Newsflash! AMEK is featured in the recently-released August issue of Modern Builder + Design magazine. You can read about our holistic approach to designing and building new homes as well as for our remodeling projects.
Written by Kecia Bal
AMEK Custom Builders has the knowhow to perform ground-up custom homes and remodeling.
THE COMMON THREAD that runs through AMEK Custom Builders’ work is an understanding of the whole home – the overall structure and how homeowners live within it – and a commitment to that vision.
The award-winning Minneapolis builder is known for homes and remodels that exude elegance, warmth and beauty from details to statement features.
“It all starts with a vision and a plan, which has to revolve around a realistic budget,” coowner Matt Schmidt says. “We have enough years in business doing so many types of projects that we know homes from the ground up. I understand design and structure really well and it’s hard to teach that. It’s just experience. My job, really, is to help people right from the first meeting establish a realistic budget and an idea of what’s possible.
“Then I assemble the right design team to walk through the design process,” Schmidt adds.
With the advent of Houzz and other websites where homeowners can dream bigger, AMEK sees clients with a better feel for their design aspirations – and that’s a positive for the design/builder. The company uses Houzz as an outlet to feature more visual representations of its capabilities, far beyond what might be easily navigated on a website.
“People are more educated,” said Schmidt. “They often come to us having already made the decision they want to work with us even before we show up for the interview – just because of all the resources that are out there.
“I think we have more photos on Houzz than we do our website,” Schmidt adds. “It’s easy to look at, and there’s a ton of creativity. I don’t want anybody to stop at our website and say that’s all we can do. We could design and build almost anything you see on Houzz.”
Lessons from Remodeling
Whether a remodel is extensive – gutting a whole house, adding another level, or rebuilding exterior walls – or centered on a specific space such as a kitchen remodel or a basement finish, AMEK focuses on an artisan approach.
Schmidt, who leads the design-focused side of the family-run business, meets with each client before reaching out to architects and designers to create a design that fits within the client’s budget. His twin brother, Andrew, is the business visionary and CEO of the company who oversees the entire operation. Their younger brother Paul runs the company’s exterior renovations and construction defect division, working with engineers and other experts to repair homes and buildings that have not been properly built. Their father Mark’s role is changing from assisting with day-to-day operations to finding creative ways to involve his 13 grandchildren in the family business. Their ages range from 6 to 16 and there are many potential positions for them if they want to be involved. “Our clients love seeing grandpa bringing the boys to help clean up job sites,” Matt says.
AMEK’s recent remodeling projects have helped shape the company’s design capabilities and highlight emerging trends, such as what Matt calls the “warm modern” look that blends clean and contemporary lines and shapes with texture-rich and comforting elements.
A modern farmhouse the company built and used for 18 months as a model home proved the “wow” factor in the new, livable modern look.
While the dining space utilizes sleek, clean lines, it’s balanced with a warm, rustic wall made with local reclaimed barn wood. Walking up to the front door, you can sense the familiar farmhouse feel but with a modern touch. The front-porch fireplace adds a warm welcome to visitors. The layout is clearly open but also has defined gathering spots.
“With the right design team, we were able to create exactly what I wanted, which was something different than the same old thing,” Matt said. “People would tell us that they normally didn’t like contemporary or modern but absolutely loved what we created. They would enter into the home and just stand and look – speechless because they weren’t expecting what they were seeing but they’re saying, ‘I could live here tomorrow,’ often with big smiles on their
Another lesson from remodeling is to build and design a home for many generations.
“Think of the way you live in your home for 15 or 20 years. Children, parents, relatives, etc… there are a lot of things that can change dynamically,” Schmidt said. “How can you build spaces that you can use as flexible spaces? We recently designed and built a home where the lower level was built for their parents who live with them three months out of the year.”
Top to Bottom
AMEK’s elegant designs don’t neglect one area that others often overlook: the ceiling.
A two-story great room featured on the company’s Houzz page demonstrates a ceiling element meant to draw the eye upward and offer a showpiece with a design that looks like intersecting and overlapping rings as well as hand-blown glass chandeliers. For that project, AMEK employed the talents of a woman who designed hotels in Las Vegas.
“How often do you see a massive two-story great room with a flat ceiling that just does nothing?” Matt says. “We define spaces with the ceiling elements. I think it’s under-utilized.”
Another project, one that won a National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) Contractor of the Year award (CotY), is an addition and remodel project on a split-entry home.
The home had vaulted ceilings, and AMEK actually brought them down with soffits around the perimeter and then raised the ceiling inside to create a new, dynamic effect. For the kitchen addition, AMEK engineered existing trusses and raised them.
“You’ll see a lot of ceiling manipulation,” Matt notes. “It also ties it all together so it looks like it was all done that way intentionally.”
Another recent Contractor of the Year award-winner was a high-end basement finish. The company used challenges as pathways for creative solutions, such as a curved stairway which involved adjusting mechanical trunk lines. AMEK covered those with an architectural, curved design that was mimicked throughout the entire design. A large, custom-built, curved bar made for a centerpiece.
“The stairs were really the reason why we created the curved soffit details – to hide all the mechanical lines,” Schmidt said. “I always look at that as an opportunity to do something different – and not just a have-to.”
AMEK also made structural changes to make the stairway landing a more appealing entrance into the main space. A family game area seemed dwarfed by the bar space, so the company again used the ceiling as a solution.
“There’s a ceiling detail of Douglas fir beams built close together and that created a square that intersected with the circular ceiling to have it really define that space,” Schmidt explains.
Schmidt believes his holistic approach backed a team of creative designers and excellent craftsmen leads to clients who truly appreciate their homes.
That’s because AMEK Custom Builders listens closely to their wish list and then delivers beyond what they thought was possible.
“The best compliment we get is when clients comment to us years after we did their project how much they still love what we did for them,” Schmidt says. “It’s this long-term client enjoyment that we are aiming for on each project we do.”