Dan and Heidi Martinson could have built a traditional log home on their 3 acres along Lake Sylvia. But the lot's location -- near Annandale, only about an hour west of their home in Medina -- helped drive the design a different direction.

"A log cabin didn't feel appropriate for a lake that's not really up north," said Dan.

When the couple started researching home styles, they fell in love with a not-so-traditional timber-frame cabin they saw in a magazine.

The Martinsons enlisted Mark Larson of Rehkamp Larson Architects in Minneapolis to take the simple structure and infuse it with a modern edge.

"We decided on a timber-frame home that would use wood, steel and stone and have a modern look with clean lines," said Dan, who grew up going to a family cabin in Wisconsin and wanted a lakeside getaway for his three children.

Larson's three-level, 5,000-square-foot structure looks deceptively simple. "At first glance, it's an L-shaped home with three gables," he said "But look more closely and it's a complex floor plan creating a series of indoor and outdoor living spaces."

Larson tucked the building into a wooded hillside, to capitalize on the views. In an unconventional twist, he placed the entry on the lake side.

"The Martinsons liked the idea that you can arrive at the lake and go up the steps to the front door or continue to the outdoor balcony," he said.

Inside, the L-shaped floor plan allows for a wing for the public spaces -- including a great room, kitchen, dining room and a screen porch -- and a wing for private spaces -- including the master suite and two other bedrooms. Tigerwood flooring continues from the interior to the outdoor deck and screen porch, blurring boundaries between indoors and out.

The open floor plan makes the kitchen the center of activity, where the Martinsons prepare family meals and entertain. Because they wanted a clutter-free space, Larson designed what Dan calls a French-style kitchen, which has a pocket-door pantry to house the refrigerator, dishwasher and sink.

When they need quiet time, the Martinsons can climb a steel-railiing staircase to the third level, which they call "the tower," where there's an office for Dan, an inventor. (His newest venture, a company called Gear Tie, makes reusable rubber twist ties for securing objects.)

But the best part of the tower is the balcony built for stargazing.

"The gabled tower pops up through the roof for a 360-degree view," Larson said.

What ties every room together is the Douglas fir covering the tall timber-frame ceilings and walls. "A modern open floor plan and metals could have given it a chilly feeling," said Larson. "The Douglas fir gives it a warm and rich interior."

The rustic exposed beams give the home character, so much so that Larson built rope lighting into the beams to illuminate the timber framing at night.

"The structure is part of the beauty of the house," said Larson "It's an honest expression of how it was built."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619