Cutting-edge home is simply serene

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 30, 2012 - 2:06 PM

A graphic designer in Golden Valley collaborated on a big, cutting-edge project -- his own home.

Jeff Schweigert's new house has a hip, modern sensibility. It's edgy and stylish and boasts a killer view of Sweeney Lake. But it's the home's simplicity that makes Schweigert feel at peace.

"Building this home was about simplifying my life and getting rid of things I don't need, and keeping what I enjoy," said Schweigert, a graphic designer and owner of Boom Island, a Minneapolis design firm. "The busier I've gotten professionally, the more simply I want to live."

When the Golden Valley property, which formerly included a small rundown 1950s ranch house, went up for sale in 2008, hundreds of people toured it. After multiple offers, Schweigert came out on top.

"It was a rare opportunity to buy land on Sweeney Lake," said Schweigert. The half-acre site is surrounded by woods, but is only minutes from downtown Minneapolis. "I could see the potential of the lot was phenomenal."

He tore down the existing home in order to start fresh and take advantage of sustainable materials and technologies he could include only in a newly built home. For design inspiration, he looked to the 1960s modern flat-roofed home he already owned a couple of blocks away.

"I fell in love with mid-century architecture and that style of living," he said. The new home would mix some of the qualities he appreciated in his previous home, such as efficient use of space, an open floor plan and a flat-roof design, with today's green features.

Schweigert called a friend, architect Christian Dean of CityDeskStudio, to design a "once-in-a-lifetime" house for him and his two children at the top of a hill sloping down to Sweeney Lake. They had collaborated on another home of Schweigert's years earlier.

"Jeff wanted a timeless and modernist approach to his new house," said Dean. "It would also feel like it was meant for this site. That's what modern architecture does."

All about the view

Dean came up with a design, edited to the essentials and expressed through a combination of glass, wood and concrete, that maximizes the views of Sweeney Lake from almost every room.

"There's very little decorative details and trim," said Dean. "Everything is pulled away so it doesn't compete with the view."

On the street entry side, the flat-roofed stucco home hugs the earth and fits with the eclectic housing styles of the neighborhood. But the home's lakeside exterior is unconventional, resembling a glass box with a white frame projecting out from the hillside.

"The home is minimalist and has a sculptural quality to it," said Dean. "It's assertive and bold but at the same time restrained."

That minimalist aesthetic is repeated in the interior's wide-open layout, from the foyer's sealed concrete floors to the austere ribbon fireplace. "I love the rustic character of the concrete. It's just like big tile," said Schweigert.

The sleek, almost all-white kitchen is shaped by walls of hardware-free cabinets and was designed to feel like a big piece of furniture, said Schweigert. "Everything is easily accessible but not out," he said. "There's something calming about a kitchen feeling truly clean."

The kitchen opens to the dining room, the living room and to the outdoors -- the reason Schweigert bought the lot -- via a wall-to-wall view of the lake and its densely wooded shoreline. Dean cantilevered the main floor to create the feeling of floating above the water. Schweigert's favorite time of day is when the sun is setting and shining on the water, which reflects the trees.

Gallery effect

Every wall on the main floor is painted white to provide a backdrop for Schweigert's own bold-colored abstract paintings, which mix typography and geometric shapes. "People thought I was crazy -- especially if they had kids," he said of the all-white walls "But once they saw the artwork up -- they got it."

The artwork adds splashes of color, while the dark-stained wood floors, textural concrete and cedar accent walls add warmth to what could be cold spaces. Dean also integrated reclaimed lumber from a mill in Duluth into a built-in bookcase and the dining-room table, for a rustic contrast to the modern interiors.

Dean encased the center staircase in panels of glass for an unhindered panoramic lake view. The stairs go down to a walk-out lower level where "all the destruction happens," joked Schweigert, because that's where his kids and friends hang out. Downstairs, concrete walls are exposed for their texture and depth. The family room's 30-by-9-foot wall of glass includes massive sliding doors that open to a concrete patio. Down the hill is a dock with a speedboat for tubing and water-skiing. "It's our house and cabin wrapped together," said Schweigert.

He gave extensive input into the home's design and relished being able to pick the sustainable elements that worked the best for his budget, style and site.

The two-level home encompasses 4,500 square feet and includes many energy-conserving features such as a geothermal heating and cooling system, in-floor radiant heat, thermal-mass concrete walls and high-performance commercial windows.

"When I come home from work I want to pinch myself because I get to live here," said Schweigert. "It's a pleasant, peaceful place to be. That's attributed to modern design."

His children, Grace and Grant, also love living there but recognize that it's very different from their friends' traditional homes, he noted. "They said, 'Dad, can the next house you build have a roof?'"

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619

VIEW PHOTOS of the Sweeney Lake home and other Homes of the Month at startribune.com/aiahomes.

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  • ABOUT THIS PROJECT

    What: Simplify and edit were the design principles of this new modern home with views of Sweeney Lake and the downtown Minneapolis skyline.

    Size: 4,500 square feet includes two levels with three bedrooms and four bathrooms.

    Design team: Architects Christian Dean, Ben Awes and Bob Ganser, CityDeskStudio, Minneapolis, www.citydeskstudio.com, 612-872-2398.

    Builder: Elevation Homes, a division of Streeter and Associates.

    Cost: $775,000; does not include lot.

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