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Lake Home Renovation Puts Sustainability at the Forefront

By Camille LeFevre Home Features Editor
Oct 21, 2020

When Don and Rosalyn Fineran retired to their lake home north of Minneapolis full time, they knew the main or upper level of the 1990's house needed some upgrades. With lots of family and friends enjoying the lake during the summer months, including several grandchildren, "we were dealing with wet swimsuits and sand all day long," Rosalyn says. So, when choosing new finishes and furnishings, overall function and durability were a must. 

Rosalyn also wanted to re-do the kitchen, with cabinetry that would serve the couple as they aged-in-place. The couple needed a more comfortable living room in which they could host large gatherings. But, they didn't want to introduce any products into the home manufactured with toxic chemicals or made of materials that would off-gas. They also wanted any renovation to be sensitive to their lakeside environment. 

"During my initial conversations with them, says designer Sheree Vincent, owner, and principal of Fusion Designed LLC, in Forest Lake, Minnesota, "Rosalyn and Don always talked about what would be best for their grandchildren. That included not introducing any toxins and being mindful about the products we brought in. The questions we always asked included, 'Are these products local? Do they off-gas? Can they be reused? Do they have durability?' Because the Finerans also have a sense of environmental responsibility to the place in which they live."


Sustainable and Ergonomic kitchen 

Before updating the kitchen, Vincent asked the Finerans if they'd like to recycle the existing kitchen. "Absolutely," the couple said. "We want it all recycled." In addition to the oak doors, millwork, cabinets, countertops, lighting, plumbing fixtures, and furnishings were taken to a Twin Cities organization that recycles such materials.

Kitchen 2

The new kitchen includes custom, locally made, ergonomically designed cabinetry from FSC-certified maple with a water-based finish. The doors and millwork are also maple. The cabinetry has a pantry with roll-out shelving, an over-size "garage" for Energy Star appliances, and several roll-out cabinets—all of which provide easy accessibility. "The cabinet maker designed the cabinets ergonomically, so the homeowners don't have to do a lot of bending," Vincent says. "There are drawers for dishes, and handles versus knobs."

Induction Cooktop

Rosalyn opted for an induction cooktop for safety and efficiency. The quartz countertops are durable and easy to clean up, as is the glass-tile backsplash. Low-flow faucetslow-VOC paint, and recessed and under-cabinet LED lighting on dimmers complete the new sustainable, ergonomic kitchen.

Living Room

Cozy and Sustainable Living Room 

Throughout the main or upper level of the home, the flooring was removed and replaced with a wood-look, durable porcelain tile "reminiscent of grayed driftwood," Vincent says. The tile floor, Rosalyn explains, "goes beyond kitchen and into our dining room, formal living room, hallway, and back to the bedrooms." Beneath the tile is in-floor radiant heat.

Gas Fireplace

The couple decided to replace their wood-burning fireplace with an energy-efficient gas fireplace. They donated the old furnishings. They purchased new upholstered furnishings from Lee Industries, a sustainable furniture company with strong environmental initiatives. The Fineran's new furnishings are made from FSC-wood frames and soy-based, flame-retardant-free cushions and padding. "We now have a lot more seating in a more conversational arrangement, which I love," Rosalyn says.

Cocktail Table

At the center of the comfy new gathering space is a custom-designed, multilevel cocktail table in an abstracted shape of a lily pad. The table is a solid surface constructed from taconite tailings leftover from mining taconite in the Iron Range of Minnesota. "I saw one like it in another home," Rosalyn recalls, "and always wanted something similar. Sheree took the idea and worked with the artist to make our table, which is quite the conversation piece."


The lake home's main or upper level also includes new energy-efficient windows, shades hand-made from rapidly-renewable fibers from well-managed ecosystems, and hand-applied clay wall finishes. "The team took off the popcorn ceilings, which is a nicer look," says Don. He also approves of the home's soothing color palette and nature-inspired artwork. "The furnishings and wall décor all tie together aesthetically, bringing a sense of the lake and the wildlife inside."

Kitchen Counter

Beauty, Comfort, and Durability, Together

"The Finerans were mindful of taking care of the lake and creating a home safe for their grandchildren," says Vincent, whose interior designs focus on sustainability. "They didn't have any problem getting on board with a sustainability approach to renovating the upper or main level of their home."

Rosalyn is enthusiastic about the renovation. "I love how the upper level came together," she says. "Even Don admitted he likes it, and that's a big compliment from him since he wasn't enamored with the idea of a complete make-over."

Yes, Don is a fan. "I like the durability. When I look at the floor and cabinets, I know they'll last. Also, I've walked into elegantly decorated homes and don't feel comfortable. I feel very comfortable here. Everything is relaxing, comforting, and warm." 

All photos credited to Fusion Designed.

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Camille LeFevre

Article by:

Camille LeFevre

Camille LeFevre is an architecture and design writer based in the Twin Cities.