Two years ago, Steve and Marilyn Peltier decided to turn back the clock. They moved from St. Paul back to Minneapolis. They settled back into the old neighborhood where they had first lived. They occupied the very same duplex they had bought shortly after moving to Minnesota from the East Coast more than three decades ago.
In fact, the Peltiers had held onto the Prospect Park duplex they bought in 1984. But the place grew cramped as they added children to their household, and it wasn’t long before the couple bought a house in St. Paul’s Crocus Hill neighborhood, a charming old Victorian that was spacious enough to raise a growing family. They rented out the Minneapolis property and barely gave it a thought for decades, until their children left the nest and they found themselves nearing retirement. “We wanted to downsize and were trying to figure out where to move,” Marilyn says. “Suddenly we remembered, ‘Hey, we have a duplex in Minneapolis.’ What’s more, we really like it!”
One of the reasons they liked the place was its unique architecture. Designed in the 1940s by Winston and Lisl Close, the two units were nestled into a steep incline on the side of hill. Originally occupied by the families of Arthur Naftalin, a future Minneapolis mayor, and Dr. Boyd Thomes, a prominent internist, the structure was an unassuming modernist jewel with clean lines and flat roofs. What’s more, the views from the backyard were unparalleled: to the north rose the neighborhood’s iconic feature, the so-called Witch’s Hat water tower; to the west, the skyline of downtown Minneapolis unfurled in all its glory. “Tenants used to call it the treehouse,” Steve recalls.
After years of use and abuse by renters, however, the duplex was badly in need of an update. “It was in good shape, but just worn really hard,” Marilyn says. What’s more, the Peltiers wanted to add some of the luxuries of 21st century living: more windows, a roomier kitchen, and a master suite with a bigger bath. Intent on getting those changes while respecting the original design of the house, the Peltiers went in search of an architect, ultimately settling on Gar Hargens, who has run Win and Lisl’s rm, Close Associates, since the late 1980s.
Hargens and his associate, Andrew Peterson, reorganized the spaces in the upper unit of the duplex and added the “view space” the Peltiers requested. The result is a glassed-in addition with a roof that overhangs an open porch set at an angle from the original floor- plan to maximize the views of downtown Minneapolis. On the south side, sliding doors open to a spacious new wooden deck, further blurring the line between indoor and outdoor living.
“The challenge was to make it fit the look of the 1940s without making it seem like the 1940s,” Hargens says. Design elements like wide overhanging eaves and windows that match the proportions of the originals help the addition mesh with the original Close design.
A large granite-topped island in the kitchen creates a bridge from the new space to the original interior, where the Peltiers converted the dining room into a living area. Colors by Diana, SomnioQuam, Inc, helped Marilyn with color selections.
Downstairs, at the entry, some minor alterations in ow and lighting made every- thing brighter and more welcoming. Upstairs, two bedrooms, a storage space, and a tiny bathroom were converted into a master suite with a roomy closet and a walk-in shower big enough for two.
Not everything was addressed in the re- model. But the update reinvigorated the entire structure, according to the Peltiers. “Sometimes, the changes we made were just little changes, but they made a big difference,” Marilyn says.