Ultra-modern glass home in Minneapolis offers inside-out living

Larry and Cynthia Holtz are native Minnesotans who have never lived in California. But the modern glass house they built in south Minneapolis could easily be at home in Laurel Canyon, the desert in Palm Springs or on the beach by the Pacific Ocean.

Our cold northern climate can’t rival that of balmy California, but the Holtz residence, designed by Peterssen/Keller Architecture, effortlessly flows between indoor and outdoor living from its perch on a skinny sloped lot in the city.

The flat-roofed boxy dwelling is an amalgam of stark white stucco, dark stained cedar and black metal accents.

After stepping inside, you still feel like you’re outside. That’s because walls of glass — some that slide open — maximize views of the lush green landscape, punctuated by the cool blue swimming pool. And from their second-floor bedroom, Larry and Cynthia can see Lake Calhoun, filtered through the treetops.

The couple’s friends often point out that the home’s design is more West Coast than Twin Cities.

“It does feel like a California house,” said Larry. “But ironically, it’s the most beautiful outside in the winter when it’s snowing.”

Going modern was a dramatic departure for Larry and Cynthia. The couple had always lived in traditional homes, most recently in Edina’s Country Club neighborhood, where they raised their four children.

Once they became empty-nesters, they yearned to live in a walkable Minneapolis neighborhood where they could jog and walk their dog Leo around one of the urban lakes.

After quickly selling their Edina home, they decided that Calhoun was the lake where they would downsize and build new, rather than renovate an older house.

“We liked the openness of Lake Calhoun and all the activity around it,” said Larry.

But a piece of land for sale by Calhoun is a rare occurrence. Larry drove around neighborhoods for two years until he spied a white flag on a lot; by the end of the day, it held a “For Sale” sign.

Narrow lot

The narrow L-shaped lot in Linden Hills was on the south side of Lake Calhoun and backed up to a condominium complex with lots of privacy trees.

A rundown 1970s duplex on the lot would be torn down before a new house went up. The Holtzes closed on the property, and their builder, Nate Wissink of Elevation Homes, referred them to Peterssen/Keller, known for architecture with a clean contemporary aesthetic.

“Modern design has a simplicity to it and a certain calmness that appeals to us,” said Cynthia.

The couple had seen other infill modernist architecture in Linden Hills and knew a thoughtfully designed home could blend with older traditional housing stock. In fact, Jim and Donna Pohlad’s ultramodern abode is just two doors down.

But Ted Martin, the project manager, knew the Holtzes’ lot posed challenges. “How do we design an indoor-outdoor house that works for the odd-shaped site, captures the views — and yet has privacy?” he said.

The solution was an innovative structure composed of three pavilions linked by glass-enclosed sunken gardens.

Pavilions 1 and 2 contain the side-entry garage and the main-floor public living spaces. Pavilion 3 holds the second-story master suite, which is positioned perpendicularly so it projects out toward the lake.

The design team used 3-D computer modeling to determine the best window placement for the best views — including the vista of the downtown Minneapolis skyline from the second story. “You can place yourself inside the model to see the views,” said Martin.

Inside, the wide-open interior is a composition of warm walnut, white-streaked Aster stone on the fireplace and birch-tree leaves from the indoor garden.