Girls' Night Out: Planting Parties–Tapping into the Roots of Great Get-Togethers

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Written by Kim Zabel Photography by Kim Zabel

Tables are set to seat six and decorated with green tablecloths. In the center of each table are two clay-colored window planters. One is filled with soil; the other contains decorative rocks and several gardening trowels. Each table setting includes a wooden window planter, dried moss and water spritzer bottles. The hostess of the party, Vivian Aronson, is organizing groups at various tables and making sure everyone is wearing an apron before starting their projects. A few friends curiously peek into the window planter packed with soil at the center of the table.

“It smells like summer,” one friend says, smiling.


When Shannon Sheedy and Paul Roach moved into their southwest Rochester house in mid-2014, they claimed a built-in bonus. To get to it, they climbed the staircase to the upper level, walked down a short hall and opened an interior door. Behind the door was a long room that stretched out above the home’s three-car garage. “It was a blank slate,” Shannon says. “It had drywall and that was about it.” 

The room wasn’t installed for any particular use. The lengthy attic really was a bonus room – extra living space. Today, the southwest Rochester couple has transformed the room into an intimate gathering place for them and their two children, ages 6 and 9. “We can all be doing something there and (still) be together,” Shannon said. It’s their special spot, she says. “The whole idea was that this would be private family space.”



Remodeler's Corner: Retro Rambler in Southwest Rochester Gains A Modern Kitchen

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Written by Bob Freund Photography Provided by Beyond Kitchens

Jennifer and John Goodman’s home was taken right from the pages of a magazine. Their house design is “Better Homes and Gardens" Idea Home Plan 2809-A. 

The layout was one of six plans published in the September 1958 issue of “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine, available to homebuilders for assembly as shown. Local contractor John Weis & Sons obliged the publication and constructed the concept home—breezeway, carport, angled ceilings and wall-tall windows.  

Plan 2809-A still charmed the Goodmans in 2000, more than 40 years later, when they purchased the retro rambler in southwest Rochester. “It was just a beautiful, open floor plan,” Jennifer says of the house, sweeping her arm toward the floor-to-ceiling windows. 



Remodeler's Corner: Keeping the Pace Building and Remodeling for a Growing Family

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Written by Bob Freund Photography by Fagan Studios

Εverything seemed to meet in the mudroom at Blair and Stephanie Seelhammer’s house for years. It was the day-to-day entrance, as well as the family laundry center, where the washer-dryer-sink worked hard and often.

Add three children under 10 to the scene and the traffic could turn “chaotic,” Stephanie says. “There was no place to put anything. This was always just a problem area.” Today, the mudroom still is the entry and drop point for outdoor gear, but the youngsters’ winter coats can hang neatly in newly built lockers. Boots and shoes wait for action in cubbies, and overhead cabinets hold belongings. A granite shelf also provides a drop-off point for stray stuff—or perhaps seasonal decorations. The laundry room migrated upstairs to the second floor because, as Blair observes, “That’s where the clothes are.”


Blair, an optometrist, and Stephanie, a Mayo Clinic physician, have owned their home in the Scenic Oaks subdivision since 2008, the year after it was built. The Seelhammers encountered general contractor Mike Allen, who had built some homes in their neighborhood, about three years later at an open house.  Allen frames the opportunity he saw:  “Can we accommodate a growing, fast-paced family of today?...That’s really what we did.” Allen and the couple started planning their project in late 2013 and construction began in June 2014. 



Remodelers Corner: All-White Kitchen

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Written by By Bob Freund, Photography by Fagan Studios

A visitor to Becky and John Sperling’s kitchen might not spot their refrigerator at first glance. Locating the dishwasher certainly will take a short search. And finding the microwave will involve pulling out drawers. 

The appliances in the Sperling kitchen all are within easy reach, but they don’t call attention to themselves. Instead they are understated, amid a landscape of white cabinetry and light gray countertops, waiting to be called into service. Hidden behind white wood panels, some act as brushed-nickel accents in the bright white scene.


Home is where we hold our fondest memories. Home is mom, love and a cocoon of safety and acceptance. As children, the majority of us knew where we were going to sleep at night and never had to wonder if we would have enough food to keep our stomachs satisfied or if we would be warm enough during the winter. We were able to be kids: We got to play with our friends, go to school and grow into educated, well-rounded adults. 

Growing up, most of us were shielded from the harsher realities of life; however, not all kids are afforded that safety net. It may come as a surprise to learn that even in Rochester, Minnesota—a city blessed with a low unemployment rate, high quality of life and exceedingly high education and income levels—there is a homelessness issue affecting youth and adults of all ages.



Merry in Moderation: Decorating for the holidays with linens to libations

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Written by By Sue Whitney, Photography by Sue Whitney

The holidays are almost upon us, and I don’t know about you, but for me, I like to keep things simple, stress-free and efficient. I say it’s about time the entertainer gets to enjoy the festivities, rather than wipe sweat from her brow from start to finish. 

Imagine a dinner setting on a gentle, snowy winter evening. If all were right in your world, what would you see? Do you envision glitz, glam, bling, flashing lights and bedazzle? Or do you find that image a bit disturbing? Although festive decor has its place, I’d like to introduce an approach to your winter wonderland holiday table that’s more refined. Not so much Griswold’ Christmas vacation but more in the direction of old-fashioned good taste. This plan of attack will save precious energy and won’t blind your guests as they sit at the table.



Creating a Tranquil Home: Designed with purpose, meaning, hidden treasures and a room for prayer

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Written by By Anne Scherer, Photography By Josh Becker

Amid trees in the Mayo Woodlands area on a four-acre lot sits the home of Sameer and Rachana Nevile, built by Craig Swanson Builders Inc. This Craftsman-style exterior home has a four-car, side-load garage and a colored, stamped concrete walkway to the front door. It has a combination stone- and cedar-style lap and shake cement board siding exterior. 

Collaboration and Communication

After touring the parade of homes in Minneapolis and Rochester and getting ideas, the Neviles made the decision to build and contacted Craig Swanson, builder and contractor. Craig presented plans from previous builds and made the modifications based on the Nevile’s needs. Architectural sketches created by Mark Sawyer, an independent architect with MHS Design LLC, came next, preliminary pricing, then back to the architect for the final blueprint. 

“We all worked together as a team to carry it through,” says Craig. There was collaboration and communication with the Neviles from the very beginning. Much thought, planning and effort went into designing this house.  



2015 Fall Showcase and Remodelers Tour

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Written by By Jorrie Johnson

2015 Fall Showcase of Homes Entries

Batzel Builders, Inc./Dahl Home Builders, Inc.

  • 3612 Galaxy Lane SW [Home]

Bigelow & Lennon Construction

  • 6304 Mallard Drive NW [Home]


House Still Growing: After All These Years

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Written by By Bob Freund, Photography by Fagan Studios

At 135 years of age, this Elgin house grew. Owners Janice and Chris Draxler today enjoy the practical conveniences of an expansion along with the character built into the 1880s house where they have lived for the past 25 years. 

In the summer of 2014, the Dreaxlers attached a multi-room addition to the rear of the home. They also lopped off and replaced aging porches at both ends of the residence. To finish it off, they wrapped the house in modern siding hung from its original frame. 

The couple took a practical approach by adding useful living space and convenient storage to their home. Janice, who works as human resources director for Family Service Rochester, and Chris, who is retired from the heating and ventilating industry, plan to live there awhile. Their addition, constructed by Chladek Construction, was among those featured on the 2014 Remodelers Tour held by Rochester Area Builders Inc. 


Working from concepts sketched by Janice, general contractor Brian Chladek and two of his workers attached a single-story addition on a new foundation at the rear of the house. They used two existing openings in the back wall of the house—a window in the kitchen and the original back doorway. 

The kitchen window now has grown into a full-sized door leading into a deep, walk-in pantry with a quartz countertop. “We really wanted to have a space for extra [kitchen] appliances and [food preparation] activity,” Janice says. And she uses the space, which is just a few short steps from the kitchen oven. “I made all my Christmas cookies in there,” among other foods, she says.



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