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