Having guests visit your home is fun. Hosting, entertaining, enjoying each other’s company. And when the guests are fun enough that you want to spend time with them morning, noon, night? Even better! And when you can offer them their own room, bed, space in your house? Peak hospitality! It’s great to have a guest bedroom.

But… how frequently do you have guests? If you’re like most people, a guest room is only occupied a few times per year. To maximize that space, re-think it. That little-used guest room is the perfect place for a flex room.

What is a flex room? It’s just like it sounds, a space in your home that offers flexibility. It can be primarily one thing (a home office, maybe) but also serve as another (like that infrequently used but still comfortable guest room).


office with murphy bed

The Guest Office

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated there was a lot of office work that could be done remotely without any loss of productivity. Many digital workers have transitioned to part- or full-time work from home. Some companies even shuttered physical offices and transitioned to virtual offices only. If you have an “extra” room, it could probably be put to more efficient use as an office than for hosting guests. Hence, the guest office, probably the most common of flex rooms.

The key to creating an effective guest office is to remember the room’s primary use—in this case, an office—and to prioritize that use, while still balancing its function as a guest room when needed.

Consider the office first: what type and size of desk do you need? The smallest but still comfortable, usable size is the way to go here. Whether it’s free-standing, built into a set of bookshelves, or any other configuration, it needs to work for your work.

Consider storage cubbies or bins that make it easy to tidy up an office when you have guests. Can the desk double as a dressing table? Even better! Consider an office chair that is also comfortable to sit in—this can double as your workplace seat but also a place for a guest to sit and relax or scroll their phone before bed.

The classic piece of flex space furniture is a futon or pull-out sofa bed. However, anyone who’s ever slept on one knows they’re not terribly comfortable. There might well be a comfortable unicorn futon or sleeper sofa out there, but we haven’t found it yet.

It’s easier to work with a bed that is only a bed, or consider a Murphy bed. These wall beds usually contain regular mattresses and are as comfy as a bed, but they tilt upright when they’re not in use (often appearing to look like a cabinet), meaning your guest office can double in floor space in just a few seconds.

The balance can be tricky, but thinking about how you want to feel in your office and how you want your guests to feel in the guest room will guide you in the right direction.

Other Popular Flex Rooms

There are other common uses for a flex room. Often, one half of the flex is for a guest room, but these could be combined in almost any manner (though the playroom might be a tough one to flex in and out of).


Kids, especially little ones, can be pretty messy. Having a room dedicated to the use and storage of their toys, games, coloring books, and dress-up clothes can help ease the burden on the rest of the house (and on whoever has to pick up after them). Smart shelving and storage in this room can go a long way to making it possible to use as a playroom/guest room, but even if all it does is contain some of the clutter, it’s a win.

Exercise Room

How easily this room flexes into a guest room depends on how you exercise. If you have an exercise bike, a full rack of weights, and a bench, then trying to move all that out of the way is going to be a workout on its own.

However, if you practice yoga, do body-weight workouts, or don’t need a ton of equipment, it can be a quick shift to roll up your mat and tuck it into a closet. Some of the same details that you might focus on for an exercise room—aromas, plants, air movement—can make for a really comfortable guest room.

Music/Reading/Media Room

If you’re a music, book, or movie/TV lover, a private oasis where you can focus on and enjoy those hobbies can be priceless, and a flex room can be a perfect place for that. The good news is that lots of the things you want for that room—comfortable seating, relaxing colors and décor—are things guests will appreciate, too.

One challenge might be the amount of space any physical media takes up. If you have stacks of books, records, or Blu-rays all over the floor, it might not be an easy changeover to a guest room. Smart storage is a good solution for this adult playroom, just as it is for the kids’.


project room craft room

Craft Room

Here’s one that can appeal to adults, kids, or both. The particulars of this type of room depend on the crafts going on. Someone doing sewing projects will need a large, flat surface to lay out and measure fabric. A painter might need to prioritize natural light. A woodworker might need… well, to go work in the garage, or an outbuilding workshop. (Even a perfect flex space craft room can only adapt so far!)

As with most of these multi-use spaces, organization and storage is key to keeping the space flexible and not turning into the room where everything is piled on the bed.


This is a separate section because all the spaces listed above require lighting. The ideal solution would be to have good general overhead lighting that can be dimmed, mood-setting accent lights (also dimmable), and focused task lighting that is customized for the brightness and color spectrum best suited for the task. Craft room lighting won’t be the same as reading room lighting.

If you’re not in position to gut the flex room and customize the lighting, there are ways around that. Use the “flex” part as inspiration: select light fixtures that can be adjusted, moved, and dimmed or brightened. Floor lamps with arms that can be repositioned, for instance. Even the clamp-style reading light can have a place in this plan.

LED technology has made it much simpler and cheaper to customize where you have lights and how they look. (You can even have them change color and pulse to the beat of music if your flex space is a dance room!)


A good, useful flex room is about balance. What percentage of the room do you want for one use compared to other uses? If you want a flex space that’s 60% office, 25% yoga room, and 15% guest room, use those numbers to guide your furnishing and décor decisions. With a little creativity (and a lot of smart storage) you’ll have a flex space that matches your needs.

Kitchens are the beating heart of a home. Even if you’re not much of a cook, it’s a gathering place for family and friends—host a party, and see where everyone ends up congregating, right? When our clients envision their custom dream homes, a beautiful kitchen is always part of the plan. Below are some kitchen suggestions you might not even know you needed.

One note: the trend of designing a back kitchen (also called a pantry kitchen, prep kitchen, or spice kitchen) has been gaining popularity among high-end homes. In that type of design/build, there’s the main kitchen, which is largely for show, and a second, more tucked-away kitchen, where actual cooking is done. It’s a nice way to hide the clutter, spills, and smells of a functioning kitchen. The suggestions below can be applied to main kitchens, back kitchens, or both.


Custom cabinets are almost always part of a custom home. They maximize the kitchen’s footprint and can be designed precisely for your needs. The style of the cabinets themselves are almost limitless: type of wood, finish, color, door style, pull, etc.

This isn’t about the style of the cabinets so much as functional design suggestions. For example, deep drawers near the range are incredibly helpful. These large drawers with heavy-duty drawer slides can hold the pots, pans, Dutch ovens, woks, or other cookware, right where you need it. Sometimes a shallow pull-out within that drawer is included to house the lids for the pots and pans.

Be sure to plan a space for trash, recycling, and even compost bins. It’s not glamorous, but it’s necessary and can make so much difference in the day-to-day use of your kitchen. You can even include pet-friendly amenities like storage for pet food, bowls, beds, etc. A built-in feeding/watering station can be opened to allow your pet to join you at mealtimes without its bowls being perpetually underfoot.

Some cabinets just have shelves, others have drawers or a combination of both. If you opt for drawers, especially in a cabinet that will be used to hold dry goods and snacks, be sure the drawers use full extension slides for access, and that they have high enough fronts, sides, and backs to corral their contents and keep that cabinet organized.

Some other custom cabinet ideas include a tall cabinet with lots of dividers for tray storage; a drawer peg system to customize how you arrange items like plates and bowls inside the drawer; and narrow, pull-out drawers near your cooktop for easy access to herbs and spices.

An on-counter appliance garage can be a great place to store a toaster, coffee pot, stand mixer, or other kitchen tools you want to keep handy, but you don’t want on the countertop. Planning for an outlet inside the garage keeps the cords for these appliances contained as well.

In all instances, insist on soft-close drawer slides and cabinet door hinges; they’ll help prevent wear and tear on the cabinetry as well as keeping the noise levels down.

Kitchen with island and cabinets


This certainly includes the big four—refrigerator, range, oven(s), and dishwasher—but it’s also so much more. Individual, specific appliances like a wine fridge, steam oven, or dedicated coffee bar can make a big impact. Double ovens can have more than twice the impact, especially if you’re cooking for large groups or holidays.

Here, as with most other aspects of a dream kitchen, the options are almost limitless. Your fridge and dishwasher can be built in and faced with the same cabinet doors as the rest of the kitchen. You’ll need the appliance pulls from the same family as the other cabinet and drawer pulls, but otherwise it’s a very seamless blending of the appliances with the cabinetry.

Modern appliances can be (like everything else) connected to the internet and managed by an app on your phone. There are even apps that will track your refrigerator inventory, reminding you to use fresh fruits and vegetables before they spoil, and letting you know which groceries you need to re-stock.

Don’t forget to plan for a range vent or hood. Modern appliances crank out more heat than they used to, and that’s before you consider installing commercial-style (or actual commercial) appliances. Those put out serious heat and need to be matched with sufficient venting capacity. A built-in range hood that matches surrounding cabinetry can help turn the range area into a visual centerpiece for the kitchen.


It can be easy to overlook (though your designer and electrician likely won’t let you), but lighting is critical in a kitchen. You need to be able to see what you’re looking for and working on. One good way to imagine how to light up a kitchen is to think of the lighting as having layers. Overhead recessed cans put out broad, room-filling light that brightens the entire space—this is ambient lighting, and it’s what makes a kitchen feel bright or gloomy at first glance.

Then there’s task lighting, such as under-cabinet LED strips and other sources, to focus light where you need it (for example, a prep area or over the sink).

Accent lights, such as pendants, sconces, or lights inside of a glass-front cabinet, help set the mood in the kitchen when you don’t need bright lighting. You can even consider under-island lighting if the countertop offers an overhang. Those same LED light strips can be programmed to show almost any color, or even shift through a color spectrum. Toe-kick lighting (that little space underneath cabinets where your toes fit) can create a very cool visual effect as well.

kitchen with overhead hanging lighting


Many of these will be driven by style and personal preference, but there are a lot of considerations. Single-or double-basin? Do you want a separate bar sink? They can be a real asset when you’re having a party, or when you just want to create a separate drinks station. What about a pot filler? If you’re into pasta, it’s very convenient to not have to lug a heavy pot between the sink and the cooktop.

Then there are the fixtures themselves. Almost any shape, style, and finish, of course, but high-end faucets offer features like integrated LED lighting, water dispensed in specific measurements, and touch-sensing that lets you turn the water on or off with just a touch of your finger (or, if you’re holding a big pot with two hands, a nose).

Custom design/build homes are almost always the culmination of someone’s dream. And the kitchen is no different. Just about anything you can dream up, you can have, with style and functionality that will keep you cooking happily for years.

Contact us about your future dream kitchen.

A custom design/build is an exciting time. Most of our customers are seeing a dream of many years come true at last. We always lay out the build schedule to our customers because we want them to know what to expect, and how long it will take. But there are lots of factors that can impact the timeline of building a dream home, and even the best general contractor can only do so much to mitigate them. Among the things that are unfortunately out of our control:


Up here in the north, the weather is both predictable and unpredictable. We know we’ll have cold and snow in the winter, for instance. We might have those in the spring and fall, too. We know it will be hot and muggy in late summer. Those things are predictable. But when a custom design/build is scheduled to take months, unpredictable weather can have an impact. For example, a three-day drizzle might make it impossible for the roofers to do their job. Even when the work can go on, rough weather is going to slow things down at some point. Even working inside is slower during the winter. A hot dog (space heater) can only do so much in an uninsulated space after all, making every task just a little bit harder. The good news is that we’ve been there before. We have strong relationships with our crews and subcontractors, and we work with people we can trust to power through and get the job done right.


Materials Shortage

Another problem that can disrupt a design/build is a materials shortage. These can happen for lots of reasons, some of them surprising. For example, general contractors generally don’t have to concern themselves overmuch with import tariff policies, but the on- (and on- and on- and on-) going softwood trade dispute between the United States and Canada has impacted lumber prices for decades. So much that the dispute, as a whole, has its own Wikipedia page. Most of the wood used in framing a house is softwood, so any time this trade dispute flares up again, it can cause lumber prices to spike and supply to plummet. Natural disasters can cause the same problems. We don’t begrudge anyone rebuilding their home after a disaster, but a hurricane in Florida can sharply increase demand for construction materials, causing a disruption to the normal distribution of those items around the country.

Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions to the global supply chain are also still impacting delivery dates, especially for things like windows and appliances. For instance, windows that used to take approximately one month to arrive are now taking up to five months. There are appliance manufacturers that are up to a year behind on production. Some plumbing fixture manufacturers temporarily discontinued some of their unique color and finish offerings because they were so far behind in production of the most common and basic colors and finishes. These are the types of things that designers and home buyers tend to have specific preferences for, so planning for those delays is sometimes the best we can do. It’s not that there aren’t alternatives, in brand or style or color, but when you’re designing and building custom dream homes, you generally don’t want to have to compromise on your vision.


Ripple Effect

Building a custom home is like shuffling a deck of cards. There are lots of moving parts, and they all have to come together correctly and in order. For instance, the framing needs to be done before the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical rough-ins can be completed. Drywall can’t be done until those rough-ins have been completed. Then comes paint, tile setting, finish carpentry, and some other activity, which all has to be finished before the HVAC, plumbing, and electrical installers come back to the jobsite to finish their work. If any one of these contractors is delayed—illness, equipment failure, simple bad luck—it can ripple through the other contractors and delay the build. Most of these contractors also have other job sites they’re working on at the same time. So it’s possible for a different job to impact yours, though as experienced general contractors, adjusting to these circumstances is part of the job.

At Dotty Brothers Construction, we know what we can and can’t control. The things we can control, we make sure they’re done the right way. And the things we can’t control, we adjust and adapt to make sure things still get done the right way. Even if it’s a few days later than we’d planned.

There are a lot of ways to keep a house warm in the winter. The very best way is to plan and build for that. In the past, houses were typically framed up using 2x4s for all walls, whether they are interior or exterior. These days, new builds use 2x6s for the exterior walls. That allows for 50% more insulation in the walls and is a huge win for efficiency. Insulation in general is also much more front of mind for contractors and home buyers. The federal government’s Energy Star program suggests most attics be insulated to R-38, which is 10-14 inches of attic insulation, depending on the type of insulating material. In the great, cold north of Minnesota, you might have 18-24 inches or more. After all, it’s much easier to plan for that kind of efficiency from the start, and a few more inches of insulation is cheap relative to years of heating expenses. But you can also add insulation to an attic; just be aware of whether you are using faced or unfaced insulation: faced insulation has a vapor barrier, and you don’t want to trap moisture inside the insulation.

Heated floors are another great way to warm up a house. For some types of in-floor heating, it’s once again much easier to plan for it from the start and build it into the home. For example, a boiler system that circulates warm water through tubing inside a concrete slab or floor. That turns the entire floor into a source of heat, radiating into the house. It’s also nice and warm underfoot. This effect can also be achieved by running electric wires underneath the floor, and it is much easier to do as a renovation than a hydronic system. But no matter what, installing in-floor heating should be done as part of a larger renovation, because all the flooring has to be removed, and in all likelihood the subflooring as well.

Properly installed, energy-efficient windows are a vital factor, too. Choosing the right type of window is important, especially in Minnesota. For our cold weather, wood, vinyl, fiberglass, or composite window frames are the best choices. Wood with vinyl cladding is even better because the vinyl protects the wood. But don’t select aluminum window frames. Aluminum simply doesn’t hold heat well, and it’s a poor choice for cold climates. Triple-pane, low-E glass is a great choice for the window itself. Low-E glass is treated with a thin metallic coating that filters certain types of light into your home, helping give you some solar heat during the winter. Installation matters, too, especially making sure that the gaps around the windows are sealed and caulked.

Even if your house is already built, and you’re not planning any major remodeling any time soon, you can still make some simple, DIY efforts to keep your home warm. For one, adding weather stripping to windows and doors is an easy way to help seal off air leaks, which are very common with older windows. If you can feel air leaking around outlets on exterior walls, you can add a foam gasket underneath the outlet’s wall plate. Just remove the screw(s) holding the plate onto the outlet, punch out parts of the gasket to allow the outlet to come through the plate, and push the gasket onto the outlet. Then re-attach the wall plate. The gaskets come pre-perforated so you can customize their fit to any type of outlet.

Design choices can make an impact on keeping your home warm, too. A heavier set of curtains acts as a barrier to breezes leaking through gaps around the window. You can install blinds that are intended to block cold as much as light or sightlines. A thick rug almost instantly warms up a hard floor. If you have a fireplace, it will certainly make a space feel warm. Though, unless the fireplace is designed to pump out heat, it’s probably a net loss for your home as a whole. Lighting a bunch of candles can give the same cozy feeling without the energy loss. Look at where your furniture is as well: are you blocking any vents or diffusers that would otherwise be blowing warm air from a furnace or heat pump? Making sure ducts and returns are unobstructed will help maximize the efficiency of forced-air heat.

From big projects to small steps, there are lots of ways to help keep a house warm in the winter. And one thing we know about living in Minnesota is that winter is always coming.

This featured property (some details have been concealed to maintain the privacy of the owners) posed an interesting problem. Or an interesting opportunity, might be a better way to put it. Located on a small, picturesque peninsula that almost curls back in on itself, creating a sort of small, natural bay, even identifying the best place to position the house was a challenge. What was the best spot to maximize the natural views? Where would the family put their docks? How should the home fit in and make the most of the natural setting?

Winter theme featured home.

In the end, we positioned the house to maximize its views of the water, including the bay, but with a focus on the lake at large. We also included landscaped paths down to two docks, one primarily for swimming and enjoying the lake views, and one for accessing the watercraft

The rest of the lot is nearly covered by trees, both evergreens and deciduous, so the building design had to fit into the natural setting. On the outside, that meant lots of wood siding and stone accents. Well, not wood, exactly, but long-lasting, almost zero-maintenance plank siding that looks exactly like wood but won’t wear down against the elements the way wood will. For siding color, we chose a brown tone that was harmonic with the natural surroundings, but still had an elegant look befitting a house of this size and location.

The same reliance on natural materials continues inside the house. The flooring is hand-scraped hardwood, stained a rich brown color that allows the natural variation in the wood to show through. The ceiling and most of the casing and trim in the house is knotty pine, also stained, but not quite as dark as the flooring. Most of the ceilings on the main floor are vaulted, including those for the master bedroom, kitchen, dining room, great room, and separate wet bar, creating a feeling of wide-open space even among so much gorgeous stained wood. The open floor plan is ideal for entertaining and can easily accommodate the large gatherings the homeowners love to host.

Visible structural timbers are also part of the design. These large beams serve two purposes. They support the structure of the roof, and they are in and of themselves a striking architectural feature. These large timbers, stained to match the floor, create the feeling of a woodsy lodge, one that wouldn’t be out of place in a Swiss chalet. But the space between these trusses maintains the open feel of the vaulted ceilings, at once airy and grounded.

The master bedroom is a retreat within a retreat, with incredible lake views from anywhere in the room and a spa-like master bathroom that is an oasis of wood and stone. Separate shower and tub with windows that offer privacy but also let in all the natural light a person could want. Dual vanities and a ton of cabinets mean there’s always plenty of space, when you need a vacation from your vacation, which is also your life. Sounds pretty great, right?

And if the main house isn’t enough, well, this property also boasts a… we’ll call it a man cave, but it’s more of a man-sion, if you will. This outbuilding has five garage stalls, a bar/entertainment area, plus living space. It’s plenty of room to store your watercraft in the winter and still have space for a workshop, pool table, yourself and your friends, or anything else you want to put in there.

The entire property is a perfect example of what happens when thoughtful design meets a stunning piece of land: the home is everything the owners want, and more, but fits seamlessly into the natural landscape, working with the environment to highlight its beauty, while offering an abundance of comfort.

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