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Ken Darling spared no expense in updating and renovating his Golden Valley house. So much so he believes the price he is selling it for wouldn't cover the cost of all the updates.

"I'm a single gay guy, it's been my project," he said. "It's been my baby."

After a long career in Minnesota, part of it as the former owner of Lush Bar in northeast Minneapolis, Darling is ready to find a new owner for his beloved five-bedroom, four-bath as he readies himself to make a move to Palm Springs, Calif. full-time to retire. He hopes the next homeowner will continue to honor the 5,884-square-foot home's midcentury modern legacy.

"I tried to preserve its midcentury modern [characteristics] by highlighting the cedar and stone," he said. "But the 1950s was a different time, so I also brought it up to the modern level of convenience like in the bathrooms and kitchen. ... I've felt I've been a caretaker and I hope the next people will feel the same way."

Architectural significance

Shortly after the house was built in 1952, Suburban Living magazine featured it on the cover because of its unique and modern architecture.

"Crowing the crest of the hill that lies just southwest of the intersection of the Belt Line and Glenwood Road is one of suburban Minneapolis' most handsome and most talked-about homes," the article said of the house.

It was praised for having a U-shape so to bring in the most light and best views of the garden. The house was lauded as "entertainment proof" because one wing with two bedrooms for the children had a sliding door that would close those areas off from the living room and front hall. It was spacious, unique and thoughtfully designed, according to the article.

"Nothing like it had ever been done," Darling said. "It was a groundbreaking home when it first emerged."

All these years later, the house's original elements continue to shine. Cedar planks lining the outside are over an inch thick — something that's hard to find nowadays, said Darling. The original light-colored flagstone make up interior and exterior walls.

"It was built really well for its time," he said. "It will last at least 500 years."


Knowing the house's historical significance, Darling wanted to keep all of its best midcentury modern elements. But when he purchased the house in 2007, the house was in bad shape.

He went straight to work, updating the house. Then, just in 2022, he did another round of renovations.

"Every room in the house has been remodeled twice with at least new carpet and paint," Darling said. "[Most recently] I finally put in a new kitchen. We tried to get close to this open concept with the dining room. We stripped it all down to the studs, put in all custom cabinets, granite counters and a coffee bar."

Then there are the custom built-ins, such as a king-size bedframe with a walnut headboard, floating side tables and a built-in bench in the breakfast nook. A 280-gallon aquarium with a "good stock" of fish was built in the place of a built-in entertainment center.

Darling said he got lucky with that project because an old laundry chute led through the house's stone floor and into the basement. He connected pipes from the fish tank to a filtration system in the basement through that chute. The design and landscape is modeled after eastern Africa's Lake Tanganyika, and the new owners can keep the tank along with the fish inside, he said.

In the back of the house, a two-story greenhouse-like atrium with a spiral staircase built by a previous owner houses a primary bedroom with a balcony. The walls are all glass, and it's the perfect place to sit out and admire nature, Darling said.

On the atrium's ground level, a sliding door leads to the basement that has a recreation room, mud room, bathroom and bedroom suite with its own kitchenette.

Darling said the space he enjoys the most is the den that streams abundant natural light.

"I can go to my computer and work in that room," he said. "It's the perfect space to entertain and relax, and I'm surrounded by glass windows on both sides of me."

Plus, the heated floors keep the room warm through the winter.

"I could live there; I could go weeks without going into other parts of the house," he said. "I'm going to try to duplicate that den setup if I can. It's such a big, cozy room. ... I'm going to miss it."

David K. Wells III (612-925-8452, of Coldwell Banker Realty has the $1.385 million listing.