StarTribune Funhouse article includes AMEK kid-friendly projects

AMEK’s kid-friendly projects and our co-owner Matt Schmidt were part of a StarTribune Funhouse article on Sunday, April 30.  Matt and his design team have created inviting, fun spaces for children utilizing the area under steps.

“We look at under staircases, an often unused storage space, as opportunities to create something unique for kids,” said Matt Schmidt, co-owner of AMEK Custom Builders of Bloomington.

A reading nook designed for a Bloomington family as part of a lower level project done by AMEK.

AMEK created this colorful kids’ play area under the curved steps in this Chaska home.

Several of these projects were included in the article that also featured indoor slides and secret hideouts.  Here are the AMEK pictures used in the print and on-line versions of the Funhouse story along with the full text from the StarTribune article.


In-home slides, secret rooms and other creative kids’ spaces bring the fun

Slides, secret rooms and other creative kids’ spaces add playful flair to homes around the Twin Cities.

By Lynn Underwood Star Tribune    APRIL 29, 2017 — 1:57PM


Leo Kuhl sat on the edge of a yellow tube. Then he disappeared.

The 6-year-old twisted and turned down the curved, enclosed slide, then landed in the basement below.

“It’s fun,” said Leo. “But a little scary when it turns.”

“It is kind of fast,” admitted his dad, Steve Kuhl of his in-home slide creation, “but I didn’t want the kids to be bored with it by the time they’re 7.”

The 26-foot-long tube slide is among the quirky, one-of-a-kind play spaces inside the Kuhls’ Hopkins home.

Kuhl also has carved out secret rooms under staircases, tunnels inside closets, suspended bunk beds and built a timber framed loft for his two children, Leo and Charlie, and their friends.

Architecture can play a role in sparking kids’ imaginations, said Kuhl. “In this age when we’re more virtual, these spaces can encourage kids to interact with their environment.”

His kids are lucky that their dad has construction know-how and resources; he and business partner Dan Murphy own Kuhl Design and Build in Hopkins.

Kuhl recently added a ladder above the slide so the kids can climb through a door opening to the second floor. He revealed it to Leo for his sixth birthday. “He was whooping and hollering ‘This is awesome!’ ” said Kuhl.

The long slide travels one story, from the mudroom to the basement. To assemble it, Kuhl used 3-D rendering computer software to model how it would fit in the space.

He ordered the tubes from a playground equipment company and installed them in sections. Lastly, he added LED blinking lights for a carnival funhouse feel.

Adults take spins down the slide, too. “We’ve had to wipe off spilled cocktails inside,” he said.

While slides are spendy — the tubing alone cost $5,000 — secret rooms are more attainable for homeowners, said Kuhl. “Cut a hole in Sheetrock, and put in an access door.”

Under the stairs is a popular — and smart — spot to carve out kid-friendly hideaways.

“We look at under staircases, an often unused storage space, as opportunities to create something unique for kids,” said Matt Schmidt, co-owner of AMEK Custom Builders of Bloomington.

A reading nook outfitted with bookshelves and a cushioned bench, and a curved secret room, are two of AMEK’s kid-customized projects.

Judy and Bob Worrell tucked a fanciful playhouse for their grandchildren inside a storage area beneath the stairs of their basement, which was remodeled by Plekkenpol Builders in Bloomington.

Bob installed cedar shakes and blue painted siding to match the exterior of their French Country home.

Their grandchildren decorated the interior with different-colored handprints.

Adults need to duck to get through the child-sized door, but “the kids love it and sleep in there,” said Judy.

Bedroom lofts, which feel like funky forts, are a hot commodity among kids and teens.

Gigi DiaGicomo designed a loft above her daughter’s bedroom inside an addition on her Minnetonka home. She scrambles up a ladder at the foot of the bed to a cozy carpeted

“It was designed to grow with her from 5 years old to a teenager,” said DiGiacomo, interior designer for DiGiacomo Homes and Renovation in Minnetonka.

Sid Levin, principal at Revolution Design+Build, chose an industrial grunge theme for the bedroom of a teenager who participates in extreme sports.

The loft, which was carved from attic space, is surrounded by a galvanized corrugated metal wall, “like something you’d see at a skateboard park,” said Levin. The teen watches TV, works on his laptop and has buddies sleep over up there.

A more high-end, elaborate Disneyesque space is an “Alice in Wonderland”-themed tunnel and playroom inside an Edina home by Schrader & Companies of Eden Prairie.

Builder Andy Schrader fashioned the child-sized playland under a basement staircase and porch.

A white rabbit painted on the wall guides you through an 8-foot passageway to an arched opening “that gets smaller as you walk in,” said Schrader.

The 9,000-square-foot home also features a hidden tunnel connecting two of the kids’ bedrooms.

Kid-friendly fun features can even help make the sale.

“We’re not just selling the house to Mom and Dad,” said Schrader. “We want the kids to get excited about having their own place.”



AMEK clients featured in Remodelers Showcase Guidebook

RS Real Family Spring 2017 Edina AMEKThe Edina family who lives in our whole home remodeling project on the Remodelers Showcase is featured as a Real Family in the tour’s official Spring 2017 Guidebook. Organized by the Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC), this 3-day event provides an opportunity to visit recently remodeled homes to see the latest trends in home design and is part of the larger Parade of Homes event.

The Guidebook’s Real Family segments highlight several projects on the tour from the homeowners’ perspective. From the perspective of the AMEK team, we appreciate the partnership we formed with Bill and Sheila Oliver to move through the many steps involved in such a big undertaking. We are grateful they were willing to share their story with you in this year’s Guidebook along with their home.

R41 Remoders Showcase AMEK Edina Home Spring 2017AMEK Custom Builders invites you to tour this Edina project that transformed this 1979 home into a sensational sun-lit open floor plan that optimizes room for entertaining as well as daily organization. Come see how the AMEK team combines amazing craftsmanship and exceptional quality products to create a spacious kitchen, soothing owners’ suite, inviting second-story lounge, relaxing flex room, and stunning custom deck.

Homes on the Remodelers Showcase are available to tour from noon to 6 p.m on Friday, March 31; Saturday, April 1; and
Sunday, April 2.  

What’s Cooking in AMEK Kitchens? – A Conversation with Matt Schmidt

What’s on your wish list for a kitchen? For AMEK’s co-owner Matt Schmidt, the kitchen is a prime space to make clients happy.

“It’s the part of the house that gets intricately used, so functionality and appearance are both key,” Matt says. “We ask a lot of questions about how you use your current space – what works and what is a frustration. Then, we exchange ideas on style preferences and then get down to combining solutions with design.”

We ask a lot of questions about how you use your current space – what works and what is a frustration.

Kitchen islands are versatile which is why homeowners love them – like this one in Edina that has seating on one corner where the homeowners like to enjoy their morning coffee.

Sometimes, the wish list is very specific. For instance, we’ve had clients who use a lot of spices when they cook, so we incorporated several narrow pull-out drawers next to the prep area so it’s easier to find needed spices. For another family who invites large groups to their home for meals, they wanted additional areas to do prep work since they encourage guests to cook with them. Another example is making sure we built in lit display cabinets for the clients’ favorite china pieces. Often it’s a matter of improving traffic flow, adding countertop space, and updating the overall look.

For some clients, shifting or removing walls helps accomplish a more open concept to connect with the living and dining rooms. To make it more cohesive, the flooring is changed so it’s the same throughout the main level rather than the kitchen having a different material like tile.

“We just finished a project in Minnetonka where we moved and eliminated walls plus converted a three-season enclosed porch and open porch into the main level layout,” Matt said. “It makes a big difference now how the space feels and functions.”

Apron sinks, also known as farmhouse style sink, are nostalgic and practical.

Apron sinks also called a farmhouse style have been requested by clients. The overhanging edge of the apron sink eliminates the need for the normal strip of countertop which means it’s a little easier to use without leaning over so far. Some people like them for their nostalgic look while others like the range of sizes and materials it can be made out of.

Islands continue to be one of the most common wishes by our customers. Clients want them to be larger allowing for a prep area or seating for a couple of people. “Islands are multi-purpose – they work for prepping meals, a serving area, unpacking groceries, and doing homework,” Matt notes.

Many of our clients like multiple cabinet finishes which adds a visual interest and a nice touch.

Cabinets choices are shifting with AMEK clients. “Many of our clients like multiple cabinet finishes which adds a visual interest and a nice touch” according to Matt. “We’ve done several projects with painted cabinets rather than stained ones – at least for some of the cabinets.”

Quite often, AMEK installs frameless cabinets which cleans up the lines of the kitchen. Other options clients like are cabinets with glass doors and lights, lift up doors that are like garage doors opening upward, and customized drawers and shelving. Appliances are more likely to be “hidden” by being covered by a matching cabinet door so they blend in or by appliance “garages” that have a door that can be left open for easy everyday accessibility or closed when guests are coming.

Are you ready to share your wish list to see what our AMEK design team can do to improve your kitchen’s functionality and appearance? If so, give us a call and let’s start the discussion!

New Deck Considerations: Installation Techniques & AZEK Benefits

Construction techniques and materials are important considerations when building a new deck according to AMEK Custom Builders’ Co-owner Paul Schmidt. Schmidt was recently featured in the From the Expert section of the April/May 2016 edition of Midwest Home magazine.

Paul SchmidtQ. What should I consider when building a new deck?

A: Having a deck is prime real estate when the weather warms up. If your old deck is deteriorating – or if are you thinking of adding a deck to a new home or remodeling project – make sure your deck is designed correctly and built with quality materials to withstand our sometimes harsh Midwest weather elements.

Fortunately, there are some products on the market now that can endure this climate – plus look great – for years to come. While clients request a range of materials, AMEK regularly uses AZEK, a PVC material that resists stains, scratches, and mold, and is available in a wide array of colors. It looks great and requires minimal maintenance.

If you want a beautiful, durable, well-built deck, do your research and hire a company that understands how your deck needs to integrate with the house. Every year, we are hired to fix defective decks, windows and doors because of poor installations and safety concerns.

AMEK Wins 2016 National CotY!

Texas is known for big things. AMEK won one of the big national awards at the Evening of Excellence April 8 in Austin, TX. Co-owners Paul, Matt and Andrew Schmidt were there to collect the 2016 Contractor of the Year (CotY) award from the National Association of Remodeling Industry in the Exterior Renovations category. NARI presents the awards to recognize peers in the remodeling industry for excellence.2016 CotY NARI National Award

Judging is based on problem solving, craftsmanship and design elements. Located along Minnehaha Creek in Minneapolis, the winning project required extensive remediation repairs to fix construction defects caused by water being trapped within the walls following an improper installation of a second story in the 1980s and from trapped moisture due to a poor ventilation system.

Led by AMEK owner Paul Schmidt and field manager Jim Hansel CRPM, the project involved the removal and reconstruction of rotted areas before the new exterior could be installed. The final results featuring a crisp, modern appearance with warm, wood accents have given the owners a healthy and aesthetically pleasing home to enjoy. For more details, see the case study at the AMEK Exteriors website.

Home Improvement Fair

We are out and about again this weekend! We will be in the south Minneapolis neighborhood Saturday for the Home Improvement Fair sponsored by the Southwest Journal. This free event, being held at Burroughs Community School located at 1601 W. 50th St, runs from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.Southwest Journal Home Improvement Fair

With experience in a range of remodeling projects from kitchens, bathrooms, and basements to additions, exterior renovations, and full-home remodeling – AMEK Custom Builders is ready to partner with homeowners looking to update their house. We are currently working on several homes in the south Minneapolis neighborhood.

In addition, our company recently won a regional Contractor of the Year award for an extensive exterior renovation on a home on Minnehaha Parkway. This is an exciting year for AMEK as we had two full-house remodeling projects on the Remodelers Showcase last weekend and are celebrating 20 years in the construction industry.

We hope to see you at this popular Home Improvement Fair that boasts 40 local vendors and presentations. For more information, go here

Spring 2016 Remodelers Showcase

AMEK Custom Builders is proud to have two homes participating in the Spring 2016 Remodelers Showcase. Organized by the Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC), this 3-day event provides homeowners an opportunity to tour the latest trends in home design.

March 18, 1:00 – 7:00 p.m. | March 19-20, 12:00 – 6:00 p.m.

For a Wayzata Dream Home, AMEK Custom Builders built four additions to the home to optimize living spaces inside and outside. The other project, a whole-house remodel in Bloomington, entailed moving walls and ceilings to create entirely new look. Both showcase our approach for customized living spaces brought to life with true craftsmanship and exceptional quality products.

Bloomington Whole House - Kitchen

2015 CotY Award Winner

2015 Contractor of the Year (CotY) Winner

Owner Paul Schmidt, Field Manager Jim Hansel, Painter Tony Rodriguez, Owner Matt Schmidt

An exterior renovation project in Minneapolis recently earned a 2015 Contractor of the Year (CotY) award from the National Association of Remodeling Industry – Minnesota Chapter. The CotY recognizes excellence in remodeling projects.

Led by AMEK owner Paul Schmidt and field manager Jim Hansel CRPM, the project began with the challenge of doing extensive remediation work before beginning the exterior makeover. Due to the improper installation of a second story in the 1980s, water was trapped inside the walls which caused large-scale rot and mold. Once the removal and repair work was done, the transformation could begin to create a modern appearance with an accent of warmth.

More pictures & information here.

Countertop Choices:
What’s your Style?

Blue Glass Countertop

This striking blue glass countertop was created for a Deephaven bathroom.

Design and budget are the key factors when selecting kitchen or bath countertops according to Matt Schmidt, co-owner and designer for AMEK. Clients usually appreciate specific characteristics of countertop options. AMEK uses all types of materials – glass, concrete, wood, granite, quartz, laminate, stainless steel, and tile. Each has its strengths and appeal.

Stone – granite, marble, or soapstone – has been used in about two-thirds of our recent projects. “Clients are drawn to stone because it’s natural, they appreciate the unique patterns and colors of each piece, there is a large range of colors available, plus it’s long lasting,” Matt notes. Quartz – manufactured from a blend of natural quartz and resins – is another common choice because of its simplicity, clean uniform finish and low-maintenance features.

Different surfaces, like adding a wood cutting area, can add depth and interest to a kitchen. “The fun part of countertops is that there are so many options from materials to colors and layouts,” said Matt.

White Granite & Quartz Waterfall Countertops

The countertops in this AMEK kitchen feature granite on the left side and quartz on the right. The white quartz also shows off a waterfall design that extends the white countertop from the top down the side.

“We once did a really cool glass countertop with blue color sandblasted underneath to give it depth and texture”.

Schmidt notes that all countertop materials are essentially long-lasting – especially when you consider the lifespan of a kitchen or how long most people live in one home. “Most of us don’t live in the same home for 40 years. If we do, we make changes and upgrades which is why I encourage clients to pick out countertop materials based on what appeals to them and fits their budget.”

Fall Caulking Worth the Effort – IF Done Correctly

Caulking in the fall as part of your winter preparations can protect your home from long-term, internal damage. While caulking isn’t an activity most homeowners look forward to, it can help seal gaps where water and snow can seep in.  Caulking should be deliberate and done within certain temperature ranges.

“A good caulk job is inexpensive, easy to do, and provides valuable results,” according to Paul Schmidt, one of AMEK’s co-owners who specializes in exterior projects.Window Caulking

If you notice rot or discolored areas under windows or doors, there’s a good chance you have a problem with how the exterior cladding system has been integrated together.  If installed properly, the siding, stucco, or stone/brick should work together with windows and doors to shed water and moisture.  Some of this actually occurs behind the siding or stucco and around windows and doors if flashing is done properly.  When, the water gets trapped, it can deteriorate the studs, sill plates, and insulation between your walls, attic and floors causing structural damage and mold which can impact your family’s health.

Because caulking is part of this integrated system, where and how you caulk is important.

“Contrary to what most people think, caulking should not usually be applied over any horizontal plane such as the top of a window or door – if the flashing is placed correctly at that intersection,” said Paul.  “Caulking should be done at the corners and the sides of windows, doors, chimneys etc. to prevent water from going behind those seams.”

Caulking Correctly Omitted

Caulking Correctly Omitted

Ideally, there should be a slight gap between two surfaces for the caulk to “fit into” to help seal.  “It’s important to have this gap filled with caulk because it helps adjust for the varying expansion and contraction rates of the two abutting surfaces (i.e. brick & siding or vinyl & stucco),” Paul noted.

Here’s some information and tips to help guide you.

  1. For outdoor use, select a caulk that is made out of polyurethane or silicone (not paintable) and the color that best matches – white, tan, black, clear – the area you are caulking.  If you don’t have a good caulking gun, purchase a new one.
  2. Optimum temperatures to do exterior caulking is above 50 degrees
  3. Remove old caulk and clean off residue
  4. Use an utility knife to tip at an angle.
  5. Have a damp towel or rag nearby.
  6. Use tape if desired for clean edges
  7. Caulk vertical surfaces from the top down.
  8. Keep caulking gun at a 45-degree angle when possible.
  9. If you mess up, let it dry a bit until it’s tacky and then remove and retry.

If you decide caulking is out of your realm, consider hiring a company who specializes in caulking or someone who is skilled at it.  “Paying someone is a worthwhile investment rather than ignoring it since water intrusion can cause significant damage” said Paul.  “Caulking isn’t a cure-all either if water has penetrated the home’s exterior envelope repeatedly over time.”

If water intrusion is suspected, consider calling AMEK or a moisture testing company to evaluate your home.  The longer homeowners wait to address the issue, the more significant and extensive the damage can be.

“I’ve worked on homes with damage from several thousand dollars to over a $100,000 because there were breakdowns in how the exterior cladding was integrated,” Paul said.

To learn about how your home’s envelope works, check this link out: