When Twin Cities tastemaker Nancy Bigos set foot on the 1920 Lake Minnetonka estate once owned by the lumber baron Fullerton family, she instantly fell in love. “I knew it was the diamond in the rough,” she says of the original home and the accompanying 7.2-acre waterfront property. “It wrapped itself around me and said, ‘You have to buy me.’”
So she did, then began the painstaking process of conserving the abode’s considerable history, renovating the existing 10,000-square-foot footprint and adding another 5,500 — all while weaving her signature style throughout. And today, the five-bedroom, eight-bathroom home situated at 3350 Fox Street in Orono is ready for a new owner.
“This is an unprecedented recreation of the original house,” explains listing agent Cindy Redmond of Coldwell Banker Realty. Her listing partner, George Stickney, agrees: “I’ve seen a lot of houses in my 34 years of real estate, but this is the nicest remodel of a home I’ve ever seen.”
While Stickney notes it likely would have been easier (not to mention cheaper) to start from scratch, Bigos loved the home’s good energy and wanted to respect its heritage. And when she started digging into the materials history, it became a given that those special touches would stay. To wit: Bigos came to learn that the property’s front gates, which needed refurbishing, were fabricated by the same company that crafted the gates for the White House.
She wanted to replace the marble in the front entry, but when she looked into it, she was warned not to touch it — it’s no longer available anywhere, to anyone. Worth more than a quarter million dollars, it’s found in such prominent places as New York City’s Lincoln Center. And so the marble stayed. Wrought-iron railings got a fresh polish, floors were refurbished and, in one instance of putting the past back into the abode, all the original wall sconces were reinstalled in their former locations.
In some cases, it made sense to conserve details while updating, as when Bigos indulged her inner gourmet with a new pizza oven — then faced it with the brick that once housed a furnace chute. You’d never guess that a state-of-the-art appliance lies behind the charming, period-appropriate material. And in other situations, spaces got a face-lift. Case in point: The original servants’ quarters, which included living areas for a butler, chauffeur and seamstress, were adapted and expanded into a master suite, a larger office, children’s bedrooms, and a bar area inspired by the Ralph Lauren restaurant bar in Chicago. The house is also outfitted with high-tech lighting, sound, security and the like.
When it came to the exterior, quite similarly no expense was spared. Brick was re-fashioned in a vintage kiln to look like the original. Bigos even traveled to France to research the gardens at Versailles and had her own inspired take planted and maintained on the grounds, along with a pool and more.
“You could spend your whole lifetime going from room to room depending on what mood you’re in,” she says. “The library, for instance, was completely imported from Paris [by the Fullertons]. The detail of the house! I’m still in awe of it all.”
Redmond and Stickney agree, emphasizing that there’s simply no other home in the Twin Cities with this kind of wow factor. “This is really rare,” Redmond concludes. “It’s a fortress, and it will live on for another 100 years. It’s really a privilege to see something like this.”
3350 Fox Street, Orono
• Price upon request
• Built in 1920
• 15,858 square feet
• 5 bedrooms
• 8 bathrooms
• 7-car garage
• 7.2 acres
• 700 feet of shoreline