“We’re really seeing a heightened awareness of architectural style, and I honestly think it has a lot to do with websites like Houzz and Pinterest that are bringing the architectural world to people’s fingertips,” said Dan Whirley, owner of RemWhirl—an architectural, interior design and landscaping firm in Crosslake. “They’re able to jump online and see what high design looks like, and now that’s becoming the norm. So people tend to come to us with—it used to be magazine clippings, and now it’s their Houzz profile and their Pinterest profile—and show us all kinds of pictures, and that’s usually where we start the design process.”
Not only do these tools increase users’ exposure to the architectural realm in general, but they also comprise style and design ideas from all over the country and the world.
“We’re seeing a lot of influence, whether it be from the … modern in the mountains to the East Coast on some coastal-type products,” said Collin Jacobs, lead designer and department manager of the architectural division at RemWhirl. “We had a client in Switzerland, so we were inspired by their heritage there and pulled that in, and it all worked very well.”
Sources of inspiration aren’t the only changes Whirley’s firm has seen since opening RemWhirl as a home-based business in 2006. Clients’ wants and style preferences change, as is the case with any industry trends.
“Style-wise we’re really seeing a refinement of the pure architectural styles,” Whirley said. “For example, the modern farmhouse has become an extremely popular style, very clean lines but still open and airy and kind of agrarian feeling. People are definitely tipping more to the modern style as of recently, even up here in the northern part of the country.”
Whirley and his team of architects, designers and landscapers help their customers achieve their desired styles—whether it be modern farmhouse, something more contemporary or a completely different direction—by thoroughly getting to know who they’re working with.
“We do take some time to meet with folks before we engage in a contract and make sure it’s a good fit for both of us,” Whirley said. “Make sure that they value what we do and from a relationship standpoint that we’re going to get along because we spend a lot of time with our clients.”
Those clients come from not only Minnesota or even just the Midwest but from all over the country and sometimes the world, like Jacobs’ Swiss customer. With additional offices in Minneapolis and Castle Rock, Colo., RemWhirl casts a wide net. Even from the Crosslake office—which opened in its location on County Highway 3 a couple years after the business began—Whirley said he sees a lot of clients from places like Chicago; Naples, Fla.; and Lincoln, Neb.
With different geographical regions come different design wants and needs. A trend Whirley said is unique to his Colorado office right now, for example, is the “work-live” environment.
“It’s studio space or shop space along with living quarters, so it’s kind of a mixed use kind of building,” he said.
Back in the lakes area, water-oriented structures, perhaps known better as boathouses, have become a growing trend lately, thanks in part to a Crow Wing County ordinance passed in 2014 permitting structures up to 120 square feet on shoreline property, as long as they’re at least 20 feet from the water.
“That allows people to store their tubes and their water toys and things like that,” Whirley said.
With the help of businesses like the Mosquito Squad, RemWhirl has seen an increase in demand for outdoor living spaces, too. But the outdoor environment isn’t all Whirley takes into account when working on those designs.
“We like to design where the exterior is an extension of the interior so people can flow in and out of the house without getting hung up with big patio doors and things,” he said. “We’re trying to open the houses up as much as we can now.”
Though it can sometimes prove costly, outdoor dining areas are a specific example of exterior work RemWhirl does. Whirley said these projects can range anywhere from simply an enhanced grilling space to a full outdoor kitchen, with some of the more popular requests being ice makers and bar setups.
With the ever-changing dynamics of architecture and design, Whirley said he doesn’t foresee any substantial new additions to his Crosslake office in the near future.
“We’re trying to pause for a minute and make sure we’ve got the alligator by the tail right now,” he said. “We are hiring out in Colorado right now. I’d like to see that market get a little more stabilized before we look at our next venture.”
Whatever that next venture might be, it will just further Whirley’s dream of working in the architectural field—a dream he has already achieved with RemWhirl.
“I’ve always enjoyed figuring out how things go together and how to solve problems,” Whirley, a Brainerd native, said of his interest in the industry. He noted he enjoyed pounding nails alongside his parents as they built their own house, but wanted to find something else in the construction field that wouldn’t have him working on roofs into old age.
A high school internship led him to the realization that architecture was the right path.
“I went straight to school for architecture and got my first job here locally when I was still in school, so I commuted back and forth from Fargo to Crosslake for my entire college career,” he said.
Then came RemWhirl.
“In 2006 I made the leap and started small,” Whirley said. “And we’ve been growing ever since.”
City: Crosslake, Minneapolis and Castle Rock, Colo.
Number of employees: 15
Interesting or little known fact: RemWhirl is one of the only firms in the state that specializes in all three disciplines of architecture, interior design and landscape design.