Photos by Jill Ockhardt Blaufuss
You might not know it, but you’ve seen fingerprints of architect Jackson Strom all over town. From commercial spaces like Scoop N Dough and the opening soon, Beer & Fish Company to many of the homes we’ve featured in this magazine, Strom has been working within the architectural tapestry of Fargo for over a decade. Having got his start working at Helenske Design Group and then CHA Architecture, this fall he branched out on his own and founded Strom Architecture.
Setting the stage for starting a new business and welcoming their three-month-old son Sully into the world, Strom and his wife Lindsey enjoy their newly renovated home.
In His Blood
Starting a new business, renovating a home whilst living in it and raising a baby might seem ambitious, but this ambition is just in Strom’s blood. “I always wanted to do my own thing and have my own [architecture] firm eventually. This last year I became licensed and then having a child seemed like a good jumping-off point. Better now than ever,” he said.
Strom is the son of a South Dakotan farmer and grew up in that environment. “The tie-in of my dad running his own farm, running his own business…maybe something of that is instilled in me,” he said, noting that running his own business someday was something that was always in the plans.
As one of the first students in his architecture class to land an internship and, in turn, one of the first ones to land a job in the industry, Strom is dedicated and driven. He began his career in architecture cold-emailing local firms and inquiring about internship opportunities. Craig Helenske of Helenske Design Group was one to receive such an email and brought a young Strom on board. “Sometimes you don’t get what you don’t ask for,” added Strom.
In the Plans
The 1927 South 9th Street home that the Stroms purchased in the summer of 2016 was the first home they looked at on their home search. They knew they wanted to be in that neighborhood and it was the natural sunlight that really drew them to make an offer. But from day one, they knew they were taking on a renovation project. “It seemed like there was potential. There were little things we could tweak here and there. I think looking back at it now, we were probably hoping that it was smaller things that we would have to tweak,” he jokingly said.
As a professional in the industry, it wasn’t in the cards for Strom to have a simple renovation. “I think we touched every inch of the house, whether that be painting or scraping the ceilings or adding new lighting,” he said. Major edits were a complete kitchen remodel, two bathroom remodels, installing new windows and restoring the original hardwood that was hidden under layers of other floorings.
While they structurally didn’t change anything, it was the combination of many little things that made the remodel a big bite to chew. The tweaks they wanted to be made seemed small, but it was the couple’s thoughtfulness in ensuring everything was done the best way possible that lead the process to span over eight months. “We wanted to do everything in what we considered was the right way. With a lot of the things that you think there’s one step to, there are probably three or four steps and they are done by three or four trades,” Strom said. From heading the project himself, Strom learned a lot about the inner workings of home projects and gained a new respect for each profession and management involved.
A New Kitchen
The kitchen is where many of the big renovations happened. Changing the footprint of the kitchen made the space more practical and smart. For instance, what used to be an empty space created from a 1960 addition onto the house got turned into a very useful pantry. Where the sink and dishwasher used to be is now a glass door leading to the backyard. Also, vinyl plank flooring was replaced by sleek, grey heated tile flooring, perfect for our winters.
Kitchen selections were clean and crisp, with Strom focusing on the finished product as a whole, rather than separating standout ingredients. Selections included quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances and traditional white cabinets paired with contemporary hardware.
One standout feature of the kitchen renovation is a two-foot by four-foot opening in the wall separating the kitchen from the dining room. “Some people feel that to make these two spaces feel open to each other you’d have to take the whole wall down,” said Strom. However, not wanting to move existing ductwork in the wall and willing to take on a problem-solving challenge, Strom found a successful middle ground by adding a window between the two rooms. The spaces are not entirely open to each other, but the open window directly above the counter allows the rooms to feel connected and whole. “Providing a little opening, if it’s done in the right way, can make a really big difference,” he added, hoping that he can even use this as an example to future clients who might need help problem solving similar situations.
A Transitional and Contemporary Finish
Looking at this finished product in comparison to other projects he has worked on, Strom’s styles and taste vary. The tie between them all is the great service, valuable results and well-researched details. “I wouldn’t say I have a signature style. I’d like to think that whatever style, whether it is traditional, contemporary or modern, you could come to me with that. And I like to dig into the details of what all that entails from a historical standpoint, to dig into who does that style well and take inspiration from that,” he said, adding, “I wouldn’t say there is necessarily a style that I wouldn’t touch.” An academic, Strom enjoys researching those who came before him and learning from them.
While he dances between styles, clean lines and a lack of unnecessary details run throughout this work. In fashion, there is a well-known quote attributed to Coco Chanel that goes, “before leaving the house, a lady should look in the mirror and remove one accessory.” Strom follows a similar ideal, sharing a point of inspiration that he once heard and continues to carry with him: Take a project and think of it as a small model version. Then take the model of the project and shake it. If anything falls off, that shouldn’t have been there to begin with.
The end result of this remodel is a crisp and clean transitional home with a contemporary twist. From using connections from his career, Strom worked with familiar faces who helped it all come together. Strom experienced first-hand all the steps it takes to take an existing build and update everything necessary, from aesthetic finishes to new plumbing. “The words, ‘oh, that will be easy,’ don’t come out of my mouth as often now,” he joked.
There is no doubt that Strom will take what he experienced from this remodel into his new business and the home will be the perfect backdrop to nurture their family for years to come.
Contractors: Radiant Homes, Dan Savageau, Dave Wagner, Robert Gibb & Sons
Cabinetry: Woodland Cabinetry
Plumbing Fixtures: Ferguson
Electritian: JDP Electric
Audio and TVS: SMART Home
Fireplace: Home and Hearth
Kitchen Flooring and Backsplash: Carpetworld
Painting: Grant’s Painting