Vujovich Design Build: Two Gay couples Rave About Remodeling

You’ve planned, thought, dreamed about remodeling. It’s time to pick the team to build those dreams. How? Why? Who?

Tim Lander and Jay Broton chose Vujovich Design Build to renovate their historic South Minneapolis home in 2008,

Speaking for the couple, Lander says, “Their reputation for quality, and realistic appraisals of time and cost, were what initially sold me on Vujovich. Plus, their name is cool.”

Don Untiedt and Jim McKee had made the same choice in 2007 for their first home.

Speaking for the couple, Untiedt notes, “We wanted to do business with gay-supportive businesses, and we had seen ads for Vujovich in Lavender from time to time.”

Ed Roskowinski, Owner and General Manager of Vujovich, observes, “Oftentimes, our clients come to us with things about their home that are not working. Maybe they’ve collected photos or magazine clippings of some spaces that speak to them. Our job is to help them dig deeper—to explore how their home functions, and how it could function much better.

“Where do you park, and enter the home each day? How many steps is it from the car to the kitchen counter while carrying groceries? Are you right- or left-handed? Do both of you get ready for work at the same time or at different times?”

Lander recalls, “We knew we wanted a two-car garage, and we knew that after building said garage, it would be challenging to do future renovations—especially an addition. Long story short, we concluded it would make more sense to renovate our entire home at the same time.”

Untiedt and McKee, on the other hand, bought a spot overlooking Schmidt Lake, according to the former, “primarily for gardening potential on the three-quarter-acre landscaped lot. We wanted room for our desired 150 roses and new perennial gardens. We decided we wanted to build two koi ponds.”

The ensuing project required 60 tons of rock, plus the construction of eight terraces, three bridges, three hidden waterfalls, multiple flower gardens, a bog pond, and a beach—and koi ponds. Having created “der Serenity-garten-Platz” (Serenity Garden Place), they were ready for Vujovich to tackle the house.

Lander and Broton underwent a total makeover, while Untiedt and McKee reworked their master bath. But no renovation is small when it’s your home, and the result is more than the sum of lath and plaster involved.

Lander states, “The most important thing that Vujovich offered was communication and reassurance. I mean, let’s face it: The biggest fears anyone has when beginning a major remodel are cost overruns, the ability to finish the project on time and on budget, and not ending up in bankruptcy court! Unbeknownst to us, we had decided to embark on this project at the beginning of the greatest economic crisis in US history since the Great Depression. Things could have definitely come out very badly indeed. But Vujovich was with us every step of the way.”

Roskowinski assures, “It’s not about getting-in, getting-paid, and getting-out. It’s about spending the time to get to know our clients, listening to their hopes and desires, and working together to create the best plan for them and for their home. Interaction is typically several times each week during the design process, nearly every day during construction, and once every month or so after the project is complete. We’re talking about real long-term relationships here.”

Lander and Broton thought in broad strokes, as the former recounts, “Jay wanted a two-car garage and a nicer garden. I wanted a gourmet kitchen. We both wanted a first-floor bathroom for guests. Other than that, we didn’t have a great deal of needs or wants except to preserve the historic character of our home. Oh, yeah, and a fireplace—I wanted a fireplace. We got two—love ’em!”

Vujovich retained and restored the home’s beautiful, warm-hued, handcrafted woodwork, paying minute attention to detail. It extended the Eastlake Lily floral motif, seen on the newel post of the main level landing, into the newly-constructed wood and hardware. It installed replica mother-of-pearl light-button switches that are actually modern dimmers.

The amount of life-disruption varies with the magnitude of the construction. Untiedt and McKee’s renovation focused primarily on the master bath.

Untiedt shares that while the work itself took four months, “We only missed sleeping in the bedroom one night. This likely happened because of the excellent planning that took place over a three-month period.”

Lander points out, “Jay and I were able to rent the first floor of the duplex right next door. Since our house had only one bathroom, which was getting a partial demolition, and we were doing a complete home renovation—walls, floors, ceilings, and a first-floor and basement addition—there was no way we could have lived in the home during any of the work.”

Inevitably, given the laws of physics, Murphy, and local zoning, problems did arise in both projects.

Untiedt comments, “Our largest worry was moving the new granite counter and its two new sinks and faucets without damaging our first expensive home improvement [pre-Vujovich]. While we were told that there could be no guarantee, the Vujovich team assured us they would take every precaution not to damage them—and that they did.

“We were told in the original Vujovich proposal that the remodeled bath-spa would be enhanced by installing a large elliptical dome and cove lighting. But the question came up: Would it be safe for the roof? Vujovich was quick to call in a structural engineer who suggested the necessary modifications. This remarkable change gave us both indirect light and the opportunity to use one of our old brass chandeliers that was hanging in the basement.”

Lander remarks, “We had two major glitches with the building code. The first involved the 15-foot addition to the rear of our house. It turns out that our existing house was not built entirely square in its relation to the property lines. When you add 15 feet of additional wall to the back of our house, it encroaches upon our neighbor’s property. As a result, we were required to petition our neighborhood zoning authority as well as the Minneapolis Zoning Board for a variance. Vujovich came to our neighborhood as well as the city’s zoning board hearing to support our petition. Our petition prevailed, though it was actually a bit of a close call.

“The second gotcha occurred when we were notified by Vujovich a few days before construction was to begin that a recent change to the building code required that we install a $5,000 egress window in our basement. This incident nearly scuttled the entire project. However, the team at Vujovich accepted complete responsibility for this oversight of the building code change, and installed the window as required—gratis.”

How do homeowners weather remodeling without the experience turning into a Survivor finale?

Lander muses, “I don’t know. We were pretty close before the project. I do know, however, that we both love our home. We love spending time in our home alone and together. And the remodel represents something that we have created together, and will share with each other for many years to come.”

Untiedt feels that the project “helped us in identifying our needs and priorities. It enhanced our ability to draw out the best in each other. We are proud of our home and the work that the Vujovich team did.

“About a year after our work was completed, Vujovich invited us to have a party, so that our friends could enjoy the project with us. Well over a hundred people came. One word seems to summarize how our guests saw the remodel: Superb!”

Vujovich Design-Build
International Market Square
275 Market St. Ste. 251, Mpls.
(612) 338-2020

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