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Photography by Scott Amundson

During a time when “work from home” is constantly being redefined, one Minnesota family blended their household and horse business into a dynamic property with the help of Nor-Son Custom Builders, David Charlez Designs and Studio M Interiors. Previously, their residence and training center were 20 miles apart, creating excessive travel time, especially during foaling season when the animals require extra care.

In finding a unique site with 40 acres of woods, prairie and wetland, they were able to build a real live/work ranch, allowing them to be in two places at once. Now, the stables are just a short stroll from their 5,000-square-foot home, complete with soaring ceilings, panoramic views and a classic covered front porch. It’s truly a breath of fresh air, but the key was not to make it feel too country.

“I like to tease that she’s a little more country and he’s a little more rock-and-roll,” says Studio M Senior Interior Designer Lori Handberg. Indeed, the wife wanted more farmhouse feel with painted finishes while the husband wanted lots of woods and modern accents. 

To marry the two styles, Handberg created an aesthetic that was rustic yet elevated. Inspired by mountain homes in Lake Tahoe and the Midwest, the team aimed for what she calls “modern lodge,” with clean lines and open spaces. But before they could nail the style, getting started was half the battle.

“Of the 40 acres, 80% is wetland; there was just too much muck,” recalls Nor-Son Project Manager Brody Schmid. When they began work on the foundation, they quickly realized it wasn’t all native soil underfoot, and the crew had to adjust the house’s placement on the site then screw anchors deep into the ground to secure it. But the challenge resulted in a win, as the elevated abode allows for stunning ranch vistas from the porch. “The home sits higher on the hill with views of the barns,” Schmid notes. “You can watch the horses grazing.”

After battling the wetlands came the consideration of harsh winds. Schmid called for triple-pane glass to cut out the cold as the residence was designed to be wrapped in glass. To maximize the 14-foot ceilings in the great room, the windows are split into three sections, capturing the incredible vistas while keeping the scale comfortable and unimposing. 

More warmth comes through all the timber posts and beams inside and out, adding to the dark, woodsy exterior tones. The rich palette, intended to blend in with the surrounding environs, also helps ground the sizable home into the lot. “The scale feels grand, but not overwhelming,” Schmid points out.

“The fascia element is double the size of a typical house, lending a strong, oversize presence that’s very lodge-like,” adds David Charlez Designs Principal Dave Zweber. “But even though it’s oversize, it’s simplified.”

To achieve the modern lodge aesthetic while keeping in mind the family’s realistic day-to-day needs, the team opted to skip shades of white altogether inside. “There’s no way they could maintain the cleanliness of white trim,” says Handberg. “This had to work with their ranch lifestyle.” True to her word, there’s no white paint, no white trim — not even a white toilet in the powder room! The result is a dramatic, unexpected look that’s also easy to clean.

Instead, a woodsy palette of rough woods and clean box beams is featured throughout from floor to ceiling. In the great room, a stone fireplace bears a sturdy mantle with substantial metal brackets, whereas the hearth room’s fireplace boasts acid-washed metal panels with a sleeker mantle crafted from trees that were cleared for the stables.

The kitchen’s brown woods are contrasted with a charred black island. Hints of metal add an edge in the overhead lights and on the custom hood (finished in the same manner as the fireplace by Bilt Fab). And a slab of azure quartzite has streaks of a rust hue running through it, which also repeats in the hand-crackled backsplash tile — a far cry from bright white subway.

In going country (for her!), Handberg wove in soft denim hues in the office, laundry room and baths with painted blue cabinetry. To dial in a little rock-and-roll (for him!), the lower level features a Western saloon-style whiskey bar primed for good times with family and friends after a long day. “Like everything, it’s about balancing raw and rustic with more refined,” Handberg explains. Certainly fitting for a home that was created to achieve better balance. 

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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