Charles Frederick Keyes House Receives Fresh Look

This side view shows the addition and link that preserve the historic character of the house from the street. 

The homes along lake of the isles parkway are beloved by Twin Citians for their grace, beauty, and historic interest. One such home, the Charles Frederick Keyes house, was built in 1904, before the lake it overlooks was even dredged. The eclectic home, designed by architect Adam Lansing Dorr, was among the few in the area that had remained largely untouched over the years.

Now this designated Minneapolis historic landmark has moved into a new century, thanks to the attentions of its current owners and Rehkamp Larson Architects, working with Reuter Walton Construction.

The before photo shows the backside of a gray two-story home with a porch and bird feeder in the backyard.

Gazing at its restored facade, complete with historically accurate front porch, the average lake-home gawker would never guess what modernist surprises are contained within. “The goal was to make it more livable for a modern family,” says co-designer Sarah Nymo, an associate with Rehkamp Larson.

Quite petite by Lake of the Isles standards, the home’s footprint was just 910 square feet, with a large side yard to the south. Because of its historic designation, the house could not be altered in any way visible from the street. That meant the architects could not design an addition on the home’s south side. Another challenge: The homeowners wanted to add on an attached garage.

Rehkamp Larson’s solution was an elegant one: a 1,300-square-foot, two-story addition to the back of the home, with a narrow gallery linking the kitchen and garage. In fact, the project so successfully added to the historic building, it received a Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission award earlier this year in recognition of its design and architecture.

A dining room flooded with natural light thanks to large windows looks out onto a spacious backyard.

The kitchen overlooks a spacious sideyard, now transformed into a serene Asian-inspired garden.

Visitors move from a traditional living room with original diamond-patterned windows, past a new set of white oak stairs, and suddenly enter a spacious, light-filled kitchen/dining room with two walls of floor-to-ceiling French doors. “It’s fun to have the historic mixed with the dramatic modern,” says architect Jean Rehkamp Larson. “It gives the house a much more open feeling.”

A kitchen features clean lines with marble countertops, no upper cupboards, a center island, stainless steel appliances and wood floor.

No upper cupboards block light in the kitchen.

The kitchen itself has pleasingly clean lines, marble counters, and no upper cupboards blocking the light. A large Subzero refrigerator is neatly tucked into an adjacent butler’s pantry. The gallery connector also sports huge south-facing French doors, which lead to a A before photo shows a white door next to a staircase leading to the second level.bleached-cedar deck. At the back of the gallery are a small laundry and mudroom.


The architects deliberately incorporated the homeowners’ antique Asian furniture into the remodeled home. Those cupboards and dressers—fully used by the couple—were part of the design process early on, says Nymo, adding, “We measured them all and dropped them into the plans.”

The result, says Rehkamp Larson, is a “meeting of modern with old and East with West that’s really pleasing.”

Another Asian-inspired element are the pale wooden staircase screens, which are both functional and beautiful. The staircase itself moved to a more central location to give the first floor better traffic flow and sight lines.

A white oak staircase leads to the second level. Next to it is a pale wooden screen semi-hiding a staircase leading to a lower level.

The new white oak staircase and its pale wooden screens are both functional and beautiful.

Above the kitchen is a new master bedroom suite, featuring a marble bath, a vaulted ceiling, and three walls of windows. Like the kitchen, the master bedroom is “one of those moments when the house opens up,” says Rehkamp Larson. “And those are very helpful spaces during our long winter months.”

By Lynette Lamb. Photos by Scott Amundson

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