Dawn Prinsen is drawn to chunky woodwork, glass doorknobs, a big front porch and the rich character of a turn-of-the-century home.
Her husband, Tim, however, would be content living inside a modern glass cube with concrete floors.
The couple had the opportunity to build a new home in 2015. Melding their diverse styles proved as challenging as designing a smart multifunctional floor plan on the super-narrow city lot they had bought.
The Prinsens and their three children previously lived in a 1902 Queen Anne in the East Calhoun neighborhood of south Minneapolis.
The proximity to city lakes, bike trails and walkability to nearby grocery stores and restaurants made them want to remain in their neighborhood for years to come.
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Over time, they had enlisted Peterssen/Keller Architecture in Minneapolis to undertake kitchen and master bath remodeling projects. But the couple finally reached a crossroads when they weren’t sure about investing in a costly main-floor expansion for a mudroom and other improvements.
As Tim was walking their dog a couple of blocks away, he noticed “a tiny house set back from the street that looked vacant,” he said.
After some research, Tim discovered that the neighbor next door to the home had bought it in 2005. He called and asked if she would consider selling it, but she declined. The Prinsens had decided to move forward with a more budget-friendly expansion, when a few months later, the neighbor decided to sell.
“It was just too good to pass up,” said Tim.
That’s because the property was right across the parkway from Bde Maka Ska (formerly Lake Calhoun), with a western exposure. Although the lot was only 42 feet wide, it was 300 feet deep and boasted a huge backyard.
The Prinsens tore down the existing early-1900s summer cottage, which had extensive water damage and mold, and was not salvageable.
“I knew Tim always wanted to build a house someday, so it was the right path for us,” said Dawn.
The Prinsens’ flat-roofed contemporary home composed of glass, stone and wood was designed by the Peterssen/Keller Architecture team of Gabriel Keller, Chad Healy and Lars Peterssen.
The dimensions of the site drove the home’s narrow rectangular design, said Keller. “We could stretch the house out as well, since it was a deep lot.”
The best part of the home’s unique layout is how it creates clear sightlines from front to back, framing pretty views of the lake and landscape through expanses of glass.
Bands of transom windows in the tall ceilings pull in light throughout the spaces. In fact, the front of the home, which faces the lake, and the back, which faces the garage, are a mirror image of each other.
But it was an evolving process to harmoniously balance Dawn’s homespun traditional taste with Tim’s clean-lined modern aesthetic in the exterior and interior finishes, design details, lighting and architectural elements within the 4,400-square-foot home.
“Our plan was a melding of both of their styles,” said Healy.
Clash of new and old
At first, Dawn wasn’t on board with Tim’s vision of a flat-roofed glass house. “I thought a flat roof is really out there,” she said, concerned that it wouldn’t fit among the older homes in the East Calhoun neighborhood.
Tim’s must-have list also included an open floor plan that seamlessly flowed from space to space, bands of massive windows and a minimalist industrial metal vibe.
“Concrete and metal sounds horribly cold,” said Dawn. “I wanted it to be homey and warm — whether it’s modern or not.”
Dawn’s intentional infusions of whimsy and personality start with the floor tile in the foyer, which is a random arrangement of graphic retro patterns.
The playful palette extends to the casual living spaces, with pink area rugs, colorful patterned pillows and faux sheepskin throws.
“I hope people feel comfortable coming in and plopping down on the sofa,” she said.
Black mullions break up walls of glass, and knotty white-oak floors “give it a rustic feel and tone down the modern a notch,” she said. Tim got his sleek steel railing on the staircase, but Dawn softened it with a curvy profile.
The family room is warmed by an old-school wood-burning fireplace accented with a contemporary stone mantel.
Dawn and interior designer Brooke Voss customized a classic chandelier bedecked in teardrop crystals. They hung three identical light fixtures in the living room, family room and upstairs owners’ bedroom. Finally, crystal knobs, similar to what you might see in Grandma’s house, grace the doors.
However, the kitchen fully embraces modern functionality and form with a 17-foot-long marble-topped island running the length of the spacious galley-style space. “Cooking with the girls in the kitchen was huge for me,” said Dawn.
An innovative feature is a “cube” clad in warm walnut veneer that holds a pantry, storage cabinets and a pass-through window to a second prep sink and dishwasher. Transparent metal wire pendants hanging above the island keep the sightlines open.
“It’s like what you might see in a New York City townhouse,” said Keller.
But the interiors are ever-evolving, and Dawn continues to explore ways to make the spaces her own.
“I’d like to add brass, maybe texture from baskets, hang artwork on the big white walls — and more plants,” she said.
Since the residence is tucked back on the lot for privacy, there was plenty of room for a front terrace.
The sunken living room’s sliding-glass door opens directly to the terrace, blurring the lines between inside and out, and creating a prime spot to gaze at the sunsets over the lake shimmering through the trees.
“This is a version of the front porch we had on our Queen Anne,” said Dawn.
The home’s exterior undeniably has Tim’s clean-cut flat roof, but it combines earthy stone walls with white painted cedar, “which hearkens back to traditional siding,” said Healy.
Since their lot was extra-deep, it was ideal for an accessory dwelling unit, said Tim.
The city of Minneapolis passed an ordinance in 2014 to allow homeowners to build ADUs on their property.
“It was forward-thinking city planning, and adds smart density,” he said, “and my in-laws can stay there.”
The couple also rent out the 780-square-foot ADU guest apartment — built above the new detached two-car garage — on Airbnb.
“It will have lots of different uses over its lifetime,” said Tim.
With their exceptionally deep lot, the Prinsens were able to build a modern glass house with a traditional backyard oasis.
“Having a big yard where we could raise chickens and grow vegetables was a bonus,” said Dawn.
ABOUT THIS PROJECT
What: Minneapolis residence lives large on a narrow lot while maintaining a connection to neighboring homes.
Size: 4,400 square feet over three levels with four bedrooms and four bathrooms.
Design team: Architect Lars Peterssen with Gabriel Keller, Chad Healy and Ashley Peterson, Peterssen/Keller Architecture, Mpls., pkarch.com.
Builder: Elevation Homes, Wayzata, elevationhomes.com
Structural engineer: Bunkers & Associates, bunkersand associates.com
Interior design: Brooke Voss Design, Mpls., brookevossdesign.com
Landscape design: Shaw Design Associates, Mpls., shawdesign.com