When Monica and Kent Stuart decided to build a new home, they insisted on one thing: It had to feel old.

The couple, who had bought a lot in Minneapolis' Linden Hills neighborhood, were hoping to build a house that had the charming qualities of some of the vintage homes they had lived in -- and loved -- over the years. They also wanted their home to fit in with the classically styled older homes on the block.

"We didn't want a suburban Maple Grove home dropped into Minneapolis," said Monica. "We wanted it to feel old and have architectural features we could be proud of."

But with three small children, the Stuarts also had a list of amenities they wanted, amenities that many older homes lack: lots of closets; a mudroom with cubbies for coats and boots; an easy-flow, open floor plan; a centralized kitchen, and four bedrooms -- all on one level. Oh, and as long as they were making wish lists, Monica wanted a craft room in a basement warmed by in-floor radiant heat.

They enlisted architect Jean Rehkamp Larson to design a cottage-style home that has plenty of character and craftsmanship. The house boasts wainscoting, paneled ceiling beams and even crown molding in the bathrooms. The Stuarts also added vintage touches, such as glass doorknobs and an old-fashioned split landing, because they evoked memories of Kent's grandmother's house.

Not so small

The completed five-bedroom structure has more than 4,000 square feet of space, including the finished lower level. But it appears right at home with the more modestly sized Tudors, colonials and bungalows on the block. That's because Rehkamp Larson designed the home to be a 11/2 story in the front and a full two story in the back.

"With a new home that has a larger footprint, it's critical that it's kept in scale with the smaller older homes on the block," Rehkamp Larson said.

She also designed a welcoming front porch with a beadboard ceiling, to soften the front facade, she said.

Inside, the cottage theme comes through in the white enameled woodwork, which includes tall baseboards along the ebony-stained hardwood floors, and in the V-groove boards, which add dimension and texture to the ceilings. So much wood was used in the house, it resembled a sawmill during construction.

"While we were building, the living room was filled with 8-foot-high stacks of wood," said Kent. "The craftsmen did all the woodwork-on site."

Cozy and contemporary

The Stuarts contrasted the warm, woody design with cooler, edgier elements such as matte metal finishes and contemporary light fixtures.

"We wanted to have a more sophisticated, cultural feel," said Monica, whose furnishings are a clever mix of modern and heirloom antiques.

The sleek steel-and-blue kitchen is a far cry from cottage, but it's become one of the family's gathering spots. The massive 4-by-8-foot center island is covered in Calcutta marble. There's a contemporary built-in coffee bar on one end of the kitchen and a corner window over the sink. And there are plenty of drawers and cabinets, accented with polished nickel hardware, for storing just about everything, including recyclables.

In addition to the four bedrooms and a laundry room, the upper level has what the family calls "the landing," an airy, light-filled room at the top of the stairs. Another gathering spot, the landing is where Monica and Kent read to the kids after they've finished their baths.

The Stuarts cherish their new, old-fashioned home, with its cozy qualities and custom-designed spaces that encourage togetherness.

The home also marks a new beginning for the family. They moved in right after their daughter Megan's recovery from cancer.

"We could move forward as a family and put the cancer treatment behind us," said Monica. "It was a place of peace and comfort for us as a family for the first time."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619