Builders in the 21st century have a new mission: to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind homes that preserve green space and save energy. We designed Nature Point, our 2008 Idea Home in Minnetonka, Minnesota (13 miles west of downtown Minneapolis), by combining classic, carriage-house-style architecture with eclectic furnishings and ecoconscious materials. The 4,671-square-foot house keeps its overall footprint relatively small with a narrow front profile that wraps around a hidden three-car garage. The environmentally friendly features in our home earned it a Silver Star Certification from the Minneapolis Green Institute's GreenStar program.
See Building Green slide show for details on exterior and interior green choices.
Green Institute 
Building Green 
The Idea Home is part of Portico on the Green, a development by builder Keith Waters & Associates that conserves existing natural resources and minimizes changes to the land. The home's large rear windows offer unobstructed views of woods and wetlands. Sustainable siding and energy-efficient windows are among the environmentally friendly features of the house
Twelve-foot ceilings in the living room accommodate stacked windows that offer floor-to-ceiling views. Part of an open floor plan that includes the kitchen and dining room, this room's 6-foot-tall limestone and granite fireplace visually anchors its comfortable seating area. The home uses low-vapor Behr paints in hues that mimic the quiet tones of stone, driftwood, ebony and bronze.
The dining room, kitchen and living room open to one another, requiring interior design that would unite them. We used earthy colors to link spaces and a mix of furniture styles, such as the variety of chairs at our dining table, to add pizzazz. We limited accessories to just a few "statement" art pieces that hold their own with the views.
Our L-shape kitchen focuses on a 10-foot-long, counter-height island. It offers an apron sink, a large granite work surface and eating space for three. Wall cabinetry climbs 10 feet for lots of storage. Ecosmart options here include Bosch energy-efficient appliances as well as cabinetry from KraftMaid, which has received recognition for its green practices.
Separate refrigerator and freezer towers offer a sleek, new look for the kitchen. The room is well equipped for entertaining; in addition to a state-of-the-art dishwasher, cooktop, microwave and oven, it also has a tall wine refrigerator, warming drawer and built-in coffee system to handle the needs of the homeowners or a crowd.
The disappearing screen system on our porch not only provides a bug-free summer gathering place, but lets breezes flow through French doors in the dining area to the kitchen/living areas. The circulating air helps reduce summer cooling costs. A Belgard paver floor system on the porch and patio lets water flow through into the ground, reducing the negative effects of runoff.
We designed our master suite to be a roomy, soothing retreat. Upstairs, at the front of the house, the suite includes a bedroom with built-in entertainment cabinetry, his-and-hers closets, a laundry room, a veranda and a luxurious bath that features a soaking tub and spa shower. We used calming colors to create a restful aesthetic, and planned for Minnesota's cold winters by carpeting both the upstairs and downstairs.
Built-in cabinetry in the master bedroom takes the place of an armoire for clothes storage, books and more, while also providing room for a flat-screen TV and its accessories. An overstuffed chair and ottoman are nearby. Window treatments (at left in photo) act as valves that control energy flow through glass.
Our master bath feels more like a furnished room than a typical bathroom. A large, drapery-framed window fills the space with light. Heated Quartzite floors inspired a calm natural color scheme, and Kohler curved ash vanities look like fine furniture. The space is serene, sophisticated and welcoming, but fully functional and "green." For instance, all faucets in the bath and throughout the home feature low-flow aerators to conserve water usage.
The master bedroom's veranda, accessible through impressive, 10-foot-high French doors, offers a peaceful escape for morning coffee or stargazing during warmer months.
The front of the house offers a gracious entry and a library/study (next slide). A mix of contemporary art, traditional furniture and Asian-influenced accessories welcomes visitors in the foyer.
In the first-floor study, tall wood doors with classic Schlage doorpulls open to a desk, love seat and flat-screen TV. Walls feature a paint treatment, while our locally harvested red birch flooring eliminated the high transportation costs that would've been required for a more exotic species. Decorating tip: Layer area rugs for impact. Put a neutral color, nonpatterned rug down first, then accent with an interchangeable bolder choice that emphasizes a style or season.
Downstairs, a family media room, mini kitchen, wet bar and guest bedroom welcome friends and family. To provide ample seating for enjoying movies, sports and games, we chose two comfy, 86-inch-wide, same-style sofas, one in a solid cream quilt and the other in an oversize navy pattern (with flip-flopped pillows), along with two leather club chairs. (The flat-screen TV is hidden in the armoire.) Room-darkening and highly insulated window shades offer a top-down or bottom-up feature that allows a variety of window looks and smart, but fashionable, light and energy control.
A custom wet bar in the family room area downstairs is perfect for parties. The cabinet wall includes glass racks behind etched glass doors, vertical wine bottle storage, a bar sink and faucet, and plenty of customized storage behind closed doors.
The upper level of the home includes not only the master bedroom but also two additional bedrooms and another bath to address the needs of an empty-nester couple. We see a new trend of empty nesters wanting two master bedrooms to accommodate the different sleep patterns and space needs of older couples. We designed this room as a husband's retreat with that in mind, yet the space could easily act as a guest bedroom.
The third bedroom upstairs functions as a comfortable and organized home office. An all-in-one desk/armoire, a good-sized matching credenza and numerous baskets organize paperwork. A roomy daybed situated under the window offers a great place for quiet reflection or creative thinking.
The front of our home includes an expansive entry porch with room for an English-style teak garden bench from Gloster, along with two more chairs and a side table for informal neighborly chats. Other leisure options: the screened (or not-screened, as weather permits) covered outdoor porch on the main level; the upstairs veranda off the master bedroom; and a large elevated patio out back with a recirculating fountain and room for outdoor cooking and dining.
Extensive landscaping (with minimal site disturbance) uses timed irrigation and plants that need less water. We massed carefully selected, Zone-appropriate plants from Proven Winners for showy effect. Limestone garden walls create linear flowerbeds and offer ledges for overflowing pots (also on a timed watering system).
The main floor features a narrow front profile wrapped around a three-car garage, with the kitchen, dining room, and living room all opening to one another in the back and a screen porch off the dining room.
The upper level features a master bedroom with veranda, a large master bath, a bedroom that could be a homeowner's retreat or a guest room, and a home office.
The downstairs includes a family/media room, guest bedroom, bath, wet bar and mini kitchen.