Summer on Minnesota’s Lake Minnetonka is full of watershed moments, thanks to dozens of lovingly reinvented boathouses and other historic structures like this one on Grandview Point.

By Gary Thompson
April 07, 2021
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Lake Minnetonka Boathouse
Credit: Karen Melvin

A boathouse houses a boat. Simple, right? But many a so-named structure on Lake Minnetonka does much more. For years, families on this sprawling lake near Minneapolis have punctuated their enviable waterfront homes with charming architectural exclamation points. (Some quirkier versions stand more like question marks.) The boathouses offer amenities like decks, screen porches, sitting rooms and dining areas. "They embody life on the lake," writes Chris Lee in the foreword to Boathouses of Lake Minnetonka, a coffee-table book photographed by Karen Melvin and researched and written by Melinda Nelson.

A fine example graces Grandview Point in Deephaven. When Chris and Diahann Potter built a new home there, they renovated the existing boathouse, a local icon. Diahann, a designer, re-envisioned it as a spot for gatherings. Like its neighbors, the place stashes a boat and gear, but it also delivers chic style—and unbeatable views of life on the lake.

Grandview Boathouse
Grandview Boathouse in Minnesota
| Credit: Karen Melvin

The furniture is classic, but painting the window frames and doors black ensures the space feels modern and snappy, not stuffy. Traditional elements like a fireplace, white beadboard and a paneled ceiling tie the space to its past. Rattan chairs and a sleeper sofa are comfy and practical.

Grandview Point Minnesota
Grandview Point Boathouse
| Credit: Karen Melvin

The makeover of the building included restoring the original wooden Grandview sign, with its vintage rail depot-style lettering. The Potters built out the platform for more outdoor living and dining space. Favorite European boutique hotels inspired the black, white and gray color palette. Patterned pillows add pop and personality.

Grandview Point Minnesota
Credit: Courtesy of Karen Melvin

What you see today evolved from this pump house, captured in a circa 1890 photo. Back then, the estate on Grandview Point was known as Cresthaven, and the belvedere on top afforded views of sailboat races.

Lake Minnetonka Boathouse
Credit: Karen Melvin

A covered dining area shelters guests at summer dinner parties. The natural wood table and the chairs warm up the color scheme and echo the landscape.

Get the look

You don't need a boat—but maybe a house—to channel the lakeside lifestyle.

Indoor Outdoor Light Fixture
Indoor-Outdoor Light Fixture

PERRYTON PENDANT Inspired by carriage lanterns, Sea Gull Lighting's damp-rated indoor-outdoor fixture brightens a covered porch or patio. $149. lowes.com

Cerca Armless Lounge Chair
Cerca Striped Collection

CERCA STRIPED COLLECTION This armless lounge chair can stand alone or be mixed with ottomans and right or left end pieces to build an outdoor sectional. $699. crateandbarrel.com

Organic Tassel Towel
Turkish Tassel Towels

TURKISH TASSEL TOWELS Dry off with lighter-than-terry organic cotton bath towels that get softer when washed. $30. westelm.com

Buy the book

Boathouses Book Lake Minnetonka
By Karen Melvin and Melinda Nelson
| Credit: Karen Melvin

Karen Melvin's photos and Melinda Nelson's writing showcase nearly three dozen Lake Minnetonka boathouses, each with a distinct style and story. There are more than 400 around the lake in all, mostly historic. They preserve remnants of another era, legacies of owners across generations, and the close connection between the lake and its residents ($50, Big Picture Press).