Local remodelers win national award

In the past, Orfield Remodeling, Inc. has never spent much time marketing itself or striving to win design awards. The 26-year-old Southwest company has typically been too busy to care, generating most of its business through word-of-mouth.

Imagine this business' surprise when it was the only Minnesota company to receive Remodeling magazine's 2003 Big 50 Award for Fine Design.

"We were nominated by someone else, so it means a lot," said Rachael Orfield, sales and marketing director for the company owned and started by her father, Wallace. "It's brought our business to a new level with a new focus to advertise more and try to win more awards."

Orfield Remodeling received its award May 16 during the Remodeling Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. Along with other Big 50 companies, Orfield was featured in the May issue of Remodeling magazine, the leading publication in the home improvement industry that annually picks Big 50 winners after evaluating nominated businesses. Orfield was singled out for high aesthetic standards.

"The conference in Washington, D.C. was a great experience for me," said Wally Orfield. "It was invigorating to spend time with other remodelers who understand how much the industry has evolved in recent years."

Rachael Orfield said that evolution has entailed a change in the public's perception of remodeling companies.

"Remodeling has always been viewed as contractors coming in, doing a crappy job and screwing the people who hired them," she said. "I think in recent years it's viewed differently; it's not a blue collar profession any more, and people recognize what talented remodelers there are."

Big 50 remodeling companies are selected for having high standards in professionalism, integrity, unique design and impact on their communities or the industry. Growing businesses that generate anywhere from $1 million a year, like Orfield, to $12 million a year can receive the recognition. Since 1986, 37 Minnesota remodeling companies have landed a Big 50 spot, compared to top-ranking California with 86 Big 50 remodelers.

From the design concepts to tearing out walls to inserting new cabinets, Orfield Remodeling at 3507 W. 50th St. is a start-to-finish residential remodeling company.

Wallace Orfield graduated from the University of Minnesota's architecture school. He designs all the projects and also serves as the general contractor, instructing carpenters daily throughout the course of a project. Orfield experiments with creative ideas on how to blend old and new structures and how to take advantage of lighting and outside view.

"He's a very big part of the work that we do," Rachael Orfield said.

Other crewmembers include carpenters Craig Swanson and Lonny Murray. Most of the company's projects have been in the Southwest area, but also in Burnsville, Bloomington and Edina.

Future plans for the company include doubling in size over the next few years by hiring a new project manager and a junior architect.

"We're just going to continue to strive to be better and better," Rachael Orfield said, "and hopefully winning this award will help our clientele increase."