If you love gawking at ritzy real estate, June is your month.
This year, though, you won’t have to choose which tour of swanky high-end houses to attend. The Artisan Home Tour, sponsored by the Builders Association of the Twin Cities, is the only one.
The Luxury Home Tour, a 15-year institution, won’t be happening, at least not this month. “It was a private business decision,” said Jamie Flaws, publisher of Greenspring Media, who said the longtime tour is only on hiatus, not permanently discontinued.
But that doesn’t mean there’s any shortage of upper-bracket houses to ogle, with almost 30 open for touring (21 new homes and eight remodeled homes), compared with last year’s total of 35 for the two tours combined. And the threshhold for making the cut has risen — to $1.2 million for the structure only (not including the lot and landscaping) for new homes, and to $400,000 minimum for remodeling projects.
“We heard from our builders — you’ve got to up the bar a little bit, the world is changing,” said David Siegel, the Builders Association’s executive director.
And if you’ve got the inclination — and the wallet — you can pick up a trophy home of your own during the tour. While most of the new houses on the tour are custom homes built for particular owners, several are for sale, including Home #11, a contemporary twist on midcentury modern that overlooks popular Pamela Park in Edina.
“East Edina is a very hot market,” said Andy Porter, co-owner of Refined, which is why the custom homebuilder felt confident buying and tearing down a small story-and-a-half house and replacing it with a $1.475 million spec home filled with 4,000 square feet of high-end finishes and cutting-edge technology.
Porter, who lives four blocks away, is so bullish on this pocket of Edina — his firm’s “micro market” — that his company has purchased 15 other older homes, offered to buyers who want to remodel or start from scratch to get a brand-new home in an already established neighborhood close to restaurants, shops and other urban amenities.
Porter, who has participated in the Luxury Home Tour in the past, switched to the Artisan Tour last year to “tag team” with other builders. “More homes in Edina were on the Artisan Tour last year, so there was critical mass,” he said.
While Greenspring Media, the parent company of Midwest Home magazine, opted not to mount its perennial tour this year, it’s just a temporary break, according to Flaws. Greenspring still plans to present its Luxury Remodeling Tour in August and to return with a tour of new luxury homes in June 2017. “Luxury Home Tour is absolutely part of our portfolio,” she said.
The Builders Association launched its own high-end tour in 2014 at the request of its members, said Siegel. The Parade of Homes, also sponsored by the association, features many upper-bracket properties but doesn’t focus on them only. “We decided it was time to look at the high-end market,” said Siegel. “Homes at this scale and type are the race cars of the industry.”
For two years, the two tours overlapped. “Consumers were totally confused,” said Bridget Burns, owner of Blend Interior Design, who collaborates with Refined on its tour homes. “They came to the door with the wrong ticket. We’d let ’em in anyway.”
In some neighborhoods, homes on different tours were kitty-corner from each other, Siegel noted. “We heard from builders and consumers that there was confusion in the market with two tours.”
While several homes on this year’s tour are for sale, most tour-goers are not in the market for a $1-million-plus residence. They’re there to gather ideas, check out the latest innovations and design trends — and to dream.
Refined’s home has been dressed to the nines by Burns of Blend Interior Design, Minneapolis, with everything from hand-knotted rugs, to colorful artwork, to realistic-looking notes on the magnetic whiteboard above the “family-planning central” desk off the kitchen.
Striking a balance between distinctive design that makes an impression and a look that appeals to a mass market — and attracts a buyer — is always a challenge, Porter noted. His firm opts to push the design envelope a bit.
“They are willing to take design risks. It’s very fun,” said Burns of working with Refined on its spec homes. “People are out doing tours, and the houses blur together. When they see something different, it’s refreshing. It’s nice to be different.”
But not too different.
“We don’t want to be ‘that house.’ We play on the edge of the fairway,” Porter said.
Design risks in Refined’s Home #11 include a dark dramatic fireplace wall in the white living room, including built-in bins for stacking and displaying firewood. “They’re not even functional — it’s a gas-burning fireplace,” Burns noted. “Is it needed? No. But it’s fun and interesting.”
The kitchen departs from the currently ubiquitous gray and white color palette. “One of the big things we heard strongly is that people are done with gray,” Burns said. So she combined creamy white upper cabinets with deep smoky blue lower cabinets. The kitchen also features a walnut peninsula set on furniture-inspired ski legs, quartz countertops that resemble Carrara marble — and some open shelving.
“I know we’ll hear about those shelves, but I know we’ll hear less than before,” said Burns. “People are warming to the trend.”
She also combined aged brass hardware with satin nickel for the cabinets. “Mixing of metals is a big design trend,” she said, “intentionally mismatched for a curated look.”
Other trends on display in the home include a master bath with furniture-like cabinets, a luxurious shower — and no bathtub. “They take up a lot of space,” Porter noted, and many homeowners today would rather devote that space to something else.
“People are busy. They have no time to soak for an hour,” Burns said.
She also persuaded Porter to paint the bedrooms in “throwback colors,” including yellow, orange and turquoise. “At first, he said, ‘They’re awful!’ ” Burns said. “I said, ‘No. They’re midcentury modern.’ ”