Jeremiah Kunde and Evan Maraghy’s gas fireplace says it all.
Kunde got his sleek, modern, ribbon-style box, with flames flickering amid glass crystals. Maraghy got her rough-hewn timber mantel displaying an antique rocking horse she found at a shop in Maine.
Inside and out, their newly built home melds the couple’s traditional and modern sensibilities, while integrating another quality important to them: sustainability.
Maraghy’s parents raised her to be environmentally conscious. “We try to uphold those values,” she said. So the home she shares with Kunde is built with highly insulated concrete walls, and 14 photovoltaic solar panels that generate 70 percent of their electricity. And all this was accomplished on a 50-foot-wide city lot in north Minneapolis.
The couple’s backgrounds helped nurture their different tastes in architectural style and aesthetic. Kunde grew up on acreage surrounded by woods in a small northern Minnesota town. Today he is a carpenter and owner of his own construction business. He gravitates to simple, clean-lined modern architecture with open spaces.
Maraghy’s father was a lobster fisherman, and she lived in an 1880s farmhouse on Cape Cod. “I like old houses with character — like the Cotswold-style Tudor with stucco,” she said.
When the couple got married, they started house-hunting for mid-century ramblers on sprawling lots in Golden Valley and St. Louis Park. But the homes on the market required extensive reconfiguring and energy-efficiency updating. “We would have to completely gut the interiors and rebuild,” said Kunde.
In 2014, they drove by an empty lot for sale in Minneapolis. “It was in this wedge of Bryn Mawr in a cute neighborhood,” said Maraghy. But the lot was so narrow “it looked like a landing strip,” said Kunde.
The property was right across the road from Theodore Wirth Parkway. The couple walked on Wirth’s wooded trails and fell in love with the urban area, which was close to their jobs and to downtown.
Could they build their dream home on it? And could Kunde, with his rural roots, live on a 50-foot-wide piece of land in the heart of the city?
To assess the site, they enlisted architect Eric Hansen, who had worked with Kunde on previous construction projects.
“I encouraged them to buy it,” said Hansen, noting that it was priced right, and the site overlooking the park made the narrow lot feel bigger. Kunde was quickly on board. “If we placed the front door the right way, it could feel like we were sitting in the woods,” he said.
After being discouraged by their house-hunting, Maraghy was excited to build exactly what they wanted. As for Kunde, who would be the contractor and builder, “my biggest fear was having nowhere to stack materials on the site,” he said.
Hansen’s two-story design infused traditional elements, such as 12-inch-thick walls, deep window openings and a hipped roof, with a modern open floor plan. “I put in a side door leading from the detached garage, just like in an old house,” he said.
The couple’s commitment to sustainability and long-term durability — as well cutting down fewer trees — drove their decision to build the home with insulating concrete forms (ICFs).
Kunde, along with his dad and brother, built the ICF structure. “I was intrigued by the whole process of learning a new system for the floors and walls,” he said.
When it was complete, the house resembled an igloo, said Maraghy. “They added a thin layer of stucco over that so it looks finished,” she said. Thanks to the concrete walls, the family, which now includes a daughter, consumes less energy, and the house “should last 400 years,” said Kunde.
For the home’s interior design, the couple were seeking a “rustic/modern look” said Maraghy. On Craigslist, they found recycled timbers from an old Wisconsin barn and loaded them on their truck. The dark-stained rough-hewn beams add distressed character to the kitchen, living room and fireplace mantel.
Maraghy requested an old-fashioned built-in buffet similar to one you might find in an old Tudor home, so Hansen bumped out the dining room wall 1½ feet to house cabinetry and an antiqued glass mirror.
Kunde’s carpentry skills came in handy when he installed the knotty alder gray-stained millwork, which contrasts with the white walls and light oak floors. The coffered ceiling treatment boasts old-house flavor, but without the heavy wood accents, to keep the feeling light and airy. “The beams disappear and don’t overwhelm the space,” said Hansen.
The living and dining rooms open to a spacious cook’s kitchen with four New England-style high curio cabinets where Maraghy displays antique bottles. All the kitchen cabinets are painted a calming “Cape Cod” green-gray, and the furniture-style island is painted a complementary blue-gray to play off the white quartz countertops.
To reach the second floor, Hansen created a second small bump-out on the side of the house for a split staircase and large window. The upstairs holds their toddler daughter’s bedroom, a guest bedroom and an owners’ suite. Inside the attached spa-style bathroom is a copper slipper tub that would look at home in a century-old house. Next to that is a contemporary two-entry walk-through tiled shower. It fit the space, said Kunde, “and there’s no glass doors to clean.”
To give the family lots of storage, Hansen designed a single space-saving mudroom that serves both the front and side door entrances. It’s equipped with floor-to-ceiling cabinets and shoe cubbies to keep the rest of the house clutter-free.
Kunde and Maraghy are proud of the finished two-story on the tight city lot, which they built themselves with help from Kunde’s brother and father and a crew of subcontractors.
Maraghy did everything from tying off rebar to staining woodwork, as well as sourcing light fixtures and tile. And Kunde spent endless hours installing cabinetry, plumbing and wood flooring.
“It was an awesome experience,” said Maraghy, “and I was part of it.”
Even though it’s a brand-new house, the couple have instilled a sense of history and recycled character into the “rustic/modern” decor. Shelves are filled with rusty carpentry tools — reflecting Kunde’s profession — and the kitchen displays antique egg beaters and other vintage gadgets collected from salvage shops, such as Architectural Antiques. The rough timbers “let your imagination go to the story of the guy who carved it at the turn of the century,” said Kunde.
“I grew up with those imperfections in the Cape Cod farmhouse,” said Maraghy. “It makes it feel like home.”