A Welcoming First Impression: Designing Your Home’s Entryway

When you open the door to a home, your initial impression forms within seconds. Every single element in the entryway plays a role in determining your thoughts on the house itself. It is essential to be deliberate and methodical when selecting the physical aspects of your  entryway, since it sets the tone for the home, demonstrates your values, and speaks volumes about your life priorities. In order to design your entryway in an effective manner, focus on the elements below. 


Floor and Light

The most basic consideration for the entryway is the floor and lighting aesthetics. Welcoming rugs and runners are effective features you can add. Runners in particular can draw friends and family inside, which makes the house seem longer. These carpeted decorations offer a sense of comfort and beauty to the entrance. In addition, lighting is essential to establish the  mood. Eye-catching light fixtures are often a go-to for homeowners wishing to communicate a value for quality and glamour to their visitors. No matter the style, rugs and light fixtures are key to creating a sense of elegance, warmth and homeyness. 


Wall Decor

When designing your entryway, don’t strive to merely fill empty wall space. Instead, details should be intentional and complement the mood of the home. Features such as abstract art and large mirrors can attract attention to walls, make the space seem brighter and larger, and allow visitors to absorb the room’s aesthetic. Wall decor can define the owner’s style and prime visitors for the home’s unique personality. Choose pieces of work that you admire, inspire you, and contribute to the purpose of your home as a whole.



Although entryway furniture should generally be minimal and compact, it still has an important role in your home. For example, multifunctional furniture such as stylish tables that serve as art, while also holding household items, can be extremely helpful pieces in this area. This aesthetic/functional duality is both attractive and convenient. In addition, furniture such as a small, comfortable bench can be inviting and create a sense of comfort for guests. 



When creating the ambiance of your entryway, it is critical to understand the importance of each element you place in the space. From the floor rug to the lamp on the table, each piece plays a role in creating the personality of the home. When you select a certain aesthetic component, make sure you consider how it will be perceived in tandem with the remaining physical aspects. If you create a balance between every piece chosen you will succeed in creating the atmosphere you wish to produce, while also feeling right at home as soon as you walk in the door. For more advice on effective entryways, contact us at info@gordon-james.com or call (763) 479-3117 today.


What To Look For When Scouting Land For Your Custom Home

Building a dream home can be one of the most exciting ventures in one's lifetime. Nothing compares to walking into every room in your home, knowing that it's your creation, exactly as you imagined. But this process all begins with finding the right property to build on, and there's more to locating that ideal piece of land than just looking at vacancies and picturing your home there. Far too many have learned the hard way that simple oversights regarding the property can lead to unwelcome surprises down the road. Here are some of the most important factors to consider while scouting for land for your custom home.

Zoning and Utilities

The first thing you should determine before purchasing a property is its zoning designation. Zoning regulations determine how properties can be used, and what can be built on them. If a plot is not zoned as "residential," you won't be able to use it for your dream home. Because this is such a show-stopper, it should be the very first thing you look into. After zoning designation, utilities are going to be a big concern. Urban areas have more immediate access to utilities such as electric lines and sewer systems, but this is not the case for undeveloped land. Consider the costs and challenges associated with gaining access to these utilities. While developed land is more expensive, the cost of having to get these utilities in place could leave you with a much higher bill.


It goes without saying that you can't just build anywhere, but all too often, homes are built in locations that are prone to natural disasters. When considering a property, it is very important to consider where your home will be in relation to a floodplain, as homes tend not to do well under water. Additionally, you will want to get a soil test performed to ensure the ground is suitable for a home's foundation. A home's foundation shifting can spell disaster for the homes structural integrity in years to come. Lastly, getting a survey to determine risk for sinkhole formation is a very good idea. Sinkholes are a very real threat that literally consume homes in the U.S. every day. Being proactive and making sure your home is safe from natural disasters should be among your top priorities.


The view you have from a home is one of the most important things to consider. When looking at a property, take the time to actually walk around and look at it from every angle. Many people immediately find a spot that they like on their property and start building there. A lot of these homeowners discover better viewing spots on their property years after building, and regret not having taken the time to look around in the beginning. Also consider surrounding properties. You don't have control over what your neighbors are going to do with their land, but you can use your judgement to determine foreseeable changes. Does your view contain a large quantity of vacant land that is pleasant to look at? What happens when someone purchases that land and starts building? Use a bit of foresight and determine if your view is likely to change, and how much of an impact it will have on your home experience.

Making the Dream Home a Reality

Building a dream home should be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life, and a big part of making that dream a reality is avoiding the nightmare. From zoning issues to natural disasters, simple oversights in choosing the right property in the beginning can turn your world upside down. Having an idea of what to watch out for is going to allow you to focus on what matters most: customizing your dream home to be the best it can possibly be. Gordon James Construction offers premier home construction and remodeling services. We are committed to executing the unique vision of every client. For more information, contact us at info@gordon-james.com or call (763) 479-3117 today.


Summer Open-Air Patio

The Many Options in Designing Your Dream Patio

Patio season is upon us! Now is the time for entertaining, grilling, and embracing the outdoor elements of your home. If you are considering your own custom open-air patio or deck design for your home, we at Gordon James suggest you consider the following details to make your new favorite room in your home, outside of your home itself:

Summer Patio


Let The Outside In

A patio that connects seamlessly to the flow of your home can set your home in paradise. Whether converting a garage area or an old atrium into a more open-air design, the result is a transformational transition from your home to your yard. Additionally, keeping a covering for your patio allows you to take advantage of the space no matter the weather.

Outdoor Patio

Incorporate What You Have

Utilizing the makeup of your space not only can elevate some of your yard’s uniquenesses, it will also be what makes your open-air design singular to you and your home. Functional retaining walls become the backdrop of your new dining area. Sloped or hilly yards need not be leveled, but rather can serve as two-tier patio settings. A pool need not replace your patio, but serve as a centerpiece to your future cabana theme. Working with what you have already, rather from trying to start from scratch, is what will make your custom design pop.  

Play With Fire

No, not literally. But when designing an-open air patio or deck area, centralizing around your ‘hearth’ is a natural predilection. Whether a large bonfire, a stylish pit, or an interior/exterior chimney that connects the home to its outdoor deck, your source of fire will help dictate the focal points in every design. Choosing your hearth will clue you in to what stones, wood, or other materials will set your patio’s foundation, allowing you to expand from a focal source inspiration to create a cohesive aesthetic.

Home with Summer outdoor Patio

Mix and Match Styles

Bringing in accent pieces of various aesthetics to work together in your overall aesthetic is one of the joys of patio and deck design. Wish to pair a long communal table with exotic ferns and a showpiece you picked up on vacation last year? A patio allows you the flexibility to express yourself by combining aesthetics that embrace the feeling you wish to convey while entertaining or relaxing. Before rushing out to buy a new and uniform set, see how your favorite pieces work in conversation with each other. You very well may be on to something.

Outdoor home view with lawn

Let Us Help

You dream. We deliver.  Our experienced team is ready to assist in making your open-air deck and patio concept a reality. Contact us with any questions you may have: don’t be shy, the water’s fine!

Country Elegance by Gordon James

You’ll Be Floored - Refinishing vs. Resurfacing Hardwood Floors

Many older homes, originally constructed with aged hardwood floors, are now showing their age. If this is happening to your hardwood floor, you may wonder if the solution is to completely resurface your flooring or just refinish the wood. Resurfacing and refinishing are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they have slightly different meanings. The innovative builders at Gordon James are intimately familiar with hardwood floors, and how best to care for them to bring out their natural beauty. Before viewing our gallery, “Medina Masterpiece,” for example photos of a renovated hardwood floor, consult the following article to learn more about the basics of each process, and the differences between them.

What’s the Difference?

  • Refinishing involves sanding down the uppermost layer of the floor and applying fresh stain and lacquer over the existing wood. It’s a fairly simple process, requiring only a basic drum sander, stain, and lacquer to make the top of the floor look shiny and new again. You can undertake refinishing yourself — but the professional treatment is sure to leave you most satisfied.
  • Resurfacing your floor involves more than just putting a layer of polish on top. It may require removing old floorboards, grinding down uneven boards, and reinforcing wood planks with new nails. This process is more time-consuming and expensive — it requires an investment in wood-grinding equipment, lumber, a nail gun, power saw, and other special tools. In other words, this a job best left to professionals like the experts at Gordon James.

What’s Best for Me?

Your floor can be refinished if it has only superficial scuff marks and discoloration. If the planks are fairly even and smooth, all it needs is a light sanding and few new coats of stain and lacquer. Conversely, if your floor exhibits a number of the following signs, a full resurfacing may be the best solution:

  • The floorboards are noticeably warped, bent, water-damaged, or rotted.
  • Following sanding, some or all planks still have an unattractive or uneven color.
  • Some or all planks contain cracks, holes, or missing pieces.
  • Nails are missing from the floorboards.

A floor that needs resurfacing will still look very uninviting if you only apply a coat of stain and lacquer. While installing laminate flooring in a hardwood style on top of the existing floor is another do-it-yourself option, laminate simply doesn’t have the same richness and depth as well-maintained wood.


Though the considerations listed above may seem complex, rest assured that Gordon James will handle all facets of construction with skill and technical acumen. Contact us today, and you’re guaranteed to be floored by the results.



The Ups and Downs of Staircase Renovation

When undergoing an extensive interior home renovation, it’s important to remember that even though your staircase(s) might be partially obscured, the design elements should be renovated to be brought into line with the new aesthetic of your home. The innovative builders at Gordon James are no strangers to staircases, and ensure they remain as stylish as they are functional. Consult the following article to learn more about the basics of the process.


Old Bones, New Character

An existing staircase can be rehabilitated if its framing is still solid and strong. Components such as the handrail, balusters, and newel posts may need to be refinished or replaced entirely, depending upon the nature of the project. For more information about the terms used in this article, see the graphic below.

a photo of staircase terms

Stringing Along

As an example renovation task, our hypothetical staircase will receive a new stringer (also called a skirt board) along its exposed side. It will be installed over the existing stringer; if removal of the original stringer would be ideal, the wall underneath would likely need to be touched up prior to installation of a new stringer. Treads, handrails, balusters, and newel posts will be removed, refinished, and put back in place--as each of these elements is removed, its original location should be marked, so that re-installation is as seamless as possible. Original risers will remain in place.

The new stringer will be long enough to reach from top to bottom of the staircase run and wide enough to span the tread width and riser height. Typically, a 1x12" board is used. Because a staircase is often a showpiece fixture in the home, quality lumber is the best choice; “clear, A-grade” lumber (containing no knots) would be ideal.

The new board is temporarily affixed to the exterior edge of the staircase, and markings are made where the stringer meets the risers and the tread tops (with the tread lines then lowered one inch to fit under the existing treads). After the board is cut at 90-degree angles along the markings, it is test-fitted against the existing stringer. The board should fit snugly below each of the treads, and the riser cuts should be flush with the face of the original risers. Further alterations are then made if necessary, and once a proper fit is achieved, the new stringer is affixed to the staircase (typically using a combination of wood glue and 2-1/2" finishing nails).

Prior to being reinstalled, treads are temporarily placed in their original locations to be test-fitted against the new stringer. Alterations are made if necessary, and treads are then reinstalled--first with construction adhesive, then with nails. If the treads are hardwood, predrilling holes ensures a quality finish.

Finally, the handrail, balusters, and newel posts are reinstalled. Hollow newel posts are often fit over existing support bases. The lower end of the handrail is affixed to the bottom post, the balusters are each set and fastened into their corresponding treads, the handrail is attached to the baluster tops, and the upper end of the handrail is affixed to the top post. The renovated staircase is now complete!

Beautiful Kitchen & Living Room by Gordon James

Orono Distinction, a custom home from Gordon James


Wayzata Cottage Classic - A Custom Home by Gordon James

Wayzata Cottage Classic - A Custom Home by Gordon James

Wayzata Cape Cod by Gordon James


Though the considerations listed above may seem complex, rest assured that Gordon James will handle all the “ups and downs” of construction with skill and technical acumen. Contact us today to begin your own home renovation journey!


Flowers & Garden

Time to Garden!

Happy April, folks! It's time to get out there and make things happen in the garden.  Click on the link below for some inspiration and great tips from our friends at Midwest Living Magazine.

April Garden Calendar