Photos by Staci Just Photography
When it comes to designing a commercial space, most business owners prefer to leave everything up to the professionals. But for one Farmers Union Insurance agent based out of Ashley, N.D., a life-long passion for projects helped her stretch her budget when building a new office on Main Street. Within this story, see how Kary Lindgren has created a comfortable and welcoming space for her coverall-wearing clientele.
Originally from Wishek, N.D., Kary grew up on a farm with a ceramics studio as her mother was an artist. After graduating from high school, Kary met her husband while they were both attending NDSU, where she studied to be an agricultural education teacher. After college, her husband got a job as a loan officer in Ashley. Kary went with him and worked as a substitute teacher but decided to try something new when the former Farmers Union Insurance agent in town quit. She soon found that she really enjoyed this type of work. Kary has been with Farmers Union for more than 17 years now. She and her husband currently live on a ranch 15 miles outside of Ashley with their teenage son and daughter.
BUILDING FROM SCRATCH
Before she opened her office on Main Street in 2017, Kary was working out of an old barbershop in town. It was on the smaller side, though, so she started looking for other options. This is how she got in touch with Klusmann Construction.
When people heard that Kary was building a new commercial space in Ashley, they were surprised. “In small towns, it doesn’t happen that often anymore where someone builds from scratch. All of our businesses are on Main Street, and I’m right in the heart of it,” Kary explained.
Kary had a great experience with her carpenter over at Klusmann Construction. “My carpenter was from Kulm, N.D., and he did an amazing job. I told him what I wanted it to look like, then he did the plans and sent them to me. I made some adjustments, and we just went from there,” she shared. Kary simply said where she wanted shiplap, where she wanted drywall and where they were going to have wood.
THE JOANNA GAINES OF ASHLEY
Today, Kary’s 3,200-square-foot space has a lobby, a conference room, a break room, two offices and an attached garage in back. “I have one employee who is here part time, and I’m looking to hire someone full-time. I’m here five days a week, and it feels good to come to work. I’ve had a lot of people jokingly say they want to work here just because they love the building,” she laughed. When you step into the building, you’ll understand why. In fact, her Fed Ex delivery man calls Kary the Joanna Gaines of Ashley.
For the interior, Kary wanted it to feel comfortable and inviting. Her clientele includes a lot of farmers, so she wanted them to feel welcome in their coveralls and work boots. “I wanted my office to be homey and have a sense of style, but I didn’t want it to be too fancy,” she said.
Throughout the space, you will notice ranchinspired decor such as cowhide rugs or a framed photo of Kary’s daughter’s cow that Kary took herself. Between school and extracurricular activities, Kary’s kids actually spend a lot of time in the break room. “We’re 15 miles out of town, and we don’t have any relatives in Ashley. If we need a place, this almost functions as a second home for us,” she shared.
In addition to the artwork, Kary has DIY-ed most all of the furniture and decor. She even made a faux reclaimed wood accent wall. “It’s actually not reclaimed. All of the lumber up on the walls is actually brand new, rough-cut lumber,” she explained. Kary achieved this finish by applying stain and sanding over it when it was wet. She then added a coat of shellac. After Kary was finished with the prep work, Klusmann Construction cut the boards to size and installed them.
Using leftover materials from the shiplap and wood wall projects, Kary made most of the furniture in her office. “I talked to other agents that have built new, and they said the cost of furnishings was incredible. To be honest, it wasn’t that way for me because I built a lot of stuff and there are pieces in here that I got at rummage sales,” Kary revealed. She likes to joke that the most expensive pieces of furniture she invested in were the chairs.
Because of her training as a shop teacher, Kary is skilled with tools and knows how to build things. She also loves repurposing. “I actually had a little business called Dirt Road Decor, but it’s more fun when it’s not a job,” Kary explained.
FROM HER WORK SPACE TO YOURS
For those of us who are getting some major office-inso from Kary, here are three tips we can incorporate into your own work space:
- Don’t be afraid to DIY
- Comfort is everything
- Find an expert you trust