Photos by Spacecrafting
“We always knew this is where we wanted to build a house,” says one of the homeowners of this East Coast-style abode situated on the shores of Lake Minnetonka. “It just took us 20-something years to get to it!”
When the husband-and-wife duo who have been married more than 50 years first purchased the 8-acre property in Excelsior, the old summer beach home that once stood there had already been removed—leaving the land ready for something new. Over the years, several buildings took shape: a two-stall horse barn was converted into an A-framed cigar lounge, a small structure that had once been a caretaker’s home was replaced with a combined office/garage where the husband could work, and a one-bedroom, Cotswold-style cottage became the couple’s official beach getaway. Nothing larger than that was constructed for many years, as the two went on to travel the world and live in several other parts of the country before deciding it was finally time to build their dream lake home back in their home state of Minnesota.
The couple reached out to Brickhouse Architects and John Kraemer & Sons, both of whom had been involved in their previous projects. “We built all of the other structures on the property over the years, and the clients always told us they’d build [a larger house] someday,” says John Kraemer, vice president and director of sales and marketing at John Kraemer & Sons. “We were excited to finally see a home come to life on a truly magnificent Lake Minnetonka property.”
The recently completed home is just as magnificent as the land it sits on. The 6,500-square-foot masterpiece was designed to take full advantage of its scenic surroundings, from the spacious interiors’ high ceilings and expansive windows to the plethora of indoor-outdoor areas ready for entertaining. “As with any waterfront house, maximizing the connection to and views of the lake was a priority,” says Brian Falk, principal architect at Brickhouse Architects. “And this was an incredible piece of property with sweeping, almost 180-degree views.”
Those views are best appreciated from the two most-used spaces in the house: the airy yet cozy conservatory, located just off the kitchen and filled with plants and sunshine, and the screened-in porch facing the lakefront that features roll-down screens to close it off when it rains. While the two are prime spots to host guests, they were also designed for privacy as well, with the conservatory’s windows cleverly outfitted with hinged wooden shutters that can be easily adjusted to control the amount of light. “The conservatory was the most challenging to design, with the octagonal roof and cut-in dormer windows, but also the most rewarding to see brought to life,” says Falk. “When homes get larger in size, we want to make sure they’re still comfortable for two people, and that became a great space for them to sit and have coffee or breakfast together while enjoying the view.”
“We both love the porch and conservatory—that’s where we spend 80 percent of our time,” the homeowner adds. “And with COVID, we couldn’t have asked for a better place to entertain than the porch. It’s perfect because you don’t have people in the house, and if it’s nice out, we can have the screens up. If it’s cold, we can roll them down and bring out some heaters. It has been a real plus with this house.”
The location dictated more than just layout and window placement, too. “The clients wanted to make sure the color palette, fabric, and finishes fit with the light and coziness of living at the lake,” explains Stephanie Doering, interior designer at Martha O’Hara Interiors. “They were especially drawn to blues and greens, mirroring the water and landscape surrounding the home, with warm earth tones mixed in.”
Furnishings and art from the owners’ previous homes can be found throughout, such as the crystal chandelier in the entry and wildlife pictures that adorn the walls, along with hand-me-downs from family members. A guest room features furniture that belonged to a set of grandparents, and the dining room buffet is filled with old dishes inherited by the wife. “I love the little bits of history we brought into a brand-new house,” says MOI senior interior designer Krystal Kellermann. “The clients brought several family heirloom pieces, many of which we had refinished to fit the new style. I find satisfaction in repurposing old things and giving them a fresh place to land.”
Influences from the couple’s travels also played a significant role in the design, from the striking black-and-white checker-board floors (inspired by an outdoor space in Italy they visited) found in the entry, conservatory, and upstairs laundry room to the light fixtures, clawfoot bathtubs, and artwork ranging from black-and-white etchings from Budapest to golf pictures from Scotland.
Another favorite element is the living room bar. Tucked into the corner and the only piece of stained wood in the room, it is elegant, unassuming, and tailored specifically for the owners. “We spent a lot of time in England, Ireland, and Scotland, and the old hotels there had these little one-man bars in the lobby that they would open up for cocktail hour before guests would go to dinner, and we loved them,” says the homeowner. “It’s something we started in our other homes and knew we wanted here as well. It has a real social aspect—you can stand there and chat, or, if you’re having something catered or a party, you can hire a bartender and let them set up there.”
The lower level was inspired by one of the owners’ favorite California restaurants—the Plow & Angel in Santa Barbara—and is a cozy gathering space with exposed wooden beams, a fully stocked wine room and bar, a home theater (a late addition, but one very much appreciated by the husband), and, perhaps best of all, a unique garden room. “When I first looked at the floor plans, I was most excited about the garden room. This was the first, and so far only, project I’ve worked on that has one,” says Kellermann. “I immediately had this vision of an English cottage garden and wanted to evoke the spirit of that in a way that made sense in a Minnesota lake home.”
Characterized by earth tones, leathered countertops, and plenty of open shelving for holding flowerpots and vases, the room was designed to be extra durable to withstand years of use. “We decided on heavier and darker materials like concrete, granite, and oak so the homeowner didn’t have to worry about the day-to-day ‘dirt’ when working with her plants,” Doering adds.
With two guest suites upstairs and the thoughtful addition of another sizable suite located on the main level, the house is perfectly suited for visiting guests while ensuring the ease of potential one-level living for the future. And as for any other future building plans? “No, absolutely not,” the homeowner admits, laughing. “My husband said this is it, this is our last one, so we wanted it to be perfect.”