise funds for new research and patient survival. Pray for Gray proceeds go to help area brain tumor survivors and their families, as well as brain tumor research programs.For more information regarding Pray for Gray, contact:
Pray for Gray Foundation
PO Box 446
Fargo, ND 58107



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That’s a Wrap! [ Behind the Scenes Remodel & Journey to HGTV ]

Story by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis Photography For designer Trever Hill and contractor Ben Anderson of Benjamin Custom Homes, this was a remodel project they would never forget….

Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography

For designer Trever Hill and contractor Ben Anderson of Benjamin Custom Homes, this was a remodel project they would never forget. Earlier this year, the two had spent months being interviewed by a production company that worked with HGTV. Finally, they were given the green light to take on a local remodel in the Horace home of Autumn and Steve Hareland. For 14 days this spring, a crew of cameramen followed their every move, documenting the remodel progress to create a sizzle reel and pilot episode that would be presented to HGTV executives. Although the pilot episode, which was given the name, Fargo Fabulous, would unfortunately not see its day on TV, the end result of the remodel was nothing short of fabulous.The Hareland’s home was built in 1999, and naturally, golden oak was a dominant feature throughout. The outdated floor plan left them longing for a more open and cohesive living space. The couple had initially recruited Trever Hill Design to redesign their main floor and kitchen; then as the major construction began, Ben Anderson of Benjamin Custom Homes entered, to help them overhaul the space.

“We did the entire main level, aside from the laundry room and the pantry,” said Anderson. “If you walk through the door you can see the stark difference between what it originally looked like.” Since the home had golden oak trim and doors from top to bottom, Anderson and Hill opted to install new painted oak trim in the remodel; this way the wood grain would still show through and tie in the new oak to the old oak. “It can be difficult because so much graining shows through, but Shawn Weyer of Weyer-for-Hire did a great job,” said Anderson. Inside the remodel, all of the floorings were replaced and the lighting was updated with new fixtures including pendants, sconces, chandeliers and square LED ceiling lights.

TV Timeframe
Typically, a project of this magnitude would take six weeks or more, but with a TV timeframe to work around, Hill, Anderson and a team of local talent completed the entire main floor remodel in 14 working days. This meant a lot of late nights and early mornings for every subcontractor involved. The house was constantly bustling with many of the subs and fabricators making it their top priority. Even city inspectors and engineers worked around their fast-paced schedule to keep the process running smoothly.

Suspended Style
One of the biggest challenges of their remodel was redesigning the staircase. It’s a major focal point that’s front and center at the entrance and within the living room area. Removing walls to create an open floating staircase meant dealing with a few structural issues that required new engineering and a fabricated H beam.

Before the team could install the new staircase, they had to tear down the ceiling downstairs and create structural support that ran all the way down to the concrete flooring. “We wanted to make the beam tie into the design, so we had it powder coated by Powdercoat Specialists, then Grain Designs cut the post’s wood inlay. Hill and Anderson then worked with Bob’s Custom Hot Rods to fabricate the metal staircase which weighed in around 850 pounds and took a team of ten guys to install.

Gorgeous Gathering
Beyond the showstopper staircase, Hill designed the gathering space so the eye would be drawn to the fireplace and custom floating shelves built by Grain Designs. This feature was designed with extra long, dry stack bricks from Hebron Brick to create a more contemporary finish. “The Harlands wanted ample seating in the living room, but because of the short time frame, we were not able to special order anything,” said Hill. “Despite the extra challenge, we managed to find this beautiful sectional at Gabbert’s.”

Kitchen Overhaul
With a total overhaul in the kitchen, golden oak cabinetry was donated to Habitat ReStore and replaced with an Arbor glaze cherry cabinetry designed by Hill and Rebecca Knutson of Floor to Ceiling Carpet One. The perimeter received a new quartz countertop, while the island now displays the biggest slab of Glacier quartzite available. Hill and Anderson worked closely with Robby Wysuph of Northern Stone to install and illuminate the natural stone with backlighting, while Grain Designs created the stunning butcher block feature.

“This island is a natural stone; it came out of a quarry looking like this and it was just polished,” said Hill. “In order to backlight it, Robby at Northern Stone had to miter and drop down the edges; so if you feel underneath, there’s a big piece of steel metal where the LEDs are. This is there to provide a gap so the stone wouldn’t crush the LEDs.”

The custom features don’t stop at the island – Hill fused an oversized raw-edge subway tile seamlessly with handmade ceramic tiles by local artist, Tara Fermoyle of Fermie Studios. Hill visited her studio to personally handpick and lay out the pattern for these beautiful tiles.

Inspired Dining
“This is the art that I had envisioned for the dining space from the very beginning,” said Hill. “Color-wise, this piece by local artist, Jessica Wachter, was really the inspiration for the entire space, which trickled into the kitchen and living room.”

As a central location between the kitchen and living room, Hill wanted to do something extraordinary for the dining table chandelier. He came up with an idea that would require brainstorming with Anderson and a little extra help to fabricate. The room’s birch-log chandelier was sourced from Anderson’s father-in-law’s property in the lakes area and hand-picked for color and width; all while TV cameras trudged through the snow behind them. Red River Electric was on site late into the night helping the two assemble it and get the LED strips trimmed and routered into the logs.

Anchoring the space, a 600-pound custom concrete table, created by landscaper Mike Nicholson, took six men to haul into the dining room. The custom steel base added another 120 pounds, making it roughly the weight of a pool table. “The table itself is art, it’s another one-of-a-kind piece that makes the room special,” said Hill. “There are so many stories behind every custom piece in this home; the Harelands know all of these stories and I think that creates great conversations for family and friends that visit. ”

Quiet Getaway
When the kitchen wall got bumped back into the den, Hill and Anderson reconfigured the den space to provide an intentional design and quiet space for guests. Calming elements like the wood bead chandelier and raffia wall covering, installed by Weyer-for-Hire, set the tone for the perfect transitional space that can easily double as an office.

Find the Finishes:
Design – Trever Hill Design
Contractor – Ben Anderson, Benjamin Custom Homes
Staircase wood fabrication – Grain Designs
Staircase metal fabrication – Bob’s Custom Hot Rods
Staircase powder coating – Powdercoat Specialists
Staircase engineering – Adam Adams, Liberty Structural Engineering
Interior wall & trim paint – Weyer-for-Hire
Fireplace – Cozy Heat, Hebron Brick
Kitchen butcher block – Grain Designs
Kitchen countertop install and lighting – Glacier Quartzite, Northern Stone
Quartzite supplier – Level 9 Quartzite, Stone Holdings
Kitchen cabinetry, flooring & tile – Rebecca Knutson, CID, Floor to Ceiling Carpet One
Handmade, ceramic tiles – Artist, Tara Fermoyle – Fermie Studios
Kitchen pendants & main floor sconces – Wayfair
Custom concrete dining table – Mike Nicholson, Custom Landscaping
Dining & living room art – Artist, Jessica Wachter
Dining room rug – Hom Furniture
Dining room captains chairs – recycled rag design, Hom Furniture
Living room sofa – Gabbert’s Design Studio & Fine Furniture
Den furnishings – Hom Furniture
Den wood bead chandelier – HomeGoods
Blinds – Budget Blinds

PART 2  OF 2

Trever Hill and Ben Anderson

[Behind-the-Scenes of their Journey to HGTV ]

When designer, Trever Hill of Trever Hill Design and Ben Anderson of Benjamin Custom Homes were confronted to create a pilot and sizzle reel for a potential HGTV show, Fargo Fabulous, these two could not have imagined the adventure they were in for. We sat down with them both to get the behind-the-scenes outtakes on their nearly one-year journey to TV and the excitement and challenges that followed.

Q: How did this project with the Harelands get started?
Autumn Hareland reached out regarding a bathroom remodel before the production company and I had even met. She didn’t feel like her space was functioning very well and after we talked, it made sense to invest in the main living area that’s primarily used by her family. Meanwhile, the producers were talking to me about doing a show; they had seen my work online, in magazines and the newspaper. I thought it was potentially a scam at first, but eventually, I could see they were serious about moving forward.

Q: What was the beginning process like and how did they choose a contractor?
They interviewed many people via Skype to potentially be part of the show, including my business partner in The Private Collection, Susan Hozak-Cardinal, and various contractors. Eventually, they decided on partnering me with Ben as the contractor; he’s amazing. After our Skype session, they decided to pitch us to HGTV to get the paid sizzle. We started at the end of June 2017, and then Ben started work with us in September.Anderson: We were contracted on October 5, 2017. They did a sizzle reel in December, right around Christmas. That was pitched on February 16th, and they filmed in April 2018.Q: Have you always had ambitions to be on TV?
Hill: I remember telling my friend, Jessica Wachter, that I wanted to design at a national level and she asked if I disliked living in Fargo. My response was, “No, I love Fargo; I want to stay here.” She said, “Then just stay in Fargo. It will come to you.” A couple months later, boom, they came to us.

Q: What was your favorite part of filming a TV pilot?
Filming with a great crew felt very natural and fun! Also, what made this project exciting and unique, was the time frame it was completed in. The entire project was done in two weeks with one day of pre-filming, 12 days of construction and part of a day for staging. It was fun to see things happen so quickly; there were usually two or three subs around all the time.

Q: What was it like completing a six-week remodel in only two weeks?
Ben had it all laid out, hour-by-hour, of what was going to happen on a 24-hour schedule. There were many people who made it their top priority and worked around the clock to complete their part of the project. Some donated or discounted their product and many of them donated extra time to help us stay on schedule. Toward the end, Ben even pulled off a 37-hour shift to make sure the project got done.

Q: Did the homeowner or production company front the remodel costs?
The Harelands had a significant investment in this remodel, but it definitely helped us to do more and stay within budget when the subcontractors donated material, volunteered extra time or offered additional discounts, with the idea that it was being taped for a potential show.

Q: Were there any unique challenges to filming while working?
Definitely. We would have all these people working, and then the camera crew would need to start shooting, so everyone would have to leave. For two to three hours of a workday, you might have 15 people just standing outside waiting to go back to work.
A city building official came on a Saturday at 6:30 am to do an inspection and a structural engineer had to wait for over an hour during filming; that is not typically how construction goes. We had some structural things we had to overcome during construction, but Shawn Weyer came in with his crew and cut a day out of the schedule to get us back on track. I think that was one of the coolest things, to see how our community comes together when you need them.

Q: What was life like after shooting the pilot?
It was weird when they left. It was like making the best friends in the world; you get to know these people really well, and then they vanish.

Hill: It’s almost like we went to camp, but professionally. For 14 days, you eat, practically sleep, work really long hours with them…and then poof, they’re gone. I think Ben said it best, “Did we just dream that?” It’s so strange and there’s so much energy. I went right back to meeting with my clients again, but couldn’t tell them what we had just been through. The network and production company asked that we not speak of the project, so we had to pretend like nothing happened.

Q: What did you think when you finally saw the pilot episode?
They did a fantastic job on the sizzle reel which was about three-and-a-half minutes; it took them three days to film. When we finally got to see the sizzle reel, we were wowed – they did a great job and it had such a fun tone. Many of these elements were carried through to the pilot, but it was certainly disappointing to know that the cut we saw would not be aired.

Q: What was it like spending months preparing for a TV series, then finding out that it would not be aired?
I think the whole experience was amazing and surreal, it didn’t feel like it was really happening. There was a period afterward where Trever and I were pretty bummed about the outcome. But then again, at the same time, we’re super grateful we had the opportunity.

Hill: There was never a 100% guarantee that the show would get picked up by HGTV, but the conversation around the project, from day one, was pretty much, “There’s no way they wouldn’t air this.” To hear the news that it wasn’t going to air was really disappointing to us, but the worst part was knowing how much everyone else had put into this project, then having to tell them that it wasn’t going to air.Cozy Heat, a division of Hebron Brick donated the fireplace, Grain Designs discounted the wood products and volunteered countless hours, especially with the staircase install. Robby Wysuph of Northern Stone donated money, product and time to the kitchen countertops, while Mike Nicholson of Custom Landscaping donated his time to create the concrete dining table. It was sad to see it not air, but it was still an amazing experience that we were so excited to be part of.Q: What was it like the day of the final reveal?
We were four or five hours behind on the last day. While they were setting up cameras to do the final filming and reveal, we were vacuuming the steps and still in a scramble to make things look great. I would say we had it television worthy, but there were still a few things that needed to be done.

Hill: It was an intense experience. I don’t think people realize how much work goes into one episode. That night, after two weeks of shooting and three hours of sleep, you’d think I’d never want to do something like this again, but when I was driving away, I really loved the idea of this potentially being my new life. I loved all of the people, the process and the idea of working hard towards a goal.

Q: If you were approached to shoot for a network again, what would you do differently?
Hill: Ask a lot of questions. We’re hoping moving forward that we’re going to find a company that wants to show Fargo for what it really is. And I think it’s a special place with people who care about one another and that’s what we would want to portray.

Anderson: The process would change; from us being interviewed, to us doing the interviewing. Now that we’ve experienced the process, we know what to expect from the production company. In the end, I believe everything happens for a reason and I’m super grateful for the experience and relationships that came out of it.

Q: Is there a chance a TV series could still happen?
There are some 80 hours of footage that were filmed. There’s always a possibility that the footage could be purchased and a new show could be completely remade. Our contract with the production company was up last month, so anything could happen.

Hill: When we flipped over the Jessica Wachter painting in the Hareland’s dining room and the title was, ‘You Can Always Come Back To This’, it definitely resonated with us. Maybe our journey in entertainment has just begun.

For more information, contact:
Trever Hill Design

Benjamin Custom Homes
4025 4th Avenue South Suite 1, Fargo

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Restoring Rural [Casselton, N.D.]

Story by Tracy Nicholson Photography by M. Schleif Photography Arriving at a home in rural Casselton, N.D, the home’s exterior was unassuming; like most 1950s ramblers, that at one point,…

Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by M. Schleif Photography

Arriving at a home in rural Casselton, N.D, the home’s exterior was unassuming; like most 1950s ramblers, that at one point, had received a few subtle upgrades. It didn’t take more than one step inside the door before we realized that our unassuming rambler, had a stylish story to tell. This was a Mid-Century Modern gem, which had recently been updated and preserved to perfection. Giving us a tour of their extensive remodel project, was design consultant Cassandra Grenz of Casselton, N.D., and contractor Brock Dickson of Harwood, N.D.

Preservation on the Prairie
A preservation and remodel unlike any other, this rural rambler was once the home of the owner’s grandparents. Built in 1951, the home had good bones with a layout that’s unusually spacious. Inside, it held a treasure trove of Mid-Century Modern appeal that simply needed a little T.L.C. To recreate and update the homeowner’s childhood retreat, they requested that the original 50s details be preserved, restored and fused with modern amenities.

Getting Started
Back in 2011, Dickson had been hired to do improvements on the exterior, updating the windows, siding and roofing. So, when the homeowners decided to remodel the interior, nearly two years ago, they once again reached out to Dickson. Realizing the extent of the design and preservation, he decided to collaborate with his high school friend and design consultant, Cassandra Grenz. While Dickson took on the work of moving walls, reframing and updating the electrical, furnace, trim, flooring and doors – Grenz managed the entire main floor’s design and finish. After the main living space had set the tone, Dickson would go on to overhaul the basement on his own. Together, the two would successfully fuse the home’s 1950s elements with modern amenities and high-design.

Preserving the Kitchen
At the heart of the home, Dickson and Grenz were tasked with preserving her grandparent’s 1950s metal cabinets. These retro cabinets would become the inspiration for the entire remodel. Before they could get started, Dickson gutted the area, reframed the space, added central air and updated the flooring, plumbing, electrical and trim. The original floorplan stayed the same, but the overall finishes were a major upgrade.Keeping the metal cabinetry intact, Brock and Grenz did their research, going online to find new hardware that would mimic the 1950s style they needed. They also recruited Grenz’s dad, Harold Lemar, to wet sand and refinish the original metal in a more modern tone. Silestone quartz countertops from Northern Stone were added, along with a textured, Walker Zanger mod-inspired backsplash. Since the tile had a heavy texture, their installer, Tile Tec, opted to mount and hide the electrical outlets underneath the cabinetry.Embracing the curved counter and sharp corners near the dining room, Grenz and Dickson had IMS Decorative Ironworks fabricate floating stainless steel shelving for a 50s diner feel. Near the dining room, small details received extra attention; after updating the furnace and adding central air, they no longer needed the radiators, but instead, opted to keep them and have Lemar repaint and preserve them in place.Continuing their retro vibe with the appliances and fixtures, the homeowners chose industrial faucets from Ferguson, a La CornuFe range from Williams and Sonoma and Sub-Zero refrigerator.

“The homeowner’s favorite part of this project was definitely the kitchen. It was really the inspiration for the entire remodel. She has so many childhood memories with these metal cabinets; being able to restore them for her own family, is a great feeling.”
Cassandra Grenz, Design Consultant, Sassi Cassi Designs

Powder Room Pretty
Directly off the kitchen, Grenz redesigned the small powder room in an exquisite, Birds & Butterflies wallcovering from Schumacher. Adding to the retro look, Grenz chose clear globe lighting, a pedestal sink and Julia Mosaic Field tile from Walker Zanger.Another treasure worth preserving in the foyer, was the 1954 Rittenhouse Sheffield, Westminster doorbell chime in brass. “I had reached out to Lamps & Repair in Fargo – Dale had done lamp repair work for me in the past and I had proposed the restoration to him. He was open to the challenge, and took the old oil and cylinder construction and completely rebuilt a computer board for it to function; it turned out awesome,” said Dickson.

Art Deco Inspiration
Taking on the living and dining room remodel, Grenz looked no further than the family heirlooms and art deco collector’s pieces that remained. After moving a wall and updating the electrical, new COREtec flooring and carpet were installed, along with placement of a custom rug. Grenz found new furnishings from West Elm, Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware to complement the home’s original 1950s vibe. Grenz also had the original, curved velvet sofa fixed and re-upholstered to suit the refreshed space. The original wood-burning fireplace got a more convenient insert and the home’s lighting was replaced with timeless globes, pendants and mod chandeliers, similar to the original fixtures of the era.A fun find, that is now a treasured keepsake, is the home’s original cork and mahogany coffee table by designer, Paul Frankl. Using art deco pieces like these as her inspiration, Grenz chose walnut side tables from Rejuvenation, and a matching, walnut shelf from West Elm. Custom linen drapery, made of exquisite Schumacher fabric, finishes the living room and displays a traditional, Japanese dye technique referred to as Shibori.

Monochromatic Master
Typical of the home’s era, the original master bath was cramped and closed off. Dickson opened up the small space by eliminating excess walls, while Grenz gave the room a crisp, monochromatic tone. Lighter and brighter, the new bath features custom glass and subway tile, walk-in shower, and a unique herringbone tile accent in marble. Since they had removed much of the original character to manage the remodel, Grenz made intentional design choices like the Schoolhouse globe lighting and Restoration Hardware vanity with a similar look as the 1950s kitchen cabinetry.

The homeowners nearly disposed of their old bedroom furniture, but Dickson and Grenz quickly intervened; recruiting Paul’s Furniture Restoration out of Buffalo, N.D., to refinish the solid wood pieces with modern appeal. Five-panel sliding doors lead the way to redesigned walk-in closets by Lampert’s Lumber._____________
Lower-Level Love
After the main floor was completed, Dickson took over the remodel of the lower level, gutting the space and removing an entire floor’s worth of white tile. New COREtec flooring extends down the stairs, while new carpet was installed in the communal area. The original fireplace was also updated with a more modern and convenient insert. Beyond the communal space, two bedrooms were reconfigured for more space, with a back hallway hiding the new mechanical, electrical and water softener system. This hallway gave the owner’s sons easy access from their bedrooms to the newly renovated bathroom.At one point, the home’s lower level featured a kitchenette with 1950s elements. Having access to these original pieces gave Dickson an opportunity to refurbish the original cast-iron and porcelain sink for use in the new bathroom. He also added in decorative, stainless steel shelving behind a sliding barn door, cleverly hiding the linen closet. To utilize more of the space, Dickson added a side quartz countertop with a small vanity and shower area.This was the original wash sink and washing machine dating back to the early 50s.
Dickson had the washing machine repainted by a local body shop. Above the wash sink, he opted to keep the water lines exposed for added character.

Find the Finishes:
Contractor – Dickson Design & Construction, LLC
Designer – Sassi Cassi Designs
Countertops – Silestone Quartz – Niebla, Northern Stone
Shower door- Frontier Glass & Mirror
Sinks, bathtubs & plumbing fixtures – Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery
Custom stainless work – IMS Decorative Ironworks
Tile installer – Tile Tech
Flooring & tile supply – Tollefson Contract Flooring
Carpet – Tuftex: True Inspiration, Misty Taupe
Sofa reupholstery – Rocky Performance, Velvet Asphalt by Schumacher
Dining table & chairs – Restoration Hardware
Side upholstered armchairs – West Elm
Custom drapery – Andromeda, linen by Schumacher
Closet systems – Lampert’s Lumber
Hard flooring – COREtec Plus HD, Klondike Contempo Oak planks

Painting – Harold Lemar, H&S painting – Casselton, N.D.
Stove – La CornuFe, Williams and Sonoma, France
Fridge – Sub-Zero, Wolf
Drop glass pendants – Room & Board
Dining chandelier – Restoration Hardware
Powder room wallcovering – Birds & Butterflies by Schumacher
Powder room tile – Julia Mosaic Field, 6th Ave, Walker Zanger
Globe lighting – Schoolhouse, Shades of Light
Doorbell chime restoration – Lamps & Repair, Fargo
Furniture restoration – Paul’s Furniture Restoration, Buffalo N.D.

For more information, contact:
Sassi Cassi Designs

Cassandra Grenz / Design Consultant
Casselton, N.D.
Facebook: Sassi Cassi Designs

Dickson Design & Construction, LLC
Brock Dickson
Harwood, N.D


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Vintage + Velvet

Story by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Glasser Images Setting the stage at The White House Co.’s warehouse near Downtown Fargo, the perfect collaboration was born. This stylized shoot was dreamed…

Story by Tracy Nicholson

Photography by Glasser Images

Setting the stage at The White House Co.’s warehouse near Downtown Fargo, the perfect collaboration was born. This stylized shoot was dreamed up by three groups of creatives, with their hearts set on pushing the boundaries of beautiful. Together, Megan Lewis of Milk Made and Amanda Rydell, Samantha Klinkhammer and Katie Schiltz of The White House Co., worked closely with Glasser Images to document and create vintage inspiration, with an edge.

Creative Collaboration

The White House Co. and Milk Made were already in the midst of planning their stylized shoot when Glasser Images contacted them about staging and styling their own photography project. Since the two were planned for the same day, they decided to combine their creativity and collaborate. Inside The White House Co. warehouse, they had their pick of hundreds of vintage furniture pieces, arches, table settings and everything in between.

With The White House Co.’s setting, two gorgeous couples to model, and Glasser Images to document – Megan Lewis of Milk Made had the perfect opportunity to showcase her passion for high-design charcuterie and cheese creations. Lewis started Milk Made Catering in May of 2017 and works out of Square One Kitchens in Downtown Fargo. Utilizing her extensive education in cheese, she has become well-known for her artfully catered designs; combining exotic fruits, nuts, vegetables, meats and cheeses in an eye-catching and edible display.

“The idea behind this shoot was to take the inspirations behind what we view as a typical ‘North Dakota Wedding’ and put a fresh, modern twist on the rustic feel so many couples in our area look for. We really wanted to use the opportunity to team up with some of our favorite local vendors in the Fargo area to create something wonderful.”

Liz Tomek, Glasser Images

Sitting Pretty   

Using the warehouse’s brick walls as the backdrop, The White House Co. set the tone with rich velvet textures, a tablescape mixing modern and minimal, a pampas grass-adorned arch and rustic fireplace setting. Rather than designing a more traditional head table, Rydell, Klinkhammer and Schiltz created a vintage bar setup with a stylized sweetheart table.

“We knew we wanted the shoot to be fall-inspired, so we took a play on those colors and added some unexpected brighter tones; playing with them in a unique way,” said Schiltz. “We can work with brides to bring in furniture and help stage the venue; we deliver, setup and tear down. We don’t do full-on wedding planning, but we can help collaborate their decor with ours and provide things like soft seating, cake plates, vintage dishware, tables and arches. We collaborate a lot with Love Always Floral and have people we can contact for custom things like signage and calligraphy.”

Aside from their retail store at 14 Roberts Street in Downtown Fargo, their Main Avenue warehouse holds the inventory that The White House Co. rents out for staging weddings and events. They have recently added on more storage space, allowing them to extend their offerings and create their own vintage venue to host more intimate events or classes.

Real-Life Love 

To document their stylized shoot, Glasser Images brought in two real-life couples to model attire, jewelry, hair and makeup. “Our models, Steff and Travis, and Beth and Noah could not have been more perfect for the vibe and aesthetic,” said Liz Tomek of Glasser Images. “While I coordinated the team, our creative team, Jenna, Connor and Nick, each brought their personalities and energy to the shoot. Their talent and creativity are what made the imagery unique and spectacular.”

Collaborating with local talent, the team relied on Love Always Floral for the couples’ bridal bouquets, cake topper, pampas grasses for the ceremony arch and custom dog collars. A modern menu card and invite were designed by Kailey Louise Designs, while Lettering by Samantha created the custom calligraphy detailing. Serenading the models was a local musician, Wyatt Dronan.

Cheese[wheel] Cake

At the center of their scene, a three-tiered cheese wheel cake nearly stole the show. This rustic, fall-inspired masterpiece was created by Milk Made. For an unlikely, but perfect pairing for the (cheese) cake, Lewis incorporated a mushroom cake topper she handpicked at Prairie Roots Co-op, hailing from Doubting Thomas Farms. Combined with stunning flowers from Love Always Floral, this was a centerpiece worth savoring.

Lewis special orders her cheese wheels primarily from local and American-made cheese and charcuterie makers, allowing roughly 30% to be imported. She uses the cheese wheel’s wooden box lids as a sustainable base for her designs. Clients can choose from a menu of savory or sweet options including antipasto, fruit and crudites or cheese and charcuterie. In her cheese creations, Lewis often includes Fargo-made finds like honey butter from Butter Creations by Ann and Three Bears Honey.

Lewis’ cake is designed with three tiers of cheese wheels; the top tier is a French Regal de Bourgogne Moutarde or soft cow’s milk cheese, wrapped in whole-grain mustard seeds. The middle tier is Coppinger, a washed rind cheese, and the bottom is an aged Vella Dry Jack with a cocoa rub.

“When I’m doing a cheese wheel cake or platter, I really love the process. I have a storyboard of the colors that the client wants, so I’ll spend well over an hour in the store, just thinking about what types of unique cheeses and vegetables I want to use,” said Lewis. “I usually have around 20 different fruits and vegetables and I consider the surroundings and colors before I piece it together. Everything that I do is ‘cheesemongers choice’, and I do that purposefully, so it really allows me to pair and curate things. It helps to broaden people’s horizons.”


“With every image, you can feel the dedication and the energy each person put into their creations. You can tell that every aspect of this shoot was done with a great amount of passion,” said Tomek. “The end result truly was an incredibly beautiful, collaborative experience.”


Seasonal Serving & Staging Tips

[with The White House Co. & Milk Made]

1. Embrace seasonal produce and offerings. When building your own cheese tray, Lewis suggests choosing one or two more approachable cheese options, then keep your eye out for the seasonal cheeses that come out right before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

2. Get creative with your tablescape. As Schiltz noted, swapping out your glassware, flatware and dishes is as simple as a trip to the thrift store. Don’t be afraid to mix and match patterns, textures and metals for a fun, vintage appeal.

3. Don’t forget to focus on floral. According to Klinkhammer, a floral centerpiece can allow you to play with the color palette and give your tablescape a simple pop of color or instant elegance.

4. If floral is your foe…Lewis suggests trying an edible design by laying down a clear saran wrap or butcher paper runner and creating a grazing centerpiece of cheeses, nuts, fruits or meats. If you use butcher paper, grab a permanent marker and draw arrows labeling each cheese. If it seems like more than you can tackle, let Milk Made create a curated, edible centerpiece for your holiday gathering. If you love to create your own cheese boards, check out Luna in Fargo for their cut-to-order cheese counter where you can try before you buy. You can also check out the selection at Pinch & Pour and Prairie Food Co-op in Downtown Fargo.

5. Go green. Try foraging for seasonal greenery, wheat or grasses in your own backyard. If you’re interested in boxwood or spreading out seeded eucalyptus or ruscus, contact your florist about two to three days in advance, just in case it needs to be ordered in. Don’t be afraid to get creative with what you have; smaller houseplants, moss and succulents can also do the trick.

6. Get the glow. Once you’ve created your tablescape with dishware and floral or greens, give it a glow with dramatic candelabras or simplistic tea candles.

7. Layer it on. Make sure your tablescape has dimension by layering floral, wood, vintage books or tiered candles in the center. Also, try using more than one layer of placemats in contrasting sizes underneath your dishware or layer your napkin atop your place setting with a mini pop of greenery.

8. When in doubt, add pink. According to Rydell, a pop of pink with unexpected hues like oranges and yellows can make for a striking combo that suits any occasion. If you don’t like the idea of pastels, Klinkhammer suggests opting for richer, jewel-toned palettes.


Style Library

Setting & styling – The White House Co. Warehouse

Staged vintage decor – The White House Co.

Cheese wheel cake – Megan Lewis, Milk Made

Mushroom cake topper – Doubting Thomas Farms/Prairie Roots Co-op, styled by Milk Made

Floral – Love Always Floral

Calligraphy – Lettering by Samantha

Hair – ADAE Salon

Makeup – Chloe Danielle

Jewelry – Schumacher Diamond

Attire – a&bé Bridal

Custom menu card & invite design – Kailey Louise Designs


Photography – Glasser Images

Musician – Wyatt Dronan

Videographer – Nick Biewer


Couple #1: Beth Vetter, Noah Kilsdonk

Couple #2: Steff Johnston, Travis Mack

Meet Glasser Images

Founded in Bismarck N.D., their business follows creatives and clients all around the country. They currently have a team of photographers and videographers in Bismarck, Fargo, Minot, Rapid City, S.D., Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., as well as Colorado Springs and Fort Collins, Colo.


For more information, contact: 

The White House Co. & Vintage Rentals

14 Roberts Street North, Fargo



Instagram: @whitehouse.co

Glasser Images




Instagram: @glasserimages

Milk Made Catering

Megan Lewis



Instagram: @milkmadecatering

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Mudroom Makeover

Words by Kelly Schulz Photography by M. Schleif Photography   When my husband and I moved into our North Fargo home five years ago, the mudroom had more than enough…

Words by Kelly Schulz
Photography by M. Schleif Photography

When my husband and I moved into our North Fargo home five years ago, the mudroom had more than enough space for us. A countertop with cabinet space below and closet proved to be adequate storage for our every day in-and-out needs. Fast forward five years and two children later, and the room grew small in a hurry. We knew that increasing the square footage of the space, which doubles as our laundry room, wasn’t an option for us or our budget. That meant we had to get creative to maximize the current space. To do this, we consulted with Rebecca Knutson of Floor to Ceiling Carpet One to lend her expertise in cabinet design; and she did not disappoint.

The Coat Closet

When we started the project, I wanted the room to be practical and functional. To me, that meant a lot of coat hooks instead of coat hangers. I’ll be the first to admit that hanging coats on hangers is a huge pain to me. That’s why our coat closet was eliminated from the room – it was never used for our day-to-day items, but instead, for storage of things that rarely got used. The closet was transformed into an open space with hooks and bench seating. Preston Flaten from Floor-to-Ceiling, designed a piano-hinge opening in the bench seat, allowing us to utilize the space below for storage.

The Lockers 

Opposite the closet was a narrow countertop that, especially in the winter, became a chaotic mess of jackets, hats, gloves, kids daycare artwork, coffee tumblers, purses, keys, wallets – you name it, and it was on that countertop. A lack of hooks, organization and designated space for each family member created the perfect storm of a mudroom catastrophe. I was certain a locker system would solve all my mudroom problems. That was until we received the estimate and my financially prudent husband put the kibosh to all my locker hopes and dreams. That’s when thankfully, Rebecca came to the rescue.Since the first estimate was more than we (ahem, my husband) wanted to spend, Rebecca suggested that we go with a mock-locker system instead. This would eliminate the physical dividers between each section and instead, we would place trim board to create a visual divider, providing significant savings.A 4.5-inch shelf above, lends storage for small items and each section has two rows of hooks; the lower row is the perfect height for our kids to reach. Beneath the locker bench are two rows of shoe storage. I wanted the bottom row slightly taller so that larger items, like winter boots, could easily fit beneath.

Feedback from the Designer: Rebecca Knutson, Floor to Ceiling Carpet One

“When Kelly and I first met, we discussed everything their family needed to function, then we dreamed up a mudroom chock full of organizers and locker dividers. We threw the book at it, knowing this was our ‘go big or go home design.’ Once the visual met the budget, it was time to scale it down. We discussed with Kelly their true needs and budget max and we chipped away until their budget was comfortable and the space was perfect.””Even though lockers were out of the budget, Kelly still wanted to keep a visual divider between each family member’s wall hooks. To do this, we created a wainscoting look by applying trim pieces to the flat wall paneling. The paneling is extremely durable and dresses up the look of the wall. Sometimes I feel the locker dividers can be stuffy in a tight space so I was happy to suggest cutting them out and saving money.”

The Laundry

The laundry area of the room included a sink that was never used as a sink; it amounted to more of a laundry basket. We removed the sink, and installed a large countertop area that now has…take a guess…a real laundry basket! I also use the space, which includes a pull-out garbage cabinet, to stage items that need to go to daycare the next day and to fold clothes.

The previous wall cabinets, above the washer and dryer, were tall and placed too high on the wall so I couldn’t reach the top shelf without using my handy-dandy little step stool. The new cabinets were installed at a lower level so my five-foot, four-inch self can reach everything in the cabinet and even baskets above, should the need for more storage arise.

Saying goodbye to mudroom madness has been a lifesaver. These rooms are often the entrance and exit points for families, meaning functionality is crucial for saving time in our busy lives. Now, if I could just figure out how to get the laundry to fold itself.

FUN FACT: I have a love for junking – most of the décor in the room has been thrifted.

Find the Finishes at Floor to Ceiling Carpet One:
Cabinetry Design – Rebecca Knutson, CID / Interior Designer & Cabinet Dept. Manager
Cabinetry Install – Preston Flaten

Countertop: Black Forrest Cake finish by Pionite

Cabinetry: Diva finish by Decor Cabinetry


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Minimalist Makeover

Story by Tracy Nicholson Photography by Dan Francis Photography Deciding to make a lifestyle change, minimalist and local photographer, Miranda Roen, did what so many homeowners dream of, but so…

Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography

Deciding to make a lifestyle change, minimalist and local photographer, Miranda Roen, did what so many homeowners dream of, but so few have conquered. She swapped her big mortgage for a smaller space with even bigger potential. Two years ago, Roen and her son Eli made the move from a 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom home in Moorhead, to a cozy, 520-square-foot home in South Fargo. Built in the 1940’s, the small home lacked the character Roen was looking for, but with its functional floor plan and large detached garage, she knew she had found a fixer-upper that would be worth the work. Once considered a tiny home in shambles, Roen’s minimalist redesign is now the picture of perfection.

A Radical Remodel
One of the deciding factors to make the move was the realization that in their large home they only used the upstairs; the downstairs was completely untouched. “The mortgage and utility expenses were insane, so I decided to make a radical change; sell the big house, and move into our current home,” said Roen. “This was the best financial decision I have ever made. Now the mortgage is next to nothing. I’m really passionate about minimalism and living within your means, even if it means going small.”

At the time, Roen was married and the two bought this house for $125,000 with a down payment of $60,000. With the remodel beginning two years ago, there’s been about $10,000 worth of equity put into the home with additional remodel projects still in the works.”I’m really passionate about minimalism and living within your means, even if it means going small.”
Miranda Roen, Homeowner

To figure out a feasible game plan before moving in, Roen researched minimalist design ideas and new concepts geared toward living efficiently in small spaces. Online, she found a wealth of knowledge that helped her transform their two-bedroom home with a bonus loft space, into a minimalist’s dream home. With a $15,000 budget in mind, Roen has perfected every inch to suit the needs of her photography business, her six-year-old son Eli and their wiener dog, Lincoln.

Throughout the home, the worn-out carpet was replaced with bamboo veneer flooring that would be durable enough for kids and pets. Since the original layout didn’t provide the space she needed, a side entrance door near the kitchen was removed and the kitchen itself was completely reconfigured to add more cupboards and counter space. Since each room was minimal in square footage, Roen needed to her design to be aesthetically pleasing and functional.

“When you have a house this small, it can be tough in the winter to be inside all day, so I wanted something that I would feel was beautiful right when I walked in the door and would love being here. So, the overall look was really important to me,” said Roen.

Minimalistic Modern
In the main living space, Roen kept her style simplistic and meaningful. Her personal style blends modern design elements with vintage character and a touch of archeological influence. A serious car accident had derailed her archeology career but eventually led her to her current passion for photography. In her home, hammerstone, fossils, skulls and other artifacts reside alongside local art and photography.

Roen finished her remodel just over a year ago, with four months of that time spent solely on the kitchen redesign. Before the remodel, the kitchen was comprised of three cupboards and Roen could hardly find the space to prepare a meal. One money-saving tactic she used to free up cupboard space was replacing the huge water heater tank in the cupboard with a much smaller tankless version. “I actually researched minimalists who live in buses and smaller spaces to see what they had done to make it more livable for them,” said Roen.

Since she didn’t have a designated laundry room or basement, the kitchen had to play double duty. As a clever solution, Roen found a Haier washer/dryer combo that took three months to ship from China. “Trying to maximize the space and fit in four appliances was a big challenge,” said Roen. “This is the only washer/dryer combo in the world that would fit into this space, otherwise, we would have had to eliminate some of the cupboards.”

Extending her artistic eye beyond the lens, Roen had custom-built, curved-edge shelving made by Dakota Timber Company. She also took on the project of installing new tile with a raw-edge stone backsplash, laminate countertops and new cabinetry. In line with the kitchen counter, Roen had a dining table custom built to make the most of the space.

Designing for Dogs
Since they had removed the side door near the kitchen, it created one major problem; there was no longer a doggie door. As a hidden solution, Roen designed a lower cupboard to tunnel her dog through to the doghouse and backyard space.

Mastering Small Spaces
In the master bedroom, Roen kept her style simple and functional. A sliding door to her closet gave her an aesthetically pleasing wall feature and preserved space for proper flow.

Roen’s office is an ode to her travels, local art and photography. She found her desk at an online garage sale and tested her DIY skills by refinishing the piece, painting it a more modern grey and updating the hardware. Near the desk, she displays work from her travels in Jerusalem and art by local talent, Karen Bakke.

Lofty Goals
With the bonus loft space on the top level, Roen’s home equates to roughly 720 square feet. This smaller space made the perfect bedroom for her six-year-old son Eli. The steps leading to the loft also got a makeover, and since there was no closet, Roen created an organized storage space for his clothing and toys.

A Dog’s Life
Outside, this fun space-saving solution allows their dog to enter a hidden doggy door from a kitchen cupboard that leads to the exterior’s attached dog house and fenced-in backyard. Last summer, the yard was given a new look by adding an array of new plants, the custom doghouse, cedar fence, and now this summer, a chicken coop. Roen loved the idea of fresh eggs but she also wanted to teach her young son to learn how to take care of animals.

Find the Finishes

Kitchen floating shelves – Dakota Timber Company
Custom dining table – F-M Pallet Furniture & Decor
Bamboo laminate veneer flooring – Home Depot
Kitchen cabinetry – Lowe’s
Porcelain tile – Lowe’s
Art – Deborah Mae Broad, Karen Bakke
Chandelier – Lowe’s
Sectional & TV stand – Hom Furniture
Feather art – Hobby Lobby
Master dresser – Furniture Mart
Master barn door – Lowe’s
Master bedroom paint – Morning Fog
Main area paint – Filtered Shade
Office desk stain – Leathered Grey


For more information about Roen’s remodel or photography business, contact:
Roen Photography

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