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Back to nature

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 5, 2009 - 2:20 PM

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When they were kids, Jennifer and Pascal Dalseth spent lazy days canoeing, fishing and building bonfires on separate lakes in the Twin Cities. As adults, they wanted their kids to have the same kind of experience. They had looked for -- but failed to find -- lakeshore property close to Pascal's job in Apple Valley. The closest they found was a tract home in a Burnsville development near the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Then one day, Jennifer took their infant and toddler on a car ride to help them fall asleep. On that drive, she saw signs advertising land for sale. She followed the signs down a rural-looking road to a lakeside neighborhood with older houses on big, wooded lots.

"It felt peaceful and secluded and it reminded me of my parents' home," Jennifer said. "It was meant to be."

The Dalseths bought the one-acre, pie-shaped lot on Farquar Lake four years ago and hired architect Tim Alt and designer Chad Healy to build a one-of-a kind house that would make the most of the lake views.

"We wanted the home to have a connection to the lakefront site and blur the lines between the indoors and outdoors," said Healy, of Altus Architecture+Design in Minneapolis, "and at the same time create a warm, rich place to live."

Walls of windows

The Dalseths didn't set out to build a one-level contemporary dwelling. But during the design process, they discovered that certain modern elements appealed to them, including an open floor plan, multifunctional spaces and plenty of natural light.

"I told Tim I wanted to live in a glass house," Jennifer said.

Alt came pretty close.

Both the family room and dining room have glass walls facing the lake. The rooms are so bright that the Dalseths rarely have to flip on a light. And the floor-to-ceiling windows (a combination of energy-efficient commercial and residential styles) act as a giant movie screen projecting nature in all its glory.

"We saw three bald eagles land in that tree the other day," ascal said.

The 3,360-square-foot house has an L-shaped floor plan, angled on the lake side to provide the best view. There's also a glass-enclosed breezeway that connects the two wings of the house: One holds the public spaces (family room, office, dining room, powder room) and the other holds the private spaces (bedrooms and bathrooms). The breezeway opens to two bluestone patios and a screened porch, allowing easy access from the front of the house to the lakeside back yard.

Warming to contemporary

Inside, Alt used red birch flooring and cedar trim accents to add warmth, addressing Pascal and Jennifer's concerns that a contemporary house might feel too sterile. He also painted the open kitchen a cheery yellow to make it more welcoming and built a super-sized center island, where Jennifer cooks while their children do homework.

With all its glass, its openness and its warm accents, Alt's interior plan was an easy sell. But the Dalseths were a little hesitant to embrace some of the materials on the exterior: Both the roof and two exterior walls are clad in black metal.

"I wasn't sure I wanted a black house," said Jennifer.

"The metal west wall was a reach for them," Alt admitted, "but they supported it." Alt pointed out that the material is durable and maintenance-free and that the black color helps the house fit with its surroundings. "It allows the home to sit quietly on the site as you drive up to it," he said.

In the end, Jennifer said that the house -- black walls and all -- is in perfect harmony with the piece of land she found by luck.

"When were out on the lake canoeing, Margaret said our house was different from the others," said Jennifer. "She said it looked like it popped out of the ground."

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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