This fall’s bounty of home tours is a little like a sumptuous farmers market, with something to fulfill every appetite, craving and taste.

If new homes are your thing, you can ogle stunning state-of-the-art kitchens and outdoor rooms outfitted with coffee/fire tables with leaping flames.

If you prefer historic homes with a pedigree, you can tour three well-preserved examples designed by architect John Howe.

And at the other end of the “home” spectrum, you can even visit a parade of backyard chicken coops, from an off-the-grid, passive-solar coop to a converted children’s playhouse.

Some of the tours, including the Homes by Architects Tour, Parade of Homes and Remodelers Showcase, also offer opportunities for serious shoppers to ask questions to find the right architect, builder or floor plan.

So slip off your shoes and pull on some paper booties — it’s high season for home tours.

For details, go to H3.


Parade Looks outdoors

The Parade of Homes is the granddaddy of tours with nearly 400 new homes — many furnished and decorated — open across the Twin Cities. The focus is not just on indoor decor; many homeowners want to make the most of Minnesota’s short warm-weather season, and are having builders install upscale porches, outdoor kitchens, wood-fired pizza ovens and fire pits to create comfy, multifunctional outdoor settings.

“Remote-control retractable screens in porches are getting more popular,” said Bob Carlson, president of Jyland Construction, builder of a $3.75 million French chateau-style mansion in Wayzata. “And built-in radiant heaters for when it cools off.”

Inessa and Alex Marinov just built an energy-efficient concrete home in Plymouth outfitted with a swim spa, sunken hot tub, grilling patio for entertaining, and all surrounded by a stream and double waterfall. “We’re moving from Lake Minnetonka and wanted a resort-style home,” said Inessa.

After being cooped up all winter, Minnesotans want to enjoy the great outdoors and will commit a chunk of their budgets to furnishing these spaces, said Paul Vogstrom, project manager for AXL Construction. “Gas-burning fire tables are huge.”

Outdoor living is a booming industry, agreed Wendy Danks, director of marketing and communications for the Builders Association of the Twin Cities (BATC), organizer of the biannual home tours. “But when it comes to builders including outdoor rooms — it’s definitely on the high end,” she added. “Many low- and midpriced homes still come with a basic slab patio if there’s a walkout, or a deck, due to budget constraints. Homeowners finish a lot of those later.”




What: 390 model homes highlight the latest trends in decor, finishes, design and architecture, as well as landscaped outdoor living spaces. The green-minded can visit 246 eco-friendly houses on the MN Green Path Energy Tour.

When: Noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, through Oct. 4.

Where: Twin Cities metro area.

Cost: Free; $5 donation to visit four Dream Homes. Pick up guidebooks at metro-area Holiday Station stores or go to (Special events include wine tastings, interior-design seminars and a street fair in Victoria.)



What: 63 remodeled homes with projects that include kitchens (all but seven homes have had work done in this popular space), bathrooms, additions and whole-house remodels.

When: 1 to 7 p.m. Oct. 2, noon to 6 p.m. Oct. 3-4.

Cost: Free; $5 donation to visit two Remodeled Dream Homes. Pick up guidebooks at metro-area Holiday Station stores, or go to



Architectural Flair

Find out how architects maximize natural light, and design for tricky spaces at 20 residences open next weekend. “Many projects show what you can do by just reconfiguring existing space,” said Angie McKinley, tour program director. The mix of newly built houses and just-right remodelings and additions includes a modern dwelling for a family of eight, accented with walls of glass facing Lake Waconia, to a total-house renovation of a 1950s Cape Cod in Golden Valley. Design pros have embellished some of the interiors — a contemporary multilevel in Eagan boasts vibrant-colored walls, finishes and artwork.

What’s a top priority for many owners today? “Working in sustainable design features,” said McKinley. “One home has all concrete walls, and another has a green rooftop terrace that captures rainwater.”




What: 20 remodeled or newly built custom homes designed by architects for homeowners who currently live there. Architects will be in the homes to answer questions.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 19-20.

Where: Twin Cities metro area.

Cost: $15 in advance online ( until 2 p.m. Sept. 18. Tickets also available at homes during the tour for $20, or $10 for an individual home.

Information: Call the American Institute of Architects Minnesota, 612-338-6763.



Prairie school standouts

As chief draftsman at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin studio, John Howe became known as “the pencil in Wright’s hand.” But he was also an architect in his own right, who designed more than 100 buildings, mostly homes, after establishing his own practice in Minnesota.

Howe’s houses weren’t big and fancy. “They nestled into their sites — beautiful yet unassuming,” said Dianne Plunkett Latham, chairwoman of this year’s Edina Historic Home Tour, which focuses on Howe’s work. “He was a master of organic design. He looked at the topography first.”

Howe also took great pains to keep and design around trees, notable in an era when tree teardowns have become so commonplace that Edina recently had to pass a tree preservation ordinance.

Three Howe-designed houses will be open during the tour: two that he designed in west Edina, in 1969 and 1980, and Howe’s own home, Sankaku (“triangle” in Japanese), built in 1971 on Horseshoe Lake in Burnsville.

All three houses have been “faithfully maintained,” according to Latham, with original features including woodwork, leaded-glass windows and some Howe-designed furniture.

Howe’s profile has risen with the recent publication of “John H. Howe, Architect: From Taliesin Apprentice to Master of Organic Design” by Jane King Hession and Tim Quigley (University of Minnesota Press, $49.95).

“There’s a lot of interest in Howe,” said Latham. “People are realizing his importance, and the beautiful artistry of his line drawings.”



What: A fundraiser for the Edina Historical Society, featuring three houses designed by Howe.

Where: Two homes designed by Howe for clients are located in Edina; Howe’s own home, Sankaku, is in Burnsville.

When: 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 13.

Cost: $15 in advance (, until 1 p.m. Sept. 12. $20 on the day of the tour at 6221 Loch Moor Dr., Edina.

Hen houses on parade

Thirteen years ago, Anika Yokanovich’s parents gave her children a playhouse. “They had it custom-built for our daughters — a replica of our house,” a 1940s Craftsman bungalow in Roseville, Yokanovich said.

Now that the girls are almost grown, the playhouse has a new role: home to “seven happy little hens,” Yokanovich said. “I grew up on a farm, and I’ve always been interested in chickens.” Last summer, she bought a small coop and four hens, but soon had “a terrible accident with a raccoon and a fox” and lost three of the four.

This spring she tried again, resolving to find a safer, more critter-resistant home for her chickens. A Roseville ordinance prohibits more than one outbuilding, so Yokanovich decided to repurpose the girls’ playhouse, adding insulation, fencing, nesting boxes, roosting bars and a recycled kitchen countertop underneath, for easy cleanup.

Her husband, who initially resisted her desire to keep urban fowl, is now a convert, she said. “Even he is now saying, ‘I really like them. They each have their own personalities.’ And we have great eggs every day.”

Yokanovich agreed to open up her coop as part of this year’s 10th annual Twin Cities Chicken Coop Tour to share what’s she learned with aspiring urban chickenkeepers. “It’s not that hard,” she said. “It’s way easier than a dog or cat.”




What: A self-guided tour of approximately 25 home chicken coops. Owners will be on hand to answer questions about their coops and chicken-keeping experiences.

Where: Coops are located throughout the Twin Cities metro area and western Wisconsin.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 19.

Cost: Free. Maps available online at and at Egg/Plant Urban Farm Supply, 1771 Selby Av., St. Paul.