Michael Graves Architecture & Design – Forever Home

Imagine walking the halls of your newly built home and seeing the personal touches of a dear friend in every element. This is what Bob Thacker and Karen Cherewatuk are looking forward to when in home, designed by Michael Graves. See the full gallery of project photos here.


The work of Michael Graves, an iconic American architect and designer, is recognizable throughout Minnesota. He was responsible for the architecture of the Cedar Gables House, the Children’s Theatre Company, and Minneapolis Institute of Arts Expansion–just to name a few. However, you might recognize even more of the thousands of products he designed and sold through retailers such as Target and Lowes.

Bob Thacker first met Michael Graves when the latter was assigned to design the scaffolding for the restoration of the Washington Monument, which was sponsored by Target where Thacker was Vice President of Marketing at the time. The pair were waiting to meet some associates, who had missed their train. “We had a few hours to kill, so Michael showed me his design notebook.” Thacker knew great work when he saw it, and he offered to bring the designs back to Target. The rest is a lot of beautifully designed history.

Before he passed away in 2015, Graves partnered with Thacker and Cherewatuk to create the initial designs for their future home; a place where the couple could age comfortably as their needs and abilities change over time. After his death, the Graves Firm under the leadership of Tom Rowe, completed the project.

Thacker and Cherewatuk chose to partner with Northfield Construction Company (NCC) to build their new home, using the coined name “forever home” to describe the project.

Forever homes, or age-in-place homes, are a great option for homeowners to make a lasting investment in their residence. A forever home is a smartly designed home with single level living or space dedicated for an elevator, wide driveways, proper blocking and backing for future grab bars, lighting, outlet and switch heights. They might also include features such as minimal staircases, wide clearance for wheelchairs, and slip-resistant bathrooms. View some of these features in the project gallery here.

Chris Kennelly comments on NCC’s experience with forever homes, “We have worked with a wide array of clients looking at 170220_NCC_CTHome_008forever homes from young couples getting ready to start a family to empty nesters. The Baby Boomers are very interested in aging in place. The forever house lets them do that. Given their appeal to many different groups, I believe forever homes with smart design will hold their value.”

In the Thacker/Cherewatuk home, you can’t turn your head in any direction without seeing a deeply intentional design feature. Forever home qualities, such as a ceiling beam installed over the master bedroom to support a lift, plenty of sunlight for those with limited mobility, heated floors to quickly evaporate slippery puddles, and a pantry fitted to be converted to an in-home elevator if necessary are just a few. The second floor of the home can also function as a caretaker’s apartment if necessary.

The home also features a multitude of products designed by Graves himself: ceilings fans, faucets and handles, a toaster, a teapot, cooking utensils, a clock, and so much more. For Thacker, who saw many of these items come to life, these small touches are particularly meaningful.

Cherewatuk and Thacker’s home will carry on the spirit of his dear friend not only in design, but also in decor. Items in the home that were not designed by Graves still carry a story of their own. Thacker and Cherewatuk are avid antique collectors, and have brought in items such as a rolling cart from a French laundry and the basket from a fire truck, both fashioned into coffee tables. The kitchen light fixtures are commercial-sized whisks from a bakery, and the bar top once served as a bowling alley. The countertops, on the other hand, came from an old high school chemistry lab, still bearing the love notes and doodles of distracted students.

Even in these reclaimed items, the home tells an unexpected story. These tales, according to Thacker, fit well with the tone of Graves’ design. “He had brilliant ideas. His work always had a sense of whimsy, and it never took itself too seriously. It’s got a wink and a smile about it. Michael was one of top five architects in America. To have one of his homes in Northfield is such a treat.”

170220_NCC_CTHome_075In an interview with Michael Graves Architecture & Design, Thacker and Cherewatuk commented on the opportunity to live in a home designed by Graves, “Michael made great design available to the masses. We’d seen it in a toaster, a pancake flipper, and a toilet brush. Now we see how his spirit lives on in the creation of our home.”

With Money Magazine citing Northfield as one of the top cities in America to retire, the location was a natural choice for Thacker and Cherewatuk. And there is no more fitting builder to partner with in the city than Northfield Construction Company. Thacker comments, “We have always been aware of NCC. Karen had worked with them before and had good experiences, and many of our friends have used NCC over the years. They’re certainly the go-to contractor in the area; they have an excellent reputation. And it didn’t hurt that the founder lives across the street from our new house, so we know we have a 24-hour inspector across the street. Their enthusiasm for this project has been very apparent from the beginning. They shared our passion and concern for making this a perfect prototype.”

“Working with NCC is a conversation and an ongoing dialogue. They’ve been really attentive to our needs. We keep throwing them curve balls (it’s [an environmentally friendly] house, so we are repurposing several architectural artifacts from other eras) and they handle it well. We are using items like a front door from a mansion in Minneapolis, tile in bathroom from a convent floor in Chicago, and windows from a house inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. There are lots of mini treasures that we are adding to the house, and NCC has been really understanding.”

“We see this home as something more than just our house.  We’ve built it with Northfield Construction Company and the Michael Graves Architecture team as a model for Forever Homes of the future.  We hope to share our lessons and learning with others to build better designed homes for the future population, whether it’s aging or not.”  Thacker and Cherewatuk said.

See the full gallery of project photos here.

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