Couple has the Wright idea

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 17, 2012 - 3:20 PM
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Homegaze0812: Renovated 1916 Prairie style home on Lake of the Isles for sale by Coldwell Banker Burnet. Credit: Karen Melvin

Photo: Karen Melvin, Star Tribune

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Artist Skip Liepke tackled his biggest art project in 1991 when he and his wife, Michelle, bought a Prairie School-inspired home across from Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.

The house, designed by Dorr and Dorr Architects in 1915, included several Prairie-style elements, such as strong horizontal lines, a stucco exterior and a red-tiled, low-pitched roof.

"I've always been an architecture buff and loved Frank Lloyd Wright, the Arts and Crafts movement and Prairie School," said Skip, a Minneapolis painter whose works are exhibited in galleries in New York and London. "I wanted a home with a deep, long, slanted roofline. It fits here."

The Liepkes, both from St. Louis Park, were moving from New York City back to the Twin Cities to raise a family. They were enamored with the home's built-in spindled bench in the foyer and the handsome mahogany staircase. But the couple soon discovered the home would require extensive cosmetic updating and a new kitchen. The original servant's kitchen was tiny and utilitarian, far from the hub of the home.

"But the house was built like the Rock of Gibraltar," said Skip. "And it had a great quality. I knew we could fix it up."

The renovation, a 15-year process, involved stripping and restoring woodwork, tearing out mint-green carpet, refinishing hardwood floors and painting over pink walls. The couple remodeled the musty basement and put in an office, a workshop, a laundry room and an art studio for Skip.

They also converted a solarium with a terrazzo marble floor and a curved wall of windows into a family/media room outfitted with a surround-sound system. "It's a great place to have a Super Bowl party," said Skip. "It's our most lived-in room."

In the mid-1990s, the Liepkes enlisted SALA architect Joseph Metzler to design a two-story, back-of-the home addition, which included an expansive new kitchen and casual eating area inspired by Craftsman and Prairie-style elements.

The highly detailed interior is an amalgamation of art-glass transom windows, Mission-style mahogany cabinetry, hammered copper sinks, stained cement floors and Prairie School light fixtures.

"I took all the detail that Frank Lloyd Wright would have done in the living area and put it in the kitchen," said Skip, who designed the art-glass windows as well as lamps in other parts of the home.

From the art glass to the Wright-style planters by the front door, Skip worked to create an aesthetic as close to early 1900s Prairie style as possible.

"I wanted everything to feel like it belonged in the house -- like it was always there since 1915. No shiny aluminum or chrome," he said. "I even patina-ed the aluminum handles on the Subzero refrigerator."

Skip's meticulous attention to detail was recently rewarded. Photographer Karen Melvin and writer Bette Hammel will feature the photogenic interiors in their book "Legendary Homes of the Minneapolis Lakes" in bookstores on November 1.

When the house sells, Skip will miss what he calls a "sculptural work of art." But not for long. The Liepkes will be engrossed with their next project -- building a new home on a lot they bought in Edina.

"This house is done," he said. "We want to start over and move on to a new chapter."

 

Other features:

• The 5,084-square-foot home includes three bedrooms and four bathrooms.

• It sits on a hill overlooking Lake of the Isles.

• A new casual eating area off the kitchen connects to the mudroom.

• Energy-saving lake breezes. "It was built before electricity and A/C," said Skip. "It has great air flow, and when you open the windows, the house really cools off."

• Remodeled front porch with a new art-glass door.

• Asian-style landscaping and gardens.

• Furniture is also for sale -- some pieces were custom-designed for the house.

Bruce Birkeland of Coldwell Banker Burnet has the listing, 612-920-5605.

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619

SHOW US YOUR HOUSE

To have a unique property considered for a Homegazing feature, please send digital photos and a description to lunderwood@startribune.com.

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