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The Great Visualizer

Updated: Mar 15, 2018

Scott Meland is a regional architect that still believes in the power of a sketch. “It’s like thinking on paper,” he says. For nearly every project he’s completed, Meland has started with a hand-drawn rendering of a client’s vision. Based on his extensive portfolio of residential and commercial spaces that extends into major portions of Minnesota and in every direction within North Dakota, it is clear his clients like the way Meland thinks.

The long-time North Dakotan has deep roots in the region. His family is famous in the Northwood area for their work in lumber. Today, Meland’s portfolio boasts some of the most unique, inspiring and recognizable spaces in the area. He’s worked on $80k new builds and million-dollar renovations. His motto for design is simple: character can be little in the large—or large in the little.

His approach is client-centric. “We tailor our design to the person,” he says. Because of that philosophy, he doesn't sell pre-made home plans. He’s designed for family, friends and clientele from throughout the region, each of whom have had different needs and tastes. Of all the unique experiences he recalls from his design work, he remembers a particular visit to a house he did on an extreme budget. After the house was built from his plans, he attended a party thrown by the new homeowners. “When I entered the house, it was full of people,” he says. “The homeowners introduced me and then they all started clapping.”

We sat down with Meland to learn what he’s learned, seen and expects for the future of custom home design in the region.

There Are 3 Regional Styles:

1. Craftsman

2. Prairie

3. Traditional

Weather Is Not An Issue—Unless It Is

The extreme temperature variance, below-zero possibilities and unpredictable freeze-thaw cycle of the region does not greatly impact modern custom home designers. Advanced mechanical systems designed (and proven) for comfort have negated the need to design for the climate. But, some clients favor an approach guided by energy efficient spaces and materials. In the area, such homes do exist and in most cases, such homes do cost more to build.

Commercial Gets The New

Commercial spaces give architects the chance to implement contemporary styles. Most in the area still prefer a more-traditional flow and feel to a house. If Meland could choose any style, he would turn to his heritage and work to design Scandinavian-modern homes.

The Best Feature

Windows. The use of sizes, shapes and placements can really enhance a custom home design. Meland has created several homes that utilize rooftop overhangs in conjunction with square windows placed in a line to maximize the way light enters and illuminates a house.

Visualization Is Key

The napkin-sketch or hand drawn depiction of a concept home or design is as powerful as ever. Meland utilizes his impressive free-hand drawing ability to turn what a client has in their head into a realized image. The only problem, he says, is clients often like his sketches so much they don’t want to alter the design afterwards.

Blueprints Have Changed

Architects don’t actually create blueprints anymore. They draft construction designs or plans. The process of helping clients realize or find their vision is still the same as it has always been, however. Except for the role of email correspondence. Clients are increasingly busy today, Meland says. But that doesn’t have to stop great designs. In one case, Meland designed a Minnesota cabin for someone he’s never met to this day.

The Cons of DIY

HGTV is great for ideas and entertainment, but it is tough on architects. The 3D visuals of new builds or extensive remodels showcased in many programs give clients an unrealistic expectation of the process. Designs, 3D or otherwise, aren’t simple and take more than a weekend to generate.

Location Still Matters

Architects can maximize views, the surrounding settings and fabricate an enhanced home's essence by designing with a location in mind. Doing that, Meland says, is where architects really shine.

Barns Still Build the House

Regional tastes for custom home designs still follow the old mantra that a home’s creation is second to the “barn” or economic focus of the family. While Meland doesn’t see the region’s tastes changing anytime soon, he is always encouraged by the many who understand that there are unique and well-designed buildings in the region—and many who will invest into renovating or building with those traits in mind.

The Pros of DIY

The website Houzz and others like it can benefit Meland. Clients that utilize online resources flush with room layout ideas, materials or schematics often go to Meland with a better starting place for a future project. Although he used to maintain a hoard of material and paint samples for clients to review, he now utilizes online-available resources that can supply him—or a client with an idea—the necessary items in a matter of days. G

// To view the full story, check out the digital issue here


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