When Marcia Fluer first saw her house, it was love at first sight — from the curb, at least.
Fluer, a Hall of Fame broadcaster and one of the first female TV news anchors in the Twin Cities market, had recently retired from the airwaves and started a new career in public relations when she came across the home for sale in Golden Valley's North Tyrol Hills neighborhood. The front yard was professionally landscaped, with a large, cascading waterfall framed by boulders, flowers and foliage — and Fluer, an avid gardener, was instantly smitten.
"I drove in the driveway and said, 'I love this house!' " she recalled. "Actually, I loved the water feature."
She liked the English cottage-style exterior, too, clad in rustic stone. But when Fluer and her husband, local actor Phil Zaugg (who uses the stage name Phil Ross), got a look inside the house, they knew they would have work to do.
The 1949-built cottage had a lot of charming architectural features, including a big bay window, a fireplace and corner cabinets in the dining room. But the house was overdue for some updates. "It was stuck in the '70s," Fluer recalled.
Fluer and Zaugg bought the house and set about improving it and making it their own. Over the 22 years that they've owned the cottage, the couple have transformed it into a much more functional and spacious home, updating the kitchen and baths and ripping up carpet to reveal the original oak floors.
They even raised the roof and added a second story, bringing height and light into the eat-in kitchen and creating a spacious master suite with adjacent sitting room. Zaugg used his carpentry skills to add character throughout the house with built-in cabinetry.
With 2,924 finished square feet, four bedrooms and three baths, the house now offers lots of room to roam, but Fluer and Zaugg tend to gravitate to their cozy den in winter and the back porch, which overlooks their bird-filled back yard, during the warmer months. "That's where we spend our time," Zaugg said.
Back yard 'beautiful'
The couple also have overhauled their landscape. The waterfall that first caught Fluer's fancy is still there, but she's tweaked many of the front-yard plantings. The back yard was nondescript when they bought the place, save for a quaint stone potting shed.
Zaugg and Fluer brought in rocks, added a pond and gradually transformed the back yard into an English cottage-style garden — one so striking that it was a recent winner in the Star Tribune's Beautiful Gardens contest (featured in the Home + Garden section in 2013). Zaugg, a model train hobbyist, turned part of the back yard into a railroad garden featuring his handmade buildings, some of them miniature replicas of local historic structures, such as the Victorian-era Burwell House, which still stands in Minnetonka.
The garden is big but low-maintenance, Fluer said. "It's a perennial garden, so you don't really have to do much." Fluer and Zaugg are "hostaholics" who love collecting different varieties of the popular shade plant.
The couple have decided it's time for them to downsize and become renters, freeing them up to do some traveling. Their first "bucket list" destination is a Danube River cruise.
They'll miss their longtime home. "It's a house that hugs you," Fluer said. And they'll miss their close-knit, sociable neighborhood, which hosts events ranging from ice cream socials to Fluer and Zaugg's annual "waterfall opening party." The neighborhood feels wooded and secluded, but is just a few minutes from downtown Minneapolis. "It's like country in the city," Fluer said.
But she's ready to move on to new adventures. "It's time to turn the house over to a younger family."
Jacqueline Day of Edina Realty has the listing, 763-522-9000.