After 11 years in the residential design and building industry, award-winning Allison Landers discovered a void: Consumers needed an industry insider to advocate on their behalf in the unfamiliar territory of contracts and project terminology. “I’m kind of like a wedding planner,” she says with a laugh, “but for remodels.”
Last July, Landers opened Boutique Drafting, located on Franklin Avenue above Sebastian Joe’s Ice Cream, to reduce the anxiety and enhance the experience of successfully creating a dream home. “My goal is to arm my clients with a lot of knowledge, putting them five steps ahead, so they know the questions they need to ask,” Landers says. Within five months, from word of mouth alone, she gained over 40 clients. To support and assist with her success, Landers hired project coordinator and designer Kirsten Palony to oversee specifications and details including timelines, budgeting and, at times, counting knobs or locating shipped light fixtures. The duo offer a House Healthy Package to test for mold, asbestos, lead and water leaks to prevent health problems and unforeseen costs. Always eco-friendly, they recognize the impact older homes can have on the environment. The team at Boutique Drafting will inspect and, if needed, recommend re-insulation to lower environmental impact and energy costs. Landers spends time in the home prior to renovations or building to understand how each family member utilizes space. “Some people spend up to 20 and 30 thousand dollars on custom kitchen cabinets and, yet, they have no space for, like, Tupperware. It’s so silly,” she explains. Landers will learn the daily patterns of clients and design around who is cooking and cleaning or who wakes up first or who is the noisy one.
All in the family
Yuri Reinberg, M.D., of Minn. had a positive experience remodeling his home on Cedar Lake with Landers and architect Ashley Mitlyng. When his son, Roee Reinberg shared his plans to renovate his childhood home, also located near Cedar Lake, Yuri advised his son to connect with Landers, because he was confident she would know exactly how to update the ’60s-era four-bedroom, three-bathroom house. With his father’s solid referral, Roee and his wife ZZ became second-generation clients of Landers.
Roee and his two brothers lost their mother to cancer and wanted to keep their home in the family. Roee, the first brother to marry and now a new father, was the obvious candidate. Roee contacted Landers and asked if she could create a fresh feeling for his wife and baby without losing sentimental elements and memories. Landers had plenty of ideas to combine the past, present and future.
For example, ZZ wanted to include tile from her hometown of Jingdezhen, China, known internationally for its exquisite, high-quality porcelain. While Landers considered using the porcelain in any fashion in which it might have arrived after shipping, she and ZZ eventually settled on a more durable solution: locally distributed tile similar in style to the Chinese product. “We’re going to put it all over the master bathroom,” says Landers. Such a decorative decision, along with a new grandchild, of course, aspires particularly to please ZZ’s mother, who visited from China soon after the child was born.
Honoring memory while making the home your own
Roee says it’s been a pleasure working with Landers throughout the project. “She has a good eye,” he says. Even so, “There’s a lot of emotion involved in doing work on an old family home. I had to have some change, some freshness,” Roee says. “You want the good memories to be preserved, but it also has to be ‘you.’”
Landers concurs. “Every room has a story,” she says. “How can we fix what is broken and keep what means a lot?” Roee’s childhood bathroom had blue, hand-painted tile selected with his mother from a shop in Italy. Landers salvaged the tile before the renovation and created a hip Italian coffee bar in the kitchen for everyone to enjoy. Weekly dinner parties are important to the Reinberg family, and ZZ and Roee are amazing chefs. With this in mind, Landers designed an open kitchen mimicking the downtown loft style ZZ and Roee had loved, replete with elongated hexagon shaped tile. One wall was removed, and the space was turned into an inviting counter with stools. The open design allows sunlight from the living and dining room windows to illuminate the kitchen and provides a view of the garden.
With cost-saving strategic planning, Landers turned an adjacent bedroom bathroom into a private master suite bathroom by relocating walls and doors around the original plumbing fixtures. Another bathroom shared between the master suite and main floor was reconstructed into a guest bathroom without access to the master suite.
Initially, the entryway tile was to be demolished, but Landers saw the economic and design value in saving the original midcentury relic. However, hardwood floors will replace the worn carpet. Landers is staining the new flooring to match the wood from the downtown loft as a reminder of urban life. Roee’s mother traveled far and wide collecting insanely (according to Landers) beautiful art, rugs and furniture. Landers created dining and living room space to accommodate the heritage dining set and rugs. They will keep a rare Federalist dresser, too. Modern millennial hip vibes and antique Chinese porcelain combined with Roee’s mother’s ornate and fancy heritage pieces will create a seamless transition from past to present and between American and Chinese culture.
A small, but sweet salvage: Landers noticed the Winnie the Pooh switch plate from Roee’s childhood bedroom. The bedroom was renovated into a nursery for the couple’s young child, including a solar system mural created by a local artist and the salvaged switch plate. It will be a reminder to the new father of the boy who once occupied the room, complete with a backyard view.