Wendy and Doug Pedersen had never heard of Cottagewood, a Norman Rockwell-esque enclave in Deephaven. Then builder Nate Wissink of Elevation Homes showed the couple and their two boys property in the quaint hamlet surrounded by towering maples and oaks. Down the block was the century-old Cottagewood General Store, and in the summer, the family could walk to a sandy swimming beach on Lake Minnetonka. The lot had a big suburban-style yard where their boys could run — yet was in an older established neighborhood.
“It was an odd-shaped, sloped lot,” said Doug. “But we kept coming back to look at it.”
In 2014, the couple bought the piece of land at the end of a winding country road. The setting felt so different and far away from their tiny 1920s bungalow in the heart of Minneapolis. “At our old house, we heard airplane noise,” said Doug. “Not birds chirping.”
After an old ramshackle house on the property was torn down, the couple could build a home that fit their modern aesthetic — and their family’s individual needs. Elevation Homes connected the Pedersens with Peterssen/Keller Architecture, and they presented the Minneapolis firm with their extensive wish list.
Doug was a freelance art director who had been working in a postage-stamp-sized home office. He requested a comfortable, spacious area where he could design ad campaigns and commercials. The couple also wanted more room for their autistic son’s home therapy sessions, and a generous-sized drop zone/mudroom “where we weren’t tripping over shoes and one another,” said Doug.
Wendy was from Texas and still adapting to Minnesota winters, so an attached garage “would be a life-changer for me,” she said.
Finally, Wendy and Doug agreed that their new house had to be thoroughly modern with qualities such as an airy, light-filled floor plan, abundant outdoor views, use of natural materials and a minimalist aesthetic.
“We like the clean, streamlined look of modern home design,” said Doug. “It uses fewer elements to make a more dramatic visual statement — for example, banks of floor-to-ceiling windows.”
But how would the new structure seamlessly blend in with the older, traditional cottage-style homes on the block?
“I would have loved to do a completely modern home inside and out — but it wouldn’t fit the character of the neighborhood,” admitted Doug.
Wendy was more focused on balancing modern design with practical everyday living. “Doug was more about the house looking cool,” she said. “But I wanted to make sure it was maintainable and functional for our family.”
The architecture firm’s mission was clear. “It had to fit into the scale and rhythm of the neighborhood, and that was the starting point,” said Gabriel Keller, designer and principal at Peterssen/Keller. “Yet still design a modern indoor/outdoor home.”
The Pedersen home’s gabled exterior is covered in traditional gray cedar-shake siding. Three large dormers pop out of the roof to create more interior bedroom space. Across the front entry, white painted shiplap siding helps to de-emphasize the attached-garage door, said Keller.
But when you step inside, the house is an amalgam of minimalist modern elements, ranging from steel-cable railings up the staircase to sleek black metal framing the windows. At the same time, the spaces are warmed by lightly stained birch floors and walnut cabinetry.
“In Minnesota, you need warmth in modern architecture, especially in the winter months,” said Keller. “And it adds a richness of texture to a simple design.”
However, your eye ultimately stops at the expanses of glass on three sides of the L-shaped floor plan, which draw in daylight and offer seamless views of the yard and tree-filled landscape beyond.
“There are so many ‘wow’ moments when you walk through this house,” said Doug. “You can see the layers of trees through all the windows.” The black metal framing of windows and sliding doors has a “narrower profile than wood — so there’s a lot more glass,” added architect Lars Peterssen.
The Pedersen boys especially like the floor plan’s circular pathway from the front door to the kitchen and then to the living room. It’s where they often run around and burn energy. The architects designed the circular path for better flow. “You never feel stuck in a corner or dead end,” said Peterssen. “It gives you freedom to move around.”
The black and white centrally located kitchen, which has turned into the family hub, boasts an 18-foot-long wall composed of sliding-glass doors that let in breezes and open to a private recessed side patio. The kitchen’s unique design has few upper cabinets in order to keep sightlines open.
At first, Wendy wondered where they would stash everything. The solution was to create two large storage areas around the corner from the kitchen. A walk-in pantry houses food items and pans. A modern butler’s pantry stores small appliances and special-occasion dishes, and also has an electronic charging drawer, keeping the kitchen counters free of clutter.
“It’s the most useful kitchen we’ve ever had in all of our houses,” said Wendy.
Finally, in the lower level, Doug got his dream office with polished concrete floors and a walkout patio where he can work on his laptop. There’s also enough space downstairs for a kids’ playroom, exercise area and media room.
The Pedersens admit that leaving the city and moving to the “country” involved a series of trade-offs, such as Doug’s longer drive to Minneapolis and St. Paul for meetings. But they wouldn’t give up their simply modern home and its plentiful space — inside and out.
“This is a calmer and more relaxing environment,” said Wendy. “Our old house was so close, we could see our neighbors eating breakfast.”