Designers customize dozen Washington Square condos

Sept. 3, 2018

It was one of the most sought-after jobs in the Sioux Falls interior home design market.

And the role of preferred designer at Washington Square went to two women who began as co-workers in the retail industry before striking out on their own to build a small business.

Denise Cotter and Michelle Marino coincidentally are from the same area of Kansas but didn’t meet until 20 years ago when they worked together at an apparel store in Sioux Falls.

They both had young families and decided to evolve the expertise they had built serving customers into home design.

“It’s identifying a customer’s style and being able to translate it for them,” Cotter said. “In this case, it’s through architecture, structure, fabrics and laying their design ideas together to build something they will enjoy living in long term.”

They formed Houndstooth House in 2001, did work for family and friends as they grew business and survived the recession in the late 2000s. As they built relationships with vendors and clients, the business grew.

“I think what makes Houndstooth House different is that we want each project to look different and take on its own personality,” Cotter said.

A project for Chris Houwman, one of the owners of Washington Square, led to a big break. The women were invited to be the preferred designers on the downtown condominiums, leading them to work on a dozen projects there.

“They’re good listeners. It’s not about their design. It’s about listening to the client. That’s one of the things that pulled them into the project,” Houwman said. “Our goal from a developer standpoint was to get a design team integrated in with the contractors and suppliers to deliver an efficient product, and we achieved that.”

While residents weren’t required to work with Houndstooth House, most did.

Now, as people begin to tour the finished spaces, the reaction is pretty consistent.

“It’s jaw-dropping,” Cotter said. “They can’t believe the diversity in the overall project. We didn’t double up a tile twice. There’s no same wood floor. No same layout. Everything was 100 percent customized.”

The designers worked with a broad group of local businesses in putting the spaces together, including:

  • Betz Blinds
  • Creative Surfaces
  • Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Galleries
  • Karl’s TV, Appliance & Furniture
  • Milliron Granite & Quartz
  • Pahl’s Designer Showrooms
  • Showplace Cabinetry
  • Sioux Falls Kitchen & Bath
  • Syverson Tile & Stone
  • Thornton Flooring

“I think people expect a design team to have a certain look that they do all the time consistently, and we really do step out of that box and work with clients to personalize it,” Marino said.

Here’s a look, condo by condo, at some of the signature features in each space:

Traditional elegance

This condo “takes your breath away,” Cotter said. “The kitchen is beautiful, and there’s outstanding use of wallpaper and wall treatments throughout.”

The master bathroom “is the most beautiful bathroom you’ve ever seen,” Marino added. “It’s marble and inlaid tile mosaic on the wall and floor, with his-and-her armoires.”

Backlit bar, butler’s pantry

It’s impossible to miss the standout quartz wall that integrates with a backlit bar in this unit.

“It’s a showstopper,” Cotter said. “You’re on the sixth floor and you look out over the city lights and you feel like you’re in New York. It’s meant for entertaining.”

The kitchen includes a butler’s pantry for prep work, leaving the massive island free for guests and owners.

The master bathroom includes Calcutta gold marble tile and ceramic wood plank tile walls.

“This is sophisticated rustic,” Cotter said.

Beautiful floor, gathering space

This condo features an outstanding tiled wood inlay floor that creates a dynamic entry.

“It’s a beautiful floor,” Cotter said. “We made a really cute personal office for one of the owners, with floating shelves.”

The kitchen features a pub-style gathering space ideal for entertaining.

Classic design 

This condo is one of the most traditional designed in the building.

“It has the most classic, elaborate, painted wood cabinetry,” Marino said. “And a really cool stacked- stone backsplash.”

Mission look 

This condo is designed with a Mission-style look, which originated in the late 19th century and was popularized with a line of furniture.

Its floors are one of the highlights – they’re bamboo and accented with “beautiful Turkish rugs,” Cotter said.

“The kitchen features a fun teal backsplash, quartersawn oak cabinetry and floating shelves.”

Modern cabinetry 

The cabinetry in this condominium has been in Europe for a decade but has finally arrived in the Midwest.

“It’s clean, sleek and very European,” Marino said.

The high-gloss, frameless look “really modernizes the kitchen,” Cotter added. “There’s also a flush gas stovetop, which is the first we’ve seen.”

This condo also includes a wet closet, with the tub and shower in the same glass enclosure.

Crafted cabinetry, modern feel

Minnesota craftsman Paul Nibbe of Wanton Cabinetry created outstanding cabinetry for two condos at Washington Square, including this one.

“They have a hand-routered buffet and wet bar, hand-routered cabinet door, natural stone countertops that are amazing,” Marino said. “Plus a kitchen wall that’s floor-to-ceiling doors that houses two pantries and a refrigerator.”

There’s also a unique wood wire-brushed oak floor and modern furnishings.


This is the next condo under construction, featuring bamboo cabinetry and an expansive wrap-around deck.

“It will have the lightest walls and lightest wood floor,” Marino said. “It’s very California, really beautiful and serene.”

The Houndstooth team isn’t done yet. They’re working to finish up a couple of condos under construction and hoping to do more once the final units have sold.

The entire project has been transformative for their business, they said.

“It has opened so many doors for us in the industry, but the best part is the people we’ve met,” Cotter said.

They also have kept their normal book of business going throughout the Washington Square project. They work with a contractor who is continually building homes, and they hired an assistant to help keep up with demand. Their work will be part of a featured home on the Fall Parade of Homes.

“You put everything in the pipeline,” Cotter said. “You can’t say no because this too shall end.”

There are five condos left at Washington Square, ranging from 1,600 to 2,800 square feet. But they might not last long.

“The interest level is high, and I think now that the majority of people are moving in and their family and friends and colleagues are in and out of the space, people are seeing themselves living that type of lifestyle,” Houwman said.

“It’s met every expectation we had, and it’s met the expectations of the residents.”

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Designers customize dozen Washington Square condos

Come with us inside downtown’s Washington Square and meet the designers behind a dozen of the building’s spectacular condos.

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