A modern home by Snow Kreilich Architects maximizes indoor/outdoor lakefront living

By Joel Hoekstra

Old houses take work to maintain. They have tiny kitchens, too few windows, and limited storage, and they don’t accommodate modern living very well. When they’re demolished, the homes that replace them are usually significantly larger.

So when Matt Kreilich, FAIA, a partner at Snow Kreilich Architects in Minneapolis, got a call from a pair of homeowners in Wayzata, Minnesota, who wanted to replace their century-old lakeside residence with something new, he wasn’t shocked. What surprised him was the affection the owners had for their old place. “It wasn’t easy for them to decide to tear down their existing home,” he says. “They had made so many memories there.” What’s more, the couple—empty nesters—didn’t want additional square footage. “Mostly they wanted to maximize their views of the lake,” says Kreilich. “They wanted more windows. The deck was one of their biggest priorities.”

Snow Kreilich responded with a 5,500-square-foot, two-story residence that seems to float on its site overlooking Lake Minnetonka. The stack of light-gray wooden boxes is punctured by dozens of large windows, adding to the sense of transparency and lightness. Clean horizontal lines are emphasized throughout. Two decks project from the structure, their steps cascading toward the lake.

“The clients had certain things they needed,” says Kreilich. “They’re sailors, and having easy access to the water and dock was really important to them. The husband wanted to be able to open the door to their bedroom, walk out to the lake, and jump in. He’s in the water almost every day. Overall, they wanted the home to have a strong connection to the lake.”

To maximize views, the design team situated the kitchen, living area, and master suite on the lake-facing side of the home, relegating the garage and utility areas to the street side. The main floor houses the most-used spaces, while the second floor, with three bedrooms and a common area, is primarily arranged for guest use. Windows and skylights bring a flood of daylight into all living spaces, and four glass-enclosed openings—a deep entry porch and broad expanses at the living room, kitchen, and master bedroom—immerse the owners in the lakefront environment. Smaller openings provide moments of connection to the surrounding trees, gardens, and water.

“There’s a strong axial relationship in this home,” says Kreilich. “Once inside, you can see through and out of the house in every direction.”

Though contemporary in design, the house has a lake-home atmosphere. The exterior cladding is a wood product often used in Japanese construction. “It’s been burnt, brushed, and stained to develop a rich texture,” says Kreilich. “The grain pulls forward. When you get up close, you see that the wood isn’t flat. It has texture. It’s sort of a silver. It shimmers like water.”

Inside, the finishes are similarly understated and clean. Built-ins throughout the home conceal dishes, provisions, clothes, and clutter. An interplay of white walls and whitewashed oak walls provide a gallery-like backdrop for the clients’ art collection. “We wanted to warm up the interiors but in a very subtle way,” says Kreilich, “so weused quarter-sawn oak. But we washed it white so you get just the faintest bit of texture. The contrast between the white walls and the woodwork is minimal, but it gives you a bit of variation.”

In summer, when the breezes off the lake are warm, the owners can push back the sliding glass doors and enjoy an unfiltered view, just a few feet from the lapping waves. “They’re almost at the water,” says Kreilich. “There’s just this intensity to the relationship of the lake and the home.”

Location: Wayzata, Minnesota
Architect: Snow Kreilich Architects
Principals-in-charge: Matt Kreilich, FAIA; Julie Snow, FAIA
Project architect and manager: Kar-Keat Chong, AIA
Designers: Christina Stark, AIA; Kevin Ellingson, AIA; Larry Kemp
Landscape architect: Travis Van Liere Studio
General contractor:Welch Forsman & Associates
Size: 5,500 square feet
Completion: August 2017
Photographer: Paul Crosby
“One recurring motif we saw in single-family-home submissions was simple boxes that are stacked: stacked and rotated, stacked and shifted, stacked and stepped. This one stood out in how it took very simple volumes and almost dematerialized them with the interplay of the windows and the cladding.”
—Mimi Hoang, AIA