Photos by Spacecrafting
The small lake abutting this award-winning landscape is a below-the-radar gem—a private, nonmotorized body of water surrounded by woods that affords its residents abundant natural beauty and solitude only 15 minutes from downtown Minneapolis. It was these qualities, plus a passion for fishing, that drew former Minnesota Viking (current Los Angeles Charger) Linval Joseph to this very spot, where he recently built a modern home to serve as a retreat for himself, family, and friends. “I fell in love with how beautiful and peaceful it is out here,” he says. The 5.9-acre property has plentiful outdoor space, which Joseph wanted to be just as welcoming and thoughtfully planned as the house—maybe even more so. Tim Johnson, founder, president, and lead designer of Livit Site + Structure, explains: “Linval is a busy guy, but he loves having people over to grill and hang out, so we focused on making those areas beautiful and easy to use.”
The landscape design juxtaposes formal and informal elements—striking a balance between gravitas and good times. In the front, the mood is stately, with an elegant tree-lined driveway and wraparound parking area featuring a 25-foot maple tree at its center. Johnson took cues from the white, geometric form of the house, which provides a gallery-like backdrop for a symmetrical arrangement of juniper, birch, grasses, and hydrangeas. “I chose a variety of columnar forms to speak to the clean architecture and plants that are native or considered native, so they feel at home with the woods on either side,” Johnson says, adding that he consulted with an arborist to protect existing oak trees from construction stress before the first shovel ever went into the ground.
The house sits on the only flat part of the lot and, like most of the topography in the area, the rest of the land is uneven, rising and falling on either side of the house before gradually sloping down to the lake—contours Johnson admired and incorporated into the overall design. He only tamed it in front, adding a granite retaining wall to maintain the vertical uniformity of the trees, accommodate the gentle drop in grade, and hide from view a lower driveway that leads to a tuck-under garage. Lush no-mow fescue grass blankets the curves on both sides of the house, creating a verdant setting.
If the front of the property is black-tie, the lakeside is definitely blue jeans and flip-flops. “Over here, it’s all about entertaining and having fun,” says Johnson. He and Joseph met at the site prior to construction and came up with the idea of different kinds of gathering areas that mirror the house’s design and function. The kitchen and dining area connects to the main house up a set of stairs. An outdoor shower and hot tub (an extension of the home gym) are nearby with a heated patio path to keep it clear and safe all winter. Just beyond that is a sunken living room with a fire table—one of Joseph’s favorite spots that offers unobstructed views of the lake and a place to watch the stars. Johnson kept the landscape lighting discreet, so the space isn’t over-illuminated, saying, “There’s no light pollution here other than what comes from the house, so at night, the sky is gorgeous.”
The brilliant blue of the pool plays well with the gray concrete deck and reflects the house on its glassy surface. Large enough for lap swimming, it also includes a custom basketball hoop, volleyball net option, and bench. Ample seating, which Joseph personally tested out in the showroom to make sure the selections were comfortable and sturdy enough for his large 6-foot-4-inch, 329-pound frame, surrounds the pool and fire pit area.
As careful as Johnson was to create tailored, amenity-rich outdoor spaces, he also knew when to let things be. A good example is on the long descent from the patio area to the lake, where a small dock waits for the cast of a reel (Joseph’s favorite pastime during the offseason). Here, Johnson simply cleared out brush, repaired the turf, and replaced the rotting timber steps with a meandering bluestone staircase that seems to melt into the landscape. The path provides a quiet transition to the water, sturdy enough for a party but perhaps nicest for a party of one.
Joseph’s satisfaction with his new home is palpable, and it’s quite easy to see why. “It’s so relaxing to be here—out in nature sitting by the fire, watching the sun go down. It’s a dream.”