Sarah and Nathan Kreykes never even considered building a house from scratch. "Building seemed daunting, and we felt it would take so long," Sarah said. Only after inspecting 87 existing homes over six months, without finding one they wanted, did they decide to explore the possibility of new construction.

After living in Oklahoma, the Kreykeses had moved back to the Twin Cities in 2011, with two toddlers and a baby on the way. Finding an older south Minneapolis home with an open floor plan and lots of space for their growing family seemed like an impossible dream.

While renting a house in Minneapolis, the couple often walked past a rundown 1950s duplex on their way to Lake of the Isles. When perusing the Zillow website, Sarah noticed that the lot was owned by Elevation Homes, a division of Streeter and Associates, and was for sale. She found out that Elevation Homes was tearing down the duplex and building a home to fit on the narrow city lot. The design firm Peterssen/Keller Architecture had posted a conceptual rendering of the planned gabled cottage-style home, combining traditional charm with modern design details.

So Nathan and Sarah explored the lot with Elevation Homes' project director, Nate Wissink, and discovered many appealing attributes. A path from the property's wooded back yard meanders through a meadow and down to the Kenilworth Trail. And the private setting was only a block from Lake of the Isles — with Cedar Lake a short distance away.

"The lot was surrounded by bike trails and water," Sarah said. "And it was in a nice community neighborhood."

Suddenly the prospect of building a home in an urban neighborhood didn't seem so overwhelming. "Peterssen/Keller and Nate walked us through the process step-by-step," Sarah said. "It was exciting how it came to life."


Luckily, architect Lars Peterssen and designer Gabriel Keller were in the early stages of the design when Nate and Sarah bought the property. But their general requests were in sync with the firm's ideas: a modern, open floor plan with a multifunctional great room and a spacious kitchen, awash in a crisp white aesthetic.

"It's a twist on tradition," Keller said. "But it has a classic feel that will always be in style."

The interiors artfully mingle tradition — 9-foot-tall coffered ceilings, coved molding, chocolate-stained hardwood floors — with contemporary must-haves — a kid-friendly kitchen island, mud room with built-in storage and expanses of glass to draw in daylight and views of the wooded yard.

"The home's most modern feature is the family room's 16-foot wall of double sliding glass doors," Peterssen said. When the doors are open, it gives the family room the feel of a screened porch, he said.

"When you step down to the stone patio, it continues the open floor plan to the outdoors," Nathan added.

The Kreykeses did have to tweak a few features. Most important, they reconfigured the second floor to add a nursery, and Nathan requested a basement with a high ceiling so it could be used as a comfortable media room and playroom with a kitchen.

At the top of Sarah's "wish list" was an old-fashioned butler's pantry, "because I never had one when I was growing up," she said. "It's something neat and specific to this house."

Keller relocated the staircase to make room for the walk-in pantry inside a hallway connecting the front den/flex room with the kitchen. The Carrara marble counters, sink and lighted cabinets make the pantry a handy prep site for parties and family gatherings. Pocket doors can close it off from the rest of the house, too.

The adjacent kitchen opens to the dining area and family room, allowing parents to be connected to the kids no matter where they are. The 8- by 4-foot island is big enough to accommodate their three children for casual meals and as a baking surface for Sarah.

The swirling gray-and-white Carrara marble countertop contrasts with the dark walnut island top, which adds warmth to the cool white backdrop. The contrasting materials "keep your eyes moving and break up the white," Sarah said.

Your eyes definitely stop at the vibrant orange barn door that slides across the opening between the kitchen and mudroom. "I saw a barn door on Pinterest and wanted to find a place for one," Sarah said. But the door was going to be painted yellow until Wissink pointed to the tie downs on the pile of lumber during construction and suggested orange. Sarah loved the idea because the hue complements the blue-and-gray color palette she had chosen for the home.

"The barn door also doubles as a piece of art on the white wall," she added.

On the exterior, the Kreykes residence meets the Peterssen/Keller mission of looking right at home among the diverse mix of older Tudors, Craftsman and cottages, as well as newer styles in the Kenwood neighborhood.

Keller was able to fit the nearly 4,000-square-foot two-story home on a narrow city lot and keep it within a modest scale by "architectural magic," he joked. "We dropped the main gables and artfully used dormers in order to minimize the scale and massing."

The front facade is graced with an inviting cottage-style porch below a gable adorned with a window box. The home has an East Coast feel with board-and-batten-style siding made from a contemporary low-maintenance material — fiber cement. It's painted white, accented only by a nautical blue front door.

The home's attached garage, facing the street, "is not usually part of the urban vocabulary in Minneapolis," Peterssen said. "But it made sense since there was no alley." The designers made sure that the garage was pushed back so the front entry takes center stage.

"The garage feels like part of the house — instead of an appendage to it," Keller said.

The Peterssen/Keller urban lot solutions were so successful, the project was given a new construction BLEND (Buildings and Landscapes Enhancing the Neighborhood Through Design) Award last month.

"I believe this was the first home to win the award with a front-facing garage," Keller said. "I was pleased that they recognized our efforts to create a home that is a good neighbor."

After the 14-month process, the Kreykeses said that building instead of buying an existing home was the best decision they ever made.

"We designed it around our family," Sarah said.

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619