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Curved appeal

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 6, 2009 - 7:14 PM

A shapely screened porch connects the two halves of this breezy weekend house in Wisconsin.

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Starting with a piece of property to die for -- a peninsula surrounded by Balsam Lake in Wisconsin -- architect Tom Ellison's challenge was to design a retreat that would maximize its out-of-this-world views.

That challenge was complicated by the need to keep the scale of the structures appropriate to the site, while still providing plenty of space for the Minneapolis family and their friends.

Ellison, of TEA 2 Architects in Minneapolis, designed a shingle-style house that captures views of the bay, lake breezes and the morning sun.

The top goal was to connect the homeowner to nature, but even Ellison didn't appreciate how well it worked until he visited the completed weekend retreat.

"I saw sparkles from the water making a pattern on the ceiling," he said. "The lake really felt like it was part of the house."

CONT. FROM PAGE H1 Here's what Tom Ellison of TEA 2 Architects in Minneapolis did to make his Balsam Lake house work:


• The main floor is one large open space.

• Two walls of oversized double-hung windows can be opened on a warm afternoon to make the whole house feel like a screened porch.

• A smaller upstairs has an owner's suite, two bedrooms and a hidden playroom for the kids. A guest suite above the garage is connected to the house via a 30- by 12-foot curved screened porch.


• Instead of adding square footage to the home's footprint for a guest suite, Ellison tucked the 800-square-foot private guest suite above the garage.

• The curved porch mimics the shape of the shoreline, and because the curve is a contrast to the gabled form on the home and garage, it makes the house feel less imposing.

• Cedar siding is treated with bleaching oil so it will weather to the color of gray tree bark, helping the house blend into its surroundings.


• The main floor has windows on three sides, offering 270-degree views of land and water, as well as abundant natural light. "It gives you the sense of being outside all the time," Elison said.

• The structure is positioned so that the longest views across the lake are aligned with the center of the living room.


• Simple and clean was the goal, but brown oak floors and wood paneling add warmth to the space.

• Some walls are clad with natural unstained white pine.

• A cushioned window seat wraps around the living room.


• Simple architectural elements, including roof gables, steep roof lines and shingle siding, mimic the Cape Cod style.

• Two recessed porches - on opposite sides of the house, painted maroon - are a modern contrast to the traditional gray shingle siding.

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619

  • about this series

  • The Home of the Month program is a partnership between the Star Tribune and the Minnesota chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It features architect-designed houses selected by a jury of experts. The houses represent a range of prices, styles and locations.


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