When you realize your home is no longer serving your needs, you typically have two choices: renovate or move. With the inflated nature of today’s housing market, many homeowners are opting to renovate their current home rather than move somewhere new. Locally, some homeowners are turning to second-generation design-builder-remodeler, New Spaces.
New Spaces, founded by Doug and Carol Nelson in 1981, has its own experienced in-house designers, master carpenters and production teams. (Shawn Nelson, Doug and Carol’s son, currently serves as president.) The team regularly helps clients reconfigure spaces in their homes, bringing back period-appropriate luster and incorporating the 2022 amenities people long for.
While the New Spaces team has historically worked out of the company’s Burnsville showroom location, it has responded to growing west Metro inquiries by opening a satellite design office in January 2020 in Life Time Work Edina at Southdale.
This Life Time Work location hosts more than 100,000 square feet of smart coworking spaces and meeting areas, along with a rooftop terrace. The design of the space is what drew the New Spaces team to this location.
“The beauty for us, and for the clients who come in, is the space is beautiful,” say Björn Freudenthal, vice president of business development. “... We can sit on the rooftop deck, go through selections, have beautiful sunlight and bring coffee. It’s just a great location to come and work with our team.”
HELPING CLIENTS REALIZE
THEIR FOREVER HOMES
The company designs room additions and remodels for every house style and vintage you can imagine. In 2021, the company earned two industry design awards—Remodeler of Merit Award from Housing First Minnesota and Contractor of the Year from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Both awards were for a modern and contemporary kitchen and main level transformation project for homeowner Amy Haugen’s 1987 architect-designed and modified two-story home in Minnetonka.
Haugen wanted to modernize the main level with an open concept, and the New Spaces team helped her realize her vision. Her redesigned space opened the kitchen to the living room, eliminated the formal dining room, gave her more work surfaces for cooking, brought in more natural light, added a dramatic two-story fireplace wall, expanded the mudroom with more storage capacity and updated
a powder room, among other amenities.
“I have never worked with a team of people that are so patient and understanding of my needs,” Haugen says. “[Freudenthal] was extremely fun to work with, and he was a great problem solver. The New Spaces design team was brilliant with their vision of the design part of it. They put me at ease with trusting them with the selections.” The element of the remodel that makes her smile the most? The open space they created for her.
Freudenthal notes that the awards they earn are a byproduct of helping clients realize their dream homes. “We’re proud of it, but the reality is this: When we change the way a family lives and we help them live better—when we help them create their forever home—it is an incredibly rewarding experience,” Freudenthal says. He also says that he loves “when we’re standing at the project completion party, hoisting the Champagne, and [the homeowner] says this is everything they wished their home could be, and we helped them change
it to make it their forever home.”
A DESIGN-FIRST COMPANY
To accomplish this, New Spaces operates as a design-first company, which Freudenthal says is a rarity in the construction industry. Rather than making design decisions along the way, after the construction contract is underway (how many firms operate), the heavy lifting takes place at the beginning of a project. This happens by determining and evaluating existing structures and conditions, designing every detail and selecting every material and line item prior to going into contract—all of which allows homeowners to arrive at an informed decision about pricing.
It begins with prioritizing. “We have developed a very effective, simple tool we call the ‘Needs, Wants and Wishes worksheet,’” Freudenthal says. “Our goal is to make sure all needs get met, and we get some wants in there as well, so you have some fun with it. And if possible, we include as many of your wishes because our job is to make you fall in love with your home again and become a raving fan,” he says.
Once the contract commences, designers use 3D modeling software to create three unique plans, each with its own merits, features and investment ranges.
Freudenthal says the fun really begins at the design reveal meeting, which is held at their Life Time Work office. At this meeting, homeowners see the 3D renderings and can virtually walk through their space and provide feedback to scales, size, color and shapes. They can work with the designers to move things around and change colors. They can also morph and combine elements from different plans, visualizing how it will look and function.
“For people who have lived in their homes for 25, sometimes 30 years, they kind of have blinders on. But then, when our team reveals options and possibilities to them, they look at their home in a completely different way,” Freudenthal says. “It is sometimes a pretty passionate moment when things are just coming together, and people sometimes can’t even believe it’s possible.” It can be emotional—hence the small box of Kleenex on their conference table.
Why do people choose to work with New Spaces? Well, for Haugen it was the people. “[Freudenthal] and the New Spaces design team sold me the project with their winning personalities,” she says. More than half of the company’s 700-plus projects are either from a past-client referrals or repeat business.
“Our business is a trust business,” Freudenthal says. “We move in with you for a little bit and that’s the reality, so we have to get along. And you want to do your due diligence when you invite people into your home, which a lot of times is the most significant investment that most people have. You allow us to come and help you live better.”
New Spaces Edina Design Office,
200 Southdale Center Suite 170;