What can you learn from a boathouse? Ex­plore these lo­cal gems of Lake Min­netonka, and dis­cover these tiny cot­tages’ hid­den se­crets.

Cottages & Bungalows - - Contents - BY HAN­NAH AL­STON

Dis­cover quaint charm and small­space dec­o­rat­ing at its best with these sur­pris­ingly cozy boathouses of Lake Min­netonka.

Imag­ine a place where charm­ing ar­chi­tec­ture

re­flects his­tory along a very pic­turesque shore­line.

In Boathouses of Lake Min­netonka, author Melinda Nel­son and pho­tog­ra­pher Karen Melvin work to­gether to un­ravel the beauty to be found along the ex­clu­sive shore­line of the lake. Min­neapo­lis na­tive and Min­netonka afi­cionado Nel­son raves about the vin­tage-styled boathouses, while pho­tog­ra­pher Melvin paints the pic­ture. This book high­lights not only the his­tory of the boathouses and what makes them so unique, but also in­ter­views with the original home­own­ers and ar­chi­tects, who re­veal some of Lake Min­netonka’s most sur­pris­ing se­crets.


One of the many rea­sons that Nel­son is cap­ti­vated by Lake Min­netonka is its deep-rooted his­tory. She says, “With more than 150 years of rich, col­or­ful his­tory, the li­braries, mu­se­ums and his­tor­i­cal so­ci­eties around the lake are filled with tales of the

fur traders, sol­diers, pi­o­neers and em­pire builders who left their in­deli­ble mark on the land­scape.” The his­tory of this lake is what makes it so spe­cial to the peo­ple who live there. “Even if you know Lake Min­netonka—in fact, es­pe­cially if you do— you may not know that the first wa­ter skier on the lake was Grace Carter Lind­ley, owner of a home and boathouse in Maple­woods, now owned by the Pagel fam­ily. Or that the unique pagoda-style boathouse on the cover was in­spired by a 1912 hon­ey­moon to Ja­pan,” says Nel­son.


Boathouses were ini­tially cre­ated to shel­ter fam­i­lies’ prized pos­ses­sions: lux­u­ri­ous lake boats. Of­ten worth more than a car, gor­geous boats were the rea­son home­own­ers started build­ing el­e­gant boathouses, in hopes of keep­ing their boats in mint con­di­tion.

The dif­fer­ent styles of boathouses came about be­cause of the dif­fer­ent needs of each boat. Nel­son and Melvin state, “De­pend­ing on the owner’s wealth and life­style, the first level was ei­ther ‘wet,’ al­low­ing the boat to rest in or above the wa­ter on rails, or ‘dry,’ with a floor that pro­tected the boat from the wa­ter and pro­vided space for stor­age and chang­ing rooms.” Boathouses along Lake Min­netonka started to be­come very per­sonal and elab­o­rate and, in turn, grew in pop­u­lar­ity.


It is al­most im­pos­si­ble to pur­chase a Min­netonka boathouse with­out com­ing across a piece of his­tory. When Melinda Nel­son talked to home­own­ers Gregg and Lor­raine Scott, they re­vealed a trea­sure they had found in their home while ren­o­vat­ing: a menuki, a metal or­na­ment for a tra­di­tional Ja­panese sword, in the wall of their boathouse. “In 2014, [they] were work­ing in their pagoda-styled boathouse on Smith­town Bay when Gregg dis­cov­ered a small piece of carved metal nailed to a wall be­hind a door,” says Nel­son.

At the Smaby-Jeron­imus res­i­dence, the own­ers dis­cov­ered a se­cret room with a buzzer. “Inside the boathouse, hid­den be­hind a slid­ing door with a buzzer, there was a se­cret room on the lower level with one win­dow and two pi­anos,” Nel­son writes. Whether it’s a sword or a hid­den room, a wide va­ri­ety of hid­den gems is tucked away in these Min­netonka boathouses.


De­sign fans will dis­cover that de­spite their diminu­tive size, these boathouses are all about liv­ing large. It’s re­mark­able how each has been de­signed with care­ful at­ten­tion to de­tail—of­ten with spa­ces for dec­o­ra­tive dis­play and re­lax­ing ac­tiv­ity, whether it’s a book­shelf for af­ter­noon reads, or a fire­place for lin­ger­ing or en­ter­tain­ing. Some con­tain full kitchens, but even the small­est and sim­plest are cozy, well-ap­pointed and brim­ming with per­son­al­ity.

“We were thrilled to dis­cover a hand­ful of boathouses still owned by the original fam­i­lies, as well as rus­tic boathouses filled with the smell of sum­mer.”

FLEA-MAR­KET FILLED. This boathouse room has all kinds of quirky items and dec­o­ra­tions. A wood-pan­eled ceil­ing mir­rors the hard­wood floor­ing. Thoughsmall, this boathouse of­fers a cozy fire­side sit and plenty of stor­age for host­ing ne­ces­si­ties.

ONE-OF-A-KIND OASIS. A sprawl­ing room opens up to a sub­dued lake­side view. A mod­ern ap­proach was taken when de­sign­ing this Ital­ian-in­spired room. Dark floors and white pan­eledwalls cre­ate a lake­side oasis. Boathouses of Lake Min­netonka by Linda Nel­son, pho­tog­ra­phy by Karen Melvin, pub­lished by Big Pic­ture Press © 2018.

STO­RY­BOOK SCENE. Cob­ble­stones sur­round this small boathouse cot­tage. Cov­ered in green­ery, with a fairy-tale set­ting and big win­dows and light hues, this boathouse feels larger than it re­ally is.

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