thumb image

Photography by Scott Amundson

Sometimes, you’re drawn to a place without knowing exactly why. It just feels familiar and right. This is what happened to Theresa and Jim Wise when they first stood on this Lake Minnetonka property in 2019. “Right away, we felt a connection,” Theresa says. No matter that the 1970s A-frame cabin was Boy Scout rustic, and the lake was hard to see given the dense landscape and eroding bluff. They had a good feeling and purchased it thinking they might build a year-round house there someday, just not immediately. “We wanted to wait until the kids were out of college [circa 2025] to see where they would land and what we might need,” Theresa explains.

In the meantime, they figured the property would be a good investment and a fun lake retreat not far from their Rosemount home. So they gave the cabin a good scrub and began repairing the bluff and shoreline — picnicking and boating on the lake during weekend visits. Then the pandemic hit. The Wises’ daughter came home from college for a few months and suddenly, the whole family was doing school, work and everything else at home. Unsurprisingly, having a nearby getaway became very attractive. “That’s when we really started spending time here,” Theresa says. They brought in air mattresses and purchased a new stove for the place so they could spend nights and enjoy the peaceful setting. The kids took up cooking and during those months of isolation, the family grew closer, and the lake house played a big part in that. “In a short period of time, this became a special place,” Theresa says.

She and Jim decided it was time to build. They spent the next year attending home tours and gathering ideas. They surprised themselves by being drawn to a new aesthetic, specifically a few houses by Nor-Son Custom Builders that blended traditional and contemporary architecture. “We imagined a shingle-style cottage, but when we walked in and saw these more modern homes, we loved how they felt,” Theresa says. “Simple yet warm.”

Once Nor-Son was on board, the Wises’ rounded out the team with architectural designer David C. Zweber of David Charlez Designs and Kelly McGauley of Leona Rose Interiors. “Theresa and Jim knew what they liked and were very involved in the process, which made it fun,” Nor-Son Project Manager Brody Schmid says.

One thing everyone agreed on: the importance of maximizing the spectacular blufftop views. “Breathtaking,” Schmid says. “One of the best on the lake.” The opportunity to capture those vistas was exciting, but dealing with a narrow lot with a steep rise from the street on one side and a steep drop to the lake on the other posed a challenge. Schmid and designer David C. Zweber worked with the city and DNR to maintain setbacks and adhere to environmental regulations to preserve the natural bluff.

The Wises’ wanted open, free-flowing spaces that would feel distinct, so Zweber employed different ceiling heights and a series of interior limestone columns in the 5,500-square-foot house to define each space. “Theresa and Jim were open to doing new things that didn’t necessarily adhere to one aesthetic,” Zweber says. “We mixed gables and flat roofs, modern metal and Old World stone.” They also wanted walls of windows to capture the wonderful views and a variety of rooms on the lakeside that open to outdoor counterparts — an indoor family room that leads to an outdoor family room, an indoor dining room that flows to an outdoor dining room — complete with fireplaces and outdoor heaters.

The lower level is a full walk-out with floor-to-ceiling windows, something the couple wanted in order to keep the area light, bright and inviting. While it took a minute for the team to figure it out, given the strict setbacks, their clever solution was to carve out a portion of the lot, creating a sunken area with grass for lawn games, a patio, a firepit and hot tub. “It’s really cool. Maybe even better than it would be if it were all flat,” Schmid says. The kids’ bedrooms are on that level along with a bunk room. Theresa is happy to report that the whole house gets a lot of use, providing just the gathering place she and Jim had envisioned.

Last fall, when Theresa was pulling together old recipe cards and pictures for a family cookbook, she came across a black-and-white photo from 1960 of a beautiful young woman on a boat with a smitten young man in the background — Theresa’s parents. “My mom was on a girls’ weekend during college and my dad brought his boat over,” she explains, adding that she only recently asked her mom where it was taken. “It was on Lake Minnetonka, just across the bay,” she says. “Maybe that’s why we felt so connected to this place!”

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This