A large canning sink in Natasha Miller’s kitchen feels right given the farmhouse vibe of the home’s exterior, but it’s more than just a nod to the vernacular. “I put up pickles and several kinds of tomatoes in the fall,” she says. “My grandma and aunt taught me how.” It’s an unexpected skill in an unexpected abode that blends modern farmhouse and Old World European style to sublime effect.
The 5,300-square-foot residence was a long time coming for Miller, her husband and their blended family of seven children, one dog and four cats. For a decade, the couple rented while hunting for the right property, but nothing clicked. That is, until they found this one on a quiet street in Minneapolis’s coveted Kenwood neighborhood — a 1950s structure with negligible architectural value, allowing them to start fresh.
Because Miller and her husband are classicists and architecture aficionados, there was no chance their new house would be cookie-cutter. Their goal was to build an abode that looked like it had a story but lived in a modern way to accommodate their busy life and fluctuating numbers. As Miller explains, “Sometimes we have all the kids and other times it’s just one or two, so the house needs to flex like an accordion.”
Architect Andrea Swan understood the assignment since she knows the owners well, having worked with them on a previous project. “A new house can’t feel new to them,” she shares. Miller had her heart set on a black-and-white farmhouse exterior, so Swan designed a sophisticated version with a sloping roof and single gable that blends well with the older homes on the block. She also brought in landscape architect Travis Van Liere to complement the house with traditional plantings.
Cheerful red front doors offer a warm welcome and a portal to another time. Because once inside, the residence becomes more chateau than farmhouse, with hand-plastered walls, French oak parquet floors and vintage fixtures. These finishes reflect the couple’s tastes while remaining tough enough for a large family (if centuries-old European villas are any indication). Swan agrees: “The beauty is in the imperfections. They’ll take on more character with age.”
Architectural features like delicate groin vaults, archways and a curving staircase drive the aesthetic home. “These are things you’d see in a High Renaissance home,” Swan says, noting that the exacting details wouldn’t have been possible without the precision work of builder Kareem Reda of Anderson Reda.
The owners eschewed formal living and dining rooms in favor of everyday spaces. The main floor is devoted to a large kitchen and family room, a pantry, a street-facing office, and a generous mudroom (because… seven kids). The kitchen is a gorgeous workhorse with two islands (one for cooking, one for hanging out), a plaster vent hood, yards of marble and French casement windows that open to the backyard pool.
One cool kitchen feature is the marble panel behind the stove that slides to reveal spice storage. Another is the oak and steel cabinet that Miller asked craftsman Trevor Braaten to create when she couldn’t find a vintage model. It’s where the family’s everyday dishes are kept, out in the open for easy access. A solid limestone slab over the stove is a poetic remnant from the Art Institute of Chicago that the owners found at the Windy City’s Architectural Artifacts, along with a reclaimed-wood table that seats 14. Tucked around the corner is another surprise: a glossy turquoise pantry that feels like a luxe hideaway despite its utilitarian nature.
Softness is the rule throughout the house — in the hand-plastered walls, matte finishes, light wood tones and upholstered furnishings. Miller has a thing for fur, and it shows up on cushions, benches, ottomans and more, all sourced from St. Paul’s ADRI Collection. “I do love fur,” she shares. “Plus it’s pet-friendly.” She worked with Sue Weldon of Harris Weldon Interiors to bring the warm, inviting spaces together.
Fitness is a priority for the couple, so in addition to keeping the pool heated year-round for lap swimming, they also made space for a well-equipped gym adjacent to their tranquil bedroom upstairs. Down the hall are two more en-suite bedrooms for the kids and a laundry room, with more bedrooms, a rec room and a sauna on the lower level. It’s a lot of beauty and function on a compact city lot, just like the owners envisioned. As Swan explains, “To have a client who knows so clearly what they want and communicates it well is a home run for us.”