Triangle House

DIY, Inspiration By January 22, 2018 No Comments


The average price for a new construction home in the US in 2017 was $282,853. A typical single-family home goes from a plot of land to four walls of move-in ready space in about seven months. Along the way, the process taps at least two dozen different tradesmen & women and generates around eight thousand pounds of waste. For most people that’s all well and good (except for the waste part) and relatively affordable. Who has the time to build their own home anyway? Trust the people with the skills and have ’em call you when it’s done, right?

If you’re New Mexico artist Gagoghs, you look at your $18,000 budget, your own two hands and say “f$*k all that, I’ll just do it myself.” Four walls? Why not three? The Triangle House may have been born of necessity, but it quickly became Gagoghs’s greatest artistic achievement.

No, Gagoghs is not his real name. But he is a real dude. And a real badass. Save a few exceptions (electrical by Buffalo Solar), every cut, nail, and every slab of concrete was run through the saw, driven home, or poured by Gagoghs himself. So yeah. Badass.

A former Los Angeleno turned high desert dweller, Gagoghs mentions he has no formal training in the construction trade, which makes the fact he built a house alone even more insane. His days in Los Angeles were spent working in the display department at Urban Outfitters, which served as his intro to the trade. “I found I just had a knack for precision, and could easily see in my head how something needed to look in the end,” he says.


As life tends to do, it eventually whisked Gagoghs away from LA to Philadelphia. He remodeled a house in Philly, but before long felt the pull of The West again. “We had stopped through Taos while moving to Philadelphia,” Gagoghs says. “We couldn’t get it out of our minds.” Not surprisingly, the price to buy a home in Taos was relatively WAY EFFING CHEAPER than LA or Philadelphia. He bought an old rundown earthship that needed a lot of love and got to work. He fixed the place up, built an addition featuring complex concrete pours (self-taught on the job, because duh), and honed his skills a little more.

I’ve never been there myself (yet), but Taos is a pretty magical place from what I’ve gathered. It’s the kind of place where if you’re an absentee homeowner and don’t hire a caretaker, you may come back to find a nest of hippies shacking up in your spot. It’s the kind of place where you can secure ownership of a plot of land by care-taking someone else’s property against said roving hippies & squatters. It’s the kind of place where you can literally eschew your own name, say “F$*k the world, I’m Gagoghs now,” and everyone’s like “Tight.” It’s the kind of place that’s so isolated that if you’re entertaining some dillhole in Minneapolis’s fancy to interview you, you drive to a stretch of road in the middle of nowhere to get cell reception and kick back on the phone while elk pass you by indifferently.

I’ve always been one to feel the pull of The West, and every time I make a trip out that way, I have a real hard time coming back. So help me when I finally make it out to Taos. I can feel the vortex from here.

Triangle House

One of the trades that was completely skipped in the building of Triangle House was an architect. Exactly zero sketches, drawings, blueprints, or renderings of the house were made. Zero. It all existed upstairs in Gagoghs’s head, perfectly rendered and ready to be translated into reality. Why a triangle, you ask? “I just wanted to do something unique,” he says. Well he did that, while also guaranteeing that almost every cut along the way would be custom.

Over the years prior, Gagoghs had collected building materials from Craigslist, architectural salvage vendors, and by “finding shit out in the woods.” Once a plot of land was secured, he rolled up his sleeves, measured 32 foot sides, 60 degree angles, and started pouring concrete. Framing the house alone “was one of the biggest challenges of the whole project,” he says. “Everything had to be dead square, and dead plumb,” which of course all had to start with a perfectly level slab.

Concrete slab down & cured, so began an 18-month grind of daily solo work, one cut at a time. You know how walls are normally framed, where it’s built on the ground then raised up and fixed in place? Yeah, you can’t do that alone. Gagoghs was literally building from the ground up, consulting those drawings in his head along the way. Problems that arose required making adjustments. “But everything pretty much went according to how I envisioned it,” Gagoghs says.

Fast forward thru those 18 months of building, framing, and the daily grind, and Gagoghs was on the home stretch, ready to build the interior rooms and move in. Exhausted from a year and a half of non-stop building, it was time for a relief pitcher.

Cue my brother Sam. “I knew the bathroom needed to be here, the kitchen over there, and the living room there,” Gagoghs says, but he only had a basic idea of the interior’s design. Gagoghs and Sam collaborated to finish the place in style. “We worked six days a week for three months,” Sam said. “It was flawless, we really brought out the best in each other.”


Aside from plywood sheeting and framing lumber, all of the building materials making up Triangle House are reclaimed or recycled. Remember those years of Craigslisting, architectural salvaging, and back-woods scavenging? Well it paid off, helping to make an $18k budget a reality. Working with reclaimed materials also introduced some other challenges. When nearly all of your materials are reclaimed, you end up having small quantities of lots of different stuff. This is great to add variety, but Sam mentions it could have quickly gone very wrong. “We didn’t want the house to look like a set from Mad Max or a steampunk movie,” he says. “We had to disguise a lot of our materials simply because they were so random. If you’re using an old bed frame to use for your shower wall, you want it to look like a shower wall. We didn’t always try to draw attention to the fact that things were reclaimed. Fully integrating those items into a modern design was such cool challenge. We both have a very clean aesthetic, so getting everything to work in a graphic way was really exciting.”

What’s Next

With the interior of the main level complete, all that’s left is to finish the upstairs living space and some outdoor landscaping. With such an incredible house nearly complete in a town that’s a major tourist destination, Gagoghs admits he could easily make good money renting the space. But that’s not what it’s about for him. “I just love my energy in this space too much to give it up to random people,” he says. “Who knows, maybe one day it can be a museum with all my artwork on display after I’m long dead.”

Museum or not, income-generating or not, who cares? Triangle House is a feat of artistry & self-sufficiency to be sure, but at the end of the day it’s just three walls that house the spirit of a guy who wasn’t out to prove something, but who couldn’t resist the challenge of doing something truly unique & seemingly impossible.


Behind the Curtains – Kate Carlson

Inspiration By January 11, 2018 No Comments

Behind the Curtains

Howdy! In case you didn’t make it onto Lindsey’s mailing list, we recently posted a new video on our YouTube channel to kick off a new series we’re running this year called Behind the Curtains. Throughout almost a decade of jobs at various design agencies in the Twin Cities, Lindsey has met some truly amazing people. We wanted to take a sneak peek inside their homes and showcase their space, how they make it their own, and give a sense of each person’s individual style. Kate Carlson, a former coworker of Lindsey’s at Ideas that Kick, seemed like a great place to start.

You can of course peep the video below if you haven’t seen it yet, but I wanted to give a behind the scenes look at Behind the Curtains Episode 1 (is that redundant? Ha) and feature a bit more of the interview that didn’t make the final cut. Enjoy!

Kate, Erich, Wally and their home

I won’t belabor the details too much, since it’s covered above in the video, but Kate and her husband Erich bought their home a few years back. As I mentioned, Kate is a graphic designer, and Erich is a swim coach for local youth. Since purchasing their home, they’ve added Wally the Frenchie to their pack, and are happily snuggled into their lovely two bed one bath in the hip Kingfield neighborhood of South Minneapolis. Kingfield is easily one of the hottest neighborhoods in the Twin Cities, and the work they did to spruce it up really brings it in line with the sophistication the neighborhood is known for. The kitchen had been lovingly remodeled before they moved in, but the rest of the space was lacking warmth, brightness and a welcoming feel. With refinished hardwood floors, some fresh paint, bright colors, and a lot of personality from Kate & her artist family, the home was completely transformed.

The bonus interview

So of course there’s only so much from a 30-minute interview that can fit into a 4-minute feature. Here are a few highlights!

Lindsey: What was the home shopping process like, and how was the transition from renting to owning?

Kate: It was super fun looking for houses, but a bit overwhelming. We looked at about 30 houses over the course of a month, and this one ended up being the last one we saw. None of the others had nearly as much character as this one, so we instantly fell in love and just had a connection to it. We loved the fact that we would be so close to restaurants, cause we’re such foodies. The back yard was really charming, which was a bonus since we wanted to get a dog eventually. Plus, Erich is kinda obsessed with bungalow architecture so that really drew us in as well.

The transition to owning was a little scary but nothing too bad. It mostly just freed us up to make decisions that we wanted to that we weren’t able to make when we were renting. Refinishing floors, painting, none of that really feels worthwhile when you’re renting, so it’s just a lot more satisfying making the space truly your own as a homeowner.

Lindsey: What plans do you have for future renovation beyond what you’ve done so far?

Kate: The second story is currently just an unfinished half-story attic, so that space has a ton of potential. Currently the ceiling height isn’t tall enough to accommodate much of anything, so we have plans to bump it out to a full second story – master bedroom, master en suite, kids’ room, and maybe a small kids’ bathroom if there’s enough room. With the house now only being at about 1,000 square feet and our neighbors pretty close to our house, the only direction we can really go with additions is up.

Lindsey: What’s your best find in your house?

Kate: Well I have a little bit of a shopping problem, so I tend to swap things around all the time and there’s always something new & fun. But one thing that I feel like is a solid, lasting piece is my dining room table, which was in my grandparents’ house when I was growing up. My mom was one of seven kids and they all ate around it when she was a kid, so it’s pretty fun to continue that tradition.

Lindsey: Where do you usually go to find inspiration for your house?

Kate: Well being a designer I’m on Pinterest all the time, but I also get a lot of books on interior design. I’m a big fan of Emily Henderson, and I’ve learned a lot from her books. She offers a lot of great advice and teaches you how to style things, so if you get too wrapped up and end up cluttering a room, there are great tips in her books about how to edit and clean up the space.

Lindsey: What do you feel is the best way to utilize color in a home?

Kate: I really love color and sometimes have a hard time taming it back. But my neutrals are typically white, black and navy, and there’s usually a pop of pink or orange – something to help the space feel a little more fun & festive. I really think that if I could get away with it, I would totally put colored tassels everywhere, and hot pink and orange on everything but it becomes too much if it’s not done minimally as an accent.


So that’s it for this episode, but make sure to pop over to YouTube and give a thumbs up if you liked this video. Also, if you subscribe and click the bell icon, you’ll get a notification when the next one is released!


Why you should own vs. rent

House By September 21, 2017 No Comments

When I first moved to Minneapolis back in 2007, I was fresh out of college and definitely not ready to own a home. So I found a cute little apartment in St. Paul just south of I-94 between the Lexington and Dale exits. The rent was $800.00 per month split two ways between myself and my roommate. The two bedroom, one bath, fully updated unit we were renting honestly seemed too good to be true for the price. So much so, that 6 months after moving in we received a notice that the building was in foreclosure and we had 30 days to move out. And there it began…the housing crash of ’07-’08.

Thankfully as a renter, the repercussions that most homeowners faced during that time minimally had an effect on me. Sure I got a pay-cut at work and I was forced to move out of my apartment on short notice, but I still had my job and supportive parents that helped me pay my rent for a few months. Years later I watched The Big Short with Steve Carell, Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling, which brought so much more clarity to why the economy and housing market took such a big dip. Highly recommend seeing that movie if you haven’t.

Over the years after moving out of that place, I hopped from rental to rental. I lived in Uptown, St. Paul, Longfellow, Downtown Minneapolis and Northeast (where I currently live). My habits as a tenant during the first 6 years of living in the Twin Cities showed that I was destined to become a homeowner. Time and time again I’d leave apartments in better shape than before I moved in. I did yard work, planted gardens, etc. In one instance I actually styled and staged my apartment and sent my landlord photos so that she could advertise it on craigslist before I moved out. LOL

Why Buy?

A lot of people consider renting more desirable than owning, for plenty of different reasons. Millennials want flexibility and freedom to move on a moment’s notice, and those who were underwater and are finally recovered from the crash may still feel weary, as a couple of examples. I think it’s fair to say that homeownership may not be for everyone, and living outside your means is never a wise thing to do. But as someone who’s rented for 6 years and owned a home for 4, I’d like to explain why I think owning a home has more advantages than renting.

  1. Tax benefits: This is two fold – you can deduct your property taxes as well as your mortgage interest. Then, if you ever decide to sell your home and you’ve occupied it for two of the last five years than the gain is tax free. (Assuming the return is less than 250k (for singles) and 500k (for married couples filing jointly).
  2. It will pay off: Not only are you making a dent in your mortgage every month (kind of like a little savings account) but you’re also building equity. With rates as low as they’ve been, it’s a great time to get locked into a 30 year fixed mortgage that acts as a savings account. And on top of it all, your mortgage can’t increase over time like rent can.
  3. Freedom: Renting doesn’t give you the creative freedom owning a home does. If you’re a renter and you decide to paint your room and hang a few pictures on the wall, you could be forfeiting part of your security deposit. There’s a good chance too that your landlord won’t upkeep the property to the same standards you have.
  4. Second income stream: Lastly, homeownership gives you the opportunity to use your home to make money. Maybe you want to rent out your home for the Super Bowl or do Airbnb in your basement. These are all viable options that renters can’t take advantage of.
  5. Building community: Feeling invested in the neighborhood is more typical for homeowners because they tend to stay put in their home for longer periods of time than renters.

So there you have it. Those are my top 5 reasons. I’d like to add that I’ve taken advantage of all 5 of those points. I bought it at a low period in the market and it was a foreclosure, so the improvements that have been made will certainly pay off in the long run. I’m currently running an Airbnb in the half story of my home bringing in an extra $800-900 a month. I also have the BEST neighbors and absolutely love my neighborhood.

If you’re a renter and have a different opinion on owning a home please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Three-year Anniversary!

Travel By September 1, 2017 No Comments

Happy Anniversary, Linds!

This post is gonna be quite a bit different from some of the others we’ve done. Wednesday, Lindsey and I celebrated our three-year anniversary as a married couple! Whoop! They always say cheesy things like “It’s been an adventure” or “Feels like just yesterday” — but I’m learning that these things are repeated often for a reason. When you’re with the right person it really does feel that way. But when things get really exciting is when you take the adventurous aspect to the next level and get out once in a while on a super rad trip. A couple years ago, we did just that, so I thought I’d reminisce a bit about how we spent our 1-year anniversary. 🙂

Road trip stop

For this trip, our destination was Redfish Lake, in the heart of the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. To celebrate year one of our marriage, we rented a car and hauled ass across the West in search of an old relic left up in these mountains by my grandfather back in the’70s. Back in those days before Leave No Trace was widely adopted by wilderness wanderers, he used to leave stuff all over the place. Not out of disrespect for the wilderness, but just out of a crazy desire to know who the people were that might have also passed between the same mountains as he had. So throughout the ’60s and ’70s, it’s hard to say how many ketchup bottles and peanut butter jars tucked between Western alpine ridges contained a note from him, with his address and a request that anyone who find it please write him a letter, addressed to Norman in little old LeGrand, Iowa.

The particular relic we were looking for, though, wasn’t a ketchup bottle, but a little bicycle license plate that read “KIRK”. It belonged to his son (my uncle) Kirk, and had been nailed to a tree sometime around 1977. In the years since it had been hung up, plenty of travelers had found the same lake. With the license plate fixed on a prominent tree by the shore, it had actually become unofficially known as Kirk Lake. When my sister took a trip out to Idaho to find it in 2008, the tree had since fallen but she found the rusty plate still nailed to a tree. I took my own trip out to find it in ’09, and I figured it’d be fun for Lindsey and I to take our first backpacking trip together and check it out again.

Lindsey posing

Redfish Lake

Saddleback & Kirk Lakes

Looking down on Kirk Lake

Kirk Lake is a small, heart-shaped lake that sits above a chain of three larger ones called Saddleback Lakes, about a half day’s hike in from the trailhead off of Redfish Lake. So not too bad to get to, but the last mile or so is damned steep (“takes a lot of heartbeats to get up there,” says Grandpa Norman). We had planned about 4 days out in the rough, and made it up to the Saddlebacks with no issues on Day 1. Little chilling out, little gourmet campsite dinner (chicken curry), and we were dead to the world cozied up in our little tent before we knew it.

Saddleback Lakes are arranged with one draining into another, along a narrow bowl formed by Decker Peak to the south and Elephant’s Perch to the north. Elephant’s Perch is a gnarly dome of rock overlooking the valley and Redfish Creek, which meanders down below to eventually drain in Redfish Lake, tinged with slicks of grease from a million granola hippie climbers who dip their hair in Upper Saddleback after a rough climb. Damn, that was poetic. All about a fuggin’ rock. Anyway, it is pretty badass.

Elephant's Perch viewed from Middle Saddleback Lake

After spending some time relaxing in camp on the morning of day 2, we hauled south to Upper Saddleback to catch a steep uphill east to find Kirk Lake and see if the license plate was still there. With no trail, it was tough going, scrabbling up using tree roots and trying to keep rock slides from triggering. After maybe a half hour of hunched down crawl / hiking, we crested the ridge and bushwhacked a bit to the shores of Kirk Lake. Having been there myself before, there wasn’t quite as much mystery & anticipation surrounding the hunt for the fallen tree this time. We beelined it to the spot I remembered from 6 years before, and sure enough, it was still there! There were plenty of volunteer trees trying to overtake the dead and long-fallen Kirk tree, but the plate was still surprisingly visible and well-affixed to the old trunk. Just shy of 40 years since he’d put it there, I was finally able to share one of the coolest memories of my grandpa with Lindsey. Super cool stuff.

Fallen Kirk tree

At the time of the trip, Lindsey was working at a design firm called Ideas That Kick. One of her projects over the course of the weeks leading up to us leaving was package design for a company called Lonolife. These guys were in the middle of developing a K-Cup bone broth drink, with a target market of granola hippies who sit at the bottom of domes like Elephant’s Perch and think about climbing it, but instead kick back with a solar-powered Keurig and sip a hot bone broth in the shadow of the beast. “Damn thing’s so tall, man ohhh shiiiit this stuff’s delicious. PALEO, BRO, ONLY WAY TO GO.”

Anyway, one of Lindsey’s tasks on our trip was to photograph some epic vistas for the Lonolife packages, so we hoofed it up to the saddle above Kirk Lake to try and find some overlook, package-worthy spots. We figured we could try to get some cool shots on the way up, and possibly summit the roughly 9,800′ unnamed peak along the ridge to the east. Thankfully, I’m a total genius mountain man, and I directed us on the exact path of our failed 2009 summit of the exact same peak, soooo… Yeah that went as you’d guess. But we got some cool shots at least.

Josh posing

Lindsey posing


Lonolife Beef Bone package

Yep, that’s the finished package. Please feel free to call me Beef Bone from here on out. Def not gonna stop anyone who does so. Thanks.

Day 2 had us coming down from Kirk Lake, breaking camp, and then descending the remaining 2,000′ to the valley floor and Redfish Creek before heading further up the valley, so we called the summit a lost cause and said goodbye to the license plate. As I write this, now 40 years after it was left there, I hope it’s still around, as unnatural as it is for a metal license plate to be situated in such a place. It’s definitely possible that’ll have been the last time I get to see it, and if it was, that’s alright. Such a rad experience.

My badass mountain man skills continued to serve us well and led us off the trail on the descent after we broke camp, and we had a kinda annoying climb down to the valley. Gaining or losing 2,000 feet over the course of a mile is hard enough when there’s a trail, but just straight difficult when you’re also bushwhacking and backtracking off of dead ends. We were to become really familiar with that whole bushwhacking thing over the next couple days, so I suppose it’s just as well we got used to it early.

Farts & Bears

The Sawtooths aren’t considered terribly dangerous with regard to bear encounters, but they do happen on occasion. As is normal with black bears, they tend to avoid humans, unless you get between a mother and her cubs. The rangers in the area had told us that there had been a handful of sightings, so be sure to have our bell (we didn’t) and / or mace (we didn’t) handy, just in case. This wasn’t really an issue in the end – we just made sure to not hike silently, with the occasional “HEY BEAR” shout just to let em know we were around so we wouldn’t startle em. Night 2 gave us our first bear-ish encounter, though. But first, a word about me as it relates to backpacking meals & snacks. Tons of protein, salt, dried fruit, nuts, when combined with altitude change, turn me straight up into Gassy McGoo. So Linds got to deal with that starting to set in overnight (sorry babe). Sometime in the middle of that night, she woke up to a rustling, grunting sound she was pretty convinced was a bear.  Having had one pass right through my campsite on a previous trip a few years before, I can’t blame her for being pretty freaked out in that moment. So naturally she tried waking me up to tell me, but realized as she started shaking me that it wasn’t a bear, just me snoring. Cool. So Gassy McBearMcGoo was really just a great tent partner that night. 🙁

Lake Kathryn

The next morning, our destination was Lake Kathryn, about a 4- or 5-mile hike through mostly trail-less rough, and the origin point of Redfish Creek down in the valley we’d camped in night 2. Lake Kathryn is also the namesake of another member of my extended family, Kathryn Mills. I forget the exact chain of who’s related to whom, but I think she was something like my grandpa’s (the one who posted the license plate) aunt maybe? Anyway, she had also held a deep love for the Sawtooths, frequented them, but had suffered an untimely death. Her family made a case to the Forest Service to have a lake in the area named after her sometime in the years after Kirk Lake had been unofficially named, and so she lives on up there. So yeah, the Johnson family heritage runs pretty deep in that neck of the woods.

Lake Kathryn was…really hard to get to. No joke. We got off track a good many times and for sure would have gotten lost if it hadn’t been for the GPS on my phone. Wrong turn after wrong turn, we finally found ourselves across the valley and at the bottom of the final climb that would put us over the ridge and drop us down to Kathryn’s shores. It was getting on towards dusk and the climb was HARD. We were each carrying packs that were about 30lbs, were exhausted, and had gotten pretty tired of bushwhacking and wrong turns throughout the day. The scrambling climb up to Kirk Lake was really nothing compared to this last hike we had to get up. I think it was mostly due to our state of being exhausted, but when we finally crested the ridge after nearly tumbling down the whole slope a number of times, we both just burst into tears. In the end, it turned out to be SO worth the hike, too. Lake Kathryn wasn’t terribly far off of any trails, but it felt incredibly remote, like we really had the whole world to ourselves up there.

Lake Kathryn campsite

Josh at Lake Kathryn

View from Lake Kathryn

As we made camp and dusk settled in, the water of the entire lake seemed to come to a boil as the fish came out to feed for the evening. I’m a terrible fisherman, but I really regretted not having a rod with me that night cause I wouldn’t have needed any skills. A fresh catch was literally the only thing that could have made it better up there. After basking in the sunset for a bit and filtering some fresh water, we settled in for a cold final night at 9,000ft. As we lay ready to go to sleep, we were really surprised to suddenly get a text message on Lindsey’s phone from her mom. Some wizardry of bouncing signals had somehow delivered a cell signal to her phone out in the middle of nowhere. So we spent a few minutes texting her mom from the tent and assured her all was well, since she was a mom and bound to worry about broken legs, bears, and overly gassy husbands, and eventually drifted off to sleep.

The next morning we woke up to a once again boiling lake surface, poured some instant coffee, broke camp, and headed back over the ridge and down to the valley. A bit more bushwhacking brought us back to the trail, and another half day’s hike brought us home to the boat dock where we’d been dropped off 3 days earlier. Not a long trip, but definitely a memorable one that I wouldn’t have wanted to spend with anyone else. Happy Anniversary, Linds! Thanks for being so awesome, and for making every day feel like an adventure. Sure do love yah. <3

Josh & Lindsey at Lake Kathryn on one year anniversary