Above: St. Paul Chamber Orchestra CEO Bruce Coppock’s home, now on the market. The music room is where Coppock recovered from an illness.
The year was 1987. Sarah Susanka had already completed the thematic design for what would become one of her signature homes when Michaela Mahady, who had just graduated from architecture school, joined Mulfinger/Susanka, and Mahady Architects (now SALA, Architects Inc.). “A sense of shelter wrapped around the house’s mass, so the structure felt protected yet welcoming, and Sarah had used a big round window on the side so the house had a certain Asian feel,” recalls Mahady, now principal emeritus at SALA. “I was intrigued. One day, Sarah asked, ‘Would you like to work with me on it?’”
Mahady designed nearly all of the home’s interiors. “I carried inside, and elaborated on, what Sarah had established on the exterior,” Mahady says, which included floating lattice ceilings, a vaulted atrium, recessed areas for displaying art, the expression and embellishment of the wood structure, and defining the spaces within the open floor plan “using the wood beams and predominate trim that lace the whole house together.”
Susanka, of course, went on to write several best-selling books about residential design, including The Not So Big House, which features photographs of the home. Meanwhile, in 2008, after former St. Paul Chamber Orchestra president and CEO Bruce Coppock and his wife, Lucia May, bought the 5,698-square-foot home, which is nestled on 4.5 wooded acres in Mendota Heights, they asked Mahady to design a music room addition.
Coppock was very ill at the time, but when Mahady visited “he had a model, built out of Legos, of what he hoped the addition would be!” she recalls. In collaboration with acoustician Paul Scarbrough (who recently completed the new Concert Hall at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts) and Maury Stenerson also of SALA, Mahady designed “a sumptuous music room, and pristine space for musicians, teachers, and music admirers,” she says.
Above left: exterior of the house. Above right: the living space.
Separated from the house on the upper level by a series of decks, the addition is crowned with a gazebo-like porch. The music room has walls of windows that look out onto a lush landscape and fern garden inspired by Susanka’s Outside the Not So Big House.
Now Coppock and May are leaving Minnesota. The house is currently on the market for $1.975 million, offered by Leah Drury and Jill Numrich of Lakes Sotheby’s International Realty in Edina. At a recent farewell party Mahady attended, Coppock told her the music room she designed “was the room I recovered in.” Adds Mahady, “It was magical evening, being back in that room and the house, which after 20-plus years is still so resonant, warm, and engaging. I felt glad to be an architect.”
Coppock and May, who are currently traveling, said via email that, “Living in one of Sarah Susanka’s early masterpieces has opened our eyes to a completely new way of understanding the role that our physical surroundings play in our feelings and sensibilities. Every window provides a special perspective on the abundant nature around us, and every nook provides a special platform for things of beauty.”
“However timeless it has felt to live in this house,” they added, “we have also been acutely aware that—as with any great piece of art—we are really just custodians of something designed to please and serve many generations of owners. We have felt blessed and stimulated to be able to live these past 16 years in such a mesmerizingly beautiful place to live. It has enormously enhanced our quality of life.”
As for Mahady, “I just recall, so fondly, the experience of creating the home with Sarah. It was a great introduction to the world of architecture.”
See complete listing at sothebysrealty.com/eng/sales/detail/180-l-722-2egbhg/1698-dodd-road-mendota-heights-mn-55118
By Camille LeFevre
Photos by Seth Hannula
Designed by Sarah Susanka and Michaela Mahady of SALA, Architects Inc.