An exterior photo of a modern home in southwest Minneapolis, featuring Marvin windows, doors and Skycove.
23 February 2021

Making the Most of History, Light, and a Really Tall Tree

Discover how one builder applied thoughtful planning and new-to-market products to save a home and take advantage of one of the most unique lots in the city.

This eye-catching house occupies a quiet street in the Lynnhurst neighborhood of southwest Minneapolis, where the iconic Minnehaha Creek flows out of Lake Harriet and runs through the neighborhood before emptying into the Mississippi River. The builder responsible for this amazing renovation is Michael Anschel, owner and principle of OA Design + Build + Architecture.

 

Anschel describes his approach to OA projects, “For the 25 years I’ve been at this, I’ve always put an emphasis on green building and sustainability. I enjoy creating homes and spaces that are beautiful for both the neighbors walking by as well as for the people living in them.” In this particular case, the people living in this gorgeous home are Anschel and his family.

 

About 80 percent of the housing in the Lynnhurst neighborhood was built before 1940. This home spent its first 102 years as a Spanish colonial, which you'd never know by looking at it now. It was given a complete facelift and a large addition was added off the back, which basically doubled the size of the house. While starting with a blank slate was an option, and is often times the easier path, the idea of preservation was more compelling to Anschel.

 

“I wanted to make sure this house didn't become a victim of a teardown, so we decided to breathe new life into it and give it the capacity to survive and thrive for another 100, or maybe even 200 years.”

 

Joining Old and New

While the transformation is dramatic, Anschel wanted to respect the existing architecture and reconcile the transitions from old to new.


“We've got wood jambs that connect the modern casement to the original woodwork of the house. And then, as we move through the home, we introduce other millwork elements and transition to drywall returns, which gives a much more contemporary aesthetic, but there's still these other pieces from the old that exist within this new. It creates a really cool flow from the existing space to the new space.”


A Versatile Window

Anschel carefully chose products for their aesthetic features, but he refused to sacrifice performance. He installed Marvin Signature® Modern Casement windows with a simulated check rail, which gives a nod to a classic double hung yet maintains the contemporary feel that he was after, all while delivering the performance that only a fiberglass casement window can.


“One of the really cool things that the Modern casement window does is it has this aluminum trim on the interior that gives the illusion of a commercial direct-set window, yet the frame and the sash are fiberglass, so there’s no thermal bridging concerns that would typically be there, which is pretty revolutionary. It’s awesome that we can create the aesthetic we want without any of the penalties on the energy efficiency side.”


More Light in More Spaces

Exposure to more sunlight can improve our mood, boost our energy, and help us sleep better at night. It was important to Anschel to provide his family with enough natural light for the health benefits and to compliment the colors and design features of the interior spaces.

 

“Light is one of those critical elements in design that we're always investigating and exploring. Of course, you can use a light fixture to generate light, but the way that sunlight moves through openings is the difference between a space that is well lit, and a space that feels natural and inviting. Marvin was pivotal in making the whole inside-outside thing work in the sunroom. The Marvin Signature Modern Multi-Slide Door gives us a 14-foot unencumbered view of the outside. Having this high-performance door keeps the inside warm and toasty in the winter, but when we open it up in warmer weather, it creates a seamless transition from the inside to the outside space. The deck literally becomes an extension of the sunroom.”

 

The First Time Working with Skycove

Marvin Skycove is a projected structure with narrow sightlines and glass on three sides and above. It opens a room to panoramic views and floods a space with restorative light. Skycove is a welcoming window seat that can be shared with friends and family. It can also serve as a cozy nook to escape, relax, and connect with the outdoors. Anschel was one of the first builders in the country to install a Skycove.


“From the builder's perspective, the ability to install this unit in half a day is huge. The only other option is to go to a fabricator and spend multiple days custom-fabricating a number of parts, and then spend even more time installing it piece by piece. We would spend probably 200 hours in development and installation of that piece, and at $170 an hour, that's a huge expense to the client. And the result might not be a fully water-tight, warrantied unit like Skycove. When people see it for the first time from the outside, I think they're struck by the minimalist design. Next, they get a deep desire to go inside, and when they do, I find people stand in front of it for a moment, questioning whether or not they're allowed to go into that space.”


Skycove and the Tree

In addition to the lure of the neighborhood and the solid bones of the house, the tree in the backyard significantly increased the appeal of the property to the Anschel family. Not just any tree, the giant white pine that towers over the site is 240 years old and has the distinction of being the tallest tree in Minneapolis.

 

“Besides our family, the site really has two primary occupants: the house and the tree. We wanted to leverage Skycove to investigate this relationship between inside and outside, between external viewer and internal occupant, and between house and tree. Ultimately, what we discovered was this incredibly transformative object that is completely immersive. This room doesn’t stop at the horizon of a window. When in the Skycove unit, you look up and still have more tree, still have more sky. It’s like the coolest treehouse you could ever imagine.”

 

A Partner in Well-Being

In order to create Skycove and Awaken, Marvin’s new skylight, we interviewed thousands of homeowners and industry professionals. We learned from sleep scientists, technologists, light specialists, hygge experts, and even astronauts. We conducted extensive research in Copenhagen, Tokyo, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, and Alaska. These conversations and research have led us to develop new-to-the-world products designed to support happier, healthier living.

 

“Designing for well-being is at the core of what we do at A Design + Build + Architecture. This is one of the many areas where OA and Marvin really are so much on the same page. Our whole purpose is to improve the quality of life for our clients, and the well-being of our community.”

 

Photos by Andrea Rugg Photography