It’s not just a vision for tomorrow: Sustainable 9 Design + Build creates homes for tomorrow today, reflected in its enduring commitment to green, high performance, energy-efficient homes that are stunningly designed and custom-built. Self-describing their style as “Minnesota Modern with a Transitional Twist,” Sustainable 9 tends toward natural, warm woods, stone accents, and earth tones in both the exterior and interior, and inspires innovation based upon their forward-thinking vision.
Interview originally published on Artisan Home Tour
What got you started in custom homebuilding?
Growing up in a smaller town in western MN, we both had an interest at an early age in custom homebuilding and remodeling through (ironically enough) our annual family trip to the Twin Cities to tour the Parade of Homes. These annual trips solidified our desire to one day become custom home builders ourselves. After stints in the marketing and IT fields after college, we jumped head first into custom homebuilding, remodeling and real estate 15+ years ago and never looked back. We couldn’t imagine doing anything else today.
What inspires and influences your work?
While traveling throughout Europe and Central and South America we were inspired by how many cities had bold modern designs that blended in with historically significant architecture. Many of those countries also demonstrated their devotion to superior craftsmanship and sustainable/green design features in their houses, evident in all these historical homes with solar panels on their roofs. Their culture has made it a priority to build homes and buildings with long life cycles which also utilize alternative energy sources, and that inspired us to bring that philosophy to Minnesota. Stylistically, we have always been huge fans of mid-century modern architecture as well as the rustic modern retreats sometimes found in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains. Our Scandinavian roots and our rural upbringing have also taught us to look to nature for inspiration when deciding on striking, yet simple finishes in our homes. We have also been heavily influenced by architectural greats like Frank Gehry and Frank Lloyd Wright who strongly believed in designing structures that are built in harmony with their environment.
How would you describe your build style?
We describe our style as Minnesota Modern with a bold, whimsical twist. While many of our latest clients choose to design and build warmer, modern styled homes, we also love to build softer transitional designs just as much.
Why do you think your clients choose you as their builder?
Besides our focus on unique modern designs, our clients are drawn to our commitment to building energy-efficient, high performance homes that also adhere to the most stringent requirements for indoor air quality. We believe a home shouldn’t make you sick, so while the design aesthetic of a home is obviously very important, so are the products we use in every home. While not all our clients have energy efficiency or indoor air quality at the top of their wish list, at a minimum, we educate them on how minor changes in material choices can make their healthier for them and their family.
What are some of your projects or accomplishments you’re most proud of?
We’ve been honored to have one of our model homes selected to be an Artisan Dream Home five times since 2014 and set the highest attendance level records ever for an Artisan Dream Home at our 2016 Spring Parade of Homes model on Minnehaha Creek. We were also honored to receive the MN Green Path Leadership Award at the 2017 BATC-Housing First Minnesota Award Show this past fall and are proud to be one of the only builders in the state of Minnesota to have our homes achieve both 100% Energy Star Certification and Indoor airPLUS designations from the US Department of Energy.
What architectural styles do you like best and why?
We typically blend elements of Prairie Style, Mid-Century Modern, Contemporary, Craftsman, and Mountain Modern into all of our homes, but equally love designing a Modern or Transitional alternative to a traditional Bungalow, Tudor, or Tuscan style home.
What are some of your favorite trends you’re seeing this year?
In our higher price point homes, we are seeing “junior suites” with private bathrooms and large walk-in closets become the new standard for kid’s bedrooms, and also a push to move most appliances from the kitchen, to inside large walk-in attached pantries. Several of our current clients are even asking us for ways to make their homes more “off the grid” from an energy perspective. Most of those clients are also focused on remote monitoring of their home – including controlling light fixtures, doors, cameras, and heating and cooling all from a smart phone. Matte black finishes on all hardware choices, modern black interiors on windows and millwork, floating staircases, and large outdoor rooftop spaces are also quite popular.
What do others view as your signature in your homes?
We have been known to install built-in coffee bars within our master suites, hidden lofts made just for kids, a bridge spanning two wings of a home, a fire pole to slide down, and unique finishes typically only found in commercial settings. But our standard signature continues to be our Minnesota Modern style, which seamlessly blends modern transitional style with warm wood, stone, and earth tones, in addition to our commitment to building energy-efficient homes for our clients.
What figure in history or your past do you admire most and why?
This may sound cliché, but we admire our parents more than anyone. They have always supported us and encouraged us to chase after our dreams. They are the biggest reason why we have been successful. They have led by example by teaching us to listen, be kind, be respectful, be honest, and most importantly they have taught us to enjoy life each day.
What do you think are some of the most important elements of a successful build team?
We have made a conscious choice to only hire people, partners, vendors, and sub-contractors that truly LOVE what they do for a living. Developing lasting friendships with our employees and trade partners has been so important in our ability to build a high-quality home. Their unique passion for building amazing homes is evident in their attention to detail and craftsmanship people have come to expect in all our homes.
What do you wish others knew about your company?
We are a small family-owned company backed by an extremely talented team of individuals who put a great deal of value in the relationships and bonds we create with our clients and our subcontractors. We are a close knit group. Our parents (who are also business partners) even host our entire team in their dining room for a home-cooked lunch every Tuesday during our weekly status meetings. Let’s just say no one misses a Tuesday meeting!
What makes you most proud to be a builder?
Every day we enable our clients to realize their dream of building a home that reflects their unique personalities. There is nothing better than seeing the look on a client’s face when their project is finished and they love the end result. But perhaps most importantly, we are proud to have become friends along the way.
Photography by Meghan Doll