Modern vs. Contemporary: Can you Spot the Difference?
Being able to differentiate between these two popular design styles can help customers better articulate their vision.
Formerly an auto body repair shop, this commercial building was reimagined as a home with inventive use of space to relax and have fun.
March 28, 2022
If you drive down one particular tree-lined street in this Orono, MN neighborhood, you’ll see many fine traditional homes. And then you’ll see one that is determined to buck convention. This modern industrial-style home, designed by Max Windmiller of Windmiller Design Studio and built by K.C. Chermak of Pillar Homes, was an auto body repair shop in the 1950s. The current homeowners, who are inventors at their core and possess real passion for reclaiming objects and spaces, envisioned a place where they could reinvent what it means to live, work, and play at home.
“Creativity was an underlying theme, both during construction and during the interior design phase of the project,” Chermak said. “This is a residence that’s not of a normal nature. This is an experience house. Everything we built here was about creating experiences.”
This two-story, 4,023-square-foot home engages you immediately with its striking exterior. While its structure is essentially a large, no-frills box, the bold use of cedar on one half of the home and aluminum metal siding on the other commands attention. The siding materials are repeated in the two garage doors on the front of the house as well, creating visual interest and balance.
“We were paying homage to that original use, though it obviously didn’t look this good,” Chermak said. “The idea with the mixed materials was to create a sort of balanced black and white theme, with the cedar working as the ‘white.’ We felt the boldness complemented the structure of the home, which is very simple. The result is an architecturally unique property that takes your breath away.”
As part of the homage, the window rough openings were maintained and filled with new Ultimate Awning windows that let light spill into the space. The windows were elevated slightly to accentuate the modern-industrial aesthetic while creating privacy.
The use of hydraulic commercial garage doors effectively gives this modern home an industrial aesthetic. The folding garage door opens to let cars in and out, though this garage is neat as a pin and meant to function as a car collector’s gallery. When not serving its function of opening to allow vehicles to pass through, the garage doors are intended to let the outdoors in, blurring the lines between inside and out.
“We paid careful attention to bringing the outside in and the industrial doors fit with the previous commercial use of the space,” Chermak said. “But we wanted it to be more residential- and entertainment-oriented.”
While one garage door opens to an immaculate garage that could hold up to 12 cars, the other opens to an entertainment center with high-tech amenities. Chermak joked that if you wanted to, you could ride your motorcycle or bike right into the space to make a grand entrance. In this space, all the homeowners’ hobbies are on full display. There’s a pool table, a large-screen TV for game day, and a kitchen with kombucha and cold brew coffee on tap. Tucked one level down is a secret door that swings open to reveal a hidden speakeasy bar and media area.
The Ultimate Picture windows and Ultimate Awning windows used in the home bring elements of nature inside. They were strategically placed for privacy and natural views. The awnings open on the bottom to allow for air flow and ventilation, without letting in the elements.
Meanwhile, exposed wood beams and joisted ceilings throughout the interior bring more natural materials to the fore, while contrasting with the custom concrete floor, another nod to the home’s industrial roots. In fact, the entire home is free of carpeting and embraces the stark beauty of concrete.
The rest of the home offers more playful features, such as a rooftop deck clad in AstroTurf where you can practice yoga or play yard games with friends. In the guest bedrooms, clever furniture like Murphy beds discreetly disappear when guests are not around to open the space and encourage clutter-free minimalist living.
Reflecting on the home, Chermak said that the whole structure is artistic. It’s meant to breathe. It’s meant to set the scene for experiences, for living and working in an inspired, reclaimed environment.
“Start to finish, this project was about taking the past and turning it into a current use—an entertainment extravaganza,” he said. “It’s a delight to experience this industrial-modern gem.”