Photo Courtesy of Bachman’s, Designer Steve Gorman
Landscapers used biomimicry to strategically place each planting in a way that would help it to thri
Landscapers used biomimicry to strategically place each planting in a way that would help it to thrive.
1. Creekside Retreat in Edina
Along the winding Minnehaha Creek sits a hillside garden so charming it might have been plucked from the pages of a storybook. Karen Bachman Thull, Bachman’s director of marketing and corporate communications, says the homeowner wanted “to celebrate Minnesota’s beautiful spring and summer with ornate annual and perennial beds,” while keeping it all visually interesting when the snow comes around.
To make it happen, Bachman’s landscapers dotted the previously open space with cascading gardens to provide blooming interest throughout the warmer months. Each planting was strategically placed using biomimicry, which emulates patterns found in nature. Nearby, a water feature echoes the rippling waters of Minnehaha Creek and reflects the colorful plantings that surround it. An ornamental bridge and cobblestone path invite a leisurely stroll. And comfortable seating around a custom fire pit offers a front-row seat to the changing seasons.
Thull says it’s key when planning an outdoor space to also plan for proper maintenance. “The homeowner had and continues to have access to experts in a broad range of services like landscape architecture, plant selection, expert design, garden maintenance, and coaching.”
2. Artful Exuberance in Minneapolis
When a Minneapolis couple wanted to create an eye-catching entrance for their art-filled condominium, they enlisted the design expertise of Ramsey Engler Ltd.
“The clients are avid world travelers and collectors of contemporary art glass. They also have many fine pieces of furniture, including iconic 1980s pieces,” says Laura Ramsey Engler, design principal. “Because the foyer opens directly off a private elevator, we had the opportunity to make this an arrival experience that foretells what lies within.” And because they were starting with a blank slate devoid even of walls, Engler was able to plan the space according to the art and furnishings that would fill it.
Given full artistic license, Engler drew design inspiration from the homeowners’ collection of contemporary art glass and furniture, and worked with them to select and arrange each piece in a way that would make the space vibrant, personal, and inviting.
Two cinnabar-colored 1977 Suzanne Geismer Chiquita Armchairs and a mirrored Jean de Merry console table offer guests a warm welcome, while a custom mirror, gold sconces, and marble flooring add to the foyer’s opulence. Atop the console table sit a quartz planter and the final touch: a piece of lemon-yellow art glass by Czech glassmaker Martin Rosol. A butterfly wall covering by Osborne & Little ties the bold color palette together, rendering a space that is both sophisticated and playful.
3. Backyard Family Getaway in Corcoran
On 2.5 acres in Corcoran, a family wanted to make the most of their expansive yard. “The lack of space wasn’t the problem; it was the lack of purpose. They didn’t have any place to hang out and really take advantage of their beautiful settings,” says Heather Grossmann, senior designer at Mom’s Landscaping & Design. A tiny deck off the house served as the sole outdoor entertaining space, and all grilling had to happen directly underneath it. The property’s open landscape also left it unprotected from wind.
Grossmann and her team began with a flowing, illuminated water feature, and added myriad elements around it to give the backyard a fun, resort-like feel. Sod steps and garden beds flank the pool and patio area, keeping the space soft and natural. Above, a new, larger deck is broken into three distinct areas for grilling, dining, and lounging, all with views of the pool area. In the pool house, separate his and hers changing rooms, a shower, and toilet rooms invite an easy dip in the pool. Pergolas on either side of the pool house afford nooks for relaxation, with seating around a fire feature on one side and a suspended bed swinging from the purlinson the other.
Many elements specifically cater to the kids. A pair of in-ground trampolines creates an instant energy outlet, and a natural turf game area allows for bocce ball or putting practice. Nearby, a sport court with stadium seating sunken into the hillside encourages pickup basketball games.
For the final touch, the team planted a grove of Aspen trees. “This one planting event truly changed their backyard,” Grossmann says. “It instantly gave them the privacy and wind protection they were hoping for.”
4. Frank Lloyd Wright Meets Palm Springs in Golden Valley
Before finalizing their purchase, owners of this home in Golden Valley’s North Tyrol Hills neighborhood consulted with David Strand, architectural designer and principal of Strand Design, and then worked with him to make it their dream home. “The existing space was a very overgrown lot with a dilapidated, abandoned, and much-remodeled house sitting on it,” Strand remembers. “It was actually quite sad up there when the owners bought it, however, there was a space between the house and the road that had the most wonderful and sunny feeling.”
Serving as principal designer for the home and its exterior, Strand has since transformed that sunny space into an outdoor living area that complements the design aesthetic of the house, which he describes as “a bright and soaring Palm Springs rambler mixed with an organic, warm, and earthy Frank Lloyd Wright–style cottage.” The home’s floor-to-ceiling windows look onto a new pool designed and installed by Prestige Pools, giving the feeling of “home and vacation all in one” the homeowners were seeking. A pool house echoes the home’s crisp, clean, masculine feel, while multiple lounge and seating areas invite friends and family to relax and stay a while.
It wasn’t easy. Golden Valley’s ordinance prohibiting pools and outbuildings in front yards required Strand to obtain three variances, campaigning to the neighbors for approval. In the end, the unusual site planning protects the pool area from the rear neighbors and the road, while gaining winter views of the Minneapolis skyline, when trees in the adjacent park are bare.
Strand is proud of how the project makes full use of the lot. “To design and fully conceive a large and complex outdoor space like this and turn it into something so natural yet architectural is an honor,” he says. “It has a romance and intimacy, yet can be amazingly gregarious.”
5. Gray Grandeur in Eden Prairie
An Eden Prairie home has traded an outdated gold-and-burgundy palette for silvery grays and lush materials, bringing a classic, contemporary style that complements the home’s traditional architectural details.
“The owners’ goals for this space were centered around entertaining and family,” says Tim Ricker, interior designer for At Home and Co. “We wanted it to be impactful and comfortable at the same time.” A painting by Manhattan artist Donna Hughes, now hanging in the dining room, inspired a soft blue and silvery gray color palette now evident throughout the home. Velvet, silk, grasscloth, and wool in the same calming hues exude quiet luxury throughout.
In the foyer, designers selected a hand-tooled metal chest from Global Views and a handwoven silk area rug from Turkey, purchased through Woven Arts. A polished nickel and glass lantern fixture from Visual Comfort draws the eye toward the sweeping curved staircase and landing above.
In the dining room, a large Greek key pattern winds around the edges of a handmade silk and wool rug custom-designed with Julie Dasher Rugs. Gray velvet Lillian August upholstered armchairs encircle a custom Hickory White dining table and flank a black Lillian August cabinet finished with silver leaf stripping. Gray Schumacher grasscloth adds texture to the walls, and a silver leaf finish in the ceiling detail echoes the cabinet while offering a dash of luster in an unexpected place.
6. Casual Culinary Elegance in Orono
They say that no matter where you throw the party, your guests will end up in the kitchen. And in a new Orono home, the kitchen’s blend of entertaining sophistication and everyday functionality is so approachable that guests may never want to leave.
“Proportion was very important to the client, who wanted a gathering area for family and guests, yet enough space for cooking and moving around the kitchen triangle,” says Amy Hendel of Hendel Homes. Designers worked with the homeowners to place the sink and appliances where they would most readily be used. Additional considerations like a warming drawer and steam oven bring comfort and ease to culinary tasks at hand.
Visually, the space is an intriguing mix of high and low and light and dark. Rift and quartered white oak floors with eased edges ground the space in warmth. They also balance a variety of refined elements, from a concealed freezer and refrigerator to charcoal black granite perimeter countertops to detailed millwork on the creamy white custom cabinets. Hendel is particularly fond of the kitchen’s hood wall: “It really makes you stop and study the cabinet details.” Pops of varying blues on the quartzite kitchen island and barstools add a dash of color into the mix, a trend that extends into the adjoining dining area. Large windows throughout maximize natural light even on the darkest Minnesota days.
Practically, the dining room is steps away. But on warmer days, the family can slip outside the kitchen door to a screened porch for meals overlooking a nearby stream and the area’s rolling hills.
7. Open-Air Living Room on Lake Minnetonka
Owners of this new lakefront Orono home can now take in Lake Minnetonka’s changing moods from the comfort of a second living room in their backyard.
“The owners wanted an outdoor living space where they could relax, entertain, and take in beautiful views of Lake Minnetonka, and also a place to hang out and enjoy a sunset at night,” says John Kraemer, vice president of John Kraemer & Sons in Edina. “Our clients want to feel as comfortable in their outdoor spaces as they do when they are sitting in their living room.”
Kraemer worked with designers at Swan Architecture and Katie Redpath Constable Interiors to bring the space to life. Upholstered furniture, a large television, and a wood-burning fireplace mantle offer interior comforts, while a wood ceiling, bluestone floors, and the fireplace’s natural stone blend with outdoor surroundings. Barely there phantom screens descend from the ceiling to keep mosquitoes at bay without compromising views of the lake. The bluestone floors also extend to a dining area and an additional seating area around a fire pit, giving the homeowners several ways to appreciate the home’s picturesque backdrop.
“I’m proud of the fact that the owners love it, and it gets used often,” Kraemer says. “It’s a perfect place to enjoy a Lake Minnetonka sunset on a beautiful summer night.”
8. Ultramodern Living in Edina
Prior to renovation, this midcentury modern rambler bore a striking resemblance to The Brady Bunch set. “There was a stone fireplace in the center of the living spaces, which was clad in lava rock,” remembers Bob Near, senior project manager for Streeter & Associates. “Not only was the fireplace dated, it forced a lack of openness.”
To open up the entire living and dining space, Near worked with Peterssen/Keller Architecture and Anterior Designer Andrew Flesher to revise the floor plan for better flow. The old fireplace was torn down and replaced with a steel structure to support the centerpiece of the new space, a cantilevered open-flame gas fireplace, which appears to float in the room with minimal structure.
A variety of natural materials and earthy tones mingle within the white Venetian plaster walls, including cerused walnut cabinetry and rustic oak floors. Steel on the fireplace hearth and surround contrasts with fuzzy light fixtures over the dining room table. Carefully curated seating is decidedly modern, with a nod to the home’s midcentury modern roots. And large glass windows and doors maximize natural light, offering views of the newly renovated yard and pool patio.
Near says the considered end result is a product of exceptional collaboration. “Had a wrong color or wrong material been used, it would have stuck out like a sore thumb. Finding a mix of natural materials in the right color took a lot of exploration and required everyone working on the project to be open-minded, team-oriented, and on the same page.”