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Like many Twin Citians, Eric Tollefson is renting out his property during the Super Bowl. But unlike most, he won't have to move out while he's playing host.

Tollefson has a sleek little guesthouse next to his home, the latter being a 100-year-old, two-story dwelling.

The guesthouse wasn't there when Tollefson bought the Linden Hills home in 2013. The location was prime, overlooking Lake Harriet, but the residence needed a lot of work.

"It was a hot mess," said Tollefson of the old, water-damaged structure that he bought intending to undertake a whole-house remodel.

But the next year, when the city of Minneapolis amended its zoning code to allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs), Tollefson saw an opportunity.

"Instead of renovating the house, I would build an ADU to fund redoing the house," he said. He'd rent it out on Airbnb to generate an income stream.

To explore the possibilities, he turned to architect Christopher Strom, Christopher Strom Architects. and Second Suite, a design service focused on secondary residences.

"The site is highly unique," said Strom of Tollefson's lot, which is set on a corner where the parkway ends at a bridge. There was a concrete municipal retaining wall, originally built for the streetcar line. And next to the house, on the public alley, was a free-standing garage, built in the 1980s.

"It's only 7 feet from the primary residence, at an angle," Strom said of the garage. Minneapolis rules for detached ADUs require a 20-foot separation from the primary residence, which wasn't possible on the tight, irregular-shaped city lot. Building a new structure on the garage's existing foundation would accommodate only a very small apartment. But that appeared to be the only workable option.

"If we hadn't [used the existing footprint], we couldn't have done it at all," he said.

Even so, it took two variances to get the project approved by the city. Strom, who lives in the neighborhood, helped with that process, attending hearings and working with city zoning staff.

Strom's design for the ADU features a steep pitched roof and generous-sized windows, to bring in light and capitalize on the view. Inside is a 380-square-foot studio apartment, with a kitchenette and bath, plus a seating area with pullout couch and a sleeping alcove, all perched above a single-car garage.

"The design challenge was how to make a living space feel comfortable at that size," said Tollefson.

Four zones

Strom made the most of the limited square footage by creating four zones in the four corners of the structure. A built-in cabinet divides the space, with a TV on one side and a built-in end table on the other.

"Even though it's small, it feels spacious with the vaulted ceiling and big windows," Strom said.

Because the tiny home was going to be offered on Airbnb (Modern Guest Loft/Lake Harriet"), it needed to be stylish enough to catch the eye of would-be renters. "Making it attractive was a factor," said Strom.

Originally, Tollefson thought the inside should look fresh and modern, while the outside should match his existing house and blend in with others around it. But in the end, he opted to make the exterior strikingly different so it would stand out.

"The main house is beige, traditional, a pretty basic Minneapolis house," said Strom, who thought the ADU, in contrast, should "pop from the landscape." He showed Tollefson photos of Norwegian fishing villages, with simple buildings in different vibrant hues.

They settled on bright red with black trim. "It's pretty bold," said Strom. "We tested 12 different reds. Some reds can look too pink or too orange. If you're going to do red, do it right."

The exterior is clad in fly ash siding, made of recycled materials, from Boral, an Australian manufacturer. "It's low-maintenance, and it holds paint really well," said Strom.

Learning to 'be flexible'

During the project, Tollefson upgraded his original idea for the ADU — and its budget.

"You have one vision when you start," he said, "but you learn to be flexible with your vision. You'll learn a lot as you go."

He decided to invest in higher-end finishes and fixtures and he sprang for wood floors, custom kitchen cabinets painted bold blue with high-quality hardware, concrete countertops, a glass shower and artisan custom-made furniture.

"I want it to be nice," he said. "I'm going to live there when I redo the house, and I want to rent to people who enjoy taking care of it. I want to make it fun."

One of the biggest splurges was a 16-foot sliding-glass door that opens to the elevated deck that the ADU shares with Tollefson's main house.

"We put in a beautiful glass door that opens up like an accordion," said Tollefson. "It made the space so different. If feels like you're connected to the outside — you see the lake. I could have spent $400 on a regular door, or $7,000 on that door, but it makes the space."

Tollefson rents out the ADU for $125 to $150 per night (depending on seasonal demand). It's occupied about 100 nights a year, mostly in summer and fall.

"It's a harder sell in January," he noted. But this winter, thanks to a certain high-profile sports event, he was able to book a tenant willing to pay $3,000 for Super Bowl week.

When the unit isn't rented out, Tollefson finds other uses for it.

As a rental, the little house sleeps up to four, but as a party venue it can accommodate a small crowd, thanks to the accordion door and adjacent deck.

"When I have friends over, we hang out there," Tollefson said.

Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784

@Stribkimpalmer



ABOUT THIS PROJECT

What: A new accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in Minneapolis’ Linden Hills neighborhood.

Size: 380 square feet.

Design: Christopher Strom, Christopher Strom Architects (christopherstrom.com), Second Suite (secondsuite.org), 612-961-9093.

Builder: Jack Carter, Uber Built; structural engineer, Bunkers & Associates.

Interior design: Tracy Morgan, Tracy by Design.

Custom furniture: Ross Stangler, Stangler Works.