A well-designed entryway in a Gordon James luxury custom home in Orono

A Welcoming First Impression: Designing Your Home’s Entryway

An entryway in a Gordon James artisan home in Twin CitiesWhen 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 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. 

A simple entryway in a Gordon James custom home in Twin CitiesWall 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 any 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.

Entryway Furniture 

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. 

An entryway with a bench in a Gordon James home in Twin Cities


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.


A beautiful custom home from Gordon James on the homeowner's selected property.

Finding Property For Your Custom Home

Building a dream home can be one of the most exciting events in your 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. Additionally, there's more to locating that ideal lot and picturing your home there. Too many future homeowners have learned the hard way that simple oversights can lead to unwelcome surprises down the road. Here are some of the most important factors to consider while scouting for property for your custom home.

An example of a Gordon James custom home on a unique lot.

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 you can build 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 the developed property is more expensive, the cost of having to get these utilities in place could leave you with a higher bill.

A Gordon James home on scouted property.

The topography of the Property

When considering a lot, it is very important to consider where your home will be in relation to a floodplain, as homes tend not to do well underwater. 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 home in years to come. Lastly, getting a survey to determine the risk for sinkhole formation is a very good idea. Sinkholes are a very real threat that can consume a home. Being proactive and making sure your home is safe from natural disasters should be among your top priorities.

A beautiful custom home from Gordon James on chosen property.


The view you have from your home is an important consideration. When looking at a property, take the time to 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 the surrounding properties. Does your view contain a large quantity of vacant land that is pleasant to look at? What happens when someone purchases that property 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.

A custom home from Gordon James on selected property.

Making the Dream Home a Reality

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 be. Gordon James Construction offers premier home construction and remodeling services. Every client has a vision, and we are committed to seeing their ideas become reality. For more information, contact us at info@gordon-james.com or call (763) 479-3117 today.


Summer Open-Air Patio by Gordon James custom home builder in Orono, MN

Designing A Custom 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 patio or deck design for your home, Gordon James suggests some details to make your custom patio your new favorite 'room' in your home.

Outdoor view of a custom home with a custom patio from Gordon James.

Let The Outside In

A custom patio is an exciting extension of your indoor aesthetic into an outdoor setting. Additionally, keeping a covering for your patio allows you to take advantage of the space no matter the weather. This allows homeowners to capitalize on the comfort of good weather without leaving the amenities of an indoor space. 

A stylish outdoor custom patio on a Gordon James home

Incorporate What You Have

A custom patio can accent the uniqueness of your yard. 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 can 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.

An exterior view of a Gordon James custom home with a outdoor custom patio.

Play With Fire

No, not literally. But when designing an-open air custom patio or deck area, centralizing around your ‘hearth’ is natural. So, you can design your custom patio to accommodate bonfires to connected chimneys, it's up to you! Choosing your hearth will clue you into what stones, wood, or other materials will set your patio’s foundation, allowing you to expand from the main inspiration to create a cohesive aesthetic.

Custom home from Gordon James with a custom outdoor patio.

Mix and Match Styles

Patios provide a unique opportunity to mix and match special accents. This is a space to experiment with pieces that aren't ready for the main home. A patio allows you the flexibility to express different aesthetics. This is an excellent space to try out pieces together before buying an entire set. You very well may be on to something.

Let Us Help With Your Custom Patio

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 with refinished hardwood floors

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. People often use resurfacing and refinishing interchangeably. But, they do have slightly different meanings. The builders at Gordon James are familiar with hardwood floors, and how 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 only requires a drum sander, stain, and lacquer to make your floor look shiny and new again. You can undertake to refinish 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?

Refinishing your floor can cure 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 you are doing renovations, even if your staircases are obscured, they should be renovated to match the new aesthetic of your home.  The innovative builders at Gordon James ensure staircases 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 like the handrail, balusters, and newel posts may need to be refinished or replaced, depending upon 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, our staircase will receive a new stringer (also called a skirt board). It will be installed over the existing stringer or if the old stringer is removed. Treads, handrails, balusters, and newel posts will be removed, refinished, and put back in place. As you remove each element, mark it's original location, so that re-installation seamless. 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, renovation teams use a 1x12" board. 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 attached to the exterior edge of the staircase, and markings are made where the stringer meets the risers and the tread tops. After the board is cut at 90-degree angles along with 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. The crew will then affix the new stringer to the staircase once the proper fit is achieved.

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 attaches to the bottom post, the balusters are fastened into their treads. Then 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!

A picture of a renovated staircase in a Gordon James custom home.

A curving renovated staircase in a Gordon James custom home

Beautiful Kitchen & Living Room with a staircase renovated to match the style of the room by Gordon James

Orono Distinction, a custom home with a renovated staircase from Gordon James

A custom renovated staircase in a Gordon James custom home

A renovated staircase in a custom Gordon James home

Wayzata Cottage Classic - A Custom Home with a renovated staircase by Gordon James

Wayzata Cottage Classic - A Custom Home by Gordon James with a renovated staircase



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