Minnehaha Creek Chic
A kitchen design with view in mind
The east-flowing Minnehaha Creek is so important to the history of Edina that the city’s founders named the town after a busy gristmill powered by the waterway near what is now 50th Street and Browndale Avenue. Minnehaha Creek provides an urban refuge for egrets, ducks, and blue herons, as well as a natural retreat for a young family, the Conways, who wanted their brand-new house to showcase the lazy tributary. Designed by architect Ben Nelson, principal at Nelson Residential Design in Blaine, the house includes a kitchen with five-star water views. “When people come into the kitchen, they say, ‘Wow, I wouldn’t mind doing dishes in here,’” says Betsy Conway, mom to two daughters, ages 7 and 10.
A few years ago, the Conways had just remodeled their house in Edina’s South Harriet Park neighborhood. That’s when Betsy’s husband got a familiar itch.
“Jason’s in commercial real estate, but I think his dream job is to be a builder,” says Betsy. “As soon as we finish one house, he starts dreaming about what we could do next.”
With assistance from builder Andy Porter, co-founder of Refined, as well as the interior design team at Martha O’Hara Interiors in St. Louis Park, the Conways and their two daughters had a brand-new custom house on Minnehaha Creek in less than eight months—a lightning fast job by almost anyone’s standards.
Here’s why their new kitchen works particularly well:
The Conways’ kitchen is remarkable for what it doesn’t have: there’s no family message center, no breakfast nook, no cavernous butler’s pantry, no uninterrupted wall of cabinetry. The Conways said they wanted to make the creek the star of the room, and that meant keeping things simple. “The architect said, ‘You know, if you have this wall of windows overlooking the creek, you’re giving up a lot of space for storage. Immediately, we said, ‘That’s fine,’” Betsy recalls.
At 15-feet wide by 14-feet long, the Conways’ kitchen is rather intimate, especially by the standards of the Country Club neighborhood, a corner of Edina that’s particularly big on big kitchens. Yet the space works for this casual family of four. Jason Davenport, owner of JD Woodcraft in Lakeville, worked some magic on an angled walk-in pantry that looks petite on the outside, but opens to reveal three floor-to-ceiling storage walls for dry goods. The base of the island, too, holds a microwave, up to 18 bottles of wine, plus sundry other items in wicker baskets.
The Calacatta marble-topped island is shaped like an upside-down T, with a strong horizontal line, and thin peninsula jutting out towards the water. This unique shape means the family can gather at the counter and no one has to sit with his or her back to the water views. By smartly placing the main sink in the island, Betsy and Jason can prepare meals or clean up while taking in the backyard panorama and watching their girls on the wooden playset.
Fresh & Bright Details
The interior designers were inspired by the fun-loving family, and worked to make the kitchen just as spunky. A trio of lighting pendants with tendrillar crystals and blown glass drops give the room a frilly sparkle and draw the eye up to the white beadboard ceiling. Betsy displays a rotating collection of casual dishes on the built-in display cabinet, painted the palest shade of seafoam. Outside of a punchy black-and-white harlequin backsplash behind the stove, the kitchen is mostly light and bright, with white enameled cabinetry, classic barrel-handled hardware, and glossy, dark-stained oak floors. “We wanted things really fresh,” says Betsy. “And of course, we never wanted to compete with that view.”
Alyssa Ford is a freelance architecture and design writer based in Minneapolis.
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