All posts by Tom Sweeney

Knight Basement Lands 2017 CotY Award


Minneapolis (Nov. 16, 2017) — Knight Construction Design tonight received the silver 2017 Minnesota Contractor of the Year (CotY) Award for the best Basement Remodeling in the under $100,000 category. The Chanhassen project was one of three entries. Knight Designer Kristen Peck accepted the crystal trophy at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s CotY Awards Gala. The annual event was held in International Market Square’s the 5-story atrium and attended by more than 300 NARI members and guests.

Home theater

The young family had tasked Knight to convert a basic basement child zone into a “grown up” space where they could watch TV, play poker or just relax with a favorite beverage. The challenge was to incorporate a bar, an over 70-in. television and a new direct vent gas fireplace in the limited wall space while satisfying strict venting codes. With creative design, quality materials and innovative technology, the clients got everything they hoped for and more!

The TV and the fireplace wouldn’t fit on the same wall in the home theater area, so Knight installed the fireplace in the game section near the new 6-ft. patio door. This location actually helped to heat the basement more efficiently in the absence of in-floor radiant heat. A tall, oversized stone surround bump-out enabled Knight to vent the fireplace the required distance from the opening and clear the concrete block knee wall.

To enhance the design and add detail, Knight flanked the fireplace and around the projection screen with reclaimed barn wood. Rich, cherry custom cabinetry contrasts with the basement’s existing blonde wood trim.

The bar features a quartz top and textured glass backsplash. The luxury vinyl tile flooring is a practical yet beautiful choice for the game and bar areas. A custom live-edge wood bar table separates the TV space from the bar area.

Collins game table

Multiple types of fixtures and zones provide flexibility for both mood and task lighting. Recessed lighting is on three zones. Wall sconces, pendant lights and undercabinet lighting are on separate dimmer switches.

Kristen Peck with NARI President Jason Myrlie

CotY judges from NARI’s Milwaukee Chapter scored the project on a 15-point scale for six criteria: meeting clients’ needs, functional improvements, aesthetic enhancements, innovation, craftsmanship and degree of difficulty. It received an average score of 14 across the six areas.

2017 NARI MN CotY Gala

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Our Airstream Summer – Remodeling in Style in Wayzata


Credit good people karma. Alisa Benson had let her sister, Jennifer, park her Airstream trailer on their large wooded Wayzata lot for two years. Last year, her husband Sean was eager to see it go, but Alisa appealed for patience. Then they signed a contract this year for Knight Construction Design to undertake a summer-long remodeling of their 1969 home and everything changed. Suddenly, it became the “Airstream summer.” Now the couple and their two boys could not be happier to have the shiny guesthouse on wheels just across their secluded circular drive.

Airstream summer

Roughing it smoothly

Ask anyone. Living in a home during a major remodeling usually is something to be endured, not enjoyed. Some families plan ahead by setting up a temporary kitchen or heading out on a nice long vacation. The less fortunate ones end up preparing crockpot dinners in the basement and washing dishes in a laundry sink. The Bensons had a much better idea. They commandeered the Airstream to cook and eat meals and gather while their kitchen and family room were torn apart. The classic trailer also made for a nostalgic backdrop for their patriotic July 4 party. Alisa and the boys even sleep out there now and then – just for the fun of it.

“It would have been really challenging (without the Airstream), so we don’t take this for granted. We know how special it is,” Alisa said. “People keep asking us if the remodeling is stressful. And I tell them it’s not because A, we work with Knight and they are so fantastic. And B, because of the infrastructure we have out here with the Airstream. It’s our new norm and it’s totally okay. It actually has been very pleasant.”

“We sort of feel like the caretakers because we are around, but we don’t have to be in the remodeling,” she continued. “And there is a doorbell to the Airstream.”

Sean half-joked with Jennifer that if she didn’t plan to use the Airstream after they were done with it this fall, she should rent it out to another family planning a major remodeling project. Well, maybe a family further south. Think AirBnB on wheels.


Lessons from the simple life

Granted, a new(ish) Airstream with air conditioning and running water isn’t exactly roughing it. But camping (or at least cooking) in the trailer all summer long has helped the Bensons appreciate the simpler life and pull together as a family.

“I think you pull together more as a family when you are camping.” Alisa explained. “When I say to the kids, hey the water in the tank is getting low. Would you go and connect the hoses? They do it. They are learning how to service things. They’re also learning that when we need something done, like checking the propane, we need it done now. It’s not like, ‘would you do the dishes when you feel like it?’ It’s ‘I can’t cook dinner until we get the hose thing connected.’ They are more mindful of the fact that this only works if we are all pitching in. It’s not like ‘do this to get the gold star’. It’s ‘I need water.’ And it makes you appreciate water more,” Alisa said.

What’s more, lessons from the experience have drifted to the remodeling project design. For instance, Knight designer Kristen Peck worked with Modern Design Cabinetry to incorporate open shelves in place of upper cabinets in the kitchen because the family wants to store less stuff and keep it accessible.

“I always said I wanted our kitchen to feel like people can come in, know where a wine glass is, take it themselves and know that they are immediately welcome as opposed to it’s a pristine kitchen and I don’t know where anything is and I don’t know if I should open anything,” Alisa said. “I want our kitchen to make people feel at home. And you do have to live more simply when stuff is just there on open shelves.”

Adventures in camping

The Airstream may be Minnesota’s coolest construction trailer, but the Bensons admit it has not been without its challenges.

“We walked out of the front of our house one night and we both smelled what smelled like rotten eggs,” Sean recalled. “As I got closer to the Airstream, it clearly was ground zero.”

“They were wonderful,” Alisa said of the volunteer firefighters who responded. “They brought the huge fire truck and I got a picture of the seven guys in all their gear with the boys and Sean. The kids are not going to forget that! You could get all stressed out, but we figured it out and it was fine and now it’s part of the story. It’s the summer of the Airstream.”

Sean said it also was handy to have Knight around when the Airstream’s circuit breakers started to trip. “Knight’s electrician ran a heavy gauge power line through the trees and directly to a panel on the side of the house. The Airstream guy came out a week later and said, whoever did that really knew what he was doing.”

While he looks forward to the improved flow and features in their remodeled home, Sean admits he will miss the Airstream when it goes. “It really is karma for me because I was becoming irritated with this Airstream in my yard for two years. And wouldn’t you know that now I am benefiting hugely from it,” he said. “There are times it feels like vacation or an adventure because this is not the house. You’re in a different mind space when you are out here.”

Fortunately, it was not the Airstream winter.


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NARI names Knight MN Contractor of the Year


Knight Construction Design has earned two more Minnesota Contractor of the Year (CotY) awards from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). The 2016 honors span both indoor and exterior projects and follow Knight’s 2015 National Contractor of the Year recognition.

Photo of Gary Knight and Kristen Peck

Knight won the Gold CotY for Residential Exterior under $200,000 and the Silver CotY for Residential Bath Over $75,000.

The exterior project added curb appeal and accessibility to a home with a daughter who has been confined to a wheelchair most of her life. It featured a covered entry and ramp with decorative metal railing. A tall, side garage addition on the corner lot suits the family’s handicap van. And the new roofline enhances curb appeal.

The winning master suite his/hers luxury baths delivered the clients’ desired floor plan and quality fixtures despite demanding site challenges (such as demolishing the poured concrete, rebar-reinforced sunken spa tub to make room for the new drop-in air bubble bath. Special care was taken to salvage and match custom millwork and preserve the former fixtures for resale.

“We enter these industry award competitions as much for our clients as for ourselves,” Gary Knight said. “Our projects are a team effort. Our clients are willing to invest in good design, superior craftsmanship and quality materials. We owe these awards to their continued support.”

Gary commended Designer Kristen Peck and Project Manager Jeff Harrison for their award-winning work. Gary and Kristen accepted the awards at the NARI MN CotY Awards Gala attended by more than 300 remodeling industry colleagues at International Market Square on Nov. 17, 2016. Minnesota remodelers entered 89 projects in 26 categories this year. Knight Construction Design won the national CotY title for best entire house remodeling $250,000-$500,000 last year.

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Gary Knight photo

Gary Knight joins NARI-MN Board of Directors


Certified Remodeler Gary Knight of Knight Construction Design begins a two-year term this week on the board of directors of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s Minnesota Chapter (NARI-MN).

Minnesota is NARI’s second largest chapter nationwide. The association is a primary resource for remodeling companies and their clients. It elevates the professionalism of the remodeling industry by expanding knowledge, building relationships and recognizing excellence. This helps property owners identify the most accomplished and reputable remodeling firms in the Greater Twin Cities metro.

Gary’s first official act as board member will be to participate the board’s annual retreat this Thursday and Friday. During the extended planning session, board members will review the association’s five-year strategic plan and discuss how to continue to enhance service to contractors and consumers alike.

Knight Construction has received numerous NARI Contractor of the Year (CotY) awards in multiple categories over past several years, including 2015 National Contractor of the Year for entire home remodeling $250,000-500,000. Gary also has been an active participant in local NARI Roundtables.

“NARI-MN members earned twice as many national CotY awards as the next closest state chapter this year. This speaks volumes about the quality of remodeling design and construction in Minnesota,” Gary said. “I look forward to investing my own design-build experience to help NARI-MN grow as the top resource for homeowners who are choosing remodelers and for contractors who want to certify and be recognized for their skills.”

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Tour Remodelers Showcase R24 now in Eagan


Fall 2015 Remodelers Showcase

Come and see what our award-winning 2015 NARI National Contractor of the Year team can do for you during the Parade of Home’s Fall Remodelers Showcase tour this weekend.

The Showcase features a project Knight completed at 4779 Highcroft Court, Eagan. The extensive renovation of this 90’s two-story home fulfilled the family’s desire for functionality and design.

On the main level, we reconfigured the kitchen and dining room to accommodate a large peninsula and walk-in pantry. We also converted the old laundry into a proper mudroom with custom storage and a tile floor.

The home now features a more convenient upstairs laundry. We also updated the master suite with a spa tub and large walk-in shower. The upper landing and staircase feature hardwood flooring and a new custom railing.

The Knight Construction Design project is one of 63 remodeled homes on the Remodelers Showcase tour this weekend. Homes can be seen from noon to 6 PM today and tomorrow (Oct 3-4).

To reach the Knight showcase home, take Highway 77 to Cliff Road, west on Cliff Road, south on Slater Road, east on Warrick Court, and south on Highcroft Court. Watch for the R-24 sign on the right.

Learn more at:

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132 Benton Ave N photo

Knight completes choice new Wayzata home


Knight Construction Design is known for its award-winning remodeling projects, including the Edina renovation that earned it 2015 national Contractor of the Year honors in the $250,001-$500,000 whole-house category from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). It also has built complete custom homes half a dozen times when the right properties became available. This is one of them!

See 132 Benton Ave. N home this weekend

Know someone who wants a brand new, 4-bedroom custom home in an established neighborhood and premium 55391 zip code that’s secluded but within walking distance of entertainment, shopping and Minnesota’s premier lake? Then mark your calendar to visit 132 Benton Ave. N., Wayzata, 1:00 to 3:00 PM Saturday, August 15.

The home is in Gary Knight’s own Wayzata neighborhood, nestled conveniently behind the new Walgreen’s Pharmacy at Wayzata Blvd. and Central Avenue.

Quality inside and out

From outside, you’ll fall in love with the classic front and rear porches and prominent gables that make the two-story scale more like a story-and-a-half behind the mature front lawn maple.

With 3,120 square feet of living space, it offers a large, center-island gourmet kitchen and walk-in pantry, luxurious master suite, second floor laundry, open main-level floor plan and fully finished lower level. But the true charm comes from the oversized natural stone fireplace, rich finished-in-place walnut floors, elegant turned staircase and sun-splashed Marvin windows.

Benton LR photo


Convenience plus privacy

“This home is within walking distance of great restaurants, grocery, coffee shops, clothing stores and Lake Minnetonka, and you can be on the highway to Minneapolis in minutes,” Gary said. “As the city improves the intersection at Wayzata Blvd. and the blue spruces in the backyard mature over the next few years, the property will become even more valuable, accessible and secluded.”

Major remodeling makes sense for families who like the location of their existing homes and are prepared to live through months of design and construction. If not, they usually are better off buying a move-in-ready home that meets all of their needs.

“Benton Ave. is perfect for a family who would prefer a brand new home in an established neighborhood with character rather than in a big new subdivision,” Gary said.

In remodeling, the trick is to make the new fit with the old. Benton Ave. posed a different challenge. Knight needed to fit a large, family-friendly home on a narrow lot and make it suit the neighborhood. They achieved the goal by tucking the attached 2-1/2-car garage around back and optimizing living space on all three levels.

Contact Gary Petersen to schedule your visit

The home is listed at $1,095,000 with Gary Petersen of Coldwell Banker Burnet Realty. To request a personal showing, call 952-451-0284. Learn more about quality construction by exploring the Knight Construction Design website.

Master bedroom

Gourmet kitchen

porch and garage photo

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Houzz features Knight’s Eden Prairie Kitchen


HOUZZ Article -Knight Construction

Knight Construction Design loves to display its remodeling and new construction projects on Houzz. Today Houzz showed a little love of its own, featuring the Eden Prairie kitchen project we entered in the BATC Parade of Homes Spring 2015 Remodelers Showcase. Read Houzz Article.

Special thanks to our designer Kristen Peck who always makes us look great.

Kristen Peck photo>

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Jeff Harrison photo

Jeff Harrison, White Knight


Excuse Jeff Harrison if his phone buzzes and he dashes away in his big Knight Construction truck. Don’t worry. He’s not one of those contractors who leave you hanging to start another project. Jeff’s a proud Mound volunteer firefighter. And like his senior project manager role at Knight Construction Design, he takes the public service duty seriously.

Although the name on the sign says Knight, Jeff’s the guy who takes personal responsibility for scheduling trade partners, ensuring quality control and keeping several customers happy and calm on any given day. He’s Mister Detail, a role he enjoys almost as much as hunting or spending time fishing on his boat with his three kids. Well, almost. They’re awfully cute kids.


Jeff Harrison photo

Second generation Knight legacy

Jeff started in construction at 16 working for his dad, a veteran framing contractor who built with Gary Knight. When his father headed north to Detroit Lakes, Jeff stayed on with Gary and began to climb the Knight Construction Design ladder.

In the beginning, Knight kept most of the work in-house, which gave Jeff plenty of opportunities for on the job training. Over 15 years he learned every aspect of homebuilding and remodeling. Jeff progressed from crewmember to lead carpenter to senior project manager. He also earned his Certified Remodeling Project Manager (CRPM) certification from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) along the way.

Certification took two months of online classes, homework and tests. Students from across the country got to share experiences and compare best practices during interactive sessions, which was Jeff’s favorite part of the experience.

Relationships built on trust

Jeff says his Knight days tend to go smoothly because of the trust and friendships he has built with trade partners over hundreds of jobs.

“I’ve worked with many of these guys for 10 years or more. I know what to expect when they get on the project. I know the job is going to get done right and that they will call me if there’s a question,” Jeff said.

The Knight remodeling projects Jeff manages range from $50,000 kitchens to $1 million whole house renovations and additions. He also is responsible for managing Knight’s new home construction, such as the house they recently completed at 132 Benton Ave. tucked behind the new Walgreen’s Pharmacy in Wayzata.

Wayzata House

“I like the new home projects because we get to show off our quality throughout. When we build these houses, everything is quality,” he explained. “We figure people are paying good money and should get the best. It’s not enough for something to look good.”

Advice for clients

What can clients do to ensure the best remodeling experience? Simple. “Invest the time to complete all selections up front so we don’t have to reschedule jobs waiting for stuff to arrive,” Jeff said.

Based on scores of successful projects, Jeff also suggests, “Don’t hold back.”

“If you are doing it for yourself, not for resale, don’t be afraid to invest in what you really want. How often do you get to do a $200,000 remodeling?” he said.

One more thing. Don’t forget to replace your smoke detector batteries twice a year. That’s the volunteer firefighter talking.

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Knight captures Triple Crown of 2015 NARI CotY Awards for Outstanding Edina Project


CotY entire house 250 to 500N15_pms287

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) named Knight Construction Design 2015 National Contractor of the Year last weekend for its outstanding work at a Mirror Lake Drive, Edina, home. The Chanhassen remodeler won in the entire house remodeling $250,000-500,000 category. Seven other NARI MN members won in smaller categories. This is the fourth National Contractor of the Year Award Knight Construction Design has won since joining NARI in 2000. It also holds dozens of Minnesota and regional homebuilding and remodeling awards.


Gary Knight had received NARI Minnesota Contractor of the Year gold honors last fall and then took top prize in the NARI North Central Region 3 CotY Awards in the same category earlier this year to qualify for national consideration.

The triple award-winning project features a 17×32-foot addition, dual-sided Montana stone fireplace, large Marvin windows and doors, expanded mudroom, and enhanced master suite and office.

“The addition modernized the flow of the main level and connected the kitchen and living room to the new sitting/dining room. This made the space much brighter and more comfortable,” explained designer Kristen Peck.

By adding just three feet to the home’s front elevation, Knight was able to match the rear addition roofline and make the whole house look new and appealing.

Gary and Kelley Knight photo

Gary and Kelley Knight are pictured above after receiving the award at the NARI National Evening of Excellence event. Some 160 entries vied for national honors in 36 categories. Judges evaluated the projects on problem solving, functionality, aesthetics, craftsmanship, innovation, degree of difficulty and presentation without knowing who submitted the entries.

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Kristen Peck photo

More than 100 toured Knight Construction Design’s spring Remodelers Showcase kitchen


More than 100 people visited Knight Construction Design’s beautiful Eden Prairie kitchen, which was featured in the Parade of Homes Spring Remodelers Showcase tour last week weekend. “Wow,” was the most common reaction, according to Kristen Peck, Interior Designer, Allied ASID, CAPS.

The old kitchen was dark, inefficient and outdated. A mechanicals chase for the furnace and water heater flue had divided the room and led to awkward appliance placement. Short, dark cabinets wasted space and vinyl flooring clashed with surrounding carpeting.

Designer Kristen Peck at 2015 Remodelers Showcase home

Buckingham kitchen short wall

Gary Knight and Peck worked together to overcome every obstacle to produce a space that works every bit as well as it looks. The new kitchen features:

• New, white ceiling-height cabinets are enameled to match existing main level trim.

• New dark oak floor throughout the main level integrates the kitchen, dining room, living room and entry hall and anchors Dorian Gray and Tony Taupe painted walls.

• A new high efficiency direct-vent furnace and water heater in the lower level eliminates the obtrusive chase to make way for Bosch double ovens and a French-door fridge.

• An enlarged Marvin window, LED undercabinet lights and multiple recessed ceiling lights await installation of peninsula pendant lights for a bright, safe and pleasant cooking environment.

• Wall cabinets at the peninsula were adapted to conceal rerouted mechanicals.

• Touch-free high-rise faucet, deep drawers and multiple organization features enhance accessibility.

• Counter-depth, stainless steel Bosch refrigerator, dishwasher, gas cooktop and stacked microwave/convection and conventional wall ovens create a functional workspace.

• An efficient, VentAHood range hood replaces the noisy old space saver microwave.

• A reduced coat closet gave way to a more inviting entry.

• Granite countertops and a darker under-mount Blanco sink replace the laminate counter over-mount sink.


The project demonstrated that even a small kitchen remodeling can make a big impact with clever design details and superior craftsmanship. To learn more about the project and discuss your own remodeling needs, contact Gary or Kristen at Knight Construction Design.

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