An ocean may be thousands of miles away, but Nate and Stephanie Wissink have cleverly re-created that water-centric, laid-back sunny California feel in their Edina home.
Expanses of glass, a saltwater swimming pool and casual breezy living spaces shape the home’s coastal modern style.
“It’s our way of being in California but still being connected to the people we love,” said Nate, who is also managing director of builder Elevation Homes in Wayzata.
When the couple first married, they seriously explored buying property and living on the West Coast. They often vacationed in areas near San Francisco and Los Angeles.
The comfortable climate and perpetual sun were a big draw, as well as the water-fueled lifestyle around swimming pools, beaches and the Pacific Ocean. “The way the homes there had an indoor-outdoor connection really appealed to us,” said Nate.
Laguna Beach was on the couple’s radar for its neighborhood feel, walkability and closeness to the ocean.
The Wissinks also were big fans of modern design by Joseph Eichler, an influential real estate developer of midcentury modern ranch-style housing in the 1950s and ’60s in California.
“His homes had that beach-cottage feel, with the rafter tails and floor-to-ceiling windows,” said Nate.
The West Coast was calling — but all the Wissinks’ family and friends were in Minnesota.
So the couple put their California dream on the back burner and built a home on a city lot in Linden Hills in 2009 to accommodate their growing family.
In 2016, Nate was collaborating with architect Andrea Swan of Swan Architecture on an Elevation Homes project in Edina’s Morningside neighborhood. They heard that the retired couple next door were considering selling the lot and the home, an early 1900s farmhouse last updated in the 1980s.
The Wissinks surveyed the property. With a massive three-car garage front and center “all we could see was a tiny patch of green, and I couldn’t imagine how a different house could fit on it,” said Stephanie.
But Nate, the builder, and Swan, the architect, were already envisioning a new home on the 100-foot-wide rectangular-shaped suburban lot — big enough to hold a Hollywood Hills-style swimming pool.
The Wissinks jumped on the opportunity and decided “to go for it,” said Nate.
They knocked on the neighbor’s door, made an offer and never looked back. “This was the lot where we could build our California home,” he said.
The Wissinks requested a design in which abundant light could stream through open and airy multifunctional living spaces.
In order for their new home’s architectural style to fit with the neighborhood bungalows, Colonials and modern farmhouses, the couple were gravitating to an East Coast style of pitched roofs, gables and wraparound porch.
But Swan probed, asking, “What do you really want?”
“What really resonated with us was California modern with a flat roof,” said Nate.
The couple got their Eichler-inspired flat roof, and a facade with strong horizontal lines, yet updated for 21st-century living.
The L-shaped floor plan includes a glass breezeway link from the “mud hall” to the cabana/pool house, which steps out to the pool deck.
Right now the cabana is a hangout area for kids, but with its bathroom and closet, the couple can convert it into a suite for an aging parent if needed.
“The extensive use of glass, open floor plan, simplicity and integration with the outdoors” gives the home a modern California style, said lead designer Carlos Bravo of Swan Architecture.
Another standout feature is ultimate transparency from the inside to the outdoors.
Floor-to-ceiling glass makes it easy to see clear through the home — from the front entry to the ocean-blue backyard swimming pool.
In fact, the saltwater pool feels close enough to dive right in. And at night, the two-story home looks like a giant illuminated lantern.
“You can clearly see inside — it’s all glass — but they’re OK with that,” said Swan.
Nate agreed. “I really like the light flowing through the house. Privacy has not been a concern.”
However, the front porch, which spans the width of the house, creates a layer of privacy from the street, minimizing the fishbowl effect, while breaking down the scale of the structure, noted Swan.
Inside, the beach-house vibe is expressed through shiplap on walls and ceilings, knotty pine across the staircase wall and light-stained floors and woodwork.
“The pine wall adds a different layer and texture, and the knots make it feel more rustic,” said Nate. “Like a warm piece of driftwood.”
Swan also designed a “cube” clad in navy-painted wide shiplap to house a cozy family and TV room. “In beach houses, there’s always that away space,” said Nate.
In the great room, a slate gray stone fireplace surround complements the stone on the poolside patio only a few feet away, visually connecting indoors and out.
Casual natural materials, such as rattan chairs, sisal area rugs and a neutral palette soften the modernity, said Nate.
In the open kitchen, the couple nixed the expected pendants above the island and installed recessed can lights for a “clean and crisp feeling,” he said. The island’s oak base and the cabinets’ glass doors add warmth to the white-on-white kitchen.
The sculptural floating staircase, which can be viewed from the street, is reminiscent of stairs you might see on a beach house to get down to the beach, said Nate.
He found the perfect spot in the stairwell for 1960s-style Pop & Scott jute light fixtures.
“This staircase is one of things I appreciate about architecture,” he said. “It can be an interactive visual experience.”
The Wissinks are raising two young children while both working demanding jobs.
So they’ve intentionally transformed their casual suburban home into their version of a laid-back sunny Laguna Beach residence.
“Going to work in the morning is hard,” said Nate. “The water is very calming and transcends you to a different place. You don’t feel like you’re in Minnesota.”