Framed architectural renderings, grouped on the wall of the formal dining room in this Edina Shingle-style, beg for closer inspection. As the form and distinctive details become clear, you realize: These are drawings of the house you’re standing in, both designed by Jeff Murphy of Murphy & Co. Design.
The display reveals much about the owners’ delight in their new home. More evidence: After living here with their blended family for almost a year, Jerry and Vanessa say they wouldn’t change a thing. That’s not too surprising, since both spent months immersed in every decision about the house, from its splendid location overlooking Mirror Lake to the shape of the finials that trim each cabinet hinge.
Even so, the construction and design process proceeded quickly. “You have a million options for everything—tile combinations, door profiles, everything,” says Vanessa. They tasked their design team with ruthlessly winnowing those endless options to two or three, she says, “and we never went back again. We never second-guessed ourselves. We didn’t revisit anything unless it truly looked like a mistake.”
Meticulous attention to detail was built into the DNA of this project from the beginning. Jerry and Vanessa were living in a townhouse when they began house shopping in 2009. Jerry, a native of New Jersey, knew precisely what he wanted—an East Coast Shingle-style house with a Hamptons vibe—but couldn’t find an existing home he liked that wouldn’t require major remodeling. Then one weekend he and Vanessa came upon a new house in Edina’s Rolling Green neighborhood built by Erotas Building Corp. Just by peering in the windows of the nearly completed house, he knew he’d found a builder who understood detail.
Erotas spearheaded the project, helping the couple find a lot in the area and bringing in Murphy and interior designer Maureen Haggerty of Mint. “My husband and Jeff fell in love with each other,” laughs Vanessa. Kindred spirits with an affinity for historic authenticity in every detail, the two began collaborating on the design. “I was more interested in the interior than the exterior,” says Vanessa.
The division of decision-making in place, the couple’s vision for the house began taking shape. They wanted a traditional house with classic design elements, and, at 5,400 square feet, it wasn’t going to be enormous. They opted for two bedrooms up, for themselves and a daughter, and two bedrooms on the lower level for visiting children and other guests. “We were more interested in details than in size,” says Vanessa.
That preference for singular details—and a creative design team—gives the house its distinctive, sometimes whimsical, personality: A windowed, lighted cupola above the garage and nine gas lamps in the front of the house give its face a romantic, 19th century glow; custom, hand-turned spindles reinforce the classic profile of the staircase; and the high-contrast drama of light finishes and glossy, ebonized cabinetry add a sophisticated elegance to the open floor plan.
Before construction began, the old house was razed and the lot raised by almost 4 feet to improve the new home’s street presence and allow for a walkout lower level. Murphy’s design responds to the site, capturing the lake views in the back and employing a roofline with smaller massing to give the house a feel similar to the nicely scaled Shingle homes tucked away in Edina’s older neighborhoods. He also drew a three-car garage that appears more like a two-stall from the street, enhancing the sense that this could be a home that grew organically over the years.
Jerry and Vanessa didn’t need a big footprint house, says Murphy. “They wanted shared spaces—not grand spaces.” They also wanted an open floor plan, conducive to casual gatherings of kids, extended family, and friends. The hub of kitchen, living room, and dining room makes for easy entertaining. An office and screened porch at opposite ends of the main floor provide private spaces as well, while a large mudroom takes care of the family’s array of coats, backpacks, and boots.
Thanks to its high-contrast finishes and carefully thought-out spaces, the kitchen is both refined and hardworking. Vanessa, an accomplished cook, worked closely with Holly Erotas on the space design. “Everything is right where I need it,” she says, including a prep sink in the large island for her sous-chef (Jerry). As for the six-burner Wolf range: “I couldn’t love it more if it was one of my children,” she jokes.
When it came to design preferences, this decisive couple had it nailed, says Haggerty. “Jerry wanted light and dark contrast—dark cabinetry for the most part with light stone, dark floors, and light painted woodwork.” An amber glaze adds definition to perimeter cabinetry painted Benjamin Moore White Dove, and the ebonized cherry island glows with a deep, warm sheen. Shades of gray in the granite countertops sparkle with flecks of mica, while the pendant lights add a splash of light-hearted yellow.
A similar palette continues throughout the first floor, where shades of gray play with yellows . Window treatments are minimal, the better to relish the surrounding views of lake and woods. The effect is serenely comfortable, with enough buttoned-up formality to satisfy Jerry’s East Coast sensibilities.
Another priority for the couple was the master suite. Again, they knew what they wanted: a private retreat modeled after a room they stayed in at a luxurious hotel in Vancouver. The waxed Venetian plaster walls and ceiling, minimal artwork, soothing neutral palette, and Juliet balcony overlooking Mirror Lake are indeed reminiscent of a fine hotel. That impression continues in the spacious bath, where his-and-her vanities and Vanessa’s dressing table flank an enormous tub.
Still, it’s the unexpected that makes this house a gem. Sunlight beams through a tiny window in the master bedroom, shining just so across the room. Crystal goblets sparkle in an upper cabinet that features glass doors on both sides, adding storage and a subtle division between the kitchen and living room. A single oval window with a limestone keystone frame next to the front door echoes a detail found in older Shingle-style houses. It’s exactly what Jerry and Vanessa wanted: a classic home filled with both tradition and personality.
Architect: Jeff Murphy of Murphy & Co. Design
Builder: Erotas Building Corp.
Interior Design: Maureen Haggerty of Mint
Photos by Alex Steinberg and Susan Gilmore