We don’t spend much time at Dotty Brothers chasing trends. Trends come, go, come back, fade again—they’re transitory by nature. And our process is to build generational homes that stand the test of time and use. We custom design and build every home and remodel project, so that it’s tailor-made for the family that lives there. But that doesn’t mean we’re hidebound, only doing things one way: we’re always looking for good ideas, new innovations, ways to make our clients’ homes more comfortable, longer-lasting, safer, better. That means we are attuned to trends in the home building industry. Here’s what we’re seeing lately.

Natural Elements and Colors.

Most of our builds are in the Brainerd Lakes Area, which is rich with natural resources: lakes, forests, rivers, trails—so it’s no surprise that people who are drawn to the area are also drawn to those natural elements. But we’ve been seeing a lot of those kinds of elements in our design/build projects. Hardwood floors, of course, even porcelain tile that looks so much like hardwood you have to get down and tap it with a ring to tell that it’s not. We’re seeing some of that on walls, too, especially as an accent or as part of built-in shelving or cabinetry.

Stone and tile are showing up in places you’d expect, like granite or other stone countertops and backsplashes, but it’s also being used in some spaces to finish the ceilings. We did a bathroom with a gorgeous walk-in shower that mixed wood and tile on the ceiling, giving the room a transcendentally calm style. The natural materials are lending themselves to natural colors as well: colors drawn from nature, that respect and reflect the locations of these homes.

Metal Roof Accents.

Roofs have been an underappreciated spot for architectural accents—we’re so used to seeing a large spread of shingles that it’s easy to not think about the kind of touch a metal accent can provide. Think about an accent wall—now apply that notion to the roof. We’ve been seeing more and more “accent roofs” being incorporated into homes. Typically,these are installed over a feature that extends from the home, marking it as separate from the roof at large. For instance, a metal accent roof is perfect for going over a porch, over a portico or entryway, over a bay window, or on its own as a cupola.

Most of the time the metals in use are aluminum, which comes in a wide range of colors, or natural materials like copper or zinc. A copper roof over your front entryway really makes an impression, whether it’s maintained to keep the original gleam or allowed to darken to an elegant patina. No matter what you choose, a metal accent roof can really make your home stand out and look great.

Plumbing Fixtures in Black or Brass.

We doubt that brushed nickel or chrome are ever going to be gone for good, but one trend we’ve seen in plumbing fixtures has been to install them with a black finish. It makes sense: the color black can help maintain a neutral color palette while adding some unique character to a kitchen or bathroom. And, as the saying has it, black goes with everything (it probably doesn’t, but it goes with a lot of things). Matte black finishes are also durable and do a good job hiding water spots and fingerprints.

And earlier, where we noted that some styles come, go, and then come back? Say hello to modern brass fixtures. Only a few years ago brass finishes were scorned as part of dated 80s/90s building trends, but the color is back in a big way. People like the warmth and class that brass offers, and much like matte black it seems like it can fit into any design. One reason is something that’s categorized as “brass” can come in a wide range of shades and textures. There’s something there for everyone.

Timber Accents, Trusses, and Beams.

This is part of the natural materials/looks trend, but it warrants its own mention because of how substantial an impact timber can have on a design. That makes sense; after all,a timber is by definition a large piece of wood. In some cases, the timbers are purely decorative, adding a rustic feel to a home. In other cases,these big logs are used traditionally: as structural parts of the building itself, typically as columns, rafters, or joists. The difference here is that they are left visible, and they are finished in a way that highlights their natural beauty and impressive physical presence. Especially for homes in lakes country, where they are often surrounded by trees, these timbers are a really nice way to bring the outside in, and be a reminder of the environment we live in.

Design trends will continue to come and go (with the occasional comeback), but one thing you can always count on from Dotty Brothers is thoughtful, unique design coupled with skilled builders and the level of craftsmanship we’d use if we were making it for ourselves. That kind of service never goes out of style.

When we design and build custom homes for our clients, we very deliberately take the long view. We want to build generational homes that serve our clients’ families for decades. Because of that, one of the things we often try to account for, that people often overlook, is long-term accessibility.

People who have mobility challenges are already accustomed to these concerns. Even if everyone in the family can easily take the stairs, well, age comes for us all eventually, and as we age, we generally lose some mobility. At that point, the choice can come down to remodeling to adapt for more independent mobility or being forced to move. We keep that in mind during our Design/Build process, and we make choices that allow for adaptability, so clients don’t have to make that hard choice.

As the Baby Boom generation ages into their 70s and 80s, concerns about where they should live become more and more pressing. For a family in that position, a mother-in-law suite might be the perfect answer: it offers living together, but with separate spaces. The family can be as close-knit as it chooses to be any given day.

Bathroom design is obviously a critical factor here. According to the CDC, over 80 percent of bathroom-related injuries are caused by slips and falls, most often getting in and out of the tub or shower. (We should note here that this isn’t just a concern for older people; approximately 234,000 people aged 15 and older had to seek ER treatment for bathroom injuries in 2008.) Grab bars near the shower, bath, and toilet can help mitigate this type of accident. Another simple technique is to design for a zero-entry shower, which has no curb or other barrier to step over, and handheld shower heads that can be reached from a chair or stool. A standard bathroom vanity will obstruct a wheelchair-bound person from easily reaching the faucet, so a roll-under sink might be the way to go.

Doorways, halls, and entryways should also be designed to accommodate the width and turning radius of a wheelchair. Even the door type can matter: it’s easier to open and close a pocket door than have to work around the swing of a hinged door. Obviously some structural requirements mean a hinged door has to be used, but careful planning and design can help make that simple activity less of a hassle.

We often design homes so the master bedroom is on the main floor. Single-story living can ease the transition as people age, with sleeping quarters, kitchen, bathroom, and laundry all on one floor. Many of the homes we build have incredible views of lakes and forests; we take that into account even as we try to plan for how the home will evolve with the family.

Flooring comes into consideration as well. Hard surfaces are easier to walk or wheel across, and they are easier to keep clean. They also look terrific: a single, seamless wood floor across an entire floor of the home makes a warm, cohesive look. There’s an almost endless range of tile flooring that serves beautifully as well. That’s not to say carpet or rugs can’t be done, but as with all these selections, we think carefully about them.

Lighting is important, too. In general, everyone wants rooms to be well-lit—who has ever said “I liked that room. It was so dim!” But accessible lighting is more than just ceiling cans every three feet. We incorporate motion sensors, so the lights turn on when someone walks into the bathroom. That kind of sensor can turn on overhead lights, or even just toe-kick or floor lights that won’t jar a sleepy person awake but will also make sure they can see their way to the toilet and don’t have to go by feel.

All of this is only some of what can go into making a home accessible. Depending on needs, current or future, this can even include a track system in a bedroom ceiling that facilitates getting in and out of bed, or an elevator or chair lift to help someone go beyond single-floor living. Universal, accessible design and construction makes sure a home works for everyone regardless of age and ability, meeting people where they are right now, but also where they might be decades from now.

One thing people struggle with when working on the interior design of their custom dream homes is figuring out their own style. Traditional? Modern? Rustic? Modern Farmhouse? Boho? Minimalist? Contemporary? Industrial? Coastal? Scandinavian?

Honestly, the list of design styles is almost as long as a list of people who are interested in them, or scared off by them, or trying to resolve the parts they like of any number of them. It doesn’t have to be so hard!

We know that designing and building a custom dream home is a huge project for our clients. In many cases, it’s the largest investment, both physical and financial, and sometimes even emotional, they’ve ever made. As we work with clients through our design/build process, we’re privileged to learn a lot about them: why they want this dream home, how the home has to work for them, what their hopes are for the home. We also learn a lot about their individual style. Often, we’re working with couples or families, so that means we’re learning about individual styles, and coming up with creative ways to incorporate lots of different tastes and preferences.

To say nothing of the tact that all of that is before we even consider the outside inputs. Friends, extended family, coworkers—everybody with an opinion is ready to divert you from your track. Let’s not even touch on social media for now—that’s a tool that can be a great way to home in on your style, but it can also be a vehicle for you to second-guess everything you loved, or thought you loved. No matter what, for a project like a custom dream home, everyone will have an opinion to offer, sometimes whether you ask them for it or not.

We spoke with local interior designer Cassandra Doolittle from Northern Design Co. about personal style, and how to figure out what your style is. She’s an interior designer in the Brainerd Lakes area who has a long track record of helping people create stunning, personal spaces in their homes.

We asked her about different design styles, and how people can reconcile the varying aspects of those styles that appeal to them, especially with regard to interior home design.

This is one of a series of video interviews we did with Cassandra, discussing a wide range of interior design topics: her process, what her goals are for her clients, reasons to hire an interior designer, best practices for staying on budget, how to develop and incorporate your personal style, as well as some common mistakes people make that can be avoided with the help of an interior designer.

A key point from Cassandra revolved around the idea of “right or wrong” with design. Clients worry that one design choice or another—everything from room layout to surface finishes—is the “right” choice or the “wrong” choice, when really there isn’t such a thing. There’s no right or wrong design style, there’s just your style.  And a good interior designer will help you realize your style in a way that makes your dream home yours.

Keep in mind that everyone has their own notion of what various design styles mean. Ask two people to describe “modern,” “rustic,” or “modern rustic” design (the last is a type especially prevalent in the Brainerd Lakes area) and you’ll hear a lot of different answers. The key is to figure out what those styles mean for you. As Cassandra notes: “It’s okay if you like five different styles. But what is it about each of those styles that you like?” That’s how an interior designer helps you develop your own style. It’s not about staying true to some outside aesthetic, although there are people for whom that is their style. But the key thing is that lots of people get hung up on specific styles or ideas, but really good interior design isn’t restricted by a single design type: it’s there to help and serve you, in your home, so it looks and functions how you want it to.

Designing and building a dream home can be as stressful as it is thrilling. There are so many choices to make, and each of them seems fraught with implications, but they all boil down to: is it right or wrong? What we’ll help you see is that there isn’t really a right or wrong, there’s just what’s right for you and your family. (Okay, obviously there are some rights and wrongs: we’re not going to build a home suited for the tropics on a northern Minnesota lake, subject to northern Minnesota winters, but nobody’s really asking for that, anyway.)

Your style is what brings you joy, something that makes you happy and comfortable in your home. That’s what we want, too.

We love talking to clients about their dream homes. We get to hear about their hopes and dreams for their home, of course, but also for themselves, their families, often extending for generations. That’s the kind of home we design and build, and whether it remains a family landmark for generations or not, it’s built to last that way.

At some point in ever conversation, we have to shift from talking about dreams to talking about numbers: the budget. It’s a topic that can come easily, or it can be a challenge, but it always has to be discussed. Many of our clients have invested and saved for years to be able to make this big plunge, and whether the budget is modest or massive, our job is to maximize it to full effect.

But the budget still exists, and we try to treat it as a hard limit. Which means we have to work together to decide how that budget will be applied. How much goes to the structure of the home versus the finishing touches? Do you add a bathroom, or a workshop, or a secondary kitchen? Part of our design/build process involves balancing the budget with the dream.

Home interior

As part of the design process, we break the budget down into categories, and to each category we set an allowance. The foundation, framing, roof, kitchen, bedrooms, flooring, etc. are each allocated part of the budget. But designing the skeleton of the home is just one part of the process. The other part of the process is customizing it all to the customers’ needs, helping them to work out what the final finishes will be. An interior designer can help with both of those aspects.

We spoke with local interior designer Cassandra Doolittle from Northern Design Co. about what it’s like to work with an interior designer. She’s an interior designer in the Brainerd Lakes area with many years of experience, and we’ve been fortunate to work with her on a few design/build projects.

We asked her to talk about her process, and how she gets projects started, as well as some other topics. On our website you’ll find a series of video interviews with Cassandra, discussing a wide range of interior design topics: her process, what her goals are for her clients, reasons to hire an interior designer, best practices for staying on budget, how to develop and incorporate your personal style, as well as some common mistakes people make that can be avoided with the help of an interior designer. In this video, Cassandra discusses staying within and maximizing your budget.

Home Interior

As Cassandra points out, the budget is usually determined with the builder (that’s us). We work with our clients to determine the overall budget, and then we break that down into categories. For each category, we determine what must be spent to have a safe and functional home and what can be spent on the interior finishes. At that point, someone like Cassandra can really take the lead.

Your interior designer will take time to get to know you and determine your style, wants, and needs. After that, the interior designer will help you complete your dream home without going over the allowance for each category.

A hard limit on a budget gives us a total cap, but flexibility in these matters is critical. If the bulder or designer can help you find some savings in one category, the extra money can be shifted into another area of the home. Cassandra provides an example: If the tile flooring comes in at half price, you’ll have extra money to put into a focal chandelier or the hand-painted custom backsplash you wanted.

This might sound like you have to sacrifice design in one area to get that high-end design that you want in another area. But that is not necessarily the case. When it comes to design, it is possible to meet the allowances for each category and still get a beautiful, functional design. Interior designers use their experience, connections, and industry knowledge to help do that. It is definitely possible to balance the budget with look and function to get your custom dream home. As Cassandra says, “Not everything has to be a Cadillac for it to look like a Cadillac.” If the money is spent in the right ways, your new home can be all you’ve ever wanted.

A lasting, beautiful custom home that comes in on budget? That’s living the dream home!

When was the last time you went wood tick racing? Yeah, it’s been a long time for us too. But good news! This and other events are just around the corner, and Dotty Brothers has put together the perfect calendar so you don’t miss any of these great Minnesota get togethers.

From June to September in the Brainerd Lakes area, there are loads of fun activities and events for you and your family to enjoy: turtle races, live concerts, triathlons, outdoor movies, county fairs, art festivals. And that’s just the beginning. Whether you live in the area or are just visiting, come join us for a summer full of good Minnesota fun.

So start training your wood ticks, because this summer is just getting started.

Get your Summer Evernt Calendar: 2021 here!

Here's what to expect



Obviously building dream houses or dream remodels is the primary work we do—the company is called Dotty Brothers Construction, after all, but constructing dream houses is only half of our process. Before anything is built, it’s designed. That part of the process is as important as the build and is the start of us really getting to know our clients well. As we work with them to design their home, we come to understand why they want this dream home, and how they want it to work for their family for generations to come.

Designing walls, roofs, decks, porches, rooms, halls, and every other part of a home is one part of the design process, but customizing them to the customers’ needs, and helping to work out what the final finishes on those areas will look like is another, more specific type of design: interior design.

We spoke with local interior designer Cassandra Doolittle from Northern Design Co. about why you should hire an interior designer. She’s worked as an interior designer in the Brainerd Lakes area for many years, and we’ve been fortunate to work with her on a few design/build projects.

We asked her to talk about her process, and how she gets projects started. We discussed the many roles she plays for her clients—some of which we find ourselves in as well. (You might not think the construction trades require a lot of careful listening and creating thoughtful compromises, but we sometimes find ourselves acting as mediators, helping clients navigate a wave of information and external input, something Cassandra can relate to.)

This is the first of a series of video interviews we did with Cassandra, discussing a wide range of interior design topics: her process, what her goals are for her clients, reasons to hire an interior designer, best practices for staying on budget, how to develop and incorporate your personal style, as well as some common mistakes people make that can be avoided with the help of an interior designer.

As Cassandra notes, every custom design/build project boils down to relationships —the relationships that we build with our clients (no pun intended) and the relationships Cassandra develops with hers. Both for her and for our team, we’re often working on something our clients have literally dreamed of, possibly for years, so it’s important to get it right.

An important point Cassandra makes is that there can be a misconception about interior design, that it might be seen purely as interior decorating—the “icing on the cake,” as she puts it. But it’s so much more than that. Thoughtful design and space planning are a critical part of any design/build project. Getting an interior designer involved early can help inform choices made at the design stage and help ensure that the final product is one you’ll love for decades. As with all construction projects, staying within budget is easy—as long as nobody makes radical changes after the construction begins. Careful design helps work out the best way to create and organize space, and that alone will help prevent change orders later in the process. And that’s before anyone’s started picking out flooring or molding or paint or stain (or any of a hundred other choices to be made).

It’s easy to look at a blueprint or an architectural rendering and say “Yes, that great room does, in fact, look great.” But a good interior designer will help make sure that great room lives great, too. A great room with a great view probably has great big windows—a majestic vista awaits! But if there’s no place to put a couch or a comfy set of chairs, you could be stuck holding your morning coffee and standing at the window while watching the sunrise. The view can be incredible, but still not how you want to live.

To be clear, that’s something of an exaggeration. We’d never let a client get themselves into that sort of a situation in their dream home. But it’s an example of the kinds of things that can go wrong, and the type of thing that an interior designer can help prevent. We’ll touch on some of those avoidable mistakes in an upcoming video, but they can be the kind of thing that blows up a project’s budget or even just detracts a little bit from your enjoyment of your dream home. And when we’re talking about dreams, we don’t want anything that gets in the way of fully realizing them.

Bringing dreams to life is a challenge. Our goal is to take your vision and help make it real: really beautiful, really functional, and what you really, really wanted.

What to know more? Fill out the form below to get our booklet on interior design!

What to do inside your custom home.

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People hear the words “construction” and “build” and immediately their minds go to big equipment, raw materials, power tools—the process of putting up a structure. And they’re right! But our process is called “Design/Build” for a reason, and it’s not just the blueprint of a house. The final design of the interior of your custom home is the main way you and your family, friends, and guests will experience the home for decades.

That is to say, “Design” is as important as “Build.” That’s why this article focuses on the interior finishes for your dream home. These finishes cover essentially everything you’ll see and touch in your home for years to come. Do you want finished wood for your flooring? Tile? Luxury plank? The same question can apply to your walls and ceilings. It’s the look of cabinet doors, countertops, light fixtures, sinks, and faucets, but also pulls, outlets, switch plates—so many things that it can easily overwhelm people. (And what’s listed here is not even close to a complete list!)

That’s why working with an interior designer can make the process so much easier, so much more… fun. You get an expert to help guide you through these choices, one who knows how to take all of the individual things you want and love, and help shape them into a cohesive whole, where each space in your home serves its purpose, and is beautiful in its own way, but makes sense in how one room leads to the next.

Interior designers also typically have a much better and broader network of manufacturers and artisans who can help make your vision a reality. You have more to chose from, but making those choices is easier.

Not sure if you want the advice and guidance of an interior designer on your dream home? Read this guide for more insight as to why you might (or, in some cases, might not!).

What to know more? Fill out the form below to get our booklet on interior design!
What to do inside your custom home.

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You’ve decided to build your custom dream home. Congratulations!

Now what?

We get this question a lot—in fact, almost every time. Enough that we’ve prepared a checklist of things you can start thinking about—or even make decisions about—now that will help your custom home building project all the way through to completion.

This checklist can help narrow down some of your preferences for your lot, as well as other things that can impact where we position your home: setbacks from neighboring properties, distance from a lake, impacts from wetlands or bluffs, that sort of thing.

It will also help you identify your budget, and what you hope the time frame of the project is—it’s always nice to be home for the holidays, after all. It’ll also help you start visualizing your dream home in detail. What type of foundation? Garage size? Storage needs? Materials and finishes? What are the tradeoffs from low- or no-maintenance materials? The same things apply to inside your home, too. Do you need to carve out space for a piano, or pool table, or antique hutch? How will the home be used? Does that impact the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you’ll want? Then there are all of the interior finishes as well.

If it seems daunting, that’s because it is. But it should be: it’s your custom dream home, and our job is to help you convert your dream home into your real home. We’ll do that whether you review this checklist or not. But if you’re excited to get your project going, this is a great place to start.

Download the Custom Home Build Checklist PDF

Download a custom home build checklist.

We’ve lived and worked in the Brainerd Lakes Area for over 25 years, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we have a deep love for the area.

We’ve literally put sweat (and occasionally, some blood – ouch!) into this region. If you already live here, and are considering building your dream home here, congratulations! You know how wonderful it is to live here, and you’re making an investment that you and your family will enjoy for decades to come.

If you are considering moving to the area, we can assure you: you’re going to love it.

Brainerd is the largest town in the area, with an official population of 13,592—per the 2010 census. The town has no doubt grown, as have many of the area’s charming villages, but the area is in no danger of overcrowding. In fact, it’s all that space—and all those lakes—that draw people here, especially seasonal visitors. The population of the area in the summer can double or triple from tourists, which makes for a lot of action and a lot of fun.

What kind of fun? Glad you asked!

The lakes area has everything. If you like fishing, the area offers incredible opportunities to go after a wide variety of species. Walleye probably head the list (they are the MN state fish, after all), but you can go after pike, bass (smallmouth and largemouth), crappies, bluegills, and perch. Then there are tullibee and eelpout, too—those are among the fish most frequently caught at the Brainerd Jaycee’s annual Ice Fishing Extravaganza, a dead-of-winter fundraiser that sees 20,000 holes drilled into Gull Lake’s frozen-over Hole in the Day Bay. (Ice fishing and snowmobiling mean there’s plenty of tourism in the area in the winter, too.)

The area’s lakes offer lots of other activities: boating, waterskiing, tubing, zooming around on personal watercraft. But not all of these activities require gasoline. The lakes are great for swimming, sailing, windsurfing, and paddling anything you can think of: kayaks, canoes, stand-up boards boats. Don’t want to get wet? Great news: where there’s lake, there’s usually also beach. Set up a chair and crack a good book. Just be sure to look up every now and then to soak in the view.

For land-based recreation, the Brainerd Lakes Area is incredible. There are miles of bike trails, both paved and not. The Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area alone has 30 miles of mountain bike trails. There are lots of places to take all-terrain-vehicles, too—you don’t have to go far to see four-wheelers spattered with mud. Maybe you prefer the thrills of high-speed car-racing? Head over to the Brainerd International Raceway, and you can watch racers fly around the track, or test your own nerves and skill.

Naturally, there are countless other things to do as well. Shopping, golf, relaxing at one of the area’s spas; anything people love to do on vacation, they—and you—can do here.

Fewer than 150 miles from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, the Brainerd Lakes Area is an easy drive to and from the metro. Though once you get here, you’re not likely to want to leave.

FREE Brainerd Lakes Area Map Art Print for your home or office!

This 11x17 art print can be downloaded and printed for framing. Use a print service of your choice such as vistaprint.


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