The tagline on designer Cy Winship’s website reads, “Design should be witty, colorful and dangerous.”
But for a house he worked on recently, a very different vision took shape — all pale neutral colors and light-toned wood.
“It’s not a color scheme I lean toward,” Winship acknowledged. But the Eisenhower-era rambler was speaking to him, telling him what it wanted to be — clean-lined, simple and quiet. “It wants to be gentle, warm and soft,” like a midcentury modern Scandinavian home, he said.
Despite his love of all things bold, Winship admits that he’s “fascinated with Finnish lake homes in the ’60s. Design, for me, doesn’t get better than that.”
The rambler’s owner was on board. Investor and remodeler Mike Lueth of Rae & Ray Properties had bought the 1958 house as a makeover candidate after Realtor Sheri Fine alerted him that the home’s longtime owner was about to list it.
Lueth, who had collaborated with Winship and Fine on a previous makeover, agreed that the house had potential. It had good bones and a great lot, overlooking a pond on a quiet dead-end cul-de-sac in St. Louis Park’s Cobblecrest neighborhood.
But the 3,400-square-foot rambler was crying out for an update. It was dark and dated, with linoleum floors and shag carpeting.
“The carpet was close to original, and the pad was petrified into the subfloor,” Lueth said. “I’d never seen that before.”
More challenging, the floor plan of the five-bedroom home was broken into many small rooms.
“The kitchen was so tiny you could barely turn around,” Winship said. There was a small den with a fireplace and a “dark, useless dining nook.”
Views of the pond were wasted behind “dinky windows,” he said. “The sense of place was missing.”
Working together, Lueth, Fine and Winship reworked the floor plan and interior design to appeal to today’s buyers. Lueth, the spatial and construction expert, determined what was structurally possible. “These older houses compartmentalize every single use,” he said. “Now the thing is to open everything up.”
Two interior walls were removed: One opened the kitchen to the living room, while the other allowed incorporating the den, with its brick fireplace, into the master bedroom to create an owner’s suite.
Also, a mudroom was a must, Fine told the team.
“It was tough to fit one in,” said Winship. But by repurposing the “useless” dining nook, they were able to create a small, efficient mudroom.
To make the most of the pond setting, the windows were enlarged and fitted with simple minimalist frames that don’t obstruct the views. “Without trim, the windows float — just a clean frame of what you’re seeing outside,” Winship said.
To carry out his vision of a Finnish lake home, Winship opted to run the white oak flooring, with a “smoked milky finish,” up one entire wall to create an accent wall and focal point in the dining area.
“I had a look percolating in my head,” he said. “I admire midcentury Finnish design for its restraint and how beautiful natural materials like wood and stone are used.”
On that wood-clad wall is a long, floating bench. “Finnish lake homes had long tables outside — I wanted that feel,” Winship said. “You could use the bench with a few tables or one long table.”
The formerly dark kitchen was remodeled with “utter simplicity,” including Ikea cabinets finished in high-gloss white enamel and white Caesarstone countertops.
The walls are a parchment color, neither white nor gray. “It’s a gentle neutral that glows from the light,” Winship said. “The color scheme is restrained, not in your face.”
For Winship, who typically works with clients who plan to live in the home, it was liberating to have a blank slate, freed from trying to meet a particular family’s needs or accommodate existing furniture.
“I had the luxury of being able to listen to the space,” he said. “This house was trying to say it wanted to be something else.”
Sheri Fine of Edina Realty has the listing, 612-720-2442.