All in the Family

Filed in Feature Homes by on August 9, 2015



Story by Jenny Holmes | Photography by John Connelly Photography


If you ask six-year-old Kaylee Ranweiler her favorite part of her house, she’s likely to tell you it’s the custom window seat her Uncle Tim built in her bedroom. Or perhaps it’s the chandeliers that make her room fit for a princess.


Regardless, you’d be hard pressed to pick only one favorite in this beautiful Cape Cod style lake home.


Nestled on a wooded lot on Gilbert Lake just north and east of Brainerd, Minn., you have the best of both worlds – the feeling of being secluded in the woods while still being only a few minutes’ drive from town.


Andrew and Jenn Ranweiler purchased the 1.2 acre lot in 2012 while living in a home they built together only a stone’s throw away through the woods. With a growing family, their needs – and tastes – had changed over time; and the thought of starting fresh enticed the couple.


“We were ready for something different,” Andrew noted.


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“Our goal was to have a lake place with a Cape Cod feel to it,” Jenn added. “Light, airy and bright. Our other house had lots of dark finishes, with reds and browns.”


Construction began the spring of 2013, and by fall of the same year, the family moved into their five bedroom, four bathroom, 3,800 square foot home, adorned with all the colors and finishes they had hoped for.


Jenn took charge of determining the layout, design and overall flow of the home. Pulling ideas from magazines and social media, she coordinated colors, finishes, light fixtures and décor. “There’s such a wealth of resources online,” she said. “That was one thing that was overwhelming for me, though. When you think of a room, you think of paint colors and flooring and lighting and cabinetry, and then pulling it all together to make it look nice.”


Andrew felt more than qualified to tackle the construction portion of the home. After all, this home would mark the sixth home he had built for himself and somewhere in the 200 mark for his business. Andrew is part of family-owned and operated construction business, B-Dirt Construction in Brainerd. Founded in 2001, B-Dirt was named in part by Andrew’s nephew who, at a job site, found joy in playing in a big pile of excavated dirt. Not able to say ‘big dirt,’ he would call it ‘b dirt.’ And so it stuck.


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Family has always been at the cornerstone of B-Dirt’s business. Andrew, designer at B-Dirt, is joined by brothers Joe, project manager; Tim, finish crew manager; and dad, Greg, accounting and company overview. And with a new generation of Ranweilers in the mix, the crew continues to grow.


Building a home that accommodates all facets of the Ranweiler family is no small feat. However, Andrew and Jenn said they wanted to ensure their home would be comfortable and inviting to family and friends for any occasion. In order to do so, they opted for an open floor plan.


“It doesn’t take much for us to run out of room,” Jenn said. “So we wanted to make sure we had space to socialize and entertain without having people sit criss-cross on the floor. And being on the lake lot, we wanted to make sure we made the most of that, too.”


Walking through the front door, you immediately notice the crispness of white cabinetry, white beams and soft complimentary colors. The entry blends into the living space, which blends into the dining area and kitchen. All have a spectacular view of the wooded lot and the lake below.


“My personal style is a little more of controlled open spaces,” Andrew said, “Meaning there are no walls separating the kitchen, dining and living spaces. However, the trusses are built as such to break up the spaces, as well as different beam work, colors and finishing so each space feels separate. They define the room, but still allow for an open space.”


Having experience from a multitude of houses, Andrew said he is able to share that experience with others looking to design and build a new home or remodel an existing one.


“Our company has built 200-plus homes, and in building and being part of that many projects, you get to see things like this that set us apart. I tell clients, ‘Bigger isn’t always better.’ Your intended use of the space is really what should define it. It’s important that the space is laid out to how you intend to use it. During the design process, we talk with clients about how they live on a day-to-day basis, versus how big the dining room should be.”


Andrew followed his own advice when designing their current home. Taking into account his wife and four children’s changing needs, special attributes were added to the floor plan, including a loft area visible from the living space, and lots of custom touches – including the window seats in the girls’ bedrooms, as well as a custom barn wood table in the dining room, and fantastic finishing work and detail – all done by Andrew’s brother, Tim.


Buying local is also a priority for B-Dirt, Andrew noted. On his home, all flooring and beams came from a hardwood producer in Cushing.


“We do that on a number of houses,” he said. “Often times we’ll harvest trees from the property and turn them into mantels or wood for the ceiling. It’s nice to be able to turn that into the wood ceiling in your living room. Pulling the old into the new. It gives it some history and a neat story to tell.”


And while Jenn and Andrew won’t say this is their last home together, they are happy with the finished product and the process that led them into this beautifully secluded lake home.


“It helped that we were on the same page as far as what we wanted in a home,” Andrew said. “We’ve obviously learned a lot. But when we do build again, the lot it sits on will be almost as big a factor as any needs or changes we may make.”

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