Josh and Trish Hanson were gathering ideas for the home they hoped to build when they spotted a photo that caught their eye. It was a modernist lake house in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, with an unusual feature — an enclosed glass bridge.
The couple were drawn to the contrast of the sleek silhouette with the natural setting of boulders and thick trees. “You could see clear to the lake through the glass bridge,” Josh said.
The Hansons were ready to build a home for their young family after buying a private 5-acre lot north of Stillwater on Little Carnelian Lake.
“I like a smaller neighborhood where the kids can ride their bikes, but the homes aren’t right next to each other,” Trish said.
The quirky-shaped property they found was a mix of curves, with lots of high and low points. It would require a creative design to nestle the dwelling into the sloped setting, with views of woods and water leading down to the lakeshore.
Architect Katherine Hillbrand of SALA Architects in Minneapolis was up for the challenge.
The Hansons were attracted to the firm’s portfolio, which showcased “clean modern style with natural materials, and how they incorporate the landscape into a home,” Trish said.
The couple had a binder packed with creative ideas and must-have features, including that glass bridge, for their new home.
“I would live in a glass house if I could,” said Josh, who owns Workshop, a Minneapolis branding design agency.
“I need walls to hang artwork and pictures of the kids — we had to balance that,” added Trish, who did the majority of the home’s interior design.
Although the family’s home is a sprawling 7,348 square feet, Hillbrand’s one-of-a-kind horizontal design is “recessive, not boasting,” she said. “It feels natural to the setting and creates its own kind of music.”
The exterior is clad in black Endicott brick and shou sugi ban (charred cypress), an ancient Japanese wood-burning technique that doesn’t require staining or painting and resists insect infestation.
A rusted Corten steel elevated walkway, an easy entry for anyone with limited mobility, spans a swale to the coral-colored front door.
Inside, the see-through glass bridge delivers long vistas of woods and the lake on one side, and the front yard on the other, while creating a feeling of floating over the landscape.
“The bridge is a sneak peek of the lake,” Trish said. It’s also a design element that links the two rectangular boxes that define the living/social spaces and the family/private spaces.
A staircase tower to connect the three levels is built of glass panels, steel and wood treads and capped with a Kalwall translucent ceiling. “It’s spare and minimalist and doesn’t interrupt the flow of space and light,” Hillbrand said.
From the living room to the kitchen, expanses of glass framed in steel bring the outdoors in all year long.
The living room’s two 20-foot-long sliding doors open wide to a rear deck where “we never have mosquitoes,” Josh said. In the winter, the family makes a roaring fire in the living room’s smoky-hued brick fireplace. “It’s comfortable and intimate, and no space is off limits,” Trish said.
The gallery white walls are the ideal backdrop for the couple’s avant-garde artwork, which ranges from a massive photo of a Mexican red knee tarantula to a David Harouni oil painting of a human face.
The kitchen is the hub of the Hanson home, with an Altissimo Italian marble-topped island big enough for six stools and a built-in nook that’s handy for snacks or doing homework. The dining room and nook tables are constructed from warm reclaimed timbers.
Upstairs is the kids’ zone, with three girls’ bedrooms sporting translucent doors, so parents can see whether the lights are out.
The kids’ dormitory underwent an unexpected modification during the project. The team had completed the blueprints, and the builder was digging the foundation, when the Hansons found out they were expecting a baby.
“We told Katherine before we told our parents,” Josh said. “We had to figure out how to add a boy’s bedroom.”
Hillbrand’s solution was to shrink the girls’ bedrooms and build a cantilever over the garage to house an additional bedroom and bathroom.
The other upstairs wing holds the couple’s retreat, with corner-wrapped windows delivering treetop views and sunrises. On warm days, the Hansons can step out to a deck next to a green roof planted with yellow sedum.
That green roof is among a long list of eco-friendly features.
In order for the dwelling to be sustainable for the long term, “putting in a geothermal system and photovoltaic panels made sense,” Josh said. They also added radiant in-floor heat, spray-foam insulation, deep roof overhangs and multiple skylights, so the family rarely has to flip a light switch.
“This home was not a typical residential structure,” said Hillbrand, adding that it took a year to build. “We put up a steel skeleton and had to make the fine details fit together.”
In the summer of 2015, the Hansons finally got their glass-walled bridge — and so much more — for their family of six, which also includes two dogs and two cats.
“Life happens in all the spaces,” said Josh. “And we feel connected to each other no matter where we are.”