You can almost hear the surf when you visit this year’s designer showcase home. Outside, it’s clad in cedar shakes, like a Hamptons beach house built to weather the salty breeze. Inside, the home is all blues and sandy hues, with finishes, textures and accents that evoke driftwood, rope, shells and sea glass.

The nearest body of water is Lake Harriet, not the ocean, but the home still feels like a coastal vacation spot. That relaxing sand-between-your-toes vibe was very much the goal of homeowners Mark and Susan Lacek.

“We love to surround ourselves with water,” said Susan. “It’s so calming. We wanted that feeling in our house.”

It’s a feeling that a lot of today’s homeowners crave, said designer Karen McKay of Gunkelman’s Interior Design, chairwoman of this year’s showcase and one of the designers who helped transform the Laceks’ 1920s southwest Minneapolis Tudor into the beach house of their dreams.

“Coastal is a popular style right now — it’s right on trend,” she said.

The Laceks had a “very distinct vision” for their home, she said, but relaxation wasn’t the only goal. The couple also hoped to create a place that would be a magnet for their two daughters (Emmy, 14, and Ally, 12) and their friends. That was the driving force behind moving from their longtime home to another just down the street.

“We loved the street, the location, the people,” said Mark. “The kids’ friends are here.”

But the girls and their friends were growing up rapidly, and the Laceks wanted their home to be the hangout of choice during their high school years. “We wanted to stay a little closer, know where our kids are and who their friends are,” Mark said.

“The kids were at an age where they were wanting friends over, and some privacy,” Susan said. But the family’s cold, cellar-like basement and small backyard were less than inviting.

“We needed to create different spaces,” Susan said. “Or we’d lose our kids to somebody else’s cool house.”

To create those spaces, the Tudor house was gutted and expanded from 4,500 to 6,600 square feet. The remodeling was so extensive that designers had to push back their annual showcase event from spring to fall.

“It was almost like working on new construction, where you choose everything,” noted Diane Lumpkin of Diane Lumpkin Design, who designed Mark’s study and the reading nook, with Jennifer Austin-McGrath, Fine House Interiors.

That gave designers and the Laceks a clean slate. “We didn’t have [existing] architectural detail to work around,” said Christine Happel of Ethan Allen in Woodbury, who designed Ally’s room with Elsa Dean of Ethan Allen in Edina.

The Laceks were apprehensive about handing over their home makeover to such a large team. “We were nervous that with 27 designers, we might get 27 different looks,” Mark said. “But not at all.”

All four family members were closely involved in selection of materials and details in their spaces. “We made sure the house was cohesive,” Susan said. “They [designers] carried out our vision better than we could have imagined.”

The family won’t move into their home until Oct. 23, once public tours are over, but the girls are bringing their friends around to check out its hangout-worthy features. The backyard boasts a small pool, an outdoor kitchen, a tree swing, a hanging bed and even an in-ground trampoline for gymnast Ally.

The lower-level entertainment room includes comfy spots for lounging, a pool table, big-screen TV and movable drink/snack table. The girls also worked with designers to personalize their own rooms to their liking.

“Now you’d better bring your friends over!” Susan said.

“Definitely,” said Emmy, whose best friend has staked her claim to the reading nook off her bedroom. “She said, ‘Your house is going to be so cool! I need a place to put my stuff.’ ”

The Lacek parents have some cool new spaces of their own, including his-and-hers master baths and closets. “I love him dearly, but after 16 years of sharing a bath, I needed my own,” Susan said.

“I’m not the neatest,” Mark conceded. “She can shut that door and not have to look at my mess.”

Family remembrances

The Laceks’ new home is full of brand-new furniture and accessories, but there are also many mementos of the past. Treasured family photos are incorporated into the design, including a gallery in the sunroom and a huge photo collage mural in the upstairs hall. At the end of the hall is a portrait of the family dogs, one that died while the project was underway and the other a rescue dog they adopted when they were living in Anguilla several years ago.

Another prominent memento of their time there is “the dock” — a ledge of reclaimed wood above their stair landing that displays a bike, a surfboard and a replica of the sign from their favorite beach-shack restaurant.

“It was our family adventure,” said Susan of their Caribbean sojourn.

Filling this home with happy memories is especially sweet for the Laceks because their last remodeling project ended in tragic circumstances. Fifteen years ago, they were eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child. “Our nursery was being built. It was supposed to be done in time for the baby,” Susan recalled. But their full-term baby girl, Faith, died in utero, because of a problem with the umbilical cord.

Devastated, the Laceks couldn’t bring themselves to return home, where contractors were at work on the makeover they’d planned to welcome their newborn.

“We were sleeping on friends’ couches,” Susan said. Mourning their loss, they headed to a resort in Wisconsin. The time spent in nature helped the grieving couple begin the healing process, but they found themselves surrounded by vacationers who were there for “happy reasons,” Susan said. “We didn’t want to bring them down.”

She and Mark talked about how great it would be if there were a retreat for bereaved couples and families, where they could talk about their loss with others who were going through similar situations.

“A light bulb went on,” Susan said. They would create that place in honor of their daughter. Faith’s Lodge, a Wisconsin retreat, has served 2,300 families since it opened in 2007, and is the “charitable partner” for this year’s showcase event.

The Laceks labored over the details of Faith’s Lodge just as they did their own home. “Mark and I worked so hard on the design, to make it beautiful,” Susan said. “We wanted the aesthetics to be calming, a place where people could feel at peace.”

Baby Faith will always be part of their family. “We put up a stocking for Faith at Christmas,” Susan said.

But time heals, and this remodeling was a happy experience, she said.

“This is our dream house,” said Mark. “We feel very grateful. And the kids are still young enough that we get to share it with them.”


Mpls.St.Paul Magazine ASID MN Showcase Home

What: Self-guided tour of a home near Lake Harriet where every room has been transformed by a team of 27 interior designers.

Where: 4533 Fremont Av. S., Mpls.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, through Oct. 11. Special events include culinary evenings, designer-led tours and ladies’ night out. For details, visit

Cost: $20; free for ages 12 and younger when accompanied by a paid adult. Discounted tickets ($15) available at ASID MN office in International Market Square, Cambria showroom in downtown Minneapolis, Hirshfield’s and Patina stores. For more information, call 612-336-9205.

Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784