The newly built three-level home on a quiet Lake Minnetonka bay could be considered unconventional.
A whimsical metal bridge connects the car courtyard to the front entry. In the foyer, sleek steel cables create a transparent screen to the living room. A futuristic ceiling fan’s propeller-like blades spin inside a soaring vault. And the rooms facing the lake are nearly wall-to-wall glass.
Yet it was designed for a conventional family of five whose members do homework at the kitchen table, “camp out” in the screened porch and play with Legos and American Girl dolls in an upstairs loft.
“This young family wanted a house that supported their active daily lives and expressed their personal style — friendly, tough, practical and spunky,” said Jean Rehkamp Larson, who designed the home with Kari Nelson, both architects at Rehkamp Larson Architects in Minneapolis.
The homeowners bought the piece of property in 1999. As their family grew, so did their desire to start from scratch and build a multifunctional, family-focused residence on the water’s edge.
Although the lot offered a spectacular view of the bay, it was narrow and had a dramatic change in elevation from the street to the lake. So the Rehkamp Larson team devised a unique three-level design to help mitigate the slope.
A series of steps start at the driveway to the transitional bridge. The garage leads to the mudroom, where there are four more steps down to the main living level.
“Stepping down from the street allows the entire house to sit lower, and the roofline is minimal,” said Nelson. “It gradually gets you down to the lake level.”
The result is that from the street side, the home appears to be a story-and-a half. From the lake side, you have a clear view of the full three stories.
For the exterior, the architects used familiar forms such as a steep gable and pop-up shed dormers. “But the dormers have a steel roof, and the board and battan siding has random spacing,” said Rehkamp Larson. “It’s tradition with a twist.”
Tough as nails
Inside, the homeowners’ request for simple, uncluttered lines and easy-flow, airy spaces guided the design toward a modern aesthetic. The couple home-school their three children, so the interior layout and materials also needed to be practical, knock-around comfortable — and indestructible.
The kitchen maple flooring and foyer ceiling is from Manomin Resawn Timbers, which was reclaimed from a century-old factory in Wisconsin that made cabinets for the Edison Phonograph Co.
The living-room floor is an easy-to-clean polished concrete, warmed by in-floor heat and a wool area rug.
The kitchen, which has become the hub, is anchored by a massive quartz-covered island that easily accommodates five stools for casual breakfasts and lunches. A bank of walnut cabinets above the sink and the worn maple floors infuse warmth into the cool layers of stainless-steel countertops, appliances, hardware and fixtures.
But the hands-down best feature of the home is the 15-by-25-foot lakeside porch, which connects the kitchen to the lake and backyard views. Remote-control retractable screens on three sides transform the space into a bug-free zone at night.
“The screen porch lets them [the family] really experience the lake,” said Nelson. “They can feel the breeze and smell the water. It engages all the senses.”
Off the kitchen is a spacious, office-worthy area, which the homeowners call the “koffice.” It includes a large walk-in pantry — with shelves big enough for Costco bulk items — a computer desk, laundry and cubby-lined mudroom.
While the porch is summer central, the living room is geared for cold-weather fires and movie nights. A woodburning fireplace with a surround made of sleek, hot-rolled steel and a wood bin fills one wall. Industrial steel accents are repeated throughout the home, including a steel stringer supporting a “floating” staircase and powdered steel columns framing the foyer.
The stairs lead up to an open loft overlooking the living room. The loft doubles as a TV and playroom and can be converted into study space when the children get older. Down the hall are two kids’ bedrooms with space-saving sleeping lofts. The owners’ suite faces Lake Minnetonka, and offers panoramic views of the water.
The lower level’s exposed concrete walls provide energy-saving insulation. It also houses a guest bedroom, office and a gym under the garage. The walk-out door makes it easy to step out to the lakeside patio and fire pit.
Modern furnishings that “looked great” and were tough as nails drove interior designer Brooke Voss’ selections.
“The dining-room table is used for Thanksgiving dinner and Play-Doh,’’ she said. “So we picked reclaimed walnut from Wood From the Hood.” The dining chair backs and seats are fashioned from seatbelts.
Voss’ uncomplicated main color scheme is neutral gray, white and black, with doses of chartreuse and periwinkle blue — a nod to the lake setting.
“We didn’t want your typical safe white kitchen,” she said. “We laid the homeowner’s periwinkle blue scarf across the floor and countertop materials, and knew it was perfect.”
It took about three years from the first phone call to Rehkamp Larson Architects to the day the homeowners finally moved in. But for the family, their one-of-a-kind home is the perfect combination of a modern urban loft built with many strong, sustainable materials.
“This home was designed and built to last for this family for a long time,” said Nelson.