Interview with Don Forsman: 45 Years of Home Renovation Wisdom


In today's blog post, we are  thrilled to share an interview with Don Forsman president of Welch Forsman.  With 45 years of experience in the home building and renovation industry, Don talks about how he's grown a residential construction company from 3 to 37 including a custom cabinetry shop and metal fabrication shop. 

The dedication and craftsmanship that I witness on job sites never fails to leave me in awe. The intricate process of turning raw materials like lumber, steel, and stone into beautifully designed living spaces is truly a testament to the talent, patience, skill, and determination of the craftspeople involved. These individuals are not just builders; they are artists who have the ability to transform mere materials into homes that hold the essence of comfort, warmth, and functionality. Their work is not just a job but a passion, and their contribution to our community goes beyond physical structures - they are the creators of the very spaces where memories are made and lives are lived. They are indeed a valuable treasure in our midst, shaping our surroundings and enriching the lives of those who inhabit them.

As we cross the 20-year mark in business, I had the opportunity to talk with Don Forsman from Welch Forsman about his 45 years in residential construction here in the Twin Cities. Don started at age 18 as a trim carpenter and has built a reputation for preserving South Minneapolis historic homes. All Seasons Fireplace has had the privilege to work with Don and his team on many projects in Minneapolis and St. Paul throughout the years.

“I think the space that you live in is incredibly important and I don’t know how many people recognize that. There is a lot of value in seeing fine craftsmanship and fine design in the same space. Me and most of the people I work with know that it’s gotta be just right or it ain’t right”

Unique to Welch/Forsman is their 12-person custom cabinetry shop which developed out of a need to replicate cabinetry and millwork that was not available at local lumberyards. Their work is in so much demand that projects are shipped to places like Naples, FL, northern Minnesota, and, Wisconsin.

Their latest addition includes a custom metal shop, showcasing their team's refined skill set that allows them to craft sculptural and artistic furniture and ironwork. This unique expertise has caught the attention of architects, designers, and builders in the local community, further solidifying their reputation for exceptional craftsmanship and innovative design.

We had the pleasure of working with the Welch Forsman team on a project near Cedar Lake. Can you talk about that project?

That was kind of a fluke. We were approached by designer, Linda Engler after the demolition because the first contractor couldn’t complete the project. It was her third project with the client. The project was challenging because it grew 2.5 times in scope and we had a full calendar when we took it on. It turned out well and the client was super happy. It was nicely appointed and will stand the test of time.

Exteriors_2214 Cedar Lake_003

Photography by Alyssa Lee

Do you still get satisfaction out of preserving the South Minneapolis architecture?

Yes, for sure. Until just recently we lived in a 1911 house and I appreciate the fact that we can renovate any of these homes and there are very few surprises. That’s how we got started and it’s a real high point in our development. Now we have a business model and teams that work better on larger projects but we’ll take on smaller jobs when the times demand it. We have to stay nimble. Everybody here is good at doing what needs to be done.

2214 Cedar Lake Pkwy_051

Photograph by Alyssa Lee   Fireplace by All Seasons Fireplace 

It's reassuring to know that individuals like yourself are making a difference in the industry. Have you noticed a growing interest in craftsmanship among the younger generations?

No, this is a real challenge. The educational system has been so anti-trades for so long. We considered opening a school but there are many certification requirements that make it costly. We’re aging out here pretty badly. A lot of my peers and I have been considering going to the schools and offering summer internships. There is good money in the business especially now that skilled craftspeople are so hard to find.

How do you guide potential clients through the renovation process?

Most of our clients only invest in this size of a project once or twice in their lifetime. It’s about hiring a good design team and trusting them. We are lucky because this town is full of good design talent. Our job is to provide constant communication between the construction team, the design team, and the homeowner. The homeowner can facilitate a successful project by making decisions promptly and by funding the work promptly so the project can stay on schedule.

What kind of projects do you enjoy working on?

Nothing larger than 10 million dollars but mostly we enjoy building high efficiency, high performance modern designs. We’ll likely never build one of those 25,000-square -foot homes. I think a nicely appointed 3500-5000- square -foot home can be very comfortable for most families.

2214 Cedar Lake Pkwy_067

Photography by Alyssa Lee  Outdoor fireplace by All Seasons Fireplace

Collaborating with your team has been delightful. The atmosphere seems to set your construction team apart, exuding a sense of kindness that is truly exceptional. Is this intentional on your part?

It’s very intentional. I think there’s far too little kindness in our world right now. It’s a lot easier to be nice than not nice. A lot of that was from the people I started working with years ago. They had a strong work ethic. We were working in people’s homes with them every day. Now we hire people not because of the skills they have but because of the people they are. They understand what’s important and what’s not. It’s easier to train for the skills required than the personality required. Our homeowners end up liking a lot of the people who are in their homes every day.

What are you most proud of in all your years since 1982?

I’ve developed a lot of skills and trained a lot of people. We’ve built many beautiful structures that are still standing. I feel like I still have my integrity after 45 years in business and I still feel good about myself. That’s no small challenge, honestly, Bonnie.

I hope we aren’t a dying breed. It’s getting harder and harder to find good things and people that want to build good things. But there are still people out there who are interested in having a beautiful home and we can build it for them.”

We are honored to collaborate with Don and the talented team at Welch Forsman, eagerly anticipating the transformation of each project from lines on paper to inviting spaces where families create lasting memories together.


Leave a Comment