Photos by Scott Amundson
Well traveled with a sophisticated taste for European design and elegant vintage and antique furnishings, the empty nesters who purchased this 1949 home on Lake Minnetonka always intended for a complete refresh. Originally designed by Magney, Tusler & Setter for a Pillsbury family, the house “had been much-loved and had an intriguing interior with lots of art deco detailing, trim and panelling”, recalls Jean Rehkamp Larson, partner at Rehkamp Larson Architects. (No surprise there, as Magney, Tusler & Setter designed the Foshay Tower, an architectural gem in downtown Minneapolis also dotted with stunning detail in a similar style.)
“The design of this house was probably avant-garde for its time,” adds Rehkamp Larson. “However, through today’s lens, he looked at modernity only with uncertainty and without enough conviction to stand the test of time. Unlike the Foshay, which is glorious, the house was confused.
A secluded galley kitchen (remained from a time with hired help), closed rooms, a dated master suite, and an off-kilter front entry gave the home an uncomfortable look and feel. The owners commissioned Rehkamp Larson to open up the house (which overlooks the lake and modernist landscape designed by Dan Kiley) and create “a stripped-down, international feeling”, adds the architect.
Finished with a simple palette of luxury natural materials and an eclectic collection of human-scaled antique, vintage and custom furniture – much of it from the owners’ previous residences – the original bones of the reimagined home remain recognizable. But its presence in the landscape and its elegant international-modern aesthetic are all new.
The property’s street-side entrance, a circular driveway with a rimless granite fountain amidst trees, created a nice foreground, but “the main entrance to the house was lackluster in attitude and style. composition,” explains Rehkamp Larson. The door was off center and windows were placed sporadically here and there. Now that a new canopy shelters the centered front door and the upper and lower windows have been realigned, “the facade has a classical composition,” she adds.
On the lake side of the house, a dramatic wall of windows was removed and new windows were added to enclose an old screened porch. Three layers of stucco and stone trim replaced the deteriorating cladding. Due to new setbacks instituted to protect water quality in Lake Minnetonka, the architectural team had to stay within the home’s existing footprint – adding only a glass pavilion above the attached garage. for entertainment and enjoying the sunrise and sunset views.
The team opened up spatial volumes and reworked the flow throughout the main level of the house. They realigned and connected the long, narrow kitchen with the dining room and the lake, opening up views from south to north. An island with a soapstone counter and a table with vintage Danish Sika chairs occupy the middle of the kitchen between dark oak cabinets. A French Lacanche range in British racing green, Italian Carrara marble countertops, a Delft tile backsplash and a vintage hutch, crockery and an oil painting the owner found in San Francisco add to the charm European cuisine.
The list of improvements is endless: the mudroom now has a shortcut to the kitchen, and the team slipped a pantry with tea, coffee and a whiskey bar between this center of the house and the dining room. An elevator was installed for aging in place. The master suite now has his and hers bath areas (the team moved the bathroom to an exterior wall to bring in natural light) and separate closets. A white oak pivot door designed by Rehkamp Larson separates the den and living room. Acorn door hinges, expressive millwork on the cabinets, and vintage light fixtures layer intriguing details in any interior.
Troweled plaster walls, European white oak parquet and Belgian granite floors in the den and entry provide the perfect canvas for the eclectically furnished interiors – a collaboration between the owners and Alecia Stevens Interior Design of Charleston, South Carolina. “This is the fifth home I’ve done with this client,” Stevens said. “I’ve used lots of furniture in his other homes and I’m passionate about buying standalone pieces. That way we can pick them up, move them to another place and another time, and they’re still standing. .
“The original house tried to be modern but clung to a past that is no longer relevant now,” adds Stevens. “We removed all the trim to let the newly opened spaces focus on the materials – plastered walls, floors and views. Then if you have a simple color palette, you can mix styles more easily,” she says of the neutral-toned textured walls, ceilings and floors.
In the living room, for example, the black leather sofa once belonged to American actress Donna Reed. Stevens found the 1920s Asian floor rug in New York. White plaster tulip chandeliers also came from New York. She discovered the secretary’s desk in a Minneapolis furniture gallery. The robot’s paintwork came from a thrift store in San Francisco.
“I come up with a recipe for each piece,” says Stevens, “mixing leather, silk, velvet, linen, metal, wood, and maybe glass. I’m also very picky about the scale of each element and how comfortably things fit together. Then I mix in unexpected color combinations, like the dark blue-green velvet sofa, the black linen-covered chair, and the mid-century brown mohair chair in the den. Put it all together? I literally call it kismet.
Stevens and the owner were also inspired by the Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen, known for its clean and contemporary, yet welcoming interiors. “Her work isn’t too fussy or too feminine,” Stevens says, “and neither is this house.” Which is also comfortable enough for the whole family to visit and experience the lake, Lake Minnetonka style.
“It’s always a challenge to work with the bones of an existing house,” says Rehkamp Larson, “but it brings the project to a close with a lot of soul. You can feel a bit of history in the house. And it feels good. »