Photos by Spacecrafting
Before settling in Minnesota, the family of four who resides within this two-story, shingle-style abode lived coast to coast in locales near and far: Northern California gave way to Boston, and the Bay State led to a short stint in Minnesota, which resulted in a second trek to the southern West Coast.
While in the Twin Cities on business, the husband phoned home to his wife in Newport Beach. He found a tree-lined street that overlooked a beautiful golf course, he said, in a quaint, quiet community of the western suburbs with good schools and proximity to the airport. His most convincing argument? It was back in Minnesota—the couple’s home state and perhaps a place of permanence for the couple to finish raising their twins. The pair acknowledged the neighborhood’s perks were promising, but that was that: He traveled back home to California, and they moved on.
Fast forward, and the family eventually journeyed back to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, where they spent a handful of years in other residences until a peculiar opportunity presented itself: An ’80s-era home, somehow situated on the same street the husband longed to live on years prior, was miraculously for sale. “We weren’t looking to move again,” the wife says. “It wasn’t even on our radar, but I thought, ‘What if we bought it, took our time, and rented it out while we made our plans for a new build?’ My husband was like, ‘Um, no. That’s crazy,’” she adds, laughing. “But we got in the car and went to go look at it anyway, and we realized it was a no-brainer.”
After purchasing and renting the property for two years, the homeowners called Streeter Custom Builder and Murphy & Co. Design to spearhead a teardown and subsequent rebuild. Although the couple were prepared with a collection of images meant to inspire their new space, “none of them spoke the same language,” recalls T.J. Majdecki, Associate AIA, partner and lead designer at Murphy & Co. Design. “They didn’t have a clear vision of what they were looking for quite yet, but they did come to the table with an understanding of what wasn’t working in their current home.”
Although that house was nothing short of charming and the family was happy there, they needed a new design to counterpoint the elements that were no longer conducive to their lifestyle. More natural light was a big component of this, the wife says, and a larger kitchen, taller case openings, additional storage, and more space in which to spread out were also on the list of requests. Jeff Murphy, president and director of design at Murphy & Co. Design, had a plan. “Let’s get this house right first,” he said, “and then we’ll make it beautiful.”
And make it beautiful they did. Architectural splendor is first demonstrated from the curb, largely in part because the clients were set on making the home’s exterior blend seamlessly with the fabric of the existing neighborhood. Iteration after iteration of 3D renderings that experimented with different plans, paint colors, and programming of the upper floor were worth the effort, with the owners landing on a charming home with traditional lines, fairytale-like gables, and a custom warm-gray exterior stain by Darril Otto of Otto Painting Design.
“As we moved inside, [the wife’s] aesthetic leanings really took off,” says Bill Costello, AIA, CEO of Streeter Custom Builder. “She turned the dial a little bit more modern, yet kept some classic bones that related to the architecture. The modern insertions were akin to her voice and what she liked.”
These interior inclinations—plus the addition of natural materials and textures and vintage pieces that contrasted contemporary, clean lines—were instrumental pieces of the home’s composition. “That’s my style,” says the homeowner, who spearheads Studio 17 Interiors. “We can call it ‘classic with a slight edge.’ I surprised myself with how I would tiptoe on the modern side with a selection, but then I would pull it back with another element. It was a true symphony.”
That melodious mix of timeless and trendy floods the foyer. An entry hall to the right features vertical wall paneling with hidden touch-to-open cabinets that flank a floating bench—perfect for popping down to slip on sandals and sneakers. Meanwhile, a small piano room to the left offers solitude and reprieve from the spacious main level, which is broken up by a white-painted, imperfect brick “core” that rests in the middle of the floor plan. “My time in Southern California influenced my taste and style,” the homeowner says of the brickwork. “I fell in love with the texture and interest it brings.”
The powder room is housed within this brick center, and it features a dreamy, dark green vanity and Marthe Armitage wallpaper. The countertop carries a tune of its own: “It was a remnant Minnesota Tile & Stone had in its piles,” the homeowner recalls. “I thought, ‘That looks like something cool and old,’ and it turns out, it was from a high school chemistry lab. I find such satisfaction in interesting things that give a home a story and soul.”
In the kitchen, the primary goal was to get the everyday appliances and clutter out of sight. “[It] was a chance for us to have more fun with openness and design,” Murphy says. “They have storage all over, but this kitchen was different and treated like a living room because everyone [was] going to hang out there. It has a long island where people can sit, and the back wall is like a piece of art.”
The art Murphy references, which is actually a greenish blue-veined quartzite slab, was a critical component to get right, the wife says. “Quartzite is a natural stone from the earth, and I wanted to use as many natural materials as possible,” she explains. “The other option was marble—and I love marble—but it etches and stains.”
Also in the kitchen, the homeowner’s curated ensemble of design elements brings the more delicate, yet defining details to the forefront: Soldier stack-style brick lines the soffit above the stove, while the island base stain and ceiling mineral wash (both by Otto) raise the bar with a touch of customization. Additionally, the butler’s pantry and dry storage pantry, both of which took a “lot of weight off what we needed to put [in the main kitchen],” Majdecki says, allowed for open circulation—a must-have!—from the kitchen into the dining room. There, a large table offers seating for eight, and a Braaten Creative Woods buffet with a finish that matches Otto’s island base stain sits flush against the wall.
Otto also led the charge on the shou sugi ban finish in the adjacent hearth room—a secluded, “favorite” space that struck a chord with both Costello and Murphy. “The architecture [of the hearth room] did a great job of fulfilling the promise of that lot,” Costello says. “You sit out there, and you feel like you’re on a peninsula overlooking this great golf course.”
But before landing on this glass-enclosed design that boasts cozy, dark finishes and loads of textural quality, the homeowners weighed the pros and cons of a three-season porch instead. Ultimately, their experience moving around Minnesota and desire to have a year-round space to relax in made the decision easy for them. “Unless you’re on the lake to spend time outside, it’s either too hot, too cold, or too buggy,” the wife says. “Those perfect outdoor days are few and far between, so it feels like a porch, but it’s [fully enclosed].”
The lower level also takes advantage of respite and relaxation, all while sporting a healthy dose of recreation with a game area, sport court, an exercise room with specialized dance flooring, and comfy gathering spaces. Meanwhile, on the upper level, 9.5-inch wide-plank oak floors brushed with a specialty stain by Steve Belrose guide the eye down the main corridor, leading to the bedroom suites, dedicated office, and family loft—a room they wished to re-create from their prior residence. “They wanted a space they could meander into when they woke up on a Saturday morning,” Majdecki says. “The loft became the heart of the home, and that was the intention all along.”
And arguably, this motive is what made the family home exactly what it is: a functional, yet flair-filled abode with strategic sightlines, meaningful selections, and memorable spaces that sing in perfect harmony.