Photos by Spacecrafting
“There’s this interesting property that no one will touch, and it seems like your vibe,” was the unconventional pitch from designer Stacia Winkler of Aspect Design Build to Jenna Renfrew, a fashion executive relocating to the Twin Cities from Los Angeles with her husband and two teenagers. Renfrew had contacted Aspect after seeing and missing out on one of its new builds in the area. “We knew these people would totally get us,” she says.
The property—a 1964 midcentury rambler on a nearly 2-acre lot in Shorewood—had been on the market for a few years. “Houses aren’t built like this anymore, considering the way it wraps around and sits on the lot with such connectedness to the outdoor space,” Winkler recalls. “It had the potential for great flow, but it didn’t have an open floor plan. I suspect that’s why it hadn’t sold.”
What others may have perceived as weakness, Winkler decided to play up. From the pink brick exterior wall that served as a springboard for the home’s color palette to thinking of the spread-out rooms as a plus, Winkler knew they could honor what the house was while making it function better for a modern family. “We thought of the home as a series of distinct but connected spaces that would serve different functions and facilitate amazing entertainment opportunities,” she says.
A pivotal decision to replace all the windows and double the amount of French and sliding doors sharpened the home’s aesthetic and indoor/outdoor connections. “It was a big expense, but they’re so beautiful,” says Renfrew. Similarly, tearing out the home’s tile floors and installing wide-plank white oak throughout dramatically softened the interior, an important goal for Renfrew. “We wanted to balance out that midcentury cool with a much more coastal, organic, California vibe,” she says.
The home’s shared spaces are connected via a light-filled hallway that runs along the back of the house. Winkler saw it as the key to creating flow within the main floor. On one end is the formal (or as formal as this laid-back California family gets) living/dining room and screened-in porch, and the other end is where the everyday rooms (mudroom, kitchen, and family room) are located. “Opening up that area by removing a wall in the kitchen and installing larger windows along the corridor transformed the space,” she explains.
Winkler and Renfrew worked together to fill the house with layers of unique materials, textures, and patterns, and in no room is this more evident than the living/dining area. Iridescent black Moroccan zellige tiles and character-grade white oak paneling offer contrast on the fireplace wall. Furnishings include a buttery leather sofa; vintage Milo Baughman and nubby sheepskin chairs; a midcentury console from Golden Age Design; wool, jute, and hide-hair rugs; and a rustic wood dining table made by Renfrew’s husband, James. The large room is flanked by a wall of windows and a sculptural black wall that Winkler designed. A trio of glamorous, oversized dome pendants helps maintain intimacy
within in the vaulted space.
In the family’s everyday spaces, materials repeat but look fresh in a new context. The slightly knotty white oak from the living room wall is also found on the kitchen cabinets and range hood. More zellige tile appears on the backsplash (this time in a pearly white), creating a sparkly, water-reflecting effect. An island with black leathered granite mimics the windows’ geometry and anchors the space without pulling attention from the wood, tile, and glass and wicker light fixtures. A built-in banquette and three small tulip tables along the windows provide flexibility—kept apart for parties, homework, or solo lunches and pushed together for casual family dinners. New French doors on either side create easy access to the deck and grill in the back.
In fact, from the back you’ll notice the house is actually a split level. Located a few steps down, one would discover the owners’ suite and a den they refer to as “the lounge,” while a few steps up, one would find the kids’ bedrooms and hangout space. Floor-to-ceiling windows take up two walls in the master bedroom, making the most of the wooded setting. Jenna’s collection of vintage rattan mirrors adorns the third wall (a quarantine hobby), and yet more rattan shows up in an accent chair and pendant lights. White and pink accents in art and textiles both here and throughout the house mimic the beachy glow of seashells and reference the home’s original pink brick wall.
The basement level that was once a mirrored dance studio now contains an entertaining area inspired by the back bar at Minneapolis restaurant Young Joni. Painted all black, with a full bar and game tables, it’s where the party usually ends up, according to Jenna. She jokingly adds, “My father-in-law is working on a sliding speakeasy peephole for the door, but until that gets installed, we can all get in.”