Shady Island is Lake Minnetonka’s innermost haven, home to some of the oldest sites on the waterfront and the first homeowners’ association in Minnesota. Each of its 30 lots has expansive lake views and glorious breathing room between homes. Along the twisting roadway of this triangular-shaped isle sits a distinctly modern house: Strong horizontal planes. Clerestory glass. Situated within the landscape as if it were there all along. Textbook Stinson.
But this isn’t just another award-winning Charles Stinson home. It’s his home that he and wife Carol Eastlund moved into last year and that his son, Jason, owner of Stinson Builders, constructed. The new 2,600-square-foot contemporary house is visible from the street, with a gravel drive whose crunch-crunch-crunch evokes the simplicity of a northwoods cabin. “There are no plans to pave it,” explains Eastlund with a smile. “It’s an homage to our camping spot up north.” The couple sold that property along with their previous home with the dream of downsizing to a year-round summerhouse of sorts.
“We took everything we learned about homebuilding and cooked it down to a sailboat,” says Stinson, referring to the abode’s efficient use of square footage. All the storage is built in and all the doors are pocket-style, giving the home even more of a ship-like feel. Stinson and Eastlund were boaters from an early age, both driving watercraft on the Mississippi River by their early teens, and they always dreamed of living on a lake. They grew up just a few houses apart in Red Wing, where they spent summers running among the bluffs, biking down to the river and camping with each other’s families. Years after college and going their separate ways, the two reconnected while visiting their parents at the same Florida retirement community. Their childhood story rekindled and resulted in a move back to Minnesota to establish a family of their own.
They lived in a Stinson-designed home in Minnetonka for 27 years before making the move to a quiet part of the lake. “Living in this house slows us down in all the best ways,” notes Stinson. “It’s made me more present with nature, like when I was a little kid.” In fact, the backyard fire pit (which their grandchildren helped build) and bench were the first items on the lot. From the moment they stumbled upon the location, they immediately felt more connected to nature. “Any time I would feel overwhelmed with the building process, I would just think back to that lake view,” Eastlund shares, “and everything would feel right again.”
While being close to the water feels only appropriate given their Minnesota upbringing, there’s inspiration from another region, too. The home leans into the playfulness of Palm Springs, California, a favorite vacation and camping spot for the duo. In the summer, there’s a Ping-Pong table in the carport. There’s a rope swing in the front yard, with plans to add a pickleball and badminton court. And just off the side of the house is green space for RV glamping, which the family took full advantage of during their housewarming party.
It’s the boats and RVs that encouraged the couple to think differently about their new home. “We realized we really didn’t need so much space,” says Eastlund, who has a newfound appreciation for minimalism. In fact, with the smart built-ins throughout the abode, she actually has more storage here than in their previous larger house.
A dedication to not only efficiency but also beauty is apparent upon first entry. There’s no grand front entrance, but rather a simple, approachable door leading into an entryway complete with a built-in bench for visitors to take off their shoes — this is Minnesota after all — and stay awhile. Just a few steps in, open sightlines through the shared living room and office area reveal the lake. The floor-to-ceiling windows beckon you to take in the serene vista: a wide 1.3-acre lot cupped by tall trees and the even-tempered water peppered by grassy land. Eastlund laughs as she recalls guests coming in and exclaiming what a beautiful home they have — while completely dismissing the architecture and beelining straight for the views. But to Stinson, that’s a compliment: “I believe in getting the architecture out of its own way, because the view is always going to win.”
A singular material aids in the simple, uninterrupted design. When invasive emerald ash borer was discovered to be killing ash trees a decade ago, Stinson and Eastlund responsibly embraced the ash hardwood abundance, using it on walls, doors, floors and ceilings. Even the wraparound deck is made from thermally modified ash that was sent to a Wisconsin mill. And the interior and exterior siding as well as the great room ceiling feature wood stained by local artisan Darril Otto, who utilized a seven-step process to highlight and intensify the sweeping grain patterns, creating a sort of 3D effect. “We really wanted a modern, white-washed look to complement the summerhouse feel,” explains Eastlund. “Darril came back with something even better than we could have imagined.”
Ash is also the primary material in the kitchen, though you won’t find much cabinetry. All the dishware, glassware and other standard trappings are stored in drawers instead of traditional cabinets. “I can’t believe the difference it’s made,” Eastlund notes. “Not having the upper cabinets makes the kitchen feel so open. I’ve already enjoyed cooking more in this house in a few months than I did in our last house of nearly 30 years.” Even the Gaggenau stove has a ventilation panel that retracts when not in use, revealing the window behind it. The couple opted for kitchen appliances exclusively from the German brand based on past experience; they never had to change out a single Gaggenau appliance in their last home.
A few steps from the kitchen, a casual dining table acts as a barrier between the cozy L-shaped sectional and a shared office space. Three stairs lead up to the open office. Stinson, who still hand draws all his homes, has a drafting table that overlooks the living room, the kitchen and the lake. It’s a quiet place to work, with Snap-Tex acoustic panels lining the walls and ceiling to reduce noise. The peaceful space is a favorite of Stinson’s, who was a scuba diver and a rock-and-roller in his younger years. “You don’t realize the quietness right away, but it just makes such a difference,” he says.
The cozy living room features a television with a retractable artwork panel and a double-sided fireplace. On the opposite side is a sunroom that leads out to the deck. The duo utilizes this flex space for extra guests or as a more casual hangout spot. Triple-pane Loewen windows and doors encase the room to keep it warm in the winter and open fully to bring the outdoors in come summer.
Stinson and Eastlund spend as much time outside as possible, despite his decades-long focus on interiors. “Balancing this sense of shelter and letting your spirit be free is what it’s all about,” he muses. “This project reaffirms the architecture I’ve been doing my whole career.”
The couple and their guests can peacefully unwind in the tranquil master and guest bedrooms. The latter is equipped with a private deck, power shades and its own coffeemaker. “Guests tell us this is like their own personal retreat,” shares Stinson. The small deck boasts a lake view and acts as a secluded getaway where guests can feel more in tune with nature. Just down the hall, the master bedroom features a built-in headboard, a dresser and nightstands all made from ash.
The wraparound deck is the perfect spot to take in the outdoors. The couple enjoys watching the sunrise together while sipping on their morning coffee, a tradition that started during their camping adventures in Palm Springs. “I want to see as many sunrises and sunsets as I can,” says Stinson.