Martha Ballard and Paul Chrenka decided that the best, budget-friendliest place to build a getaway was to attach it to their Minneapolis home.

“Since we don’t have a cabin Up North, we wanted a screen porch to be our retreat in the city,” Ballard said.

Architect Wynne Yelland complied. His firm, Locus Architecture, designed a porch bump-out on the side of the Ballard-Chrenka 1904 foursquare in southeast Minneapolis. “Their ‘staycation room’ feels different and is where they can get away from it all,” he said.

Since the home sits on a corner, Yelland stripped redwood slats across the bottom half of the porch to give the couple privacy from the sidewalk and street. The redwood was reclaimed from wine barrels, and is among several eco-friendly features in the addition.

The porch is topped with a green roof that not only absorbs stormwater runoff, but also is visually appealing. Ballard relishes the view of their rooftop garden from her home office on the second floor.

“When I look out on the roof and see sedum and hens and chicks — it’s quite lovely,” she said.

The bikers who travel down nearby paths also approve. “When people whiz by, they yell ‘Nice porch!’ ” she said.


The challenge: Martha Ballard and Paul Chrenka’s early 1900s foursquare had a small patio, but it lacked direct access from the house. The couple wanted to build a room addition that would double as an urban “cabin” on their corner city lot, but also give them privacy from the sidewalk and street.

“Martha and Paul wanted to create a retreat,” said architect Wynne Yelland. “But they didn’t want to be in a fishbowl.”

As part of the porch project, the couple planned to add a main-floor bathroom with a shower, so they could stay in the home as they aged. Ballard and Chrenka also requested that Locus Architecture use environmentally friendly materials and features when possible.


The design team: Architects Wynne Yelland and Paul Neseth, Locus Architecture,, 612-706-5600. The contractor was Ed Erickson,


The solution: Locus Architecture designed a 223-square-foot addition on the corner side of the home that faces southeast for morning and afternoon light. The addition houses a screen porch and full bathroom, as well as a vestibule for shoes and coats, positioned in the rear of the addition. The porch was built at the same height as the new vestibule, which connects the living room to the porch, for easy access if friends or relatives have limited mobility. “We spend a lot of our time in the porch, and it’s great having people over,” said Ballard. “We got a lot of bang for the space.”


Recycled resources: Horizontal redwood slats, salvaged from wine barrels, screen the bottom half of the structure so porch dwellers have some privacy from neighborhood walkers. The floor is made from recycled plastic decking that’s “durable and really soft on your feet,” said Ballard. The ceiling is recycled Douglas fir. “The wood gives it warmth,” said Yelland. “And blends modern and traditional styles.”


Meals and more: The couple made sure the porch was large enough to fit a table that seats up to 10, as well as two comfortable chairs in the corner to read, knit and work on a laptop. With a ceiling fan to keep the room cool, “we have every meal out there from May into September,” said Ballard.


Living roof: It was important to the couple that the new porch roof absorb and control the flow of rainwater runoff, to help improve water quality in nearby lakes and streams. So they put in a Bachman’s Green Roof System that grows plants, such as sedum and moss, to establish a sustainable ecosystem on the rooftop. The long-lasting green roof offers many other benefits, such as energy conservation, by shading and insulating the rooftop.

The flat green roof also minimized the height of the addition so they were able to save the existing windows on the second floor, said Yelland. “But we re-created the cornice detailing on the porch so it better blends with the architectural style of the home,” he added.


Light, bright bathroom: Yelland designed a band of horizontal corner windows that draw in light, but shield showerers from outdoor walkers.


Permeable patio: Ballard and Chrenka later put in a permeable-paver patio designed by Terravista Landscape to help reduce stormwater runoff and filter pollutants. The patio is surrounded by a stone wall for extra outdoor seating.


Best part: For Ballard and Chrenka, the porch addition doubles as their at-home cabin. “It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the precious summer — without mosquitoes,” said Ballard.


The result: The screen porch extended the living space of the couple’s home. “Martha and Paul can spend their weekends there instead of having to drive up to a place on Gull Lake,” said Yelland.