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Continued: A family creates a modern urban retreat

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 7, 2013 - 8:05 AM

“A house should create a sense of shelter,” Charles said, “but also a sense of release and connection to nature.”

Three sliding doors open to the pool and expansive back terrace. When the bugs come out, a drop-down 23-foot-long screened wall, activated by pushing a button, converts the terrace into a screen porch. “I got the idea when I saw a screened wall at a yoga retreat,” Charles said. Like many of the homes he designed while working in Florida, the open plan effortlessly flows from the inside to the outside and uses the site to create a private sanctuary.

The interior design reflects Charles’ warm modern aesthetic by juxtaposing natural materials, such as wood and stone, with layers of crisp horizontal lines. Dark walnut floors and cabinets create a striking backdrop for the cool blue and green palette, which plays off the azure pool and natural surroundings. A dropped ceiling over the dining room and kitchen defines the spaces without using a wall.

Charles inserted a whimsical walnut “tiki bar” in the corner of the living room where Lee mixes and serves beverages. “At first I thought it was a joke when Charles suggested it,” Lee said. “But it’s become a social area and really worked out.”

That leaves the generous-sized kitchen open for Karen and family members to prepare meals for holiday dinners. It’s equipped with sleek hardware-free Euro-style walnut cabinets that lift up and a two-tier Cambria-covered island for grandkids to snack and play with electronics. The edgy backsplash is made of back-painted glass that reflects light.

The second floor holds two bedrooms, as well as multi-functional spaces. The guest bedroom, with a pull-down Murphy bed, also doubles as a kids’ playroom. Karen’s office has a large computer desk on one end and exercise machines on the other end.

From the master suite, Karen and Lee can step out on a steel-railinged balcony overlooking the pool. “We love how this house lets nature in, which is important for mental and physical health,” she said. “We’re aware of the seasons all year long.”

Charles compared the home to a well-designed yacht or sailboat because “there’s a thoughtfulness to every inch,” he said. “With the craftsmanship and the built-in storage — there’s nothing wasted or redundant.” The home is full of space-saving efficient built-ins — from the beds to a hidden pantry that pulls out from the wall.

The couple also collaborated with Karen’s nephew Jason, who specializes in sustainable building, to incorporate as many green features as possible. “We want to leave the world a better place by the way we live,” Karen said. In addition to bamboo flooring, recycled wood and in-floor heat, there are 39 photovoltaic solar panels on the upper and lower roofs. The home has received the highest Minnesota Green Path rating.

“It’s a Stinson house,” Karen said. “But it’s still the essence of Lee and me.”

Even after friends warned her that the intense process could destroy her relationship with her brother, Karen never regretted her decision.

“Working with Charles and Jason was effortless because I knew they wanted to create the best possible house for us,” she said. “It was a fun experience.”

Charles agreed. “It was such a dream project,” he said. “I wish our parents were alive to see it.”


Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619


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  • The exterior of the Minneapolis home of Lee Larson and Karen Stinson features an S-shaped outline. “The S is a beautiful, simple form and makes a statement,” architect Charles Stinson said.

  • The project was all in the family for homeowner Lee Larson, left; builder Jason Stinson; Jason’s dad, architect Charles Stinson, and Lee’s wife, Karen Stinson, Charles’ sister.


    What: A modern urban oasis designed by an architect for his sister and built by his son, using sustainable design principles.

    Size: 3,000 square feet includes two bedrooms, two offices and three bathrooms.

    Design team: Architect Charles R. Stinson, with Chuck Thiss, Larry Glenn and Douglas Fletcher, Charles R. Stinson Architecture + Design, Deephaven,; 952-473-9503.

    Builder: Jason Stinson, Stinson Builders, Minneapolis.

    Interior design: Nicolle Norris, CRS Interiors, Deephaven.

    Structural engineer: Warren Rutledge, WR Design Structural Engineers, Hopkins.

    Landscape architect: Shane Coen of Coen+ Partners, Minneapolis.

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