A sunroom addition on a Minneapolis home lets in the light

  • Article by: LYNN UNDERWOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 2, 2013 - 6:43 AM

A seamless sunroom addition mixes a modern aesthetic with Mediterranean style and satisfies a Minneapolis family's need for light.

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Kamil Ugurbil grew up in Turkey along the Mediterranean coast. When he moved to cold, landlocked Minnesota with his wife, Jutta Ellermann, he hungered for bright sunlight.

“I need more light,” he said, “especially in the winter.”

In 1993, Ellermann and Ugurbil moved a little emotionally closer to home when they bought a Mediterranean-style house in Minneapolis. It was even on a body of water, although it was the Kenilworth Lagoon, between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles, rather than the sea.

The problem? The 1920s-era house had very few windows, which made it dark inside.

The couple’s quest for natural light led them to architect Chris Strom of TEA2 Architects in Minneapolis, who came up with a design for a modern sunroom addition to the front of the home. With its white stuccoed walls, wrought-iron railinged terrace and multi-pane windows, the exterior of the addition is in keeping with the traditional Mediterranean style. But inside, the simple clean-lined spaces showcase the couple’s modern taste.

“We are people of history, and this house captures our past and our present,” said Ugurbil.

At home in the city

Before moving to Minneapolis, Ugurbil and Ellermann lived in a farmhouse on five acres in Orono. But when a major highway was planned too close for their comfort, the couple sold their land and rented a friend’s house near Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis.

They were considering building a house in suburban Medina, when they discovered that the lakes, the walkable neighborhood and nearby bike trails gave their Minneapolis neighborhood a surprisingly European feel. “It reminded me of an area in Berlin where I had lived,” said Ellermann, who grew up in Germany.

Then, while walking their dog one day, Ellermann and Ugurbil happened onto the Mediterranean-style house. Not only did it have an exterior they both liked, but it boasted an expansive back yard on the lagoon. Another plus: It was not far from the University of Minnesota, where Ellermann is a radiologist and Ugurbil is a physicist and professor.

“We realized it was a rare piece of property,” said Ugurbil. “We decided to change our plans and buy it.”

From the start, they knew the more than 70-year-old structure needed a multitude of updates, but “it had so many original features, and we saw its potential,” said Ellermann. “We knew we would renovate it when we bought it.”

In the mid-1990s, the couple hired TEA2 Architects to design the first phase of the renovation, which included knocking down walls to open up the dark main floor, adding a family room and second-floor master suite. They also put in a large contemporary kitchen with hardware-free cabinets and a massive freestanding center island.

“It’s clean and modern — and was very forward for the 1990s,” said Ugurbil of the first remodeling job.

Let there be light

The family room, which had windows offering views of canoes gliding along the lagoon, solved Ugurbil’s never-ending need for light — but only in the morning. By the afternoon, the sun had moved to the opposite side of the house.

So, in 2006, the couple enlisted Strom for Phase Two.

The challenge: how to bring in natural light in the afternoon and evening for the couple and their daughter, Aileen.

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  • Kamil Ugurbil and Jutta Ellermann at home with their daughter, Aileen, in the modern sunroom addition designed by Chris Strom of TEA2 Architects.

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