A charcoal-hued limestone chimney, evoking a supersized Lego, marks the entry to Becky and Tony Welter’s unconventional home.
Inside the glass foyer, the uplit stone fireplace wall beckons visitors to discover what’s on the other side.
Around the corner is the big reveal: graphic black-and-white light-filled interiors encased by a wall of glass.
The dramatic stone chimney wall was inspired by a photo of a modern farmhouse Becky saw on Houzz, designed by Bates Masi + Architects, an East Hampton, N.Y., firm. “We really wanted to re-create it,” she said. (You can see how Peterssen/Keller Architecture took on the challenge during the Homes by Architects tour, Sept. 21-22; this home will be one of 13 featured.)
It took living in a “big box” suburban home amid the rolling hills of Medina to make the Welters realize that they were driving, rather than walking everywhere.
They yearned for a smaller, space-efficient house in a walkable neighborhood — and with easier commutes to their jobs.
They discovered Wayzata, with its walkable bustling downtown on Lake Minnetonka, after Becky’s cousin told them about a house for sale.
“The house wasn’t for us, but we thought Wayzata was pretty cool,” said Tony. “It feels like an old-fashioned small town.”
They finally found an empty corner lot in a little pocket of mature trees along a charming winding road and a two-block walk to shopping and restaurants.
But it was on a steep slope and “shaped like a watermelon,” said Tony.
The Welters had already chosen Elevation Homes as their builder, which referred them to Peterssen/Keller Architecture.
“P/K really understood our vision, and they assured us we could build on that lot,” said Tony.
The couple requested a modern minimalist-style home that lived like an urban loft with wide-open spaces and soaring 10-foot-tall ceilings.
“Our goal was to create an organic modern home with quality, warm materials,” said designer Gabriel Keller. “Not cold and sterile — just comfortable during a long cold Minnesota winter.”
For understated simplicity, “We used a limited material palette — metal, glass and stone,” added architect Ted Martin.
Keller and Martin’s design is composed of two traditional gables connected by a gleaming metal link.
“We burrowed the home into the side of the slope for privacy,” said Martin. “The flat area became a patio facing the south side.”
The gables are clad in cedar shakes to contrast with the cool expanses of glass and better blend into the older established neighborhood.
No wasted space
Inside, the home’s L-shaped floor plan was dictated partly by what the couple didn’t want, said Becky.
That list included no office, no bathroom for every bedroom, no owners’ bathroom tub, no sprawling bar for entertaining — and no wasted space.
“We also didn’t want a lot of built-ins for photos and knickknacks,” she said.
Tony agreed. “No clutter — and everything has its place.”
The final layout includes an east-to-west great room, which “opens up to the southern exposure and the yard in a wonderful way,” said Keller.
The floor-to-ceiling glass wall creates an easy flow between inside and out. And like a loft, spaces are defined by stone, wood and cabinets, rather than Sheetrock walls, said Keller.
Gallery-white enameled custom cabinetry stretching across a wall “creates a strong architectural statement,” he said, as well as tons of storage.
Tony always had an affinity for sunken living rooms, and the P/K version boasts a sleek ribbon fireplace with a black quartz hearth and blackened steel surround.
The sunken space has a midcentury modern vibe and “creates a distinct experience,” he said.
In the formal dining room, P/K carved out an art niche since the home was mostly glass walls.
Bold black-and-white artwork by Martha Sturdy is displayed above a mod sideboard.
The art niche also is flanked by two multifunctional cabinets.
Pivoting pocket doors open to a mini beverage bar on one side and a pocket office on the other side, which can be closed and concealed when not in use.
The kitchen follows the blueprint for uncluttered sightlines and surfaces — even the range hood is integrated in the ceiling.
Tony, the chef of the family, requested a mega-sized quartz-topped island with lots of work space and appliances hidden behind dark-stained walnut cabinet doors.
The couple chose a kitchen backsplash made of porcelain that mimics the look of a massive slab of veined marble; it’s easy to clean and is durable.
Instead of pendant lights suspended above the island, P/K installed a skylight uplit with LED lights.
Beyond the kitchen is a modern butler’s pantry — hidden from view — but accessible, with a second dishwasher, coffeemaker and toaster.
“They wanted openness — but not for everything,” said Keller.
The second story was designed to be just big enough to hold the owners’ bedroom, two spacious walk-in closets and a bathroom.
“That’s all we needed up there,” said Becky. With the dramatic sky-high views out the bedroom’s expansive corner windows, “It feels like we’re in a little treehouse,” she said.
An added bonus is the view of a flat green roof blooming with yellow and red sedum.
“Green roofs are an environmental attribute,” said Keller, “and a design feature you look at every day.”
In the basement, the couple included a TV room with a fireplace, workout gym, two guest bedrooms and a bathroom. Late in the game, they added a sauna. “We were sitting in a sauna in Switzerland, and decided we needed to put one in,” said Tony.
Capping the size and emphasizing efficiency allowed the Welters to stretch the budget for eye-catching architectural design and lustrous materials and finishes.
“We could focus our energy and resources on all the cool features,” said Martin.
After living in their home for two years, the Welters wouldn’t change a thing.
At the end of the day, “This house is very Zen and calming,” said Becky. “We designed it so everything makes sense.”