Photos by Hillary Ehlen
Black, white and wood reign supreme in the Hawley home of Katie and Shawn McPherson. Blending modern and farmhouse traditional styles, this couple has been enjoying their custom-built home for just under a year now. Four days before Christmas of 2018, they moved their family, including their two children, Olivia and Calum, into their new home and have been enjoying further customizing it ever since.
Third Home’s The Charm
As a couple, the McPherson’s began in an old home that they fixed up parts of along the way. Next, the lived in a bit newer of a home before taking the dive to build a brand new home to settle in for good. In the past five years, they lived in three different houses and were ready for “home.”
“After living in two homes prior, we just knew what we wanted,” said Katie. Having this insight into what worked and didn’t work for their family helped their design process. In total, the build process was about seven months long. They worked with Greg Larson of GRL Custom Homes as their architect and Chad Larson as their general contractor.
Home Sweet Hawley
Having lived in Hawley, Minn. for five years prior to building their new home, the couple knew they wanted to stay there. “We wanted space,” said Katie. They looked at a variety of lots, all with ample acreage. While they wanted a good amount of acreage, they wanted it to be maintainable as well. Ultimately, they found their current four-acre plot and teamed with GRL Custom Homes, who owned the property at the time. “We just stumbled across this land and I was like, yep this is it,” said Katie.
Not Your Average House
Through the designing, building and decorating process, the McPhersons had one agreement they were sure on: they wanted it to be different. They knew they wanted a home that was unique to anything they had seen in the area and something that was uniquely theirs. “That’s why it is a custom home, because we wanted something different,” said Katie.
For this process, they researched a lot and pulled together ideas to present to their architect. Katie said that having watched a lot of HGTV and having been a “house junkie” for most of her life, she had lots of inspiration and ideas to pull things from. Much of the design and build process came from planning beforehand and doing lots of research on what they wanted.
Beyond the concept of being unique, the homeowners had a number of must-haves they knew needed to be accomplished.
On the outside, Katie was set on having a mixture of board and batten and steel siding. The vertical board and batten on the front door and porch area makes the entrance of the home a focal point against the horizontal steel siding slats on the body of the home. Along with the siding choices, they were strategic with window placement, ensuring a lot of light would be let in, but also that the window placements would make sense on the exterior design as well.
On the inside, they knew they wanted their children’s area completely separate from the adult’s area. “Just for the future when they get older, that was one thing we seriously considered, was them as they age and not necessarily just now,” said Katie. Having spent the time building and designing this home, they want to make sure the home grows with them as their family’s needs change over time. The master suite is on the first floor, off of the kitchen and living area and the children’s bedrooms, bathroom and game room are all on the second floor. The need for adaptability is also why they decided to include a spacious basement in the design of the home, even though it currently is unfinished.
As with many modern homes, the kitchen was a priority for the homeowners. Wanting to veer from a traditional L-shaped or U-shaped kitchen, they wanted the kitchen to be a mainstay of the living area. “I wanted a larger kitchen that was more of a showcase,” said Katie. As for the details, Katie knew she wanted a white kitchen with white quartz countertops. With many new-build projects, a kitchen design offers endless options on what finishes to include, but Katie knew exactly what she wanted. About her shaker cabinet choice, she said “I wanted them to have that classic, traditional look, but not too traditional.” The choice to incorporate a white subway tile backsplash came from the same desire to achieve a classic and timeless feel. Katie joked, “Even though I would love to, I’m not going to put a blue tile backsplash, because I will change my mind in six months and be upset about it. I change my mind a lot.”
For Katie, the kitchen was what she was certain on, but for Shawn, he wanted a three-car garage. Shawn enjoys the outdoors and wanted enough space for his gear. Off the garage they made sure to include a powder room for ease. Another must-have for Shawn was a home office, as he works from home most of the time. Off the master suite and looking out to the front lawn, Shawn has his private getaway where he can focus on work, while still being near family.
When asked about her own style, Katie had a hard time putting to words what she classified her taste as. She said, “I would say in-between a modern farmhouse traditional. I like the farmhouse look, but I also like the modern look, so I try and incorporate the two without being too one way or the other. I would say I’m a very black, white and woods person.
“I’m a mixer of styles. There’s not one way or the other.”
She has always had an eye for design. As a graphic designer who has studied art history and architecture, the art side comes easily to her. However, she considers herself more of a home planner rather than a decorator. She’s not into “stuff” and tries to maintain a minimalist collection of decor, preferring the process of laying things out and executing the composition and concept side of design. “I’m a very simplistic person in design,” she said.
The McPherson home shifts stylization as Katie sees things that spark her interest. She noted that a lot of her home goods are collected from grocery trips to Target (Threshold and Project 62 are her favorite collections). She also loves finding goods from EcoChic Home and HomeGoods. “I’d rather shop for home stuff than clothes,” she said.
With any custom project, there are bound to be bumps in the road and unexpected design changes. One design change the McPhersons faced was around their fireplace. Originally, the fireplace was supposed to be against the wall. To save space, they integrated a special-order, three-sided fireplace feature from Hebron Brick Company. When entering the home, guests are greeted with this unique fireplace that serves as a separator between the entry and the main living area. Besides the practicality of this design, it also serves as a standout statement in the room.”It’s different. That’s what my husband and I always said when [people] asked us about what style we wanted, we wanted something that other people don’t have, that’s not normal. So that the fireplace is not normal,” said Katie.
Beyond enjoying the home in person, Katie has created an online presence of the home on Instagram under her account, @our_mn_dreamhome. What began as her personal account, she slowly swung to posting more interior projects and noticed that people were interacting with those posts well. In this, she has joined the home community on Instagram and is able to share inspiration, tips and tricks with followers. She joked that she and Shawn are not professionals, but just “average Joes,” but that they can provide inspiration for others out there like them.
“Going through this process is also to record what we did. I like to flashback and show my husband where things were a year ago and just laugh,” she said. By having an Instagram account for the house, she can look back at old posts and reflect on the building and designing process. “There are always snags, but in the end, I am never going to remember certain things were a certain way,” she said. The account helps the homeowners look back at the process with positivity.
More to Come
Since Katie enjoys homes, architecture and design, the process of refreshing the home will be ongoing. Up next, they have plans to finish the basement, which will have two additional bedrooms, a family room, a theater room and two bathrooms. As the next spring season comes around, they also plan on landscaping being a big project to take on.
Katie also wants to add more thoughtful details throughout. She likes the idea of incorporating stationary, physical appearance details that will make it more “home” to them, like shiplap or vertical wallings. “One thing I learned about living in a new home, is just because you stylize your home like that right away, you’re not going to like that six months from now. Certain things are an evolving change,” Katie said.
About building and designing the new home, Katie said, “It was fun. I kind of missed it when we were done.” With her eye for style and Shawn’s craftsmanship skills, this home will continue to grow with the family and adapt their needs and styles, all in a classic and timeless way.
Get the Look
Architect – GRL Custom Homes
General Contractor – Chad Larson
Cabinetry – Poss Woodworks & Design
Carpeting – Carpet Garage
Fireplace – Hebron Brick Company
Siding – ABC Seamless
Garage Doors – Midland Garage Doors