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Exterior Design

20th Century Fargo Laundry Building Transformed Into Luxury Home

Fargo Laundry Building - Chris Hawley Architects
Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography

Standing in a league of its own, the ever-intriguing Fargo Laundry building boasts an impressive 19,000-square-feet of intricately designed entertaining and family living space. After nearly two years of restoration headed up by Chris Hawley Architects, this iconic structure is now the spectacular home of Keith and Rondi McGovern.

Published in Trends Magazine and Midwest Home, the McGovern’s home is the result of a rigorous design and restoration process managed by Chris Hawley Architects and contractor Mutchler, Bartram Architects, PC. Completed in 2014, the Fargo Laundry project was aptly awarded the American Institute of Architects Residential Juror’s Choice Award.

Fargo Laundry Building - Chris Hawley Architects

To transform an industrial laundry building and warehouse into a home meant exposing building components that required unique management, as 100 years of authenticity left no room for error. “Starting in total disrepair, painted white from top to bottom, the project emerged a restored Fargo icon,” said architect Chris Hawley. “CHA maintained the original warehouse aesthetic, preserved remnants of the past and wove in a comfortable, contemporary house for entertaining. Considering the big picture and minutia, the design resulted in an inspiring space laced with intimate handmade details one can touch and feel.” Lighting, hardware, doors and millwork were designed by CHA and custom-made by local artisans.

Front gates Fargo Laundry Building

Prior to renovating the Fargo Laundry building, the McGovern’s lived in a traditional two-story brick house in Oakcreek and had to be bought out due to the flood. “We really just wanted to move downtown, but we were just looking,” said Rondi McGovern. “I wasn’t real crazy about the idea, but my husband fell in love with it because of the garage and he really had the vision. I thought it might be too big of a project. We actually debated whether or not to put condos down on this level and somehow break it up into a couple different residences. We took a couple months to try and figure it out, but, in the end, we decided to just do it all.”

Garage entry Fargo Laundry Building

Both successful business owners, Rondi McGovern owns the interior design firm and store McNeal & Friends along with her sister, Shelly Neal in Downtown Fargo. Keith McGovern is President of the third-generation, family-owned R.D. Offutt Company.

About the Fargo Laundry Building

The McGovern’s home is better known as the Fargo Laundry Co., which was built in 1923. In 1987, the Fargo Laundry building was sold to Leef Brothers Inc., a second-generation family business from Minneapolis.

Great Room Fargo Laundry Building - Chris Hawley Architects

Great Room

Upon entering the great room on the main level, one is awestruck with the attention to detail, preservation and restoration of its original beauty. Exposed Douglas Fir beams, original brick walls and original concrete floors create an open palette made for entertaining at its finest. The McGoverns often utilize the main level space for hosting parties and charitable functions throughout the year with up to 200 people in attendance.

Fargo Laundry Building - Chris Hawley Architects

With the curved wall creating a unique challenge for hanging pictures, P2 Industries custom designed this wall hanging with tiny hooks on the back for making quick adjustments.

“All we had to do was polish the concrete floors,” said Rondi McGovern. “Original brick, the entire building inside, all the pillars, woodwork and everything was painted white. So, they spent about six weeks sandblasting everything back to its natural state. On the west wall, we had them sandblast it down to where it was clean, because that goes up into the more formal area. But down here (east facing wall), we had them just do a couple of passes so it has more of the white left on it.” Adding another more contemporary focal point is the diagonal wall near the foyer with custom designed open shelving using Douglas Fir and steel. The original swing-out windows were single paned and steel framed, so the McGoverns chose to duplicate them with new windows that were more energy efficient. They hired professional window cleaning in Long Island to really make the windows shine and better accent the rooms.

Guest Suite

With the main level primarily used for entertaining, the McGoverns opted to create a tranquil guest suite just off of the great room. An original transom window leads guests into their spacious suite with a kitchenette, seating area, bedroom and guest bath with custom tile shower and soaking tub. For the unique flooring, Rondi McGovern chose an easy to install Chilewich Plynl flat weave tile. A wood accent wall behind the bed creates old-world charm with a stunning wall of storage and a hidden laundry area.

Guest Suite Fargo Laundry Building

Guest Suite Bathroom

Even though the master bath boasts a stunning facade, this guest bathroom is Rondi McGovern’s favorite. “We had to keep the original beam in here, so we just tiled up and around it,” she explained. This bathroom features quartz counter tops, white washed Douglas Fir cabinetry, two sinks with a separate vanity, a soaking tub with thermaspa area and lofty ceilings. Continue reading – costmentor.com/thermospa-cost

Guest Suite Bathroom Fargo Laundry Building

Media Room

Entering through another custom, sliding barn door near the bar area, guests will find the media room with stadium seating and graduated ceiling heights. Hawley designed a multi- dimensional cedar-block surround wall to absorb sound and extend the home’s warm industrial vibe into what is typically a more contemporary space.

Media Room Theater Fargo Laundry Building

Bar Area

Just off of the great room through a magnificent set of custom designed 20-by-16-foot barn doors, is the impressively designed bar area the McGoverns use for entertaining. Solid concrete countertops extend from the eight-chair bar with a built-in ice bucket to the movable island that’s used to serve food. Original pipes from the boiler room were fashioned as eclectic foot rests on the massive concrete and Douglas Fir bar. For an industrial lighting element, Hawley and Keith McGovern designed the five hanging lights fabricated from i-beams.

Bar Area Fargo Laundry Building

Outdoor Room

Just beyond the bar area, this room features an original window repurposed as a retractable hanger style opening to the outdoors. “This is the only original window in the whole house,” said Rondi McGovern. “We took it to the farm and had it fixed so it actually raises up using the original method of concrete weights to open and close it, which gives us a great outdoor space. The idea of using the weights for that window actually came from the connected pool area garage doors, which was the old loading dock.” In this room, they also repurposed the original beadboard ceiling from upstairs, salvaging whatever they could in their entertaining space.

Outdoor room Fargo Laundry Building

Billiards Room

In the billiards room near the bar and wine room, Keith McGovern’s majestic elk head resides along with the original wood beams. Pointing out the beams and metal in the billiard room, Rondi McGovern explained that it is believed to have come from the Sears catalog. “They put it on a train from Washington and is believed to be the same kit the Northern School Supply building has. There’s three or four buildings that were all built in the 1920s and its been said that they all came from that same kit,” she said.

Billiards Room Fargo Laundry Building

Hot Tub Room

Connected by a garage door, the “outdoor” room leads guests into the swim spa area. “This is the old loading dock, so it’s actually lower,” said Rondi McGovern. “The trucks used to back up to these garage doors. What they used to get the garage doors open were the concrete weights to counteract it. So those are the original weights, but we had to have one of them remade. So, that’s how we based it, using the concrete weights in the outdoor room’s retractable window as well. When the garage door and the outdoor room’s window is open, it feels like you’re outdoors.”

Hot Tub Fargo Laundry Building

Powder Room

The powder room, located between the hot tub and billiards area, was left original so guests could experience a glimpse of what the building was like before the renovation.

Powder Room Fargo Laundry Building

Wine Room

Repurposing the original steel framed windows created a stunning wine room clad in steel with exposed bolts. Inside, holes were drilled into Douglas Fir panels to encase nearly 200 wine bottles in climate-controlled comfort.

Wine Room Fargo Laundry Building

Staircase

The floating staircase is a modern marvel, which CHA and Keith McGovern designed in a zigzag steel with Douglas Fir steps. Illuminated with 15 multi-colored glass pendants, this impressive staircase built by Red River Fabricating is the first visual reference for guests upon arrival. The original staircase came in through the front door and is actually behind a door just off of the foyer. With an intention of creating a bigger staircase for guests, the original staircase was shifted over to allow for a new and grander entrance for guests entering the main level.

Staircase Fargo Laundry Building

Garage Entry

Serving as the garage entry for the McGoverns, this foyer is equipped with a beautiful sliding barn door, side office, steps to the second level living space and even a functioning freight elevator.

Garage Fargo Laundry Building

Upstairs

With the first floor primarily serving as an entertainment space, the McGoverns live everyday life on the second level, overlooking bustling Downtown Fargo. This floor features a laundry room, master suite, office, kitchen, butler’s pantry, breakfast nook, formal dining room, family room, powder room and their two sons’ bedrooms with fully customized bath suites and personal laundry areas.

Upstairs Fargo Laundry Building

Kitchen

A spectacular kitchen tips the scale with stunning translucent quartzite islands lit from behind. “We had ordered this and when I went to go look at the slab, they held it up for me and I saw the light coming through it,” said Rondi McGovern. “So, I decided to put lighting underneath. It delayed getting countertops for about two months, but it was worth it.”

Kitchen Fargo Laundry Building

As the McGoverns were quick to discover, working with the original maple wood floors proved to have its challenges and surprises. “I actually had to have the bar stools made by P2 Industries because from this island to the end of the other island, there’s a two-inch difference because the original wood floors are so sloped,” said Rondi McGovern. “At one time, they had done all of their sewing up here, so all of the old staining is still on it. When they were redoing the floors, they found a little button that was in the wood floor, so we had them just go right over it and we kept it there.”

pictures Fargo Laundry Building
With the curved wall creating a unique challenge for hanging pictures, P2 Industries custom designed this wall hanging with tiny hooks on the back for making quick adjustments.

Barely able to break our eyes away from the illuminated countertops, we finally looked further and spotted the sleek Bulthaup designed kitchen with Wolf appliances and a Subzero refrigerator. A stainless steel counter on the perimeter contrasted beautifully with the custom-made, glass tile backsplash. To create their exclusive look, the McGoverns traveled to the showroom of Bulthaup, a German-engineered cabinetry company, in Chicago.

Woodfire Pizza Oven Area

Facing the kitchen is a full masonry CMU woodfire pizza oven with the opposite side facing the family living space with quaint seating area.

Woodfire Pizza Oven area Fargo Laundry Building

Breakfast Table

Just off of the kitchen, the McGoverns most often dine casually at their Hickory Chair banquette and Woodbridge table.

Breakfast table Fargo Laundry Building

Family Room

To create an inviting family space, the McGoverns removed all of the original beadboard that was once covering the ceiling and exposed the rafters. After exposing the original rafters and beams, the McGoverns wanted to create a cleaner feeling in the areas where they eat and sleep. To accomplish this, it meant covering at least some of the rafters with a false ceiling.

Family room Fargo Laundry Building

Formal Dining Room

To repurpose the basement boiler, P2 Industries fabricated the industrial, formal dining table with the boiler’s materials to create the base, legs and center steel strip within dark- stained white oak. Rondi McGovern commissioned the linen chandelier from Lowcountry Originals, a line that she carries at McNeal & Friends.

formal dining room Fargo Laundry Building

Pantry

The spice rack in the beautiful pantry is a fun solution to a minor problem. “When the shelving in here was put up, we realized that one of the shelves was too low,” said Rondi McGovern. “So, there were big holes in the brick and Chris came up with the idea to go to Ikea and get the spice rack magnets on a metal strip to cover the holes.” I-beam shelf structures with Douglas Fir shelves and cabinetry keep the industrial feel consistent from the pantry to the kitchen. Hawley designed the stainless steel shelves, sinks and countertops and had them fabricated by Cullinex.

Pantry Fargo Laundry Building

Powder Room

In the powder room, the McGoverns feature a rich, green glass subway tile with original floors, Douglas Fir beam and soapstone countertops with a hammered nickel sink.

powder room Fargo Laundry Building

Connor’s Room

In both of their sons’ rooms, a custom designed daybed area with underneath storage was created by Wood Specialists along with custom upholstered cushions by Chris Hawley’s mom. A Four Hands bed is featured in Connor’s room as shown, while in Blake’s room there’s a unique bed with a rocker base by Shiner International found through McNeal & Friends.

Bedroom Fargo Laundry Building

Connor’s Bathroom

In their son Connor’s bathroom, custom concrete sinks were designed into barrel style designs clad in an industrial corrugated metal by Eric Mayne. Sonoma Forge fixtures and a corrugated steel shower complete the space.

Bedroom Fargo Laundry Building

Blake’s Bathroom

In their son Blake’s bathroom, a contemporary wall-hung vanity in Douglas Fir sets the tone for sleek subway tile, a glass wall shower door and repurposed transom window. Off to the right, each son has their own closet and laundry area. Blake is their youngest son and currently a junior at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.

bathroom Fargo Laundry Building

Master Bedroom

In the master bedroom, the McGoverns have an endless view of the city with an industrial, steel pipe media console. With the custom structure designed by Hawley, Wood Specialists created the wire-brushed Douglas Fir cabinetry with steel top and custom-designed handles by P2 to coordinate. Douglas Fir barn doors lead the way to the master bed, bath, office and closet area.

master bedroom Fargo Laundry Building

Master Bath

In the master bath, white-washed, wire-brushed cabinetry melds with Sonoma Stone concrete and smooth angles leading to the expansive shower. At the far end of the curved wall is a shower that was designed to complement the space’s unique angles.

Master bath Fargo Laundry Building

Upper Deck

Just off of the formal dining area, we were given a tour of the upper deck with sauna, outdoor kitchen, pergola and two seating areas with teak tables and outdoor sofas. Hawley and the McGoverns designed this space with concrete paver flooring, cedar planters, a privacy wall and corrugated steel to bring their industrial elegance outdoors.

upper deck Fargo Laundry Building

2nd Upper Deck

A walk up an original stairwell and a spiral staircase led us to the uppermost deck, which sits on the original elevator shaft. Circular sectionals provide a tranquil setting to take in the spectacular view of Downtown Fargo. As one of his creative fire pit ideas, Hawley used the old wash tub from the original laundry building to fabricate a unique fire pit with a gas insert.

2nd upper deck Fargo Laundry Building

Basement Exercise Room

This extraordinary basement gym is a popular spot for the McGovern’s sons and their friends. This space consists of a street level gym with reinforced windows and lower pit-level gym where the old boiler room used to be.

basement exercise room Fargo Laundry Building

The pit-level gym was designed by their sons and created for CrossFit with a mounted TV and sound system by Smart Home Technologies. The McGovern’s oldest son Connor just finished college at the University of Missouri and is currently starting his first season playing in the NFL for the Denver Broncos.


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