Set on a 6-acre wooded, lakeshore site in eastern Minnesota, “Cloud Forest House” draws its name from the homeowners’ travels to the cloud forests of Ecuador, more than 3000 miles away. Attracted to the property’s immersive natural surroundings, the owners moved into the existing house. After 10 years, they were ready to explore improvements to meet the needs of their active family of five. Their next priorities included expansive window views, a more spacious floor plan and an updated contemporary style.
Imprint Architecture and Design, LLC welcomed the challenge to reimagine the home’s indoor-outdoor connection, while redefining larger communal and private interior spaces, and creating a modern appearance.
Bigger, Brighter, Better
Working on Cloud Forest House, Imprint’s husband and wife team, Sara and Jeremy Imhoff, shared three design options with their clients. Jeremy explained, “One was keeping it more intact with incremental changes. A second scheme was a little more invasive, rethinking the whole main entry and roofline.” For the third option, Imprint took a larger leap. “Let’s say we want to take off the whole roof, rethink the whole main floor, and maybe we salvage portions that make sense.”
The clients selected option three, where the overall footprint stayed the same and retained four bedrooms, one office and three bathrooms. These rooms, plus the upstairs great room and lower family room, were extensively remodeled, while a new bedroom suite addition enlarged the existing home.
The first focus was on improved living functionality, starting with the garage to accommodate more utility vehicles and recreational equipment. The previous garage had been a prominent feature of the front elevation, obscuring the entry and blocking the home’s window views and light to the west. Imprint sought to open up the house on all sides, extending views and natural light throughout the interior.
Bringing the homeowners’ chosen design to life, Kolbe Windows & Doors’ VistaLuxe AL LINE was selected for the home.
The large windows and massive lift & slide doors’ glass panels connect and transcend the home’s defined indoor and outdoor spaces. “With Cloud Forest House, we have a lot of expansive glass, but they’re in a very private wooded setting. We have to think about the context of where the house is and what they’re looking at out of all this glass. What I really appreciate about the windows are that the frames allow us to maximize their viewing area, blurring those lines between the inside and outside,” said Jeremy.
“We’re always looking at what is the line of sight,” interjected Sara. “When you’re walking down a hallway, what do you see? In this house, you’re looking out a floor-to-ceiling window. The house is really made possible by the large, expansive windows that we were able to incorporate into the design.” As an example, the great room features entire walls of glass configured with multiple large windows topped with clerestory windows, while operable windows are placed strategically throughout the house for natural ventilation.
Resilient Materials, Modern Style
“Kolbe Windows & Doors was a huge part of leaning into the open concept, envisioning the new design with the right materials,” added Sara. Merging indoor, modern comfort and outdoor, rugged materials, the homeowners worked with Imprint to select natural, durable materials with a contemporary aesthetic and high performance. Wood siding, floors, ceilings and cabinetry; concrete and metal wall panels; stone counters and accents; and exposed steel supports and railings unify the exterior façade and interior décor.
Sara continued, “The fact that Kolbe® had the VistaLuxe AL LINE with the aluminum interior and exterior was a big driver.” The finished aluminum requires very little maintenance. The frames’ insulated thermal barrier and dual-glazed Low-E glass enhance condensation resistance and energy performance in the hot summers and cold winters.
Complementing the natural materials and color palette, Kolbe’s windows and doors’ all-aluminum frames were finished in Onyx to resemble aged steel. The dark color on the exterior pairs well with the wood siding, and presents the desired contrast with the predominantly white interior walls. The windows’ narrow frames accentuate the interior’s clean, crisp, modern design with elegant simplicity.
The strong, consistent communication and weekly meetings between Imprint, their clients, and Hagstrom Builder, kept the project’s vision in focus and its construction on schedule, even as the pandemic and supply chain constraints posed challenges.
“We worked with a contractor to interpret the design and make it into reality. It’s quite an endeavor from the beginning to the end,” noted Jeremy. “We developed a thorough set of drawings with lots of information to make sure there’s no surprises and no bumps in the road. The builder always has ideas of how we can do it better, and we’re always open minded to that. Hagstrom was always on top of everything, always asking the right questions.”
“When we can collaborate from the point when the architects start the design, then we can really help,” said Peter Hagstrom, president of Hagstrom Builder.
Peter credited Kolbe Windows & Doors and other leading window manufacturers for helping expand the imaginative possibilities and performance of custom homes. “They’ve become so much more energy efficient and it’s allowing the architect to put in a wall of windows, which is just so stunning. It lets the light in and the people can enjoy the view out.”
Well-Orchestrated, Remarkable Results
Comparing Dave Johnson’s role as jobsite supervisor on Cloud Forest House to that of an orchestral conductor, Peter suggested, “Like the music the composer put together, he is taking the documents Imprint put together and makes sure that everybody hits their note at the right time, through the whole process.”
“It was a great working relationship,” praised Sara. “All three parties really made the legs of that stool stand very, very strong. It was a collaborative team effort. Decisions were made quickly and mindfully.”
Dave estimated there were up to 150 different tradespeople on the Cloud Forest House project from start to finish. To avoid potential delays, many materials were ordered in advance and stored on location.
“These are some of the largest units Kolbe has produced,” Dave remembers. He emphasizes his appreciation for Kolbe Gallery® Twin Cities managing the delivery and installation process. Throughout the installation, he said, “They were looking ahead, making sure things were right. They knew exactly what to do. It was all around a good experience. I haven’t had that with any other window supplier. It seemed like Kolbe truly cared. Kolbe had great solutions. The partnership was great. The whole team came together.”
Sara agreed and concluded, “For a house of this size to be completed in just over a year and a half during this timeframe was remarkable.”