Minnetonka Retreat

Minnetonka Retreat

At the turn of the last century, Lake Minnetonka was a summer weekend respite for city dwellers escaping the heat and bustle of Minneapolis and St. Paul, a mere 30 miles away. Hotels, cottages and streetcars sprang up along the large lake’s winding shores. Today a few original cottages remain, although the area was developed long ago and is now populated with year-round residences.

One Minneapolis couple with two middle-school daughters sought to recapture that historic aura with a 2.6-acre forested, lakeside lot in Deephaven, Minnesota.

“The family requested a place to come and be together,” said Julie Snow, principal of Snow Kreilich Architects. They also wanted a modern weekend home.


When Snow and firm partner Matthew Kreilich arrived at the site and saw the existing cottage, they found their inspiration.

“The cabin’s screen door was open and we could see straight through to the lake,” recalled Snow. “We both thought, ‘Wow!’ The framing, coming from the east and having the view open to the west, was just incredibly powerful.”

To recapture that sense of awe with the new 7,200-square-foot house (the cabin wasn’t salvageable), the architects juxtaposed two horizontal L-shaped volumes to create a portal framing the lake. “The long vista from the entrance to the lake becomes an almost telescopic view,” said Snow. The two volumes also frame an outdoor living area with Vetter stone patio and pool. Where those volumes intersect inside, Snow and Kreilich created a vertical entry with skylight, which connects the basement, first levels, and living volume’s master bedroom via custom steel staircase.

To create seamless flow between the exterior and interior, the architects pushed the main living volume—clad in black-stained horizontal cedar lap siding—to the north end of the site perpendicular to the lake. The master suite upstairs, and living and eating areas downstairs have floor-to-ceiling windows, with bar, refrigerator, storage, staircase, and other utilities secreted behind a black interior wall also to the north.


“Depending on what they need to use, they can open it up then shut it away when they leave,” explained Kreilich, “which keeps the design as clean as possible.”

In the second volume elevated above the portal, clad in natural cedar vertical siding, are the daughters’ bedrooms with glass-fronted decks, a shared bath, and a media room. On the ground level is a guest room, with separate entrance, next to the pool. “The house brings the family together, creating a comfortable interweaving of activities everyone can be engaged in,” said Kreilich, “but also allows the parents and the kids to have their own private spaces.”

While the house successfully embraces the idea of lake retreat, it’s still located on highly developed Lake Minnetonka. There are houses next door. But the placement of the horizontal volumes, and a triple row of arborvitae along the site’s south edge, “allow the family to take full advantage of their panoramic lake views, and enjoy privacy in the pool and patio area, without any neighbors being able to see,” said Snow.