After relocating for a job at Winona State University, Nate Anderson hoped to find a home like the one he had in the Twin Cities. He knew it was a tall order.
"I was in a midcentury modern house. I'm drawn to that type of retro design and those architecturally unique properties," he said.
As luck would have it, there was a listing for one across the river from Winona along the Great River Road, a national scenic byway in Wisconsin's Driftless Area. The 1955 house in Fountain City was on 4 acres on a bluff with panoramic views of the Mississippi River.
After purchasing the house, Anderson soon learned locals lovingly called it "the bunker house" for its commercial-grade construction of solid concrete and steel and its sloped site.
"Literally the backside is built into the bluff," Anderson said. "It's built so well, it's just an extraordinary design and accomplishment."
Turning back the clock
Anderson also liked that the house had an open floor plan, passive solar features and stonework sourced from a Winona quarry.
"It's used throughout the house and definitely makes it unique," he said.
As a retro fan and a collector of midcentury pieces, Anderson used the house to turn back the clock.
On the lower level, he removed carpeting to expose the concrete floors, which he had polished. On the main level, he replaced laminate flooring with new red oak floors, "which feels more period appropriate," he said. Next, he searched for midcentury furnishings and fixtures that were true to the house.
"With my previous house, I started collecting and thrifting. I'm one of those people for whom the hunt runs deep and the thrill is in the chase of finding the right thing for the right spot," Anderson said.
For the office, he tracked down an L-shaped desk. In the lower-level lounge, he found an upholstered bench to fit underneath a display window.
"The desk just floats in the middle of that space. …. The bench is backless because I didn't want to block the window and the views," he said.
"The furniture is art as well as functional for these spaces," he said. "It's informed by the architecture."
Taking it outside
As the director of Winona State University's Landscape Arboretum, Anderson has a keen appreciation for the outdoors. And he's taken full advantage of the multiple-level house and its multiple patios.
"There's as much consideration for the outdoor rooms as the indoor rooms that it really doubles your living space," he said. "It's really oriented toward your views of this amazing river landscape against the bluffs."
During the growing season, he uses the decks for container gardening. The east side of the house has terraced walls, which Anderson has used for more formal gardens.
"And then the property being 4 acres of mature woodland, there is another whole palette of native wildflowers and plants I've discovered and added to," he said.
Just three years after he bought the home, Anderson is parting with it. He received a one-year fellowship at Longwood Gardens in Philadelphia, so he's listed the three-bedroom, three-bathroom, 2,500-square-foot house. He's also including his carefully curated midcentury furnishings in the sale.
"This property is too special to sit empty" while he's gone, he said. And "the furniture is very specific to the design and I feel it belongs to this house."
In addition to a move-in-ready home, listing agent Karen Rue pointed out that the house has been well-maintained with electrical, plumbing and appliance upgrades. It also has two bedrooms with en suites and two garages, one off the lower level and another at the top of a winding driveway that connects to the main level.
However, "I think the biggest amenity is the open floor plan and multiple seating areas. All of those spaces flow and have river views," Rue said. "The other thing is almost all of the rooms connect to a deck. There are so many options to sit in that house and enjoy the river or entertain."
Two hours southeast of the Twin Cities, the river town also allows for access to nature and modern conveniences. Downtown Fountain City is less than 3 miles away and has several shops and restaurants. Kinstone, Wisconsin's very own "Stonehenge" with gardens and giant stones, is less than 6 miles away.
And then there are the spectacular views.
"The bird watching is crazy year-round. I see bald eagles, swans and pelicans sitting on the backwaters of the river," Anderson said. "Then all the songbirds come to the feeder and visit. I never get tired of it."
An open house is scheduled from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 25. Karen Rue (firstname.lastname@example.org; 612-916-1110) and Noel Krueger (email@example.com; 612-703-5575) of Gulliford and Rue Team at Edina Realty have the $1 million listing.