Dahms Family LEGO House

Dahms Family LEGO House

Name: Fred & Julie Dahms and family
Location: On the Milwaukee River in Mequon, Wisconsin
Size: 2,300 square feet
Years lived in:

Next time you step on a LEGO block and silently curse your children for leaving their toys all over the place, think of this home and smile. Fred and Julie Dahms built this bright, modern 2,300 square-foot home a few years ago, based on a LEGO design put together by Fred and the couple's son, Max. Of course, it helps that Fred Dahms is an architectural designer.

The focal point of the home is the open living room and kitchen area with its modern Parallam and steel staircase. Parallam? Fred explains that Parallam is a material used by builders in open spaces in place of steel. More cost effective, oftentimes stronger, and easier to join, Parallam is a material that reveals a surprisingly beautiful character when sanded down a little and given a subtle finish. Fred says he came across a scrap piece of the material on a construction site and had an "a-ha!" moment.

The gorgeous staircase aside, what strikes the casual visitor most about the home is how liveable it is. Yes, it is modern, spare and uncluttered, and yes there are a few Design Within Reach staples here and there, but you can tell a family lives here. Some of the framed art, on closer inspection, is the handiwork of Max and his sister, Mira, and the LEGO storage is right there in the living room — it is just well-hidden. Walk upstairs, and the children's bedrooms are filled with the usual flotsam and jetsam of childhood. Modern, well-designed, but thoroughly unpretentious.

The lack of pretense is owed, in part, to the influence of a certain Swedish company we all know and love. In the Dahms house, IKEA reigns supreme. From the bathroom faucets to the bedside tables and the modern lamps scattered here and there, IKEA has done its job beautifully; providing a family home with highly functional and modern pieces on a budget that leaves room for investment in other areas.

The obvious question to ask of the Dahms family is: "Can I see the LEGO model?" And of course, I asked that very question. At first, I was surprised to learn that Fred and Max had taken the model apart to use the bricks for a new project. But having given it a little thought, it only makes sense for this down-to-earth family that they didn't make a LEGO shrine for the mantel.

As a side note, the home is on the market! The Dahms family is off on their latest adventure, leaving this gorgeous space up for grabs.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Craftsman Modern — a mix of traditional details with modern minimalist style. Using light neutrals interspersed with fun, colorful accents. Bringing the outdoors inside as much as possible.

Inspiration: Julie's parents' traditional farmhouse in Bavaria, travels to Italy, the Pacific Northwest and Vegas!

Favorite Element: We love how our home is flooded with light. Also, plenty of hidden storage for our stuff, which helps keep the minimalist style pretty easily most of the time. And we can't forget the river!

Biggest Challenge: Keeping mass appeal for resale value, while still being unique.

What Friends Say: How do you keep your house so clean with two kids? Where is everything?

Biggest Embarrassment: First, the house looks a lot larger than it is. Also, the powder faucet is impossible to turn off with wet hands, as the knobs are a perfect circle without any grip!

Proudest DIY: Picking up a discarded piece of 3½" Parallam and thinking, "this would make a great stair tread! Or a great mantel! Or a great vanity!" And then using it for all of the above. Also, starting from scratch and seeing our landscaping come to life.

Biggest Indulgence: It is difficult not to indulge when building — we tried to hold back on most items and then pop for things that made the most impact — such as the floating steel and Parallam staircase.

Best Advice: Keep it small and simple, never forget about IKEA, and it is much less stressful to let your five-year-old eat a Popsicle on a Barcelona chair knockoff than the real thing.

Dream Sources: IKEA, knockoffs on eBay, Trends Magazine, Dwell, LEGOs!

Thanks, Fred and Julie!

Images: Liz Setterfield

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