As the owners of Alma Homes, Kirsten Erickson and Ethan Kindseth have designed and built a lot of houses. But their current home on Lake Independence is the first one they've built for themselves.

"We've remodeled but never built before," said Erickson, who studied architecture and specializes in design.

Building a house from scratch wasn't on their radar, in part because they wanted to stay in Independence and the Orono school district. Erickson said she would only move if they could find a place on the lake. Then a 5-acre lakeshore lot "fell into our lap," she said.

The couple built a modern French country lake home, which will be open to the public during the Parade of Homes Artisan Home Tour, which showcases 22 distinctive homes, both new and remodeled, throughout the Twin Cities.

"It's very inspired by our travels, especially in Europe," said Erickson of the home, which incorporates vintage doors and windows from French châteaux and boasts tile in one of the five bathrooms that was inspired by the sidewalks of Barcelona.

Their 5,000-square-foot home is "elegant but livable," she said. "It serves our family very well."

The couple's household includes four children, and their home was "designed around zones," she said. "The teenagers have the basement, and the younger two have a little rec area upstairs." The owners' suite includes a see-through fireplace between the bedroom and bath and a private deck. There's also a mother-in-law apartment above the garage with its own living room and kitchen.

In the main house, tour-goers will see a kitchen designed for form as well as function. "We love to cook and entertain," Erickson said. There's a massive island and built-ins to hide small appliances, as well as a concealed pantry. "All the mess disappears."

The home also showcases indoor/outdoor living features, including a large front porch with outdoor dining area, a back deck with a see-through fireplace, a three-season porch with its own fireplace and a grill deck off the butler's pantry. A bank of folding doors opens to the living room to the rear deck to "blur the indoors and outdoors," Erickson said.

And if you visit the home during the tour, look for the "secret spaces," including a hidden playroom.

The home took about a year to complete because it sometimes had to take a back seat to clients' projects, Erickson said. As a design-build firm that also does remodeling, Alma Homes intentionally stays smaller and boutique, she said, taking on about eight to 12 builds a year. "We specialize in weird and unique. We love taking spaces people can't figure out and breathing new life into them."

Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784