Globe-trotting couple Barbara and David Meline have traveled and lived all over the world. But their favorite place on Earth today is a gracious home facing Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis. After three years of house-hunting and one year undertaking a renovation, the couple have nested where they can cross-country ski the Loppet in the winter and kayak in the summer.
“The quality of life is good here,” said Barbara. “The winters are very cold, but it’s pretty — crystal clear and white.”
The couple landed in Minneapolis in 2008 after David, who grew up in Owatonna, Minn., was offered a dream job at 3M. The Melines, with their teenage sons, first rented a home near Lake Harriet while they searched for lakeside property, consulting with architectural firm Peterssen/Keller on the feasibility of renovating the older homes they were considering.
Barbara and David often admired a big white house on a corner facing Lake of the Isles. “It looked so charming, with the big front porch and all the windows,” Barbara said. “And it was on the Kenilworth Lagoon.”
In 2011, the house fortuitously went up for sale. It seemed like a good fit for the Melines. At just under 4,000 square feet, the house, which was designed by renowned architect Harry Wild Jones, was manageable in size, unlike many of the big mansions on Isles. And although the house was more than a century old, it was well-maintained and in good condition. But inside, the rooms were dark and compartmentalized, with heavy plaster faux finishes and peachy-brown colors that gave the house a Moorish feel.
“They asked me, ‘Can we turn this house into something we would love and is our style?’ ” said architect Lars Peterssen.
The Melines’ style was modern, with an open floor plan, clean lines, gallery-white walls and light-soaked spaces, similar to homes the family had lived in while in Switzerland, where Barbara grew up. “My parents were avant-garde, and I grew up surrounded by modern architecture — that’s how I developed my taste,” she said.
Peterssen knew that the house, a blend of Spanish Mediterranean and Italianate architecture, was a rare find on the Kenilworth Lagoon and smartly positioned to capture light from the east and the south. “Peterssen/Keller assured us that we could renovate and open it up and make it brighter,” said David, who is currently 3M’s CFO.
The Wild Jones spirit
On the exterior, Peterssen/Keller put in all new energy-efficient casement windows, matching them to the original windows, using an early 1900s photo for reference. The brick exterior was painted white, retaining the decorative cornices and the red-tiled roof.
“We were respectful to the Harry Wild Jones architecture and the original facade,” said Peterssen. “The only big exterior change was a large sliding-glass door that opens to a courtyard in the back facing the lagoon.”
The interior, however, underwent a radical transformation. “It had been remodeled many times over the years, so we weren’t heartbroken about making changes,” said Barbara.
To create unobstructed views and draw in light, the Peterssen/Keller design team widened the existing openings between several of the rooms, creating an open flow between the enclosed porch and living spaces. Steel beams were added in the ceiling, for support.
Kristine Anderson, the lead designer on the renovation, infused the main floor with fresh modern elements, including painted white millwork and wide-plank white oak floors covered with a light wash to complement “French canvas” painted walls. The original dark staircase was transformed by removing a partial wall and painting it white. “We cleaned it up and defined spaces with new beamed ceilings that match the original ones,” she said.
Anderson gave the fireplace wall in the sitting area a modern makeover, with a streamlined ribbon gas fireplace flanked by blackened steel display shelves and a floating textured limestone surround “that looks like tweed,” she said. Above the fireplace, the original leaded-glass windows with scrolled iron frames keep the spirit of Harry Wild Jones alive.
In the rear of the home, the architecture team completely gutted and reconfigured the spaces, which include a sleek new kitchen. “The kitchen was on the south side, and the family room on the north side,” said Anderson. “We flipped them — so the family room could enjoy the light from the lagoon — and turned the two spaces into a great room.” They also closed off a servants’ staircase to gain 4 more feet for the kitchen, a study in simple, clean design with acid-etched frosted glass covering the crisp white cabinets and backsplash, for ease in cleaning.
Barbara requested a spacious workhorse center island — but not the typical tall stools surrounding it. So Anderson wrapped a piece of white oak around the island, and cantilevered it out to create a comfortable seating area for casual meals.
Since the renovation, the Melines have embellished the redesigned home with their collection of midcentury-modern and Art Deco furnishings. There are also memorable pieces from locales where they’ve lived, including Brazil, Korea and Africa, where they met. Eclectic finds — from a framed ancient map of Brazil to a bone-and-mahogany armchair handcrafted by a Kenyan artist — add one-of-a-kind character and color to every room. “We created a clean and quiet base palette that they can fill in with the elements from their life and give it a modern vibe,” said Anderson.
On the second floor, the Melines updated two bathrooms, including the master. It’s modern and comfortable with a heated tile floor and rift-sawn oak vanity against Carrara marble-tiled walls. Floating mirrors suspended in front of windows maximize the natural light. In the adjoining bedroom, David and Barbara can sip coffee on a balcony and watch the sun rise over Lake of the Isles.
The yearlong renovation was well worth it, said the Melines. Today they live in a grand older home that also reflects their modern sensibilities and international style. The walls of windows open to views of red foxes scampering across the snow and geese returning in the spring.
“It feels like we’re in the country,” said Barbara. “But we’re by the Walker [Art Center], great restaurants, and can see the downtown skyline.”