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From hairstyling to home-designing

By Staff | Mar 7, 2011

Jody Wirtjes sits in the model kitchen display featured at her workplace, Nordaas American Homes in Minnesota Lake. After years of co-owning a hair salon, Wirtjes went back to school and made a career change to designing.

For 15 years she co-owned a hair salon called Headlines Plus in Blue Earth, but one day Jody Wirtjes felt she wasn’t in the right profession and needed to give something else a try.

The question was, what?

“It took a lot of soul searching,” Wirtjes says. “You look back at bits of your life — and I always loved building, designing and home interior stuff.”

After realizing design is what interested her the most, Wirtjes decided it would be the new career she would settle into now that it was time for a change.

Not only would she be doing something she enjoyed, but she expected jobs would be easy to find, because design seemed to be somewhat of an untouched field around Blue Earth.

“There wasn’t anybody in our area doing that,” Wirtjes says.

With no experience, however, she turned to South Central College in North Mankato to get an education on design before diving into the trade.

The mother of four enrolled in the Architectural Drafting and Design program in 2002, the same time her oldest son, Travis, was in college.

She says he was a little surprised about her decision to go to college, but wasn’t as embarrassed about the thought because he was attending Minnesota State University-Mankato instead of SCC with his mom.

“It probably would’ve been terrible if we were at the same place,” she says with a laugh.

After completing the two-year program and earning her degree, Wirtjes worked for a while as a drafter, but quickly branched off to start her own business, Creative Space Designs.

As a freelance designer, Wirtjes did some interior and exterior designs of homes throughout Blue Earth and also experienced more commercial work in Rochester.

She worked for eight years as a freelancer, but then decided it was time for another life change. This time, rather than starting a brand new career, Wirtjes just wanted a brand new place to work — with people to work alongside.

“I kind of missed the comradery with co-workers,” Wirtjes says.

She was also ready to leave behind all of the paperwork and everything else that came along with owning a business so that she could work for someone else and focus on the part of her job she really loved — the designing.

Just a few months ago she found an opportunity to do that at Nordaas American Homes in Minnesota Lake.

“It’s a really good fit for me here,” she says.

Nordaas is a custom home builder that has been designing and building houses in the upper midwest since 1949, but Wirtjes is brand new to the team, having just started in October.

Even having spent nearly a decade in the design business, Wirtjes is able to keep her designs and ideas fresh by doing continual research and taking note of intriguing objects she sees.

“Anything that strikes me, I’ll take a picture of,” she says.

Her job gets her involved in many aspects of home design — from bathrooms to front porches to anything with cabinetry — but Wirtjes is most passionate about dealing with kitchens.

“I love kitchens,” she says. “It’s such an obvious change to take an old, tired kitchen and remodel it.”

Wirtjes’ design theory involves making the most of a space in terms of beauty, but also in functionality.

“We outfit the kitchen with all the conveniences to make it easy to stay organized,” she says of the options at Nordaas American Homes.

Before going into a new project, Wirtjes likes to sit down with clients and get a feel for their interests so she can design exactly what they want and need in a home.

“I collaborate their ideas with good design and put it together and present that to them,” she says, adding that every job is unique so getting to know the customer is important.

Whatever details they decide on, Wirtjes loves any opportunity she gets to create exciting spaces.

“I love taking something existing and just wow-ing it up,” she says.

A true southern Minnesotan, Wirtjes is a native of Frost, married an Elmore man and raised her children in Blue Earth.

But, five years ago the family moved out to an abandoned farm place east of Blue Earth. And even though Wirtjes says that house went through more of a restoration than a renovation, she still got a chance to tap into her expertise on her own home instead of always designing for someone else.