In this in-depth interview with Jim Acheson, founder and president of Acheson Builders, Lucy Ann Lance discusses the 2016 Remodelers Home Tour, the Acheson Builders design style, and a particularly challenging older-home remodeling job at 2037 Winstead in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This traditional 1970s home harbored a claustrophobic dinette and u-shaped kitchen until Acheson Builders gave it a new life.
This most fascinating older home on Ann Arbor’s “Old West Side” embodied several eras of style:
A Greek Revival settlement-era original from the 1840s, combined with a mid 19th century (1860s or 1870s) practical-but-poorly-built addition, a showy 1890s Victorian era addition, and a 1970’s update on the cheap.
While possessing lots of charm in the details, and a lovely front elevation, the home was awkward and limiting to live in.
CREATIVE, THOUGHTFUL DESIGN SOLUTIONS BY THE ACHESON BUILDERS TEAM
Acheson Builders’ design team (l-r): Kimble Wright, Lauren Schaefers, Jim Acheson
Renovation ideas from two different designers hadn’t met the owner’s goals, before the Acheson design team was called in. Creative problem solving, attentive listening, and abundant experience enabled the Acheson team to meet both the homeowner’s goals and local Historic District requirements, as well as Acheson Builders’ high standards of functionality, refinement, and classical esthetics. Relocating and improving the main stairs (see below) turned out to be one of the keys in re-configuring this home to meet a growing family’s needs, and this stairway became an elegant focal point for the newly created foyer area by the front door.
Graceful and sophisticated custom staircase
Gorgeous walnut flooring throughout main floor, tying in to original
Addition (partially two story) encompassing new Kitchen, Dining and Family Rooms
Newly created bedroom space on second floor, with enlarged 2nd floor bath
Loads of classy custom cabinetry and custom built-ins and unique storage in Kitchen, Family Room, and bedrooms
Interesting ceiling lines and custom mouldings add great charm
Circular stairway to lower level; wall displays some original 1840’s stonework
Fully finished bright Basement with bedroom
MAIN STAIRWAY: DRAMATIC BEFORE AND AFTER!
The original stairs from the 1840s Greek Revival part of the home went up to a second floor which was formerly a large sleeping loft, with no original partitions and no bathroom (they used outhouses back then).
The stairs were incredibly steep and unsafe — with tall risers, narrow treads. and barely 24” of width so that a broad shouldered man would have to go up the stairs at an angle.
The home’s living room was located right inside the front door. It had no coat closet nor enclosed vestibule to block the winter cold. It was also a major pass‐through room to get to all other points in the home. As you can imagine, it was a very awkward location for a living room. By placing the new stairway in this area, these main stairs became part of a newly created foyer space, and the back three‐quarters of the home was then freed up on both levels to reconfigure for more functionally pleasing living spaces on both floors.
Here it is, a cool morning, and my husband and I start a beautiful day here in Michigan. We started our business, Acheson Builders, back in 1973, over 36 years ago! Our vision was to focus on our craftsmanship and attention to detail. After all, we are trusted with the pleasure of working on people’s homes – the place where our clients’ family lives and spends the majority of their time. Their peace and haven.
Acheson, over the years, has developed a reputation and a saying that we adopted from our clients and feel is very appropriate for how we go about our craft:
“An Artist’s Eye, A Craftsman’s Touch.”
What’s Important to YOU?
With our name on the business and right there for everyone in our community to see, our name is everything to us. This isn’t just a business, it is our life and passion. Our desire is your desire: to have an honest relationship, build with the true skill of a craftsman, assess your needs and deliver to your family what you deserve – An experience that will make you proud to be part of our family of clients.
Choosing what is right for your home
When we meet with a family that is interested in having their home enhanced, redesigned or wanting and needing remodeling, we realize that everything we mentioned above is important. Since 90% of our family of clients are referred to us or are previous clients calling us for more work, we focus all of our efforts on doing what is right, communicating effectively, working diligently and keep the true priorities in mind everyday:
Acheson Builders recently completed a major kitchen remodeling project for us. They work very hard to avoid surprises (some surprises are inevitable when remodeling an older house) and to stay within budget. The quality of the design and the work itself are exceptional. We are very pleased with the results.
Jim and Marilyn Acheson are great people to work with and the men who worked on our project, Kevin and Ben, are terrific people whom we would welcome into our house any time.
This most recent project is the third time (over a period of about thirty years in three different houses) that we have worked with Jim on a kitchen remodeling project. We have never been less than satisfied.
After serving diligently on the Board of Directors of Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Ann Arbor (BRAG AA), Jim Acheson has been named, in effect, director for life. In a ceremony held November 3, 2021, attended by the full board of directors, award plaques were presented to Jim and four colleagues marking 10+ years… read more