Cedar Lake Mid-Century Design Objectives

The client purchased a home on the west shore of Cedar Lake in Minneapolis. The home is perched on a bluff and has uninterrupted views of the lake and downtown skyline. The home was to undergo a major renovation leaving only a small portion of the existing home. We were brought into the process by the projects architect to help with viewsheds, drainage, impermeable surface limitations, parking concerns, topography and to help marry the outside of the home with the inside as many of the same features are used for both.

The design process involved the challenging selection of a basalt flooring which was used indoors and out. After this important selection was made, we could begin designing the project within the many confines the zoning lot setbacks and impermeable surface challenges. The main hardscapes of the project are all installed as permeable solutions. Terraces and the auto court are installed on a bed of clear rock and rainwater is directed though open joints into the ground for easy recycling and no runoff. Roof water is captured in catch boxes and directing into drywells where it seeps back into the ground. This includes a rain chain near front door which reads as a beautiful, functional design feature. These specific water solutions were an important piece of working with the city to get the project permitted.

A large custom metal fire feature is the centerpiece of the front terrace. It is made of steel and powder coated black to match the metal feature on the home. It has a 6-foot-long burner that has a beautiful line of fire that dances about. Seat walls flank both sides of the front terrace with the stone patio treads turned vertical and capped with thermal bluestone. A dining table and smaller seating arrangement mimic the furniture style used inside the home. A freestanding gas grill is tucked out of view from inside the home onto patio. The large space lends itself well to entertaining groups large and small.

The front entrance of the home has the largest direct connection inside and out. We used the same basalt tiles to create a large entryway which runs adjacent to an indoor hallway which is all glass. Whether you are inside or out, the feeling that is created is a feeling of space and connection to the outdoors. To add greenspace, we added a small Japanese Maple as an upright element with groundcover beneath. This allows for landscape lighting to illuminate the way to the front door in the evening.

An auto court replaced a partially tucked-in garage. The alley has a substantial grade up to the new garage which left some topography challenges. These were solved by creating retaining walls of burnished block installed in stack bond taken from a que of the large chimney and egress window well. The walls are capped with thermal bluestone to tie all of the design elements together nicely. Bluestone is used to create a staircase which leads guests from the auto court up to the main entrance of the home. The bluestone elements have a subtle contrast to the darker basalt of the walking surfaces and the white burnished walls. The overhang of the caps and creates a place to disguise under cap lights which are stunning in the evening. A neutral concrete parking surface blends right in and does not distract from the overall presence of the home.

Simple, low maintenance plantings support the modern clean lines of the landscape. Several large custom fabricated powder-coated raised planters were strategically placed to add easily accessible vegetable containers. Upright evergreens and clump aspens were installed for privacy along the narrow side yard to offer privacy. The aspens are up-light which creates a stunning look from inside the home or out in the yard.

The goals for this project were achieved and the homeowners are thrilled with their new indoor/outdoor space. The landscape design seamlessly connects the home to the landscape. And, just in time to work from home!

Project Architect: PKA Architecture, Craig Martin, AIA, NCARB
Home Contractor: Marsden Building & Remodeling

View our other projects

Modern Tranquility in the Woods

Our client recently purchased this home and property in Deephaven.  It is situated on a wooded lot at the end of a cul-du-sac. The home was built in the 1980’s.  The new owners had a much different vision for their new property.

This project had two main landscape design challenges. First, the front entrance to the home was recessed leaving only the three garage doors and driveway as a lackluster entry experience.  Second, the backyard had a very nice pool and spa that was situated at a garden view elevation and surrounded by a failing wood deck.

In our first design meeting, we suggested that the front entrance needed to become more prominent.  Our suggestion was to move the garage doors to the side of the garage so they were not visible from the street.  This architectural change allowed for two things to happen with the landscape.  The home’s entrance was now able to have a formal front walk and larger, more gracious stoop that was not crowded by the driveway.  It also allowed for the property to have a circular driveway, which are prominent in properties in the area.  The circulation as well as the overall entry experience was greatly enhanced.

The client wanted a modern, contemporary look and feel for the home.  We worked with them to select landscape materials that worked well with the materials on the home.  Additionally, as the new circular drive was added it was necessary to build limestone retaining walls to help slice through the topography.  The sizes and colors of the landscape materials lend themselves well to the look of the property. Plantings beds which are full of color and have different bloom cycles including winter interest compliment the aesthetic. Landscape lighting was added for wayfinding and to compliment the areas without soffit lights.

The second design challenge was whether or not to use or remove the existing pool and spa.   After much discussion it was determined that we were able to provide a strong design solution which took advantage of the odd elevation of the pool area.  Concrete walls were poured in place and capped with black colored caps.  The simplicity of these materials worked well with the colors and aesthetic of the home.  Some of the walls are as tall as fourteen feet and require black cable rail for safety.  Similar railings are found on the deck and inside of the home.  The color harkens back to the cladding of the windows and metal roof color.

Simple large format paving tiles were used to accentuate and reconcile the juxtaposition of the odd pool angles with the right angles of the walls and home.  One of the pool angles was repeated in a custom built metal fire feature that operates remotely via a phone app.  The large pool deck accommodates  the multi use of a sunning area, lounging area and the fire feature area.  The custom wood and metal bench that is the backdrop to the fire feature was made by the homeowner and is a testament to his skills.  A large deck connects the main level of the home to the pool deck.  The cooking and dining area are on the deck which has close proximity to the kitchen.

The lower level of the home is connected to the pool deck via a set of concrete stairs that walks between the plain concrete walls. This is a main thoroughfare for young guests to go between the outdoor spaces and the indoor game and entertainment area.

The backyard space features landscape lighting for wayfinding as well as ambiance.  All green space is irrigated and the containers have xerigation. An outdoor sound system is integrated into the whole space and is controlled by a phone app. Plantings support yet soften the lines in the hardscape as well as lines of the home.  The feeling is as being in a private, modern resort.


View our other projects

Patio on the Parkway

The Minneapolis homeowners’ primary outdoor entertaining space is their sideyard. The existing patio was broken into two levels and the brick paving and timber walls had failed in many places. They rarely used the space because it wasn’t readily accessible, requiring going out the front or back house doors and through the fence gates to get to it.

The design solution was to replace an existing set of windows off the dining room with French doors, providing direct connection inside to the outdoor room. A new stone stoop leads to a new simplified one-level stone patio. The paving undulates around existing vegetation to create distinct areas for dining and lounging. Matching stone retaining walls create interesting planting areas for shade perennials.   The outdoor room now works as a cozy space for the homeowners but also easily flexes to accommodate larger group gatherings.

Highlights of this project include:

  • New French doors leading to renovated outdoor living room
  • Stone stoop, walls, and paving
  • Grilling patio with wood privacy trellis
  • Low voltage lighting
  • Shade perennial gardens

View our other projects

Tuscany on the Parkway

2018 Award Winner: Excellence in Landscape & Judges’ ChoiceAward, Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association

2019 Award Winner: Contractor of the Year Award Gold Winner for Landscape Design

Our client, a busy Minneapolis family, dreamed of an outdoor oasis that incorporated elements of old world Tuscany while complementing their home’s architectural style. Their wish list included an outdoor fireplace, grill, dining area, and pergola. Most important, the family wanted to create a usable space for private relaxation and entertaining.

We designed and built a flexible courtyard that united the house, garage and landscape. The space is perfect for dining and relaxing, and the plumbed gas grill makes it ideal for grilling as well. The cozy fireplace creates the perfect focal point and a warm spot for gathering on cool nights.

Highlights of this project include:

  • Reclaimed barnwood pergola
  • Stone fireplace (gas)
  • Stone courtyard and seat wall
  • Lighting and irrigation systems controlled via phone app
  • Simple, low maintenance plantings

View our other projects

Urban Oasis

2014 Landscape Award: Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association

This project is the finishing touch of a home renovation that included a new front porch and conversion of a three-season backyard porch into an all-season dining room. The landscape design features a stone plinth that wraps around the home’s Ipe wood stoop and provides circulation flexibility from any door out to the backyard. A bluestone walkway extends to a new patio, creating a cozy sitting area. A monolithic bluestone bench repeats the scale of the plinth, provides overflow seating, and is a useful catch-all when grilling or gardening. Special features include:

  • A new arbor creates an intimate patio
  • Backyard pergola and lush plantings
  • Bluestone plinth, bench and walkway

photo credit: Silverman

View our other projects

Contemporary Family Retreat

2017 Award Winner: Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association

This visually simple, modern solution is unique within its suburban context, and gives this family the custom landscape of their dreams. The homeowners’ wish list included a modern design and clearly defined spaces: a larger dining patio, firepit patio, hot tub, and a 4-season sport court (which gets flooded for ice hockey in the winter).  This stunning outdoor space features:

  • A cozy firepit nestled into the hillside
  • Private hot tub area
  • Bluestone walls and patio stone
  • Terraced 4-season sport court
  • Hardy plant species for year-round beauty

photo credit: Silverman

View our other projects

Modern Outdoor Living

2016 Award Winner: Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association

This project illustrates a comprehensive approach to master planning and installation. The landscape design creates outdoor spaces that are architecturally consistent with the house, carves more usable space from the wooded lot, maximizes entertaining opportunities, and uses substantial, timeless materials. Highlights include:

  • A bluestone plinth that acts as a suburban “front porch”
  • A stone patio with dining and sitting areas
  • Terraced walls that define a large entertaining space
  • A black granite outdoor fireplace
  • Intertwined woodland perennials and groundcovers

View our other projects

Mediterranean Pool & Fireplace

2014 Landscape Award: Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association

This Minneapolis landscape reflects the beauty and elegance of an historic 1927 home. A spectacular formal entry welcomes friends and family upon arrival, and a clay walkway leads them to the stunning pool, pool house and outdoor living room in the backyard. A rooftop patio serves as a morning breakfast nook and provides a lookout so parents can watch their children enjoying the pool. Special features include:

  • Custom designed pool house
  • Dual gas/wood fireplace with clay brick veneers
  • Capped limestone terraces serve as overflow seating
  • A lush collection of ornamental trees, shrubs and perennials

View our other projects

Mid Century Modern Patio

This project was a great opportunity to extend mid-century design from the home to the landscape. The homeowners are diligent in respecting and preserving the original architectural character and details of their 1950’s rambler. A new dining room addition to their home created the perfect opportunity to extend mid-century character to their outdoor space. The new landscape includes a large retro patio, complete with long brick planter and freestanding screen block walls wrapping the entire space. Project highlights:

  • Retro concrete screen block walls
  • Modular concrete paver patio
  • Cedar stoops and screen walls
  • Integral brick planter and seat wall
  • Plant masses that reinforce the geometry of the patio

View our other projects

Asian-Inspired Pool

2012 Landscape Award: Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association

This pool now integrates seamlessly with the lush landscape of ornamental grasses and specimen evergreens that surrounds it. The homeowners approached Ground One with the goal of upgrading the landscape surrounding their existing in-ground swimming pool. The challenge was to refresh the existing landscape while working within the constraints of the existing pool and its narrow perimeter spaces. The homeowners admire Asian garden aesthetics, so ornamentation and plant species were selected to emphasize simplicity in their distinct forms. Highlights include:

  • Flexible patio for entertaining
  • New concrete paver pool decking
  • Trellises support vines and soften garage profile
  • Repetition and texture reference Asian landscapes
  • Landscape lighting provides quiet moments

View our other projects