Must-see home office above garage part of fall showcase

By Frank Jossi

Andy Sonnen has spent all of his 15 years as a remodeler working out of his home. For years he labored from a basement office before moving to a different house and operating his business on the first floor.

With four children ages 1-5, the Macalester-Groveland resident figured it was time to build an office of his own. So he knocked down a one-car, 1926 garage and built a new one with 400 square feet of space on the second floor.

That finished half-story at 1268 Berkeley Ave. now serves as the headquarters of his Bluejack Builders, and will be included on this fall’s Parade of Homes Remodelers Showcase. The event will feature 43 homes open for in-person viewing from noon-6 p.m. Friday through Sunday, October 2-4.

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A new garage serves a second role as the home office for Bluejack Builders owners Andy and Leslie Sonnen. The project is one of 43 that will be open for public viewing during the fall Remodelers Showcase. Photos by Brad Stauffer

“By building an office above the garage you kill two birds with one stone,” Sonnen said. That includes creating a workspace without having to remodel a home or build an addition that would take land away from a yard.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform the way Americans live, he sees garage office as a potential solution for at-home employees confined to smaller residences where children and spouses may be learning and working at the same time.

“By building an office above the garage you kill two birds with one stone,” Sonnen said. That includes creating a workspace without having to remodel a home or build an addition that would take land away from a yard.

 

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Although Sonnen has not shown off the office to clients yet, he is considering how it might be a showroom of sorts for what a garage office can become. In an area the size of a master bedroom, the office has become a handy place that his kids and wife, Leslie, can use during the pandemic.

Sonnen designed the garage office to match his house. He used gray shake exterior siding that “looks like naturally weathered wood” on the 24-by-24-foot building. He also installed 1920s-style windows on each wall in the office that match his home’s architecture and optimize the natural light.

The detached garage has storage areas underneath the staircase, along with additional space in front of where the cars are parked. A separate door on the alley leads upstairs to the office, which features an angled ceiling.

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The custom cabinets have a honey maple finish with webbed wicker door and drawer panels in Bluejack Builders’ home office.

On two sides of the room, Sonnen designed custom cabinets in a honey maple finish with webbed wicker door and drawer panels highlighted by champagne gold-colored hardware. Quartz countertops cover a long row of cabinets that carry a little surprise Sonnen likes to show off to visitors.

“Here’s our 60-inch screen,” he said. With the push of a button, a massive flat-screen television rises from a lower cabinet.

The rest of the office features other designer touches, including a Room & Board desk on one end, accented by a round chess table just behind it. A circular conference table sits in the middle of the room.

On one side, a seating area consists of a leather couch, two leather Eames-style chairs and ottomans, and a round table. It is a place that Sonnen could use to show clients and contractors blueprints of remodeling designs or, after a busy day, just take a nap. Along another wall lies space where an employee could have a desk in the future.

The office may seem to have everything, but it does lack something fundamental—a bathroom. Sonnen said the cost of building one would have increased the price and consumed space. Besides, his house is just a short stroll away.

Sonnen plans to use the office to show how an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) might look after some modifications for living rather than working. The city has loosened regulations for ADUs, he said, and he would like to get an opportunity to design them.

“I think the office shows a good representation of the volume of space an ADU could have,” Sonnen said.

While waiting for that first call for an ADU, he has stayed busy designing and building kitchens, bathrooms and additions. More than 70 percent of Sonnen’s business comes from homeowners in the Highland Park and Macalester-Groveland neighborhoods.

For now, he plans to run the business out of the office and occasionally allow his kids to use it as a playroom. “It’s becoming a great space for my family and me,” he said.

Several precautions have been added this fall so the public can safely visit the homes on the tour in person. All homes will have a maximum occupancy of 10 people, and wearing masks and maintaining social distancing are required. Visitors are asked to not touch surfaces or open cabinet doors. All high-touch areas will be frequently sanitized.

Admission to the Remodelers Showcase is free with the exception of two Dream Homes where a $5 fee will help support the Housing First Minnesota Foundation.

For more information on the showcase, including an online guidebook and the updated safety policies, visit paradeofhomes.org. Free copies of the guidebook are available at local Holiday Stationstores.

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