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Farmhouse revival

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 3, 2009 - 11:26 AM

Rural retreat captures the simple spirit of the farm with an eye on modern sustainability.

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From a distance, Rick and Beth Anderson's home looks like a traditional Midwestern farmhouse with gables, a wraparound porch and white shingle siding. But as you get closer, there are hints that this is a farmhouse for the 21st century.

Galvanized steel columns support a metal porch roof. The siding is durable, low-maintenance fiber cement board. A playful cupola rises from the center of the house.

"It's a fresh take on a classic Midwestern farmhouse that draws some of the best characteristics of the past and incorporates new technology and modern details," said architect Jean Rehkamp Larson of Rehkamp Larson Architects in Minneapolis.

The home is LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified and includes sustainable design features such as energy-efficient structural insulated panels (SIPs) and an insulated concrete wall foundation that repels mold. The front of the home faces south to harness passive solar energy; porches on three sides provide shade and shelter.

The Andersons bought 83 acres west of Lake City in 2007 that seemed made-to-order for their updated farmhouse getaway. The old farmstead's barn, silo and shed remain on the property. Sweeping views of rolling hills and Mississippi River Valley bluffs to the east and flat prairie land to the west offer solitude and serenity. Rehkamp Larson placed the home on the top of a hill so the Andersons can take it all in.

"It's so different from city living and is incredibly quiet and peaceful," Rick Anderson said. "There's wide open, spectacular views of the endless prairie as far as you can see."

Progressive farmhouse

The Andersons hadn't planned on building a farmhouse on the prairie until they heard about the "Idea Farmhouse" Rehkamp Larson designed for Progressive Farmer magazine. The plan offered a dramatic contrast to their Craftsman-style Minneapolis home. They decided that a vacation home surrounded by rolling farmland would be a respite from the congested city. The couple had previously collaborated with Rehkamp Larson and the builder, Dovetail Renovation, on the remodel of their Minneapolis home in 2002 and were ready to embark on a new venture.

"We were attracted to a farmhouse for its timeless look," Rick Anderson said. "It also was important that the style and design of the house fit the surroundings."

Rehkamp Larson customized her progressive two-story design for the Andersons, smartly blending the old with the new.

The contemporary, T-shaped floor plan includes a living room, dining room and kitchen at the home's center; each flows from one to the other. There are two wings -- one for the master suite and the other for the laundry room and a bathroom. Upstairs is the guest quarters with a bathroom for family and friends; also another a bathroom and two more bedrooms, one outfitted with a loft for their teenage daughter.

Beyond the front entry is the home's farm-inspired centerpiece -- a staircase composed of a steel handrail and pine slats, a nod to the ribs of a farm corn crib. Cherrywood stairs between the two floors add contrast and warmth.

"It's very distinctive from an architectural standpoint," Rick Anderson said, referring to the crib-like staircase, his favorite feature. "You can see it from anywhere in the house."

The well-appointed, U-shaped kitchen is a close second for Rick, an avid cook. It has a generous center island with prep space, ample cabinets and shelving, as well as a Wolf stove and Subzero refrigerator. Cooks can watch the seasons change through six large windows on three sides.

Other design details, such as 9-foot ceilings with exposed whitewashed Glulam (glued laminated timber) beams, bring "the rough and tumble character of the barn to the farmhouse," Rehkamp Larson said.

The Andersons also built a new red barn to store cars; it mimics the shape and size of the original barn to harmonize with the rural setting.

A century ago, a farmhouse might have been built from recycled lumber and heated by a wood-burning stove. Rehkamp Larson has used new technology and green building techniques to create a modern-day, energy-efficient version that is low-maintenance and long-lasting.

"The rural farmhouse embodies a simpler life of living off the land and sustainability," said Rehkamp Larson, who also wrote "The Farmhouse: New Inspiration for the Classic American Home." "It makes a great retreat."

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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    Saturday October 3, 2009

    Size: 3,700 finished square feet includes four bedrooms and four bathrooms.

  • Galvanized steel columns support porches on three sides that offer views of prairies, rolling hills and river bluffs.

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