When Greg Jennings signed a five-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings in 2013, the former Green Bay Packer moved to Edina with his wife Nicole and young family. After two seasons he signed with the Miami Dolphins, but his family—including four children now between the ages of 3 and 10—stayed behind. Last year, Greg retired from football, and the couple decided to make Minnesota their permanent home. Nicole was busy concentrating on her fashion businesses, and they liked the school system.
Greg and Nicole knew they wanted to stay in Edina, where the family had been renting a house. When they started looking at existing homes for sale in the area, they were unable to find anything that suited their unique needs. They decided to start fresh. “We have four kids, plus a live-in nanny, so we’re really a family of seven, plus family come all the time as guests,” Nicole explains. “It only made sense to start from scratch and build it in a way that was functional for us.”
Working with builder David Bieker, of Denali Custom Homes, and Kathryn Alexander, of the Alexander Design Group, the couple found a site and the team began drawing up blueprints. They landed on a style Bieker describes as “modern mountain” or “rustic contemporary”—clean lines, warm materials, and floor-to-ceiling windows that allow for plenty of natural light.
The design process was largely fueled by Greg, who Nicole jokingly refers to as “my Martha Stewart.” Greg studied architecture in college, and helped design the house in collaboration with Alexander and interior designer Annie Graunke of Studio M Interiors. “He was very influential in the design,” says Alexander. “He had a vision, so it was really easy to design around that vision and make it come to life.”
“I love the design process,” says Greg. “I enjoy finding ways to make a floor plan work and be very functional, yet have a uniqueness to it. I love the idea of designing a beautiful home that also makes sense, puzzle-piecing everything together so it has a natural flow.”
The family-friendliness of the design is evident: The four kids’ bedrooms are upstairs, with Greg and Nicole’s master suite directly beneath them on the main level, maintaining their privacy while keeping the kids close. A small apartment above the garage gives the nanny a private space of her own.
The expansive kitchen features a raised ceiling with skylights, a large rectangular island (“It’s perfect for homework and snack time,” Nicole says), and appliances tucked beneath sleek wood cabinets. Behind the main kitchen is a butler’s pantry that’s hidden behind a sliding door. It’s great for entertaining, says Bieker. Someone can be preparing food in the back, while the rest of the space remains clear for your guests—especially since everybody always wants to hang out in the kitchen.
The foyer and staircase area was designed to be separate from the family room. “We didn’t want to have you walk right into the family room area,” Bieker says. Guests entering the foyer see into the backyard through the wall of windows lining the back of the house. The space is filled with natural light and features a staircase with custom stair treads detailed with linear lines that refer back to those found throughout. The cable railing lends the stairs a light, floating feel.
For Greg, one of the focal points was the basement. “I’m a basement guy,” he says, “I want my basement to feel like a part of the house and not just a basement.” As a result, the ceiling height was an important consideration. The home’s lower level features an indoor sport court and play area for the kids (“It’s great in the wintertime,” says Nicole), a wine nook inspired by the couple’s trips to Napa Valley vineyards, an area decorated with Greg’s football memorabilia, and a sauna, which is conveniently located near the backyard swimming pool.
After a floor plan was finalized, the Jennings worked with internior designer Graunke to select finishes and detailing for metalwork, flooring, tiling, and the fireplaces. She presented furnishing concepts and décor ideas tailored to the Jennings’ preferences—a much less daunting process than when the couple built their last house in their hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan. “I had to go to every single showroom and sit for hours looking over hundreds of flooring options,” Nicole recalls. “It was overwhelming. With this experience, it was a one-stop shop.”
Graunke filled the home with a mix of classic, high-quality furnishings that would perform well over time, including sofas by Thayer Coggin and Vanguard Furniture, a handmade wool loop rug by Longbarn, an egg-shaped tub by MTI Baths, and a custom-sized bed. “We wanted pieces that were nice-quality and durable but spoke to that specific area of the house,” explains Greg.
A year after moving into the house, the family has found it to be as functional as they had planned. “It feels homey, and that was the No. 1 thing I wanted,” says Greg. “When you walk into some houses, you can’t touch this, you can’t touch that. It might look like that [here], but every piece of furniture is functional. The kids even climb on it.”
After she opened her luxury resale boutique One Posh Closet four years ago, Nicole Jennings knew she wanted to open a second store. When her beloved grandmother passed away last May, she was inspired to found Queen Anna in her honor.
“When you came into contact with her, you always left with a piece of wisdom or memory that was going to be with you forever,” she recalls. “That’s what I was going for with the clothing at Queen Anna—I chose things that were going to be timeless and you’ll have in your closet for years.”
The North Loop boutique sells effortlessly chic women’s clothing and accessories with an emphasis on quality materials, such as silk joggers, velvet tuxedo blazers, and swingy trench coats, from cult indie fashion brands that include L.A.-based designer Chan Luu, Montreal’s LaMarque, and Calgary-based label Bano eeMee.
With design assistance from Greg, Nicole incorporated overlapping ceiling panels with clean lines to draw the eye and help disguise the exposed ceiling. The space is accented with light gray wood-laminate flooring, tile with abstract designs, industrial metal clothing fixtures, and a custom-built brass cash wrap. See queenanna.co