Photos by Jenna Weiler
Tim and Ann Keenan’s Edina backyard is unusually secluded for a city lot. Adjacent to a hill and bordered by trees, it seemed to be the perfect place to enjoy Minnesota summers. But the truth is, the couple and their two sons have hardly spent any time enjoying their backyard hideaway thanks to hordes of hungry mosquitoes.
After 15 years of discussing what to do about it—including thoughts of tearing o their aging deck and replacing it with something new—they finally called a landscape design company to get a bid on a new patio and planters. “It was really pretty, but also a lot of money,” Tim recalls. If they were going to spend that much, he wondered if maybe they should add a screened porch.
His first call was to TreHus, a Minneapolis design-build firm the couple used for several projects in the past. They met with the company’s senior project manager Dave Carson and Virginia (Ginney) Anderson, an architect who was working with TreHus at the time. While Tim and Ann had a traditional screened porch in mind, Anderson took one look at the wooded lot and midcentury modern rambler and suggested the Keenans do something more unique.
“Tim and Ann liked the idea of an up-North-cabin feel, so Ginney blended that with a clean, contemporary design that complemented the house,” Carson says. To further maximize the view of the woods, Anderson angled the porch addition rather than making it parallel to the house. The angle, though, made the building process far more challenging for a number of reasons, including the addition of a small alcove to join the home’s existing roofline to the porch. Connected to the house by a screen door, the room includes a built-in soapstone countertop where the family likes to set out food and drinks when they’re hanging out or grilling.
The porch’s high roofline and clerestory windows also made the project more complex. “We had to bring in a structural engineer and use steel columns for the four big corner posts that hold the roof,” Carson says, explaining that the columns were welded into place. To enhance the streamlined look of the porch’s retractable Phantom Screens, the TreHus team built a box beam large enough to hold the screens’ rollers and motors, as well as the building’s structural beams. For the interior walls, the Keenans chose clear cedar rather than traditional knotty cedar, which has a more rustic look.
And to give the rest of the yard a refresher, they hired Biota, a Minneapolis landscape design and build firm, to create a contemporary, low-maintenance outdoor space. Minnesota granite boulders replaced an old retaining wall made of terraced railroad ties, and subtle lighting flanked the new bluestone patio, which offered plenty of space for activities. “We really like both spaces, but we use the porch all of the time now,” Ann says. “Our sons love to hang out there, and we have cocktails and dinner there; just the two of us, or the whole family. We’ve never spent so much time outside.”
Although they could admittedly use a heater to enjoy the space year round, they opt to make it a seasonal treat. Instead, they protect the screens by rolling them all the way up, and then they push the furniture into the middle of the space and cover it until spring. “This is so much more than the conventional screened porch we envisioned,” Tim says. “It feels like our hideaway, like our own private cabin.”