About Us: Design Team

DESIGN MANAGER, AKBD – Amy Hinck

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Amy Hinck spent many summers pouring concrete and working on other masonry jobs with her dad in northern Minnesota. That experience along with her interest in drawing, math, and wanting to help bridge the communication gap between trades and designers, prompted her to move to Minneapolis to obtain her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Architecture.

During her ten plus years in the remodeling industry she has worked as a drafter, designer, project manager, and store manager.  She has achieved certification as an Associate Kitchen and Bath Designer through the NKBA, as well as a LEED Green Associate through the USGBC. At Castle and The Natural Built Home Store she pitches in wherever needed. She works on keeping the showrooms up to date, assists designers with projects, trains new employees, and leads design work for the Save A Castle division. She develops, edits, and maintains companywide processes and documents while also fostering continuing education among the design staff.

Amy is organized and pays close attention to the details. She loves coming up with new layouts, making a big impact through small changes, knowing that her work can greatly improve the daily lives of clients and helping things run smoothly. She strives to balance aesthetics, function, cost, and sustainability.

In her free time she enjoys walking her dog, playing co-rec softball, spending time with family and friends, and admittedly binge watching sitcoms.

REMODELING DESIGN PRO – Mark Benzell

MBMark started remodeling homes in 1978 (about the same time he discovered Tab soda) and operated his own design/build firm for 25 years. He has been a long time member of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and served on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota Chapter of NARI from 1991-2007.

In 1992, Mark’s company was chosen by Remodeling Magazine as one of their ‘Big 50’ contractors of the year. As President of the Minnesota Chapter in 1994, Mark was honored with the Industry Leader of the Year Award. In December of 2007, Mark was named as a founding Director for Minnesota GreenStar and served as the Minnesota GreenStar Treasurer and Operations Manager through the end of 2011. Mark’s current focus has been on Architectural Design and Sales with Castle Building & Remodeling since March 2010. While not working Mark likes to play poker and drink Tab soda.

REMODELING DESIGNER – Natalie Hanson

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Natalie Hanson
Designer Natalie Hanson installing a window at one of our Save A Castle homes

Natalie received her Bachelor of Science in Interior Design in 2012 and has been actively working in the industry ever since. She attended an alternative high school at the Minnesota Zoo called the School of Environmental Studies, where she developed a passion for environmental sciences. Right out of high school, she decided to pursue a career in Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma where she spent two years chasing tornados and attending Sooner football games. While this was exciting, she knew that it was not a lifetime career path for her. She has been interested in art, architecture and interiors since childhood and settled on the field of interior design for her next educational adventure.

She loves to use her knowledge of environmental sciences in her designs to help create functional, livable spaces that are sustainable and healthy for her clients. Natalie believes that listening intently to a client’s needs is the most important piece in creating the perfect personalized design. She finds inspiration for design in traveling – she enjoys traveling to Europe, specifically Scandinavia – and also finds inspiration in nature.

She spends her free time doing outdoor activities such as hiking, biking & kayaking, yoga, cooking while drinking wine, and of course, watching thunderstorms with extreme excitement.

REMODELING DESIGNER – Ashley Hansen

AHansenDesigning and crafting is something that has been ingrained into Ashley’s character through the influence of family and friends. The concept of DIY (do-it-yourself) was taught to her early on. From years of practicing this whether it be sewing clothes, sewing her comforter, making art, or upholstering furniture she developed a passion for design.

Ashley recognizes that designers are given a great responsibility and opportunity to redefine quality. Interior Design is an outlet in which she is able to share this belief knowing how the layout, selections and aesthetic appearance of a space can truly impact people. Therefor she truly enjoys the opportunity to build relationships with clients and help them form solutions which consider both form and function and best accommodate their lifestyle.

Beyond work she likes to get outside as much as possible and is typically up for doing anything active. Some of her favorites are snowboarding, walking, rollerblading, and exploring the city via bike. A special appreciation for NE drives her to investigate the local spots unique to the area.

REMODELING DESIGNER / INTERIOR DESIGNER – Emily Blonigen

EBEmily Blonigen received her Bachelors of Science in Interior Design from the Art Institutes International Minnesota. One thing that she appreciates from her education is the artistic approach Ai takes to the Interior Design profession. Emily is currently studying for her LEED Green Associates Certification. Her main interest in the field is to find opportunities to create sustainable and healthy environments. Design may be achieved through trends, unique styles, colors, and materials- but great design is found through considering the users experience and the continuing future within that environment. With knowledgeable design practices and smart material selections, she is opening the doors of design towards a prosperous and more sustainable future that she is excited to be a part of.

Blonigen enjoys traveling and has been to South America three times and Central America once. She hopes to one day move to the southern hemisphere for the great food, sunshine, fun music, architectural history, and cheap drinks.

REMODELING DESIGN ASSISTANT – Ziva Danneker

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Ziva is a recent transplant to The Natural Built Home Store from the corporate world, where she cut her teeth on shaping organizational culture, corporate sponsorship and events, and international travel. After 7 years, she decided to feed her ever-present passion for interior design and remodeling by switching careers. Fascinated by solutions that fuse art, architecture, technology, and sustainability, she believes that design should fit a person’s personality while simultaneously enhancing their lifestyle and supporting their functional needs. Ziva and her husband, Jeremy, live in Savage with their two cats. She has an unhealthy appreciation for sarcasm, boy bands from the 90’s, and chocolate-covered pretzels.

REMODELING DESIGN ASSISTANT – TJ Givens

Creating, building and drawing have always been a part of T.J.’s life whether it was constructing intricate structures with Legos as a child, helping his dad and uncle on various remodeling projects or sketching Split Rock Lighthouse. After seven years working in healthcare he found The Natural Built Home Store while attending Century College’s Kitchen and Bath Design program. Appreciating their responsible approach to remodeling, stewardship of the environment along with unique alternatives in materials, he joined the team in 2015. He agrees with Frank Lloyd Wright, “Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” He tries to find new ways to solve old problems and believes each space deserves its own character; if a project takes its inspiration from another it should personalize it so as to not mindlessly follow a trend. Apart from his time at NBH he spends his time with his wonderful wife raising and laughing at his crazy but amazing son and daughter. He can often be found trying to find the Twin Cities best mocha, gaming online with friends or searching for great new and used music at the Electric Fetus. During the spring and fall he enjoys rollerblading and biking around Lake Calhoun, Como and Long Lake but during depths of humidity and cold starts to wonder why he left California and longs to travel.

REMODELING DESIGN ASSISTANT – Nicole Wahl

Nicole attended University of Minnesota’s College of Design studying fashion and retail merchandising and spent 8 years creating visual displays in stores.   Having always had an eco-conscious mindset she decided it was time to make a move into the residential interior design community.   She comes to The Natural Built Home store excited to work with green building materials and inspire customers to create a home space free of toxic chemicals.  Nicole herself focuses on creating a holistic and green lifestyle by practicing composting, commuting by bike and buying local products.  In her spare time, she loves to spend time outside, host bonfires, and check out local hotspots for food and entertainment.


Design Team Titles

Castle’s Designers are unique in that they know both the design and remodeling aspects of planning a project. Castle’s Continuing Education program was designed to cross-train designer/sales employees on construction practices and allow for hands on experience. Each employee is able to request a certain construction task that they would like to assist on. Some examples include demolition, interior framing, window install, cabinet install, tile install, and painting. By learning how Castle’s job sites run, how the products they sell are installed, and how long installation takes, the designers will become better estimators and be more knowledgeable when speaking with homeowners. They will also be able to spot more issues on their first visit to a home, avoid problems during projects, and become well-rounded designers.

 

Our designers each have unique backgrounds and skill sets, although most received degrees in either Interior Design or Architecture. Below you will see how many hours are expected of Castle’s design/sales staff and how their continuing education and industry experience relate to their titles as well.

 

Design Intern: 1 Year minimum in this position (or 3+ years relevant industry experience to skip this step)

 

Remodeling Designer: 16+ field credit hours minimum, plus one year or industry experience

 

Remodeling Design Pro: 32+ field credit hours in past two years (16 hours annual ongoing continuing education), $600,000+ in annual completed remodeling projects two consecutive years.