When singer/songwriter Jan Edwards wants to get her friends together to make some music, she doesn’t have to hunt for the perfect venue. It’s right down the hall in the performance stage/party lounge that she recently added onto her house in Plymouth.
She doesn’t sell tickets or charge admission, but every few months, she hosts a big private party where “music is the star.”
“The idea was to do house concerts, music-related fundraising and songwriting workshops,” said Edwards (janedwards.com).
Creating a dedicated space for music in her home is part of creating space for music in her life. Edwards grew up playing guitar and writing songs, but when it came time to choose a career, she opted for commercial art. “I knew I could make a living at it,” she said.
She worked as an art director for several companies, including Target and Marshall Field’s in Chicago, as well as EDCO, the family-owned siding and roofing company that her father started 70 years ago.
But eventually she realized songwriting was “my true art form,” and she decided to dedicate herself to it more seriously.
“I’d always written songs, but I never knew what I was doing. I did it instinctively,” she said. She started making trips to Nashville to attend workshops, work with a songwriting coach, record demos, network and listen to live music.
She was spending so much time in Nashville that she considered living there full time. But her aging parents and the family business needed her, so she returned to the Twin Cities, where she continued writing songs. Eventually she had enough material to record a double album, “Right Here.”
She first shared her music on Second Life, a 3-D virtual reality platform where she live-streamed songs. A physical performance venue was the next step — “bringing virtual reality to life, which is where it should be,” she said.
Before she found the house that would bring her virtual reality to life, she saw it in a dream — literally. In the dream, her late father and brother showed her a house. “It was modern and made of stone and brick,” she said.
Months later, while house hunting she toured a midcentury modern, 1969-built house overlooking a lake. “When I saw it, I knew instantly,” she said. This was the house her father and brother had shown her, and she was meant to buy it.
The one-story house had 3,200 square feet of living space, but it was lacking in one crucial aspect. “I realized I didn’t have enough room for my guitars,” said Edwards.
She envisioned a modest addition with a small stage and some storage. But the project mushroomed into a large state-of-the-art venue that could accommodate a crowd for house concerts, a growing trend in today’s music industry.
Thus was born the Moonacy (rhymes with lunacy) Music Room, its name a nod to Edwards’ nickname, Moondog, for her fondness for canines (she has four).
There were several “conspirators in the creative process,” including architect Alex Haecker of AWH Architects (awharchitects.com), Minneapolis, who designed the 40- by 60-foot addition. “We wanted to celebrate the existing building, but not mimic it,” he said.
Built behind the existing house, the addition soars to a 22-foot ceiling on one side, where a wall of triple-paned glass windows offer expansive views of the courtyard, koi pond and, beyond them, the lake. The new space, with angled walls and exposed metal trusses, was designed to amplify sound and utilize passive solar energy.
Working with interior designers Shelly and Carl David of CIH Design, Edwards developed a “four elements” theme for the music room, with features that evoke fire, earth, air and water.
“Water” is represented in a 1,000-gallon built-in aquarium where Edwards winters her koi — and in the aquatic-inspired bathroom.
“It was a crazy idea, like being underwater,” said Shelly. Step into the room and the ominous theme from “Jaws” begins to play. To your right is a 4- by 6-foot glass panel with the moving image of a swimming shark. In front of you is a pedestal sink, lit to emanate a blue glow, while all around you are shimmering mosaic tiles made of seashells. Look up, and you’ll see pinpricks of fiber-optic light on the ceiling. “It looks like stars sparkling on the surface of the water,” she said.
The focal point as you enter the music room is the “Magic Wall,” a riotous crazy quilt of color representing “air.” It consists of fabric-wrapped acoustic panels that alternate with 18 video-monitor tiles, linked to the AV system and 98-inch monitor on stage, to show images of the four elements.
That patchwork wall “started as a design element,” said Edwards, who was inspired by a picture she’d torn from a magazine. “Then we decided we could make it acoustic.”
The ceiling, too, was engineered for sound quality and absorption, Haecker noted. “The acoustics are amazing! A live country band can be playing, loud, and you can still have a conversation.”
The bar brings the “fire.” Crafted by artist/sculptor James Lamis and tile craftsman Lee Gorres, it features a lightning-bolt motif, and its glass mosaic-tile surface and backsplash are underlit to give it the look of burning embers. The chandeliers above resemble charred branches, while behind the bar, floor-to-ceiling white draperies act as a screen for a ceiling projector that projects video of flames.
The music room’s bold color palette, dominated by orange and turquoise, was pulled from an epic 19- by 9-foot painting by Ojibwe artist Rabbett Before Horses Strickland that dominates one wall of the music room.
And, of course, there’s a stage, made of reclaimed chestnut barnwood from a tobacco farm, representing “earth.” It includes cork-lined guitar cabinets for Edwards’ collection, with deep pullout drawers under the stage platform for storing empty guitar cases and other equipment for visiting musicians.
Working on such an imaginative project was fun for all involved.
“It was thrilling to do something creative, out of the box,” designer Shelly David said. “For the first time, I was working with someone [Edwards] with wilder ideas than me. Usually, I have to rein it in, but she’d top it off.”
Edwards enjoyed the collaborative process so much that she was sorry to see it end. “It was such a joy to be able to say things like, ‘I want a flaming bar,’ and see it come to life.”
But the most fun has been having parties in the space and seeing people’s reactions to it, she said. A wide variety of artists have performed on the Moonacy stage, ranging from aspiring local teen talents to Grammy-winning country singer Jamie O’Neil, who traveled from Nashville with her band for a concert last month. (Visiting artists stay in the “Dragon Room,” the Asian-themed guest suite.)
Edwards’ first party, in early 2015, was a celebration of many things: her birthday, the release of her CD, the grand opening of the music room and a dedication to her parents, who died a month apart in 2012.
“Without them, it wouldn’t have been possible,” she said. “It was great to have all these people together. I couldn’t stop smiling.”