banner ad

Prairie Paradise

Filed in Feature Homes by on October 1, 2014



by Wanda Perkins | Photography by Henry Hempel


For twenty years, Curtis Johnson had a dream of building a private retreat, a home that reflected an appreciation for Old World technique and design, yet equipped with modern conveniences and technology. His vision became a reality when he and his wife Lori found the ideal private location for their new home.


In 2004, the Johnsons purchased 40 acres of oak forest and open meadow near St. Cloud, Minn. With the help of Prairie Restorations, Inc. and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 15 acres of prairie was restored with native seeds and plantings as well as landscaped with prairie flowers. It is a picturesque setting with a creek running through the property, three nearby lakes and just a short commute away from Curtis’s dental practice.


The couple initially met with Doug and Bonnie Hansen of Hansen Tomlinson Homes, Sartell, Minn. in 2006 to discuss an array of ideas. Since this was the first timber-frame home built by the Hansens, architect Tony Stoll of bhh Partners Planners/Architects, Perham, Minn. was enlisted to assist with further developing and designing the home.



Lofty Douglas fir timbers and tongue-and-groove pine in the great room complement a dramatic black-powder-coated steel and amber glass chandelier. Arched windows invite natural light inside. A 22-foot Montana Prairie Fieldstone gas fireplace can be viewed from the open kitchen and eating areas as well as the upper level.

After consulting with the Hansens, Stoll met with the Johnsons in 2006 and then visited the site to review their overall wish list for their new home. “Curtis and Lori wanted a home that fit on their property and also complemented their active, outdoor lifestyle,” Stoll recalls. “They were seeking to maximize the property’s views and capture natural light throughout the home. With the combination of the timber-frame construction and great views on the Johnson’s property, it is almost as if interior and exterior spaces blend seamlessly together. The detailing, finishes and timber work fill their home with warmth and comfort.”


“The entire building team also worked closely with timber framer Phil Bjork of Great Northern Woodworks, Princeton, Minn., to tie in the non-timber-frame portion of the home,” explains Bonnie Hansen. “We enjoyed the challenge of working on a timber-frame home, and the relationship that developed while working with the Johnsons.”


The two-story, timber-framed craftsman-styled home with a walk-out lower level is a Smart Home with energy-efficient insulated panels, triple-pane Eagle windows and geo-thermal heating and air conditioning. Montana prairie fieldstone, cedar shakes, and timbers coordinate beautifully with the deep evergreen hues of the Smart siding.


Building began in 2012 and was completed in February of 2013. “Constructing the timbers and panels was quick,” Curtis recalls. “Within two weeks, it was completely enclosed. Overall, from ground-breaking to finish took less than a year.”


Once inside the home, warm reclaimed oak flooring from horse barns in Kentucky, Douglas fir timbers and tongue-and-groove pine ceilings capture the essence of their dream retreat. A 22-foot gas Montana Prairie Fieldstone fireplace with a mantel of reclaimed wood from an old flour mill in Red Wing, Minn. is a welcoming focal point. Suspended from soaring ceiling heights, a powder-coated black finish chandelier with amber glass is eye-catching. Magnificent views are enjoyed from the great room’s arched windows.



The kitchen’s clean lines enhance a sophisticated contemporary design. Five pendant lights above a 14 foot island furnished with a triple sink, dishwasher, steam oven, dish drawers and ample storage and work spaces create an ultra-convenient entertaining and cooking space.

Lori’s favorite room is their contemporary kitchen space. She especially admires the creatively designed cabinetry by Bryan Becker of Tischler Woodworking, Avon, Minn. Channel-set, push button cabinetry lends clean lines and reflects their contemporary preferences. Stainless steel appliances, a large, functional island that seats six, and Jurassic Black granite surfaces work superbly together for food preparation and entertaining.


“Our kitchen is very open,” Lori adds. “We enjoy the views of the great room, dining area, as well as the outdoors.”


Curtis prefers the technology and modern conveniences of their Kohler DTV-controlled master bath. He recalls, “One challenge in our design plan was to create a master bedroom that was adjacent to the master bath and closet, laundry space and a coffee bar that could operate privately or be opened near the sunrise porch when needed for guests.”


Both undoubtedly agree that the sunrise four-season porch and the screened sunset porch are definitely favorite places to enjoy morning coffee, or relax and admire the sunsets together. Six-year-old son Dane has already claimed the sunrise porch for his own private retreat and activity room. Even Zoey, their spirited Irish wolfhound, enjoys sprawling on the floor after an adventurous day out on the prairie.



The open theater, which has eight reclining chairs and a counter that seats three, can be viewed from the bar.

Their downstairs was carefully crafted to reflect an early 20th century decor – a tribute to their grandparents. A copper-topped bar is complete with a range of concealed appliances and quartersawn oak architectural columns. It is a favorite place to entertain or view sporting events and movies from their open theatre. A velvet curtain offers privacy for the theatre space.


“It was fun planning the theater, bar and family area in their lower level,” adds Stoll. “Hansen Tomlinson did a great job with the detailing and finishes. Overall, the Johnsons were very patient and methodical with their decisions and in reviewing design options.”


Neutral colors complement and do not distract from the natural beauty of interior timbers and stone. “We feel fortunate to have worked with superior craftsmen throughout the building process,” Curtis adds. “They were all quite creative in using their artistic gifts and seemed to sense that we were seeking a unique home.”


Yes, Curtis is delighted with his dream retreat, except for the 900-foot long driveway he admits can be problematic during winter months. That’s when the Bobcat-mounted snow blower keeps their road open.


Lori, a retired business analyst, now wears a full-time, CEO “Mom” hat. “We built our home to grow old in,” Lori concludes. “We love the fact that it is comfortable, extremely energy efficient and built sturdy to last, and yet it’s functional, livable and inviting.”


Their home has quickly become the gathering spot during holidays – their dream fulfilled with a comfortable retreat and an inviting place to entertain and enjoy the company of family and friends.




Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,