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Love Where You Live

Lured by the charms of Lake Harriet, Peter and Jeanne Crain switched up their life and built a new home in Linden Hills

Article by Melinda Nelson

Photography by Spacecrafting Photography

Originally published in Minneapolis Lakes

Two thousand miles over 700 Saturdays. Give or take an occasional ice storm, that’s how many miles Peter Crain has logged around Lake Harriet, his favorite urban oasis. For 14 years, Peter and a pack of runners from the world-renowned (or so the members like to think!), RJO Running Club have been meeting outside Sebastian Joe’s at 7 a.m. for their weekly run.

With a jovial, self-appointed leader who reserves the right to schedule the group’s annual board meeting at a supper club to coincide with his birthday, this club of 20 friends from all walks of life is fueled by witty banter, camaraderie, and competition. Peter, the owner of Trestle Homes, appreciates the pace and companionship while savoring views of architectural landmarks like Harry Wild Jones’s 1904 picnic pavilion at Beard’s Plaisance and Milo Thompson’s bandshell and refectory, plus the many homes that Peter has renovated for friends over the years.

For as long as he can remember, Peter has loved creating things with his hands. As a child growing up in Franklin, Wisconsin, just south of Milwaukee, he was always building 3-D objects and geometric sculptures out of found items. On hot summer days, Peter’s mother and her friends would pack up all the kids and take them to the beach at Brown’s Lake, where he would spend hours engineering complex road systems and building elaborate cityscapes in the sand.

Throughout middle school and high school, Peter excelled at art and geometry—talents that led him to the University of Minnesota where he studied with Margaret DiBlasio, widely recognized as the birth mother of discipline-based art education, and minored in architecture. After graduating from college, Peter spent more than a decade teaching ceramics and sculpture at Eden Prairie High School and doing commercial construction in the summers before launching his own residential construction firm in 2001.

Until May of this year, Peter and his wife Jeanne lived near a leafy park in Edina, in a classic home he built in 2006. But, three years ago, the lure of Lake Harriet proved irresistible. With three grown sons, the Crains were no longer tethered to the neighborhood, so they decided to switch up their life and start an exciting new chapter. With the help of longtime friend Morgan Clawson of Edina Realty, they found the perfect spot on Queen Avenue, half a block off the lake. The lot had an older home on the wide, gently sloping site, so Peter and Jeanne spent time with the former owners to share their idea for a new house that would play well with the neighboring homes—a charming Victorian-style cottage on one side, and a classic foursquare on the other. The couple wished Peter and Jeanne every happiness with their project, so with their blessing, they set to work.

The Crains have long admired the work of PKA Architecture, so they met with principals Gabriel Keller and Kristine Anderson and project architect Ted Martin at their studio in Uptown. The PKA team has designed many award-winning new construction and renovation projects around Lake Harriet, Bde Maka Ska and Lake of the Isles, so they immediately understood the Crains’ vision of a home that combined Jeanne’s love of traditional references and Peter’s appreciation for modern design while integrating easily into the fabric of the street.

Taking pen in hand, Keller unrolled a piece of tracing paper over the site plan and quickly sketched a simple gable form and a modern form linked by walls of glass, and a wide front porch and a low stone wall for chatting with the neighbors. The Crains loved the idea, so the PKA team refined the design to include a metal roof, a green roof, and a natural stone exterior that reflected the colors and textures of the neighborhood. Inside, the modern floor plan includes a light-filled kitchen and breakfast nook, a dining area and a living room that opens onto the back yard. Interior designer Christine Frisk of InUnison Design and her team helped Jeanne and Peter select interior finishes, lighting, custom furnishings, and art.

In addition to working on renovation and new construction projects for his clients, Peter built the Crains’ new home with his pack of trusted artisans. A veritable showcase of Minnesota craftsmanship, the home features masonry by Jim Motzco and Bruce Husby of Stone Creek Masonry with assistance from the Crains’ son Jacob, a custom front door by Robert Chickey, a dramatic steel staircase, fireplace and slatted walls by Mike Bauer of Bauer Metal, custom cabinetry by Greg Koivisto of GK Millwork & Cabinetry, an audio-visual system from In-Focus Systems, pathways and patios of Friesian limestone from Orijin Stone, Marvin Signature Ultimate windows, and other locally-sourced products.

Midway through the construction process, the Crains decided to go all in and move the Trestle Homes studio from International Market Square to the new 44 Commons Building in Linden Hills, developed by the owners of Sebastian Joe’s. In between putting the finishing touches on the new offices while readying their home for the AIA MN Homes by Architects Tour in September, Peter and Jeanne love strolling over to Broders’ for a glass of Montepulciano and a plate of pasta to celebrate their new life in Linden Hills.

For tickets and details of the AIA MN Homes by Architects Tour, visit aia-mn.org.

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