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Charming, Updated Cabin on Lake Minnetonka

A traditional lakeside retreat gets a sunny new attitude with splashes of wit and wow

Written and produced by Kelly Ryan Kegans
  • Werner Straube

    It’s not unusual to move historic homes from one location to another, but it’s not every day that the path of transport is a frozen lake. This is Minnesota, though, and winters here often mean it’s the land of 10,000 frozen lakes. Such was the case 100 years ago, when the path of least resistance to get this house to the other side of Lake Minnetonka was towing it across iced-over waters.

    The story makes for cool cabin lore, but other factors really sold the current homeowners on the relocated lake home: its mere 30-mile distance from their full-time Minneapolis house and their desire to restore coastal cottage charm to a house that had seen years of uneven renovations. 

    “The No. 1 design challenge was the floor plan,” interior designer Linda Engler says. “It was the perfect storm of mishmashed additions, outdoor-to-indoor conversions, and suspect remodeling.”

    Interior designer Linda Engler covered entry walls in a Phillip Jeffries woven paper. She found the vintage Murano chandelier on 

    Photography: Werner Straube

    Architectural firm: Gabriel Keller and Carl Olson, Peterssen/Keller Architecture, 2919 James Ave. S, Minneapolis, MN 55408; 612/353-4920;
    Interior designer: Linda Engler, Engler Studio Interior Design, 3948 W. 50th St., Suite 204, Edina, MN 55424; 952/564-6488;
    Builder: Bob Near, Streeter and Associates, Wayzata, Minnesota; 952/449-9448;

    Bench “Philadelphia Windsor Arm Bench”: Countryside Amish Furniture;
    Wallpaper “Japanese Paper Weave” 1616: Phillip Jeffries, Ltd.; 800/576-5455;
    Artwork above bench by James Beaman: through Circa Gallery, Minneapolis; 612/332-2386;
    Scarf on tote “Iris Floral Silk Scarf”: Robin Ann Meyer;
    Pillow “Las Rayas Pillow” in Rosa: Goldfinch;
    Chandelier, rug: homeowners’ collection.

  • View Before

    Sited on a hill overlooking the lake, the home took little advantage of its perch. Some rooms had no exterior views, and the ones that did still suffered from oddly placed walls that blocked natural light. 

  • Karen Melvin

    Sitting Pretty

    To untangle the mess, the design team converted some of the interior spaces back to exterior rooms, replaced a window-less wall in the living room with a span of French doors, and flipped the kitchen to the other side of the house, where it takes in lake views through a new wall of mullioned windows. The house now lives large, but designer Gabriel Keller says, “We actually made the footprint smaller.”

    The cedar-shake home sits on a hill overlooking Lake Minnetonka, southwest of Minneapolis. 

  • Living Room Before

    Previously, a wall had blocked views to the lake.

  • Werner Straube

    Cottage-Style Living Room

    Today, upon entering the home, the lake is immediately visible across the living room. It’s the wow factor and lakeside connection the homeowners want when they spend weeks at a time here with their teenage sons.

    Vintage pieces, such as the glass, acrylic, and brass cocktail table and the 1900s French steamer trunk, mingle with a linen-covered sofa and leather ottomans from Hancock & Moore. Engler made the pillow covers with pieces she cut from a large kantha textile.

    Love seat near windows “Nouvelle Queen Sleeper”: Taylor King;
    Fabric for love seat “Toccata” in Banya, fabric for sofa “Linen Duck” in Oatcake: Rogers & Goffigon, Ltd.;
    Upholstered chairs flanking chest “Umbria Lounge Chair” by Orlando Diaz-Azcuy: McGuire Furniture Co.; 800/662-4847;
    Fabric for chairs “Basque” in Pumpkin: Classic Cloth, Plainville, Kansas; 785/434-7200;
    Ottomans “Calvary Bench” in Stampede Harness Leather: Hancock & Moore, Inc.; 828/495-8235;
    Striped throw on sofa “Windowpane Cashmere Throw” in Pimiento: Goldfinch;
    Sofa “Cooper”: Ferrell Mittman;
    Floor lamp “Skylar”: Mr. Brown;
    Cocktail table, 1900s French steamer trunk, rug Afghani hand-knotted wool rug, indigo mudcloth on love seat, kantha pillows on sofa and love seat: homeowners’ collection.

  • Dining Room Before

    The previous dining room featured heavier, more formal furniture.

  • Werner Straube

    Dining Room After

    Having helped the homeowners renovate their Minneapolis home, Engler, Keller, and builder Bob Near were a trusted team, empowered to present ideas that sometimes pulled the homeowners—just a bit—out of their comfort zone. Engler kicked off the process by asking the couple to jot down words that described what they wanted their getaway to embody. “Cottage. Contrast. Not all tan. Unexpected. Collected. Funky (a little).”

    Engler designed the Parsons-style oak table with exposed joints to mimic joinery details in the kitchen cabinetry. 

    Chandelier “Gothic Neo Geo” in Natural Brass: O’Lampia Studio, Inc.;
    Table custom design: Engler Studio Interior Design, Edina, Minnesota; 952/564-6488;
    Chairs “Merci”: Jessica Charles;
    Fabric for chairs “Skye” in Blueberry: Rogers & Goffigon, Ltd.;
    Chair trim “Round Nailhead” in Antique Silver: Samuel & Sons, New York City;
    Console: Scout Chicago;
    Table lamp “Mimizan” ceramic: Vaughan Designs, Inc.;
    Birds on console: Gallery 360, Minneapolis; 612/925-2400;
    Framed artwork by Kathleen Waterloo: through Circa Gallery, Minneapolis; 612/332-2386;
    Oars: Sanborn Canoe Co.;
    Fireplace surround “Dove White Vein-Cut Honed Marble”: Eden Valders Stone;
    Fireplace screen: Restoration Hardware;
    Portholes: homeowners’ collection.

  • Werner Straube

    Nautical Touches

    The directives were tacked up on a board in Engler’s office to guide the two-year project. The team also was familiar with the couple’s sometimes at-odds style preferences: She likes spaces that are traditional and feminine; he prefers clean lines and modern style.

    Locally made canoe paddles and solid brass portholes are among the playful nautical nods.

  • Werner Straube

    Snazzy Bar

    “The overarching concept was that the homeowners wanted this to feel like a getaway, not just a second version of their city house,” Engler says. “Their city house is classic and traditional with lots of open, negative space. The lake house is traditional at its core but with more modern elements in the furnishings and in some of the bones, like the bar.”

    A custom bar with a brass countertop sits steps away from a stunning view of the lake.

    Faucet “Henry One-Hole High-Profile Bar Faucet” in Unlacquered Brass: Waterworks; 800/998-2284;
    Bar stools “Bon Bon Swivel”: Berman Rosetti Furniture;
    Drapery fabric “Seaton Stripe” in Salt and Pepper: Classic Cloth, Plainville, Kansas; 785/434-7200;
    Drapery hardware: Lundy’s Drapery Hardware;
    Pendant lighting “Heavy Metal Matt Black Hanging Pendant” with Buster Bulb: Buster + Punch;
    Framed photography Bondi Baths 2, Sydney, Australia, 2011 from the Patience collection: Joseph Hoflehner;
    Bar and counter custom design and fabrication: homeowners’ collection.

  • Werner Straube

    Butler's Pantry

    Boundaries were pushed. Doubts were voiced. But ultimately, juxtapositions and playful surprises made everyone happy. 

    Tucked behind the dining room fireplace, the pantry includes feminine touches like the opaline and blue Murano chandelier. 

    Fabric for Roman shades “Festival Stripe Embroidery” in Indigo: Mulberry Home by Lee Jofa;
    Fringe for shades “Harbour Barrel Knot Fringe”: Samuel & Sons, New York City;
    Rug: Serena & Lily, Inc.; 866/597-2742;
    Cabinet paint “Blue Note”: Benjamin Moore;
    Cabinet pulls from the Lumiere collection, knobs similar available as “City Lights Flat Disk Knob” in Glass and Satin Brass: Schaub;
    Sink from the Shaws Original collection: Rohl; 800/777-9762;
    Faucet “Henry Three-Hole Gooseneck Faucet” in Unlacquered Brass: Waterworks; 800/998-2284;
    Circa 1940 opaline blue-and-gold Murano glass chandelier, custom burnished brass countertop: homeowners’ collection.

  • Kitchen Before

    In the previous kitchen, a large island took center stage. 

  • Werner Straube

    Bright Kitchen

    Nowhere is the unexpected more pronounced than in the smile-inducing kitchen. In lieu of a center island, Engler designed a modern take on farmhouse style—an 11-foot-long custom table made from reclaimed timbers paired with lacquered yellow Klismos-style chairs. 

    “I love the tension,” Engler says. “I like traditional against modern, rough against smooth, old against new. Tension is what I rely on to make a space more interesting, and combining that chunky, beat-up wood table with the cleaned-up modern chairs and their skinny metal legs is the kick in that room.”

    Engler and Keller suggested skipping an island in favor of a farmhouse-inspired gathering table and forgoing upper cabinets for an expanse of windows overlooking the lake. Industrial touches in the Urban Electric sconces and pendants and the stainless-steel La Cornue range are warmed with stained-oak cabinets, honed Belgian bluestone countertops, and vibrant yellow-painted chairs from Donghia.

    Table custom design: Engler Studio Interior Design, Edina, Minnesota; 952/564-6488;
    Chairs “Anziano Chair” in custom finish: Donghia, Inc.;
    Pendant lights “Mac,” sconces flanking sink “Hurley”: The Urban Electric Co.; 843/723-8140;
    Countertop “Belgian Blue Limestone” honed 3 cm slab: Amsum & Ash; 763/571-8400;
    Cabinet hardware “1142 Pull”: Ashley Norton; 800/393-1097;
    Sink from the Shaws Original collection: Rohl; 800/777-9762;
    Faucet “Henry Three-Hole Gooseneck Faucet” with cross handles and side spray in Unlacquered Brass: Waterworks; 800/998-2284;
    Range: La Cornue; 800/457-1356;

  • Werner Straube

    Fab Laundry Room

    The designer repeated the yellow elsewhere, but kept it in check. Similar shades appear on fabric in the adjoining screen porch. In the laundry room, zesty yellow cabinets smartly contrast with dark floors and counters and graphic black-and-white fabric. “It’s nice to have a little repetition without being too programmed,” Engler says.

    The yellow cabinetry painted in Benjamin Moore’s “Golden Orchards” is a happy contrast to the honed Belgian bluestone countertops. 

    Bench at doorway “Oxford Bench”: Four Hands; 866/654-9433;
    Fabric for bench and valances “Fuzz II”: F. Schumacher & Co.; 800/523-1200;
    Barn doors custom: through Peterssen/Keller Architecture, Minneapolis; 612/353-4920;
    Barn door hardware: Rustica Hardware;
    Cabinet paint “Golden Orchards”: Benjamin Moore;
    Cabinet hardware “Traditional Pull” in Dark Bronze: Ashley Norton; 800/393-1097;
    Washer and dryer in Chrome Shadow: Whirlpool Corp.; 866/698-2538;
    Sink “Glen Falls”: Kohler Co.; 800/456-4537;
    Faucet “Sonoma Single-Lever Faucet”: Blanco America, Inc.; 800/451-5782;

  • Werner Straube

    Library Chairs

    Juxtapositions are also at play in the craftsmanship—white-enameled shiplap walls on the main level are punched up with window frames painted in dark charcoal “to give the appearance that it’s metal,” Near says. “The look brings a European-modern element to this Nantucket cottage-style architecture.” 

    Hans Wegner “Papa Bear”style chairs by Modernica are upholstered in wool. 

    Lounge chairs licensed replica of Hans Wegner’s “Papa Bear Chair”: Modernica; 800/665-3839;
    Fabric for chairs “Blazer” in Silverdale: Camira;
    Table lamp “Utopia”: Circa Lighting; 877/762-2323;
    Cowhide rug: Saddlemans;
    Drapery fabric “Bohemian” from the Origines collection: Elitis;
    Drapery hardware: Lundy’s Drapery Hardware;
    Blanket “Glacier National Park”: Pendleton; 800/760-4844;
    Accent table at “Papa Bear” chairs 1920s French gueridon bistro table with marble tophomeowners’ collection.

  • Werner Straube

    Library Desk

    White oak floors and pine ceilings custom-finished to resemble driftwood further convey a coastal vibe that has “an earthy, slightly distressed look, like you might have in a cabin,” Near says.

    A chunky vintage oak desk balances a wall of bookshelves in the library.

    Desk chair “Claire Chair” 616: Wesley Hall, Hickory, North Carolina; 828/324-7466;
    Fabric for chair “Pacte” in Noir: Casamance;
    Desk clock: Gallery 360, Minneapolis; 612/925-2400;
    Clock on hallway wall: CB2; 800/606-6252;
    School of tin fish: Zachary, Minneapolis; 612/305-1201;
    Vintage roll-top desk: homeowners’ collection

  • Werner Straube

    Dreamy Library

    A wall of built-in bookshelves is a bookworm's delight. A custom sliding ladder enhances the library look.

    Trim paint “Cloud White,” built-in cabinetry paint “Cheating Heart”: Benjamin Moore;
    Wall sconces at library shelving “20th Century Library Single Sconces” in Lacquered Burnished Brass: Restoration Hardware;
    Ladder customhomeowners’ collection

  • Werner Straube

    Nautical Powder Room

    Engler used tiles from Ann Sacks in an undulating wave pattern. 

    Tile “Eastern Promise” encaustic tile in Marine and Milk from the Majorelle collection: Ann Sacks; 800/278-8453;
    Sconce: “Eastleigh”: Currey & Co., Atlanta; 678/533-1500;
    Mirror “Iron and Rope Mirror”: RH;
    Towels: Serena & Lily, Inc.; 866/597-2742;
    Striped tote: The Container Store;
    Sink “Brockway,” faucets with soap dish “Cannock”: Kohler Co.; 800/456-4537;

  • Werner Straube

    Tidy Mudroom

    The look meshes with the home’s modern-minded reconfiguration. Airy gathering areas take center stage, but other solutions from the design team are just as important. Behind original wood-burning fireplaces—facing each other across the living and dining rooms—are narrow spaces that have new practical purposes. On one side, a butler’s pantry provides additional storage just off the kitchen; on the other side, a brass-topped bar opens to the porch. 

    A built-in bench and cubbies plus hooks on the wall helps corral outdoor items. 

  • Werner Straube

    Screened Porch

    The lake-facing porch used to be part of the home’s interior but was opened up during the renovation. Engler designed the bed swing and arranged a Lloyd Flanders sofa, lounge chairs, and a Palecek metal armchair around it. 

    Swing custom design and fabrication: through Engler Studio Interior Design, Edina, Minnesota; 952/564-6488;
    Fabric for swing cushions: Perennials Outdoor Fabrics, Inc.;
    Fabric for swing pillows (discontinued): Donghia, Inc.;
    Woven sofa and chairs from the Mackinac collection: Lloyd Flanders;
    Fabric for sofa and chair cushions “Cascade” in Wild Daisy: Jim Thompson Fabrics;
    Metal chair “Capri Outdoor Wing Chair”: Palecek; 800/274-7730;
    Cushion fabric “Poolside” in Sand Pearl from the Great Outdoors collection: Holly Hunt; 800/320-3145;
    Garden stool: Zachary, Minneapolis; 612/305-1201;
    Cocktail table “Hameau”: Sutherland Teak, Dallas; 214/638-4161;
    Side table vintage: homeowners’ collection.
    Rug “Two Tone Rope” in Platinum and Ivory: Dash & Albert;
    Fan “A0392” in Galvanized with natural wood blade: Rejuvenation;
    Table lamp “Prism Outdoor Table Lamp”: Crate & Barrel;

  • Werner Straube

    Calming Bedroom

    “No one would start from scratch and design this layout, but we ended up with results that we wouldn’t have arrived at otherwise,” Engler says. “It’s all part of the charm and history of the house.”

    The four-poster is tucked into a cozy niche that’s surrounded by creamy wainscoting and cabin-appropriate curtains. 

    Tassel blanket “Oaxaca Blanket” in Marine: Goldfinch;
    Bed “Newton” king size: S&L Designs;
    Fabric for headboard “Valencia” in Quixote: Rogers & Goffigon, Ltd.;
    Bedside tables “Maison Closed Nightstand”: RH;
    Bench “Kensington Lauren Bench”: Four Hands; 866/654-9433;
    Bench fabric: “Ipek”: Michaelian & Kohlberg;
    Wallpaper “Sohi” from the New York Stories collection: Stark Wallcovering;
    Drapery fabric “Linhope Stripe” in Aqua: Jane Churchill, through Cowtan & Tout, New York City; 212/647-6900;
    Drapery hardware: Lundy’s Drapery Hardware;
    Pillow sham fabric “Houston” in Sea Blue: Larsen, through Cowtan & Tout, New York City; 212/647-6900;
    Table lamps: Zachary, Minneapolis; 612/305-1201;
    Carpet “Montego Bay” in Top Sail: Unique Carpets, Ltd.; 800/547-8266;

  • Werner Straube

    Master Bath

    A navy-and-white striped valance and fish artwork keep the lakeside theme going in the master bath. The serene bath features a soaking tub and double vanity.

  • Werner Straube

    Design Team

    Design team Linda Engler and Gabriel Keller

  • Werner Straube