Angie and Lenny Koch took many detours before finding a direct route to building their glass-walled lake home in Angie’s hometown of Lindström, Minn.
But they discovered that the cabin’s floor was crooked, it needed a new roof and siding, and required a long list of repairs. So it made more sense to tear down the structure and start all over. Then the economy and housing market tanked, and the Kochs decided to put the project — and the empty lot — on hold.
In 2013, the couple’s adult children moved out, and the family’s 4,000-square-foot home near Lindström felt awfully big for the two of them. So they listed both properties for sale. The country house eventually sold, but not a single buyer was interested in the “flagpole-shaped lot,” said Lenny.
However, that lot boasted 120 feet of flat sandy shoreline on a peninsula, delivering lake views on three sides. At first, the Kochs planned to build a modest beach house and eventually sell it. “Then we got emotionally invested and decided to build it for us,” said Angie, “and do it right.”
Beachy yet modern
To find an architect, Angie googled “modern architecture,” and eventually connected with Kell Architects, headed by Meghan Kell Cornell, winner of the Emerging Talent of the Year Award in 2011.
The Kell Cornell-designed home mixes the relaxed informal Shingle-style architecture reminiscent of New England coastal cottages with simple Scandinavian-inspired shapes outlined by steeply pitched twin gables.
True to a Scandinavian aesthetic, the home melds with nature as seen through wall-to-wall expanses of glass facing the lake. It almost feels as though you can step down to the shoreline, only 30 feet away, from inside the living room and dining area.
Kell Cornell calls the home “Vatten Liv,” which means “water living” in Swedish. But the Scandinavian style wasn’t inspired by nearby Lindström, the quaint town with a coffeepot water tower and businesses such as Gustav’s Galleries and the Swedish Inn.
“Angie and Lenny wanted to use modern simple materials and forms that are familiar and welcoming,” said Kell Cornell. “It was a happy coincidence.”
Before starting construction, the Kochs had to receive a variance from the city to build near the water’s edge on the odd-shaped lot. Kell Cornell designed the cedar-shake-sided residence to fit with the scale of neighboring homes, to avoid overpowering the site when viewed from the lake. “The twin gables help keep the scale down, but yet achieve a full two-story dwelling,” she said.
The 2,400-square-foot open floor plan includes three bedrooms and three bathrooms. Since there isn’t a basement, a finished bonus room above the garage is used for storage.“It’s not about being huge and grandiose, but using the space wisely and optimizing every single corner,” said Angie.
The architects also maximized the peninsula setting with its three shorelines. “We were able to create a lake view for every space,” said Dan Wallace, who collaborated on the project with Kell Cornell.
The light-filled living spaces flow from one to another — broken up only by a see-through linear gas fireplace. “The fireplace in the center of the house creates some separation from the kitchen and living room — but it still feels open,” said Lenny, who was the general contractor and did the framing, tiling and installed the cedar siding during the nine months of construction. “And we could keep the continuous windows on the lake side.”
Kell Cornell designed a walnut floating mantel and fireplace niche to serve as more seating when the couple entertain friends, their children and grandchildren.
In the adjacent white, black and charcoal-gray kitchen, Angie requested that the sink be set inside the granite-topped island so she can look at the lake while making meals or chatting with friends seated on stools. The whitewashed shiplap boards on the island’s base echo the walls in the mudroom, repeating the “beachy” theme. Just off the kitchen, a butler’s pantry stores the coffeemaker, microwave and also serves as an electronic charging station — “to keep the clutter off the kitchen counters,” said Angie.
Upstairs, three bedrooms are tucked under the steep twin peaks, creating cozy sheltering retreats. Walnut sliding doors open to the couple’s suite, which includes a lake-facing recessed balcony outfitted with a retractable screen to expand the outdoor living area.
For the home’s interior furnishings, Angie mingled a midcentury modern vibe with Scandinavian minimalism, punctuated by a vibrant teal and orange palette.
The Kochs’ modern “beach house” is now their reward at the end of a long road. When they come home from work each night, they can listen to loons calling and watch fishing boats cruising by. “It feels like we’re on vacation,” said Angie.
“The property started out as a potential flip, then became a flop with the market crash,” she said. “But it turned out fantastic for us.”