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Canoeists paddling across Cedar Lake in Minneapolis have long been struck by the clean-lined modern beauty of one of the homes on its shoreline.
Built in 1936, the International Style residence is a standout with its distinctive Art Moderne influences, including curved walls, glass-block windows and smooth stucco exterior.
But most gawkers would never guess that the third story, which holds a master suite, was added on just a year ago.
"Our challenge was to stay true to the spirit of the house, but at the same time make the inside work for the family," said Andrew Edwins of Peterssen/Keller Architecture, the Minneapolis firm that recently designed major modifications to the home.
While house-hunting in 2001, current owners Neroli and Roger Lacey were immediately smitten by the modernist home's ahead-of-its-time design. Local architects James Brunet and Hans Wessel, of Wessel Brunet Kline, had designed it for oil company salesman Mel Kaufmann, who picked a prime spot to build the first home on Cedar Lake.
The Laceys are originally from England and had moved to Minneapolis for Roger's job at 3M. "We had given up finding the perfect home," said Neroli. "It was love at first sight."
"It reminded me of the homes in the English seaside town where I grew up," said Roger. "When we went inside and I saw the view, I told the Realtor we would take it."
But other prospective buyers were vying for the property, so the Laceys submitted an offer the next day and then closed the deal.
"There was something very true about the design. It wasn't a hodge-podge," said Neroli. "It was designed and built with love."
With the arrival of two children, India and Violetta, the Laceys decided that the two-story home needed today's amenities and more storage space. "The house was beautiful but impossible for a family to live in," said Neroli. "It had no basement, and we were just bursting at the seams."
The Laceys wanted to add enhancements they could enjoy well into the future, but didn't want to compromise the home's unique architectural character. Their wish list included a flex-room addition, a main-floor bathroom with a shower to rinse off after swimming in the lake and a library/reading room with storage. But the top priority was a private master suite where the couple could unwind at the end of the day.
They started bouncing ideas off Lars Peterssen, a friend and principal of Peterssen/Keller Architecture.
"We really had to understand the house to work with it," said Peterssen. "We created lots of 3-D models so that we and the clients could see the end result and how it would look from the lake and the street."
Peterssen decided the best solution was a third-story addition, which would dramatically change the appearance of the home's distinctive facade. The home was a designated city landmark so Peterssen/Keller needed approval for modifications from the Heritage Preservation Commission (HPC).
"We had to follow a long list of guidelines on renovation of historic properties to make minor or significant changes that would not detract from the structure," said Peterssen.
The team met with city planners and the HPC several times over three months. "The formal application describing the planned work was well over 100 pages," said Peterssen. The team even had to submit samples of stucco, glass block and casement windows to ensure the new materials would match the period of the home.
Preserving the facade
Finally, the HPC gave the Laceys the go-ahead for the entire renovation, including a 640-square-foot third-story addition, which was set back to help preserve the original lakeside facade.
"What surprised me most was the underlying rationale that finally got it approved," said Peterssen. "The HPC said the house was on an extremely valuable piece of property and it was more likely to be preserved long term if it was allowed to change with the times. I think they did the right thing for the Laceys and the house."
Neroli and Roger's new master bedroom offers everything homeowners want today but never would have dreamed of in 1936: a luxe marble bathroom with heated floors and steam shower, a comfortable sitting room with a two-sided fireplace and glass-blocked dressing room to make it easier to pack for their many trips. The Laceys can step out to a huge terrace overlooking Cedar Lake. "It feels like a first-class suite from a 1930s steamship line," said Roger.
On the main floor, Peterssen converted a seldom-used enclosed porch into a library with floor-to-ceiling storage cabinets and a two-sided curved marble fireplace. Removing the porch wall made the living and dining rooms feel much more open.
Neroli replaced the dark red-oak floors with bleached and whitewashed wood to brighten up the spaces. Off the kitchen, they added a "flex" room to serve as a study, playroom for the girls and guest quarters.
For the final flourish, Neroli painted accent walls an intense hot pink and teal to add energy to the crisp white spaces. "It's vibrant and exciting and makes me happy," she said.
Although the renovation was an involved process -- the family had to move out for nine months -- the Laceys have created a home they plan to stay in for a long time.
And after 76 years, the International Style landmark continues to turn heads. It was featured in a 1937 issue of Architectural Forum, and this fall will have a place of honor on the cover of the book "Legendary Homes of the Minneapolis Lakes" by Karen Melvin and Bette Hammel.
"We're absolutely thrilled it's on the cover because it's a house with great architectural merit both in its original design and the more recent remodel," said Neroli. "And it shows Cedar Lake in all its beauty."
Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619