An Indoor/Outdoor Home in Minneapolis Defies a Harsh Climate

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By Kelly Dawson
When Peterssen Keller Architecture set out to create a California-inspired property in Minneapolis, they decided to do so with an airy design that works for all seasons.

When principal Gabriel Keller and project manager Ted Martin of Peterssen Keller Architecture signed on to build a new home in Minneapolis, they knew from the beginning that it would be different from their ordinary work. 

For one thing, the couple who hired them weren't everyday clients. They were empty-nesters with grown children, eager to begin a fresh chapter on the banks of their beloved Bde Maka Ska Lake, where they often ran with their dog. The pair had spent years designing, building, or renovating a dozen custom homes in the Twin Cities, carving out a reputation for themselves as authorities on the area's traditional architecture. 

And yet, they didn't want to recreate a sturdy, decidedly Midwestern property akin to those that surround the open lot they found in Southern Minneapolis. They hoped for something different. Something that effortlessly brought the outdoors in.

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The 4,500-square-foot property is made up of three pavilions. The first pavilion is the garage, the second is for the living areas, and the third is for the master suite.  

The 4,500-square-foot property is made up of three pavilions. The first pavilion is the garage, the second is for the living areas, and the third is for the master suite.  

"The clients wanted a dynamic, modern, and urban oasis with a swimming pool," Keller says. "They also wanted a strong indoor/outdoor connection, a mix of private and public spaces, room for entertaining, guest rooms, and a home office." 

The indoor/outdoor connection would be key to the entire design--the team and the couple saw the views as a continuous backdrop that would unite every square inch in the home. To get there, though, construction had to contend with the unavoidable challenges of the initial site.

A Series 600 Multi-Slide Door from Western Window Systems stretches for 25 feet across the length of the living area.  

A Series 600 Multi-Slide Door from Western Window Systems stretches for 25 feet across the length of the living area.  

"The site is deep, oddly shaped, and slopes from low to high, which is atypical of sites in the neighborhood," Martin says. "The neighborhood is also filled with older, traditional homes, so the designers resolved those technical and aesthetic challenges by setting the house back from the street and designing three pavilions that progress from public to personal." 

The three pavilions—one for a garage, another for the living spaces, and a third for the master suite—are arranged in an L-shape that provides privacy to an inner courtyard and that must-have swimming pool. From there, large sliding glass doors from Western Window Systems lead to the living and dining room, and upstairs, the same sliding doors are used to access a master suite patio with views of the city skyline.  

Keller and Martin also used floor-to-ceiling windows to connect the surrounding private gardens to the living spaces. 

Keller and Martin also used floor-to-ceiling windows to connect the surrounding private gardens to the living spaces. 

"By using Western Window Systems' large windows and doors as transparent walls and in each of the three pavilions, we were able to create a strong connection between indoors and out," Keller notes. "This allows the owners to enjoy the beauty of Minnesota's four distinct seasons, even in the heat of summer and the depths of winter." 

Keller and Martin point to Western Window Systems as a key factor to their unconventional design's success, from a budgetary and visual standpoint. Given that much of the home is glass—and that such custom features can be pricey—they both note that the company's affordability, ingenuity, and style allowed for the clients to eventually move into the home they had been envisioning. It isn't a standard Minneapolis address by any means, which was the point, and the windows help make it so. 

A Series 600 sliding glass door from Western Window Systems was installed between the master suite and its outdoor patio, which has expansive views of Minneapolis’ Bde Maka Ska. 

A Series 600 sliding glass door from Western Window Systems was installed between the master suite and its outdoor patio, which has expansive views of Minneapolis’ Bde Maka Ska. 

"Thanks to Western Window Systems, we were able to create a warm home that offers the best of both worlds: an indoor/outdoor, California-inspired lifestyle for spring and summer, and a cozy, light-filled living environment for autumn and winter," Martin says. 

And who knows, maybe this California-inspired property may just be the beginning of a new Minneapolis look. Keller even has a name for it, and it could just become the fresh chapter he's looking for, too.

The home's L-shaped design conceals an outdoor pool and yard from the neighbors.  

The home's L-shaped design conceals an outdoor pool and yard from the neighbors.  

"Minnesota is fast-becoming a bastion of innovative modern architecture," he says. "Because of exciting developments in window technology, we're developing our own brand of 'Minnesota Modernism'—organic modern homes that reflect our Scandinavian heritage and love of the outdoors."