Photos by Jordan Powers
Minnesota is no stranger to the cabin-friendly, North Woods aesthetic, but on the shores of Lake Pulaski in Buffalo, the house of Clare and Charlie Koch went for a different kind of nature inspiration: “mountain modern.” The home’s architect, Jeff Murphy of Murphy & Co. Design, coined the term, and with a mixture of wood and stone accents, walls of oversized windows, and 10-foot-high ceilings, all built by John Kraemer & Sons, it is more than accurate.
“I wanted something a little more rustic than what Clare wanted,” Charlie says. “I was almost leaning towards a log home, but she didn’t want something like that. She wanted something more refined.”
“We really turned it over to the design team to bring us to the middle,” Clare adds. And after a long questionnaire and a multitude of inspiration pictures, Murphy & Co. Design was ready to bring that vision to life.
While the interior’s predominant feature is wood paneling—on floors, window panes, floor-to-ceiling storage, and shelving—it avoids looking dated or “backcountry” in part because of the clean lines and contrasting materials that Renae Keller of Renae Keller Interior Design brought in. To accent the beautiful textures of the various woods, Keller used cooler colors, wrought iron, and tile throughout, and both Keller and Murphy added patterns like chevron and herringbone to help draw the eye to the rooms’ focal points.
In the master bathroom, for instance, Keller added Benjamin Moore’s Beach Glass paint to the walls, a Taj Mahal quartzite countertop with its own backsplash to the vanity, and a lower white tile wall to balance out the warm tones of the wood. Murphy himself broke up the wash of wood with windows that wrapped from the tub wall to the edge of the vanity as well.
Sometimes, the clean look of the house came down to editing. Keller remembers deliberating with the couple whether or not to put pendants over the 10-foot kitchen island. While they went with the style of the house, they would cut right into the view. “Why don’t we put a recess in there right now in place of where we want the pendants and then come back if you can’t see very well or it’s not a good surface and needs more direct light,” Keller had suggested. “We can always put pendants there again.” The pendants turned out to be unnecessary—just one more decision that helped push the house toward its refined mountain modern feel.