Model your expertise

The idea of showcasing talents in a model home is not new to the construction industry. However, how it’s approached is different for each builder — especially when the risk of building a model home not fit for a specific client is even higher in a down economy. David Werschay, CEO and owner of Werschay Homes, St. Cloud, Minn., calculated the risks and decided to demonstrate his talents by designing and building this home — the Nantucket.

One tidbit that mitigated his risk was the fact his own home was for sale at the time of construction of this project. “We built this home and said ‘if our house sells first, we will move in; otherwise it will be a good marketing piece for us,’ ” Werschay says. His house did sell, and his family did move into the model home.

As a model home, Werschay’s goal was to highlight the expertise his business and his trades could offer potential customers. “A lot of builders show their homes to the public and oftentimes that is a presold home with design, choices and interior decorating that is not of the builder but is of the client,” he says. “This is not about someone’s taste or money; it’s what we can provide you. These are our designs and details.”

Down to the details

Looking at this house, the immense amount of details are hard to ignore — from the outside to the inside of the house. This was intentional. “We did a lot of things to catch people’s eyes,” Werschay says.

A home can have too many details, which the designer kept in mind. “You can get to the point where it’s gaudy. If you start mixing different styles together, it can be too much but this had a nice balance,” says Ann Harren, former designer on the project.

In order to maintain a balance as Harren mentions, exterior details were important. “If you have tons of details on the front of the house and it stops on the sides, it can look overdone. If you carry some of it to the back of the house, it helps to blend details,” she says.

Making the ceiling a fifth wall instead of an afterthought is a growing trend in the home design industry, and was also a major consideration in this home. “It’s a big space,” Werschay says. “What can we do on the ceiling that can create uniqueness in the room?”

This ceiling detail was also one of the challenges in the project. For example, the ceiling in the kitchen features beam work that required additional thought and preparation. “You have to lay out the beam work, lighting and needs for venting,” Werschay says. “In the ceiling you have a lot of other things going on, so making all that work with a busier ceiling is a challenge.”

Design to scale

The home’s design flows in a way that five clients have asked for a similar concept in their homes. It moves away from the large, open concept and toward intimate spaces. Again, this was intentional by Werschay and Harren. Werschay and his wife discovered this design in another home they walked through. They loved how good the space felt. “It started with the kitchen and grew from there,” he says.

“The kitchen, great room and dining room are all one room but separate. They are all connected but not one big open room,” Werschay says. “There are a couple different ways to get into the kitchen, and the pantry is outside the kitchen. People really gravitate toward it.”

To keep the main living area open, the bedrooms were split up for privacy, and the laundry room was located near the master suite for convenience. In addition, design details specific to Minnesota’s climate were added. “A mud room was designed to house space for boots in the winter,” Harren says.

The main level was designed to be formal whereas the lower level was designed to provide an informal appeal. However, the lower level doesn’t feel like a basement because of its walkout style and lighting in the space. The painted woodwork on the main level enhances its formal appeal, and the stained alder on the lower level enhances the informal appeal, Werschay adds.

Risky work

With the goal of highlighting all he and his trades could provide to potential clients, it was imperative that Werschay and Harren did it right. In order to know what the market wants, Werschay relied on his and his vendors’ expertise.

“We sat down with our low-voltage company and asked, ‘What can we do that’s not over the top but people will see, and will help market the home and company?’ ” Werschay says.

Harren relies on her 25 years of design experience as well as continually admiring new things. “I walk through old neighborhoods, take pictures — see new things even if it is 100 years old,” she adds.

Because of the risk involved, Werschay was unsure at times if this was the best approach to a model home. But in hindsight, the home has helped his company secure many jobs.

“You always want to calculate your risks. I recommend it — it works,” he says. “I worked very closely with trade partners. How did I get financing? I worked with my partners and bank. I worked with my trade partners and selling them on the fact that this is a showroom for them as well. If you can get trade partners to grasp the same concept, it helps everyone out.”