Tell me a little bit about Lake Minnetonka. What is the surrounding area like and what role does it serve in the region?
Julie Snow, FAIA: This is the lake where people would go to escape the heat of the Twin Cities. The area is divided into lake frontage lots, so there are homes on either side of this one. It used to be all tiny seasonal cabins, but there are lots of permanent homes out here now. Our clients were interested in going back to the original use of this lakefront. This is a place for them to escape all of the things that pull a family in different directions in the city—it’s a retreat half an hour away from their primary residence.

What was your first impression of the site?
Matthew Kreilich, AIA: The existing cottage had its front door open. The structure was parallel to the shoreline, so it blocked your view of the site. But that open door and that hint of the lake beyond really inspired the way that we thought about the project.

How did you develop the massing strategy of the house’s intersecting volumes?
Kreilich: The clients wanted to come together as a family, but they also wanted to allow their kids to have a louder “kids” side of the home. The black-stained volume that sits on the ground and rises up toward the lake holds the main living spaces, and above those is the master suite—very removed from the rest of the house. The girls’ wing is a natural-toned volume; it rises up and frames a portal underneath. What you experience when you approach the house is really the clarity of that portal and how it frames the view to the lake beyond.
Snow: The more public areas where the family gathers are really revealed as you enter that portal. Certainly everything should be private in a private house, but the focus here was on bringing everyone together in this blur between indoors and outdoors.

One of the striking things about the project is its materiality. How did you select the palette and develop the interior strategy?
Kreilich: The client was very interested in having natural materials in the space, so we used wood, stone, and steel throughout, but in a quiet way. There’s a neutrality to them, but also a material richness that adds richness to the space, whether it’s the steel stair, the stone floors, or the black-stained oak cabinet doors in the living area.
Snow: Our client was also very interested in the idea of really tall spaces, yet most of the spaces in the house really had a horizontal displacement. So when we came up with the idea for these two L-shaped volumes intersected, pinning them together became an opportunity for this vaulted space. The concept is that as soon as you walk in the front door of the house, you are in a volume that is not about the lake, but about connecting you up to the sky. A very powerful steel stair occupies the space below this very large roof opening.

The interior is clearly rife with custom details and bespoke touches—what are some of the less obvious ones?
Kreilich: We knew there was going to be a lot of stuff brought to the house, and we wanted to make sure that we had enough space to store it. There’s a 3-foot-thick storage wall on the northern edge of the living area. And the stair, fireplace, pantry, refrigerator, bar, and mud closet are all tucked behind large floor-to-ceiling cabinet doors.
Snow: The house transforms for different uses. If you open up the bar area, you’re doing something different than if you open the entertainment area. The idea is that this is a house that does everything, but not all at once. We wanted the interior to play out the clarity of the exterior volume.

This is hardly your first lake house. What did you learn from previous projects that you brought to bear here?
Snow: You know, we almost have a little sub-speciality in homes on remarkable sites. They are second homes, and what is interesting to us is that people have such intense lives and there seems to be this need to detach. So from the Koehler Residence that we did in New Brunswick, Canada, many years ago, we began to develop a home that was not about your everyday life. Instead, these homes are about inventing the way you will live on a particular site and about connecting with that place and the people you are with.

Have you found that there is a difference between designing a primary residence and a retreat house?
Snow: A retreat house doesn’t need to be pragmatic, and you can actually slow down rituals of every­day life. You don’t need to design for adjacency. It’s really about moments of arrival and moments of departure, and having a place to connect with your family and the site. That, in and of itself, is really powerful.

Watch our ARCHITECT Visits episode with Julie Snow and Matthew Kreilich below:

More Project Photos


Project Credits

Project  Lake Minnetonka Retreat House, Deephaven, Minn.
Client  Withheld
Architect  Snow Kreilich Architects, Minneapolis—Julie Snow, FAIA, Matthew Kreilich, AIA, LEED AP (design principals); Mary Springer, AIA, LEED AP (project architect); Tamara Wibowo, Carl Gauley, Assoc. AIA, Pauv Thouk, AIA, Mike Heller, Assoc. AIA, Cameron Bence, Assoc. AIA, Don Vu, Assoc. AIA (project team)
Interior Designer  Martha Dayton Design, Minneapolis
Mechanical Engineer  Standard Heating & Air Conditioning
Structural Engineer  Meyer Borgman Johnson
Electrical Engineer  Pride Electric
Construction Manager  Streeter & Associates—Steven Streeter (project manager); Mark Olson, Fred Hazelton (construction managers)
Landscape Architect  Colberg|Tews Landscape Architecture
Lighting Designer  Schuler Shook
Size  8,667 gross square feet
Cost  Withheld

Materials and Sources

Appliances  Bosch (Dishwashers, washers, dryers); Wolf (Rangehood, cooktop, steamer, ovens); Sub-Zero (Refrigerators, freezers, wine fridge, icemaker, microwave)
Bathroom Fixtures  Toto (Toilets); Duravit (Lavatories); Lacava (Lavatories); Hansgrohe (Lavatory and bathtub fittings); Vola (Lavatory fittings); Blanco (Sinks); KWC (Sink fixtures); MTI Baths (Bathtubs); Dornbracht (Accessories)
Cabinets  Fritz Cabinetry
Countertops  Caesarstone
Exterior Cladding  Clear Cedar Rainscreen; Benjamin Obdyke (Home Slicker rainscreen system)
Flooring  Valders Stone & Marble (Gray limestone); Mosa (Tile); Ecore Commercial Flooring (EcoNights for Sport)
Furniture  Knoll (chairs)
Glass  Guardian Industries (SunGuard) 
Hardware  FSB (Locksets); Glynn-Johnson, an Allegion brand (Closers); Accurate Door & Hardware (Pulls); Linnea (Pulls); Tectus by Simonswerk (Hinges)
Kitchen fixtures  Blanco (Sinks); KWC (Sink fittings); Waterstone Faucets (Sink fittings)
Lighting Control Systems  Lutron Electronics Co.
Lighting  Jesco Lighting jescolighting.comWAC Lighting; Phillips; Lucifer; Hunza
Masonry and Stone  Valders Stone & Marble (Gray limestone);
Paints and Stains  The Sansin Corp. 
Skylights  Empirehouse; W.L. Hall Co.
Windows and Doors   Fleetwood Windows & Doors