Sun-drenched white walls, taut wood, and trim slate-gray floors are trademarks of David Salmela's Scandinavia-inspired architecture. Add a cobalt blue conference table and precise stacks of white project boxes, and you have his Duluth, Minn., workspace. With its long, oiled birch plywood counter and raw basswood slatted rails, this jewel box of a room typifies the fresh, yet familiar approach for which the architect has become known. Salmela, FAIA, works on the main level at the long countertop, which doubles as a display shelf for models of active projects. An employee occupies the space a few steps down, and upstairs is an administrative office and storage mezzanine.

“It's really fun to work here,” Salmela says of the sunny, ground-level office in his home, which won a Merit award in this year's residential architect Design Awards competition. Adding to the pleasure is the sight of ships passing in the Duluth–Superior Harbor below. “The windows at my desk are 7 feet square and 2 feet off the floor,” Salmela says, “so we have an immense view of the world.”