Green BarnHouse (more deux)

Ever more progress around the Green BarnHouse designed by Alchemy near Blair, WI. The clients are great about sending us updates that I can share with you all. It's amazing to watch the progress, even during crazy snowfalls.

Alchemy Architects Brings Color and Charm to a Big Box Condo Creating an Artistic Oasis at the 918 Lofts Building

Alchemy Architects, the award-winning St. Paul architecture firm best known for the weeHouse and its “tightwad panache,” has renovated a bland, 2000 square foot, boxy loft-style condominium into an oasis of habitable hues and selective spaces for its international owner.

Following Alchemy’s forward-thinking design and (often) typical disregard for convention, the master bedroom has been placed in the smallest room in the Loft, bringing whimsy into an otherwise austere space. At 8.5' x 11' the room is just big enough to center a queen-sized bed. A textured curtain that wraps the room provides softness, acoustical separation, and the illusion of layered space—like being on stage in one's own play. Hanging above the bed is an old-tech skeleton coil remnant—now a newborn chandelier. This piece is a variant of Bedspring Chandelier, a design by Alchemy Architects principle Geoffrey Warner, originally shown at the Weisman Art Museum in 2006.

The master bathroom features Bryan Carpenter's off-the-shelf rigging hooks for towels and a black iron C-clamp repurposed as a toilet paper holder (yes, Virginia, it really works). Carpenter served as the Project Manager on the project. These hearty, industrial fixtures juxtaposed next to a luxurious steam shower and custom bath cabinets show that modern design and contemporary details need not be uptight.

Together, Warner and Carpenter developed a floor plan with strong anchors by showcasing a fire-engine red, entertaining-ready IKEA kitchen. Scott McGlasson of Woodsport created a counter/table top using ash boards stained black that provide an elegant contrast to the cabinet’s sleek surface. A pair of mylar “feather” overhead lamps and a soaring Artemide fixture light the entrance corridor and kitchen in the spirit of Brancusi's elegant sculpture Bird in Space. A ruddy, South American wood floor is elevated to serve as leisure area, dance floor, or simply a stage for contemporary art installed right outside the bedroom. A nook for studying is also elevated just inside the front door. Sculptured timbers serve as graceful, yet functional steps allowing passage to these upper areas.

Alchemy started the schematic design of the space by defining a simple pallet of color and materials for the space: golds, warm browns, blacks, deep reds, and adding textures that melded rustic with simple and sleek: shiny red kitchen cabinets warmed with exotic wood and composite countertops. Being “green-thinking” comes naturally for Alchemy, as the theme of reuse/reduce/recycle appears in the use of cast off timbers for stairs and hot-rolled steel for doors and fireplace surround. Industrial materials are partnered with natural and rustic materials to temper the raw open space.

The space boasts corner wrap windows that look out onto the North Loop Warehouse District, just outside of downtown Minneapolis, allowing natural light to play effortlessly throughout the various rooms. The now-distinctive environment embraces the client's taste for eclectic and extraordinary details while being a welcoming place for friends and a home-away-from-home for the owner.

Architecture and Design: Bryan Carpenter and Geoffrey Warner, AIA
General Contractor: Kurt Albrecht, Owner, KA Construction, Grand Rapids, MN
Various Woodwork: Scott McGlasson, Owner, Woodsport,

Green BarnHouse (more)

More excitement from the field for the Blair Green BarnHouse designed by Alchemy: precast concrete porch floors arrive, and the first wall goes up!

Green Barnhouse in Western Wisconsin

Alchemists live in the Midwest and we love barns. Our clients love barns. Everyone loves barns. Can you imagine a house that took all the great things about barns and left those other things to the cows?

Alchemy designed a custom house using 19th century simplicity and 21st Century technology including:
  • Barn siding with light filtering through
  • Few, but large openings
  • A sleeping loft and bedrooms in the cellar
  • And, of course, Barn Space: an open 2-story room with two volumes inserted within. One in steel, the other in ash strips, they provide under-and over spaces like a hayloft (without the smell).
The green BarnHouse uses passive solar design and features advanced framing, spray foam insulation, locally sourced materials, and concrete and wood floors with in-floor heat powered by a geothermal system. Local General Contractors and Tradesmen are doing the site-building.

Alchemy is pleased to share the architectural rendering and now (drum roll, please) client photos of the site work!

Summer and Winter Site Views, 2008

Geothermal Prep Work, 2009

Foundation Prep Work, 2009:

"green papers" for the weeHouse

One of our favorite thoughts about new construction at Alchemy is:
the greenest square foot is the one you don't build.

In other words, efficiency isn't just about what you do, it's about what you don't.

As designers, we begin each project with a set of limitations and possibilities and — most importantly — the client. Step-by-step we consider time, budget, materials and lifestyle. Always, we consider efficiency and sustainability. They're cornerstones of the prefabricated weeHouse.

Some 'wee's' are more sustainable and efficient than others, but each is built intentionally for its owner. ('wee's' aren't sitting around waiting for a lot to be placed on as wee waits for no one!)

As Alchemy enters the final quarter of 2009, we're ready to launch ideas for 2010. You'll be seeing updates over the next few weeks. But for now, take a look at our weeGreen sheets that include ideas for a weeZERO.

As always, let us know what YOU think. wee cares a lot about that!

weeHouse x deux ... NY to CO!

Casual pictures of weeHouses #19 and #20 being 'set' in Dundee, NY and Nederland, CO. Who sez'contemporary prefab ain't happenin'? Not wee!

More pictures will be posted as the project exteriors are finished.

Also, keep your eye open for the Oceanside weeHouse being featured in Atomic Ranch magazine this Fall. Very exciting!

weeHouse STUDIO for Sale, $48,000

weeHouse STUDIO for Sale, $48,000

You are welcome to see-this-wee at its current location in Siren, WI (see for more details).

Perfect for an artist retreat, guest/bunk house, yoga studio ... Ready? Set. Whee!


exterior dimensions = 27'L x 12'W x 10'H (324 SF)

studio may sit on permanent or temporary foundation

custom steel base frame includes fork lift pockets and casters (use of casters is optional)

IKEA kitchen wall that is plumbing-ready

Summit under counter, stainless steel refrigerators (2)

natural bamboo floor, walls, and ceiling

Andersen sliding glass doors (screens provided on 2 of 6; locking)

electrical wiring set-up for standard 110 V generator or plug-in, multiple outlets, “live” tracks on ceiling for spot lighting, recessed lighting throughout

fully insulated walls, weather-tight EPDM rubber roof

includes the custom cedar decking with ramp and entry stair step (ships separately from house)

shipping and set to be paid by buyer (approximately $7/mi from Siren, WI + $1000. ‘set’ fees)

weight = approximately 16,000 pounds

may not be shipped overseas due to ocean freight restrictions

comes with heavy-duty custom tarp cover for storage, and crate for casters

interior furniture not included in price, but available for sale

price includes 4 hours of Alchemy’s innovative design and expertise to help with foundation or interior plans ($500+ value)

contact Alchemy Architects, St. Paul, MN, 651-647-6650

additional photos located on

Alchemy Designs Next Generation of Dental Offices

David Ong, DDS, owner of Silver Lake Smiles in New Brighton, MN now practices in a relaxing and calming, yet clever and state-of-the-art clinic that reflects his practice's mission: precision and innovation that is still sensitive to patients' needs for comfort and reassurance.

"Alchemy understood from the beginning that they needed to create a sophisticated yet playful space and integrate a sense of privacy for my clients," states Dr. Ong. "They respected my timeline, budget, and concerns--feedback from patients has been great!"

Starting with a blank slate of 1,120 SF of retail space in a suburban commercial center, Designer and Project Manager Bryan Carpenter developed an efficient floor plan that manages to be whimsical and theatrical. Color and texture palettes incorporate natural materials including bamboo, cotton, and walnut along with sound absorbing surfaces. The result is a calm, interesting, and inviting environment for patients at Silver Lake Smiles.

The office is organized by a hallway of light; a sculpture that Carpenter created from multiple translucent fiberglass panels separates the treatment area from the reception area. Full-length gold velvet stage curtains create a private lounge area and graciously surround the functional utility alcoves.

Complementing materials are used throughout the space. Removing the suspended ceiling tiles, replacing them with a patchwork of inexpensive rolled up roman blinds, and adding skylights above creates a space worth looking up to. Alchemy worked with Scott McGlasson of Woodsport to manipulate standard IKEA cabinets for a high-finish look. Off-the-shelf tool carts, glove dispensers created from stainless tissue holders, and whimsical toy highlights also help to distinguish this clinic, while adhering to a strict budget.

The once nondescript commercial space has been transformed into a contemporary dental clinic that is both cutting-edge and comfortable. Open wide and say 'ahhhhhhhhhh . . . cool!'

North Woods weeHouse for SALE

Wow! The most requested weeHouse style is up for sale ...
here's your chance for not only a weeHouse, but a custom weeHouse with fantastic interior detailing by noted craftsman, Scott McGlasson. Check out that sauna (grey building)!

Mill City Farmer's Market ... cool stuff

If you happen to be in Minnie this weekend and need a lil' sumpin' sumpin' to do, check out our pal, Scott McGlasson and his work from Woodsport at the Mill City Farmer's Market. Woodsport has provided many of the 'haute' touches in our projects. Amazing, cool, and well, local ... so support it if you can! Plus, you get a great view of the Guthrie and the Mississippi. Perfect!

wee is so "Continental"

wee knows the idea of prefabrication isn't new.
And wee knows that modular construction has been around for years.
So with all that history, wee is still surprised that the idea of living small and efficiently and well-designed is 'news'. But, it is. And Alchemy + their weeHouses + their "tightwad panache" renovations are humbled to often be featured in articles like this one that stress that idea.

Every week the Alchemists have conversations with people around the world about the possibilities of building their weeHouse. I've never figured out the actual rate of build-to-conversation, but I'd guess it's one in two-hundred or so (figuring we field a minimum of 10 conversations per week).  The piece of the pie that Alchemy holds for new house builds is tiny ... let's say a dieter's dream portion ... but it's mighty. Mighty fine indeed.

It's not every day you get to design a house. And not every house can be a wee. But when it happens, it's one mighty fine gig to be a part of.

It's also not every day you get to jet around the world. But, if you happen to be jetting on Continental Airlines, take a look at this article in their in-flight magazine. wee is flying high now!

Is 'wee' there yet?! Ah ... sounds of summer.

Alchemy Architects is pleased to announce that the

Saturn weeHouse has landed in Siren, Wisconsin!

General Motors has graciously returned the Saturn weeHouse to its midwest roots for the summer. This weeStudio offers many weeHouse standard features including the IKEA kitchen, Kohler fixtures, Andersen 200 series Perma-Shield windows and bamboo flooring.

It's great to have a model here in the Midwest. The weeHouses we typically build are not, of course, this wee! And they usually have a bathroom and working kitchen. But, this is an opportunity to experience the space, the floor to ceiling windows, see an example of the IKEA wall kitchen, and understand how we work with bamboo on the walls as well as the floor.

A bit more 'wee' than typically ordered, it's still a great way to get an understanding of Alchemy's fabulous prefab in the beautiful lakes region of Wisconsin. weeHouses make great cabins, too!

Betsy will be in Siren on Friday, May 22 and Saturday, May 23, 2009 to answer questions. The Saturn weeHouse will remain on display as a model through at least August 2009. Questions may be directed to Betsy at For directions, see

Throughout the summer you'll be able to talk with a modular home expert with years of experience in financing, general contracting, and building in the lakes region. Hosted by Heart of the North Homes, weeHouse clients in Wisconsin's Lake Country can now coordinate site work, weeHouse design + build and all contracting finish work in one stop.

Call Al Glorvigen in Siren at 715-349-8800 for more details

or email

Hours are Tuesdays-Saturdays 10-4, and by appointment.

Gushing on Green

Over Easter weekend, Alchemist B journeyed from Minne to ChiIl(y) and made a 2nd stop at the Smart Home on display at the Museum of Science and Industry. I had been down there while it was being 'set' ... and was very glad to see the final product. 

Michelle Kaufmann Designs (MKD) created a fabulous showcase highlighting the importance of green building ideas in an educational setting that is engaging and impressionable—let alone inspirational (super cool sponsors, interior design and gadgets!). It is realistic in size, and although I suppose not everyone who's building new will be able to incorporate *all* the great ideas, I think that everyone will be inspired to squeeze in as much as they can.

Inside and outside the views and details are outstanding. It's a great example of MSI's amazing mission, Chicago's ever-forward-thinking and MKD's contemporary architecture (that also happens to be prefab ... so, ya'know, weeLuvs it).

On the tour, my guide John had a very informative, jargon-free script to work with. (He himself was a great 'kid'!) There are ample engaging moments of explanations including:
  • where all the hot air goes
  • how water is recirculated
  • how one room is particularly youngster friendly
  • why a green roof makes sense
  • how design creates spaces that work efficiently

Five key principles as identified by MK:  Smart Design, Material Efficiency, Energy Efficiency, Water Efficiency and a Healthy Environment are incorporated, clearly illustrated and annotated throughout the home. 

My 'group' was a mix of families, construction 'guys' and the just-curious. It made for some sassy conversations as people elevated their priorities in the form of comments like 'that sink doesn't have a stopper! that seems wasteful' and 'my kid would fall off this deck' and 'I would never leave the rooftop it's such a great view' and my favorite 'Mom: this is the coolest place you've ever made me go to!'. Hope for the future ... and a  slice of life, so-to-speak.

It'd be great to see interactive, illustrative, and darn-good-idea-generating architecture like this in many places ... so you can experience—not just gawk at pictures of—fresh ideas. On display through Jan. 3, 2010.

Up North

Alchemy took a road trip "up North" (that's Minnesota-talk for 'to the Lake') to Siren, WI and Heart of the North Quality Built Homes. Heart of the North sells modular homes through two companies right now and is hoping to be the liaison to Alchemy Architects for weeHouses built near Burnett County, WI. Here are pictures from the visit. They include the location (just north of Siren on Hiway 70 and a shot of Al Glorvigen, Owner of HoN Homes (working with two clients, one of whom lost her home in the Gunflint Trail fire last year ... very sad). 

This partnership would merge the design experience of Alchemy Architects & the weeHouse with the project coordination (site prep, foundation, contractor, shipping, button-up work, local permits, etc.) expertise of Heart of the North. 

Let us know what you think about this, please. Thanks!

Bungalow Renovation takes a RAVE

Alchemy is pleased to announce we received a RAVE (Residential Architects' Vision and Excellence) Award in 2009! The Goodrich Bungalow Renovation was recently completed after the addition of its front entry porch. We have the exterior before and after photos as well as the backyard and its twin peaks garages! Landscaping by Phillips Garden, Minneapolis and owners. Interior photos copyrightKaren Melvin Photography.

April 14, 2009



RAVE Awards Acknowledge Residential

Architects’ Vision & Excellence

Minneapolis, Minnesota – Nine residential architecture

projects by Minnesota architects have been selected

for this year’s Residential Architects Vision and

Excellence (RAVE) Awards. The RAVE program, in its

sixth year, was created by AIA Minnesota and

Mpls.St.Paul Magazine to recognize excellence in

residential design and raise awareness of the benefits

of using an architect. Forty-nine submissions were

entered in different categories including new and

remodeled homes, large and small sizes and budgets.

The jury was comprised of Charles Liddy, AIA, Miller

Dunwiddie Architects; Phillip Koski, AIA, Leo A. Daly; Martha Yunker, AIA, Yunker & Associates,

and Shawn Gilliam, editor, Home Magazine.

Bungalow Renovation

won in the Addition/Remodel Over 800SF catagory

Alchemy LLC

Geoffrey Warner, AIA

wee out West


Although "wee" calls the prairie home, it's decided to venture out West in partnership with a preservation community in the Black Hills of South Dakota (well, 'out East' to those of you already out West!).

THE RIM at Red Canyon Ranch yields epic views that make a perfect setting for the weeHouse's wall of floor to ceiling windows. The wee's small footprint treads lightly on this idyllic site as well, making mother nature happy (we assume as no thunder claps yet).

Black Hills Wilderness Preservation CommunityTM is wee's first "pardner" so-to-speak. A lot of people ask about representing the weeHouse in certain territories, but this is the first organization to make it work. We are so looking forward to sleeping under the stars! And certainly welcome you making your home campfire with us. 

Homesteads at The Rim begin at $175,000, and offer weeHouse as well as other "Retreat Architecture" packages. Take a look—and be one of the first to put a wee Home on the Range!

Winner! 2009 AIA-MN Home of the Month Award


We're pleased to accept one of the twelve AIA-MN 2009/2010 Home of the Month awards chosen last week by a distinguished jury of peers. The Goodrich Bungalow Renovation was recently completed after the addition of its front entry porch. We have the exterior before and after photos as well as the backyard and its twin peaks garages! Landscaping by Phillips Garden, Minneapolis and owners. Interior photos copyright Karen Melvin Photography.

The house’s “shell” is respectful of its 1911 origins while “objects”

are inserted as contemporary additions

Interior “pathway elements” create an axial organizing arrangement


  • Flexible floor plan for family of 4 with 2 grade school children
  • Phase renovations over a period of 7 years to fit with the owners’ budget
  • Create a working kitchen for daily cooking and frequent entertaining
  • Create an urban garden retreat 
  • Energy efficiency


  • Spray-in Icynene foam insulation
  • Energy efficient Andersen windows, doors and updated storm doors including self-modulating sky lights
  • In-floor hydronic heat combined with flat-panel radiators controlled by automatic thermostat 
  • Natural ventilation core
  • Salvaged + typically industrial objects and materials used including doors, hardware, parachute, metals and lumber
  • IKEA kitchen, customized, with sanded glass island and FireSlate counter tops
  • Polygal greenhouse plastic, random-orbit sanded
  • Tech lighting low-voltage fixtures
  • Galvanized and cold-rolled perforated steel railings