A contemporary farmhouse changes the face of HL farmstead

April 7, 2008

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

As soon as Greg Wood drove halfway down the driveway of an old farmstead that was for sale on Dutch Lake in Howard Lake, and laid his eyes on the 80-acre property, he said in his head, “I’m going to make an offer on it.”

That was back in 1992 and that property was owned by Bud Albrecht of Howard Lake, who was born and raised at the farmstead, and was looking to move to town (Howard Lake).

After Wood purchased the house and land, Albrecht and Wood forged a friendship that is quite unique, just as unique as the house Wood and his wife Christie built in place of the old farmhouse.

Albrecht was invited to continue tending a garden at his old residence, and has raised a garden each summer since. He also helps the Woods with lawn mowing and other chores.

In addition, Albrecht housesits for the couple when they go on vacation.

“We stock the refrigerator with his favorite foods and he stays the entire time. He’s a huge help to us, and he takes care of the animals,” Christie said.

“He loves the fact that we have satellite TV so he can watch the Twins’ games wherever they may be playing – he doesn’t have that at his home,” Greg said.

The home Albrecht occasionally housesits is much different than the one he grew up in on that same piece of ground.

The Woods saved many pieces of Albrecht’s old home as it was torn down, and have incorporated those sentimental pieces of the old farmstead into their new contemporary-style farmstead.

Contemporary in design, yet earthy and fitting in its farm setting. Materials used throughout the unique house were inspired by the metal corrugated roof atop the 1936 barn that is still in great shape on the farmstead.

Corrugated metal can be found throughout the house on different walls, sliding doors, and even in a one-of-a-kind shower. When the water hits the metal in the shower, “it sounds like rain on a tin roof,” Christie said.

As the eye peers out oversized windows that were designed to maximize both solar energy and views of Dutch Lake and the farmland, corrugated metal can be seen on the outside of the house, as well. The Woods designed the inner decor to flow with the exterior character of the home.

“We tried to use materials that naturally fit into the farm,” Christie said.

The chimney flue on the screened-in porch’s fireplace is an old culvert.

The Woods saved decorative glass from an old door on Albrecht’s house and mounted it into a sliding pocket door to the master bedroom.

One side of the hallway leading to the master bedroom, the outer wall, is all glass. Just beyond the glass, across the yard, is a horse pen. There, the Wood’s horse Buddy watches for the Woods to leave their bedroom in the morning after waking, and come feed him.

“Every morning, as we walk out of our room, Buddy’s waiting for us to come into view,” Christie laughed.

“We can’t get away with anything,” Greg laughed.

A vintage ladder, in good shape, complete with square-headed nails, was found in an outbuilding and brought into the master bedroom for use when opening the room’s clere-story windows (windows above the ceiling line).

Because concrete is known for “soaking-up and retaining heat,” the house was designed with concrete floors throughout. Some areas have in-floor heat below the concrete, as well.

The house has gone through two different construction phases, yet both phases were designed by Greg’s dad Charles and himself.

The first phase consisted of more of a square house design, which was built in 1993. The Woods do much of the work themselves, but also enlist the help of contractors.

The contractor in 1993 was Ken Durdahl Construction of Howard Lake. An addition, which added much of the contemporary look to the house, was in 2006 with the help of Al Hirsch and Sons of Delano.

“We hire everyone local, we really think that’s important” Christie said.

The couple used Diers Plumbing and Heating, Diers Electric, and even had Bob Wackler, the Howard Lake postal carrier design and lay the stone on their large indoor fireplace.

“It’s a focal point in our house. Bob, Ken Durdahl, and Keith Luhman put a lot of hard work into that fireplace,” Greg said.

Taking a step outside of the house, a detached garage with a guest house above is just a few steps away. The guest house also has vast views of the lake and surrounding farmland.

Standing tall and proud between the house and guest house is the old windmill.

“We actually designed the house and guest house around the windmill, using it to anchor the design – like a center sculpture,” Christie explained.

A landscape plan is on the horizon for this spring and summer in addition to adding finishing touches throughout the house and guest house.

Greg started a custom wood furniture business 15 years ago called Greg Wood Furniture (gregwoodfurniture.com). He has handmade much of the furniture and cabinetry for the home. He buys much of his lumber locally, and has been pleased with product he is able to acquire from Paul Erickson of French Lake.

Greg’s workshop, where he makes his custom furniture, is in an outbuilding on the farmstead.

Christie works part-time for Coldwell Banker Burnett as a transaction coordinator, but also has a business of her own that she started 10 years ago making handmade cards.

Christie offers 1,000 card styles and has a sales rep in New York who markets her cards. Christie then direct ships them from their Howard Lake home to stores and art galleries across the US, Japan, Europe, and has even sold them to the queen of England.

Christie’s office is located on the second story of the house.

As if the Woods weren’t busy enough, they’ve started the making of a Christmas tree farm. They’re hoping the trees will be ready in the next few years, and plan to have a petting zoo and a gift shop to accent the tree farm experience.

The Woods, along with several lakeshore neighbors, initiated the recently organized Dutch Lake and Mallard Pass Lake Association. The lake association meets monthly and is currently fundraising to stock the lake.

“We have goals for cleaning up the water and for a healthy environment for fish,” Christie said.

This last winter was the busiest ice fishing season in the 15 years that the Woods have been on the property.

“There were 40-plus ice fish houses out there this winter – it was a regular village,” Greg laughed.

The couple has three children Camille, Gwen, and Max. Camille and Gwen attend college and Max attends high school.

Do you know more about this subject, or have a comment? E-mail news@hjpub.com