The best way to reach Jaque Bethke of PURE Design Environments is on her cellphone. “I never know where I’m going to be,” she says, and this is no exaggeration. For the founder and lead designer of the full-service architecture and interior design firm now operating in eleven states, movement is more than a design concept. A single week’s work might take her from a client interview in Florida to a project site in Arizona and back to the company’s Eden Prairie headquarters.
Bethke has been in the design industry as long as she can remember, and when the 2009 economic recession took a bite out of her business as an independent design consultant, what she saw was not a setback but an opportunity. “The work really evaporated, so there was lots of sitting around and thinking,” she says. “I realized, if I was going to strike out on my own, this was the time to do it. I was able to use the downturn as a ladder and climb back up from the bottom.”
Seven years later, Bethke is still climbing—with more than 100 design projects in the firm’s portfolio and a workforce that has swelled along with the company’s reputation. Bethke now heads up an 11-person team that includes architects, designers and administrative staff.
In her work—which includes both residential and commercial design projects—Bethke prioritizes a respect for the individuality of each space, as well as a commitment to function. “I design based on the energy of the space. It’s not just a room [to me]. A space should feel like it’s living and breathing.” She describes her method as “an inside-out approach [to design],” which allows the details to dictate the overall structure of the space.
Bethke applied that methodology during a recent Bloomington remodel. “Our mission statement, from the outset, was: ‘If I can see it in someone else’s house, I don’t want it in mine,’” says the homeowner.
The remodel was sizeable, spanning half of the home’s entire area, and focused on three distinct spaces the clients use for entertaining. Empty-nesters, the couple frequently uses the space for hosting parties, and a major concern was creating a more welcoming and enticing atmosphere in the lower-level “man cave.”
The main qualm with the original layout was that it felt dated. “It was unique and fun in the mid-80’s, when we designed the house,” says the homeowner. “But here we are, 20 years down the road… We’re not catering to the same audience anymore.”
Bethke says this profile is typical of her clients. “A lot of people come to me saying that their house feels ‘too eighties’ or ‘too nineties,’ she says. “When I hear that, what it means to me is that they’re ready for a change—not just in their environment but also in their life. They’re evolving, and they want their space to reflect that.”
For Bethke, a home should communicate its inhabitants’ personalities, and a designer’s role is to translate a feeling into three-dimensional reality.
Bethke’s client considers the project a “mission accomplished,” and his praise is emphatic: “If you want to achieve the wow factor, [they are] certainly going to be able to accomplish that for you.”
He points out that innovation is not without its costs. His own remodeling ended up taking more time and money than originally anticipated; however, he adds this was merely par for the course and did not detract from his satisfaction with the final result. Bethke agrees: “With design and architecture in general, there can be a lot of unknowns. That’s how great design happens. If you want to create a one-of-a-kind space, you have to be willing to try something new. [It’s important that] clients embrace that process—that they’re willing to go on an adventure.”