Built in 1950, this midcentury modern home in Bloomington is one for the books.
The home was designed by Elizabeth "Lisl" Close, a trailblazer in Minnesota modern architecture and an award-winning visionary. The wood- and window-filled house boasts some of Close's signature trademarks, but it's also a lasting reminder of a unique collaboration.
"Historically, this house is special because a pioneering woman architect designed the house for one of Minnesota's pioneering female physicians," said Jane Hession, architectural historian and author of "Elizabeth Scheu Close: A Life in Modern Architecture." "The house is a beautiful example of what two visionary women, who were ahead of their times, created together."
The home was designed for Dr. Ruth Boynton, the University of Minnesota physician and researcher for whom Boynton Health clinic is named, and her partner, Prudence Cutright.
The 2,436-square-foot, three-bedroom home sits on a hilltop spanning almost half an acre. Close's reliance on a limited palette of handsome and durable materials — in this case redwood — can be found throughout the home. Close, who was also known for creating a relaxed atmosphere by minimizing clutter, designed the home with ample closets, bookshelves, built-ins and storage cabinets.
And in her signature style of connecting with nature, nearly every room has an expansive view of the wooded property.
"The house is sensitively placed on its site, and its plan manages to be both efficient and spacious at the same time," Hession said. "Lisl excelled at unfussy designs that foster a sense of calm and repose."
Updating, not remodeling
The home caught the eye of Laurie and Laurent Dechery, who had been looking for something in the midcentury modern style when they purchased the place in 2009.
"When we entered the house, the space was so beautiful," Laurie said. "We really fell for it."
But the house, which was considered a teardown by some, needed work. The redwood ceilings and walls needed careful treatment.
"I just thought I could throw Danish oil on it and that would be that," Laurie said. "That was really naive. We needed experts."
While they wanted to update the home, the Decherys were adamant about preserving the design details, including the redwood finishes and the original cabinetry and storage.
"It was really a rehab," said Laurie. "We tried to do minimal remodeling."
They hired Minneapolis architect Gar Hargens, who had acquired Close Associates, the architecture firm founded by Lisl and her husband, Win, to lead the project.
The Decherys spent months revitalizing the redwood interior, bringing in finishing guru Matthew Newborg of Newborgs Finishing in Ellsworth, Wis., to supervise. The process required cleaning and hand-sanding every panel and groove, after which Newborg applied a custom shellac and finish.
The original kitchen cabinetry remained but was outfitted with new, shoji-style doors. That same style of door was also made for the bathroom, and similar sliding panels finished a wall of closets.
"The storage in the house is really amazing," Laurie said. "I think the fact that it was designed by a woman for a woman really says something."
One of the bathrooms was reconfigured so the primary bedroom would have an adjoining bathroom with a soaking tub. A spiral staircase was traded for a stacked stairwell for an easier trek from floor to floor. And new doors and windows were installed throughout.
Outside, the Decherys converted a garden shed into a sauna, removed invasive buckthorn and planted trees and shrubs.
Even with the updates, the house retains its midcentury charm.
"What drew us to the home was the warmth of the natural materials. It's all the same redwood on the ceilings and the walls," Laurie said. "And the way it was built into the hill and took advantage of the light. It has a way of capturing the sun in the morning and keeping it cooler in the evening."
The Decherys, who are downsizing, have put the carefully designed home on the market, listing it for $730,000.
"It's a real simplicity of style," Laurie said. "Everything is functional yet simple, yet beautiful."
Karen Rue (612-916-1110; email@example.com) and Jessica Buelow (612-327-3667; firstname.lastname@example.org) of Edina Realty have the listing.