Exterior Design

The Artisanal Craftsman

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and Wendell Danielson is living proof of this old saying. After purchasing a farmstead in Otter Tail County, Danielson is busy bringing their 1896 farmhouse into the 21st Century.

Photos by Hillary Ehlen

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and Wendell Danielson is living proof of this old saying. After purchasing a farmstead in Otter Tail County, Danielson is busy bringing their 1896 farmhouse into the 21st Century and is using the outbuildings for his business. Though he started out as a tradesman, Danielson has carved out a career where he can utilize his astonishing skills as an artisanal craftsman. Through Danielson Design Co., he provides one-of-a-kind, custom-built furniture out of metal and reclaimed wood for high-end clients in Lakes Country. This month, we discovered that work and family tend to go hand-in-hand for Danielson, and for good reason.

Meet the Danielsons

Wendell Danielson and his family

The Danielson family is made up of Wendell and Bethany Danielson and their three sons: Owen (8), August (6) and Elliot (3 Weeks). Bethany Danielson works as an elementary art teacher at a local school, but currently is enjoying the summer with her boys. Owen and August Danielson are also enjoying their summer, spending it riding their bikes, baking cookies and looking after their new baby brother.

Wendell Danielson is from the area and started his career as a tradesman nearly 20 years ago. “My first job was for a cabinet maker. Then I got into decorative concrete and the guy I worked for was into salvaged materials,” he said. Today, Wendell Danielson is a husband, father and an artisanal craftsman, making furniture out of reclaimed wood.

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

The main living area used to have a second story, but Wendell Danielson opened it up to make the space feel more modern and functional.

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

This gorgeous feature wall is made of reclaimed wood from an old elevator.

Why They Chose to Make their Home on a Farmstead

When they were house hunting, the Danielsons weren’t exactly looking for something they had to completely remodel. “I grew up on a farm site, so I like the old ag buildings, but this was a little more of a project than we were hoping for,” Wendell Danielson said of the farmstead. At first sight, the farmhouse itself looked pretty rough. The Danielsons debated whether or not they even wanted to go inside. However, Wendell Danielson needed lots of space for his business, and the outbuildings were perfect for that.

The plan is to eventually renovate the second floor of the barn into unexpected living space, but that will need lots of work. Last summer, they were deciding between building new or simply remodeling the existing farmhouse. “We weren’t sure if we were going to re-do this house,” Bethany Danielson said. It had sat abandoned before they purchased the property. “It was abandoned for 25 years,” Wendell Danielson said.

They ended up completely gutting the 1896 farmhouse. Then Wendell Danielson salvaged all of the material and incorporated it into the remodel, which he took on himself. “I’ve been building with scraps from the house,” he said. Demo started in July 2017 and the interior is now nearly complete, while the exterior still needs a little bit of love.

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

Wendell Danielson ripped up the uneven floors and replaced them with heated concrete. Now, the old floor joists serve as architectural beams, which add visual interest.

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

This vintage stove came from Wendell Danielson’s grandmother’s house. “My grandma bought it new in 1954,” he said. The cabinetry, he built out of scraps from the farmhouse.

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

These notches in the floor show where the floor joists used to sit.

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

August and Owen Danielson sit at their island and draw. While Owen Danielson wants to grow up to be a farmer like his grandfather, August Danielson wants to work with his dad.

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

Wendell Danielson designed this intricate feature wall in the master bedroom.

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

When adding on a little extra square-footage to the original farmhouse, Wendell Danielson decided to keep the original framing and build around it. Now, you can still see where a window used to be and where the old farmhouse wall ended.

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

August and Owen Danielson sit on the bunkbeds that their dad built for their former house. Though they opened up the main living area, the Danielsons decided to keep a part of the upstairs for the boys’ room.

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

These walls are made of regraded subflooring, the trim is made out of flooring, and this space still retains its original ceiling.

The Outbuildings

Wendell Danielson uses one of the outbuildings (the quonset) to store materials, including parts of an old elevator. The owner actually approached Wendell Danielson and asked if he could work with the reclaimed wood from the elevator. “His dad built the mill in ’59. He remembers playing in it when they were building it, and now he’ll have some in his house. They took it down in pieces, and he was storing it until he could find someone to take on the project. I met with their interior designer and we’re going to do a bunch of it in their new house,” Wendell Danielson said.

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

The wood contains amazing detail from years of use that you couldn’t find anywhere else. However, the material is too heavy to put in any equipment. Wendell Danielson even had blade manufacturers come out and consult. “We’re actually using pretty simple tools. Beam saws are about the only thing that’s working for us,” he explained.

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

Wendell Danielson made this bench out of wood from the old elevator.

Now, Wendell Danielson is cleaning and processing the material. However, he does not plan to process it all. “I want to leave some shapes to design projects around,” he stated. There is so much material that the Danielsons even got to use it in their own remodel with plenty left over for clients. For example, Wendell Danielson just built a large table out of it for Thumper Pond, a local resort.

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

The other outbuilding serves as the workshop for Danielson Design Co. Wendell Danielson’s younger brother, Webster Danielson, also works in the shop. On one of the original walls, they hung up a sign made out of reclaimed wood from the old elevator.

Wendell Danielson's farmstead

Next to the sign, you can see where one of the former owners, William Smith, wrote his name on the wall. One of Smith’s sons actually visited the farmstead last summer. Wendell Danielson said, “One of his sons stopped by last summer. Then a couple of days later, he brought his sister over. They’re excited to see what we’re doing out here.”

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