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When you experience the Artisan Home Tour, you can expect the best of the best in terms of artistic vision paired with master craftsmanship. For one Minnesota couple, a certain level of quality stood out from the rest during the 2019 tour. They connected with award-winning builder John Kraemer & Sons to fulfill their dreams of lakeshore living. And just two years later, their modern rambler would secure its own spot on that very tour.

After a lengthy search, the owners found their dream lot in Tonka Bay, a highly coveted area thanks to its expansive vistas. “The lot is made for taking in Lake Minnetonka’s incredible west-facing views,” says John Kraemer, vice president and director of sales and marketing. “The sunsets are so strong regardless of the time of year.”

Photography by Jim Kruger and Jon Huelskamp | Landmark Photography

With architectural design created in partnership with Charlie & Co., interiors by Ellington & Co. Design, and landscaping by Southview Design, this 5,536-square-foot abode captures those magnificent water views while maximizing outdoor space. It’s perched atop a bluff with a gradual slope that greets more than 100 feet of shoreline.

The kitchen connects directly to an outdoor dining patio with a fireplace and gathering area, while the lower level takes you straight to the lakeshore. “Connecting to the site from all levels was incredibly important to the clients,” note Colby Mattson and Jonathan Mason, Charlie & Co. Design principal and project manager, respectively. “The house was carefully positioned to take advantage of views and paths to the lake.”

Also on the wish list was a space comfortable enough to exist in two realms: day-to-day living for a couple of empty nesters as well as hosting a large influx of guests, family and future grandchildren. With careful consideration and collaborative flexibility, the team designed a five-bedroom, five-bathroom residence with a completely livable main floor plus an inviting, easily accessible lower level.

The exterior is decidedly modern, with natural materials and traditional details that give it warm, approachable appeal. A flat roof in the center is flanked by pitched roofing on either side, while a mix of stucco, cedar soffits, Fond du Lac stone and painted lap siding creates a sleek aesthetic that’s easy to maintain. A wall of glass across the back of the home lets the owners enjoy the full lake effect.

On the front of the house, an art wall greets guests in the entryway. “This was an intentional move by the clients, who wanted privacy from the front,” says Kraemer, noting that the architectural element shields the lake view until further inside the home. A few steps around the wall reveals the great room, which is entirely open to the kitchen, formal dining room and panoramic vistas of the westward waters framed by black Marvin Modern windows. Although a standard window can be a beautiful solution (“like a picture frame,” notes Mattson), the team chose to wrap the glass around the corners of the house to widen the views and capitalize on height.

The wrapped glass creates uninterrupted sightlines that encourage the owners and guests to take in all the architectural details. It also makes for a seamless visual transition between indoors and out. From the living room, for example, you can look across the house and see the outdoor patio. And from the kitchen, you can see the Fond du Lac stone both on the exterior and its integration in the living room. “We wanted to make sure the clients could appreciate all aspects of the architecture they invested in while also bringing the idea of outdoor living inside,” shares Kraemer.

To accommodate the clients’ love for baking, the abode boasts an expansive gourmet kitchen with stainless-steel Wolf and Sub-Zero appliances, plus a graciously sized butler’s pantry, perfect for catering and keeping the kitchen clear of clutter.

The home reinvents the man cave, taking it out of the typical basement and into the outdoors, with a side staircase leading right down to the lake. Complete with a wood-burning fireplace, grill, television, and dining and lounge area, this outdoor space can be enjoyed well past summer thanks to built-in ceiling heaters. “Extending the seasonality was a key component of this project,” Kraemer notes. To wit: The asphalt roof, driveway snowmelt system and high-density fiberglass Marvin Modern windows are all wrapped in a signature John Kraemer & Sons build that winterizes the residence.

The owners’ suite on the main level is a bona fide retreat, complete with a large walk-in closet and a freestanding soaking tub perfect for relaxing. This private oasis and the in-home elevator were incorporated with aging in place in mind.

Downstairs, the team set out to create “the most non-basement basement” possible. That meant high ceilings and creative solutions to bring more natural light into the family room, bar area and three guest suites. “The entire design is laid out to maximize available daylight throughout the day,” says Mattson, who explains that the backside of a rambler is typically underground, so natural light is not evenly dispersed.

The team positioned the staircase on the abode’s eastern perimeter, adjacent to a large bank of windows to create a vast opening that lets sunlight filter in. They also opted for a main-level patio instead of a wraparound deck to alleviate any long shadows that might be cast into the lower level. A separate lake entrance downstairs makes summers out on the water a dream, letting guests come and go with ease.

A significant benefit of the team working together for the duration of the project was the ability to problem solve and creatively collaborate on the go. “The design isn’t done when construction begins; we continually look for opportunities throughout the process,” shares Mattson, recalling an onsite meeting with the clients where the team reconfigured the owners’ suite to allow for more privacy.

They also played around to find just the right mix of exterior materials. The end result could’ve easily felt like a competition between the stucco, cedar and stone, but the team continued to iterate to find the most cohesive, impactful solution. “There’s just no replacement for being able to design and respond to existing conditions in the moment,” adds Kraemer.

The clients experienced this level of care and craftsmanship the first time they toured a John Kraemer & Sons home. The cabinetry, the millwork, the painting — that finished level of quality is where the artistry shines — are now elements they appreciate every day in their own abode and as they host generations to come.

“The home is distinctive in that it’s modern in such a way that’s still warm and approachable,” says Kraemer of the overwhelmingly positive commentary received during the Artisan Home Tour. Clearly, it’s the small, masterful touches that make the difference for homeowners and tour goers alike — and this full-circle project proves you never know when those admirers will be one and the same. 

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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