This Modern Minnesota Lake Home Is Ideal for Entertaining Guests

rear view of contemporary lake house with pool and patio area
Photo: Werner Straube

Drawn in by a kitchen redo, Mick de Giulio reimagines an entire Minnesota lake house with fresh, modern elegance.

Cabin kitsch, you'll always have a place, but not at this North Woods getaway. Here, with internationally known kitchen designer Mick De Giulio at the helm, lake house style has entered uncharted realms of sophistication. And, not surprisingly, considering De Giulio's pedigree, it all started in the kitchen.

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Modern Lake House

lake house exterior with ambient lighting and stone pillars
Werner Straube

"It wasn't working for the way I live," says Fargo, North Dakota, businessman Ace Brandt, who wanted his Minnesota lake house to be as sociable and entertaining-minded as he is. "When you have people over, they always migrate to the kitchen." Ace's kitchen, however, with its single run of knotty-pine cabinetry, undersize island, and limited seating wasn't up to welcoming a crowd.

"My interior designer suggested I call Mick De Giulio," Ace says. "I thought, who in Chicago is going to want to work on a house in Detroit Lakes? But the next thing you know, I'm meeting with him. He's showing me pictures. I'm realizing my kitchen is going to be stunningly beautiful, and the rest of the house is going to look like I ran out of money." Ace laughs heartily. "I begged, 'Mick, will you please do the whole house?' He said yes, and I was pretty pleased—a guy with so much horsepower redoing my house."

Before De Giulio added anything to the house, though, he took some things away, starting with superfluous ornamentation on the exposed interior beams. "We removed extraneous pieces that made the house look like a Swiss chalet," the designer says. "The idea was to make the house more modern." To that end, De Giulio also covered the orangish-red beams with an ebonized finish that visually connects them to new flooring, a dramatic hand-scraped ebonized walnut.

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Cozy Foyer

foyer with large pendant light, upholstered wing chairs and fireplace
Werner Straube

De Giulio then removed chunks of interior cabinetry that blocked traffic and views through the house to the lake. "The whole vision from the beginning came from the views," Ace says. "We wanted to be able to see the lake from the moment you walk in the house."

"Now, when you step into the foyer, the room explodes to views of the lake," De Giulio says. "The height expands. It's a soaring space, but it still feels intimate. There's a fire going. There are a couple of chairs right there—it sets the mood right away."

For some guests, the lake can wait a moment. They're tempted by the upholstered wing chairs that interior designer Joan Hebert has cozied up to the fireplace, its white quartzite surround glowing against a wall of reclaimed French oak. "Everything in the house is natural: wood, stone, glass," Hebert says. "I wanted the furnishings to have that same organic feel. It's a sophisticated look, but suitable for a lake house. You can still sit down in a bathing suit."

Columns of Midwest-quarried stone frame the foyer, where a cozy conversation area welcomes guests. Striéd fabric on wing chairs repeats the tones and lines of the wood fireplace wall.

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Kitchen Floor Plan

open floor plan kitchen and foyer featuring beams in vaulted ceiling
Werner Straube

Flowing like water, the reworked floor plan now spills smoothly from the foyer past the double-sided fireplace to the kitchen. "Previously, the kitchen was set back, tucked into a corner and away from the windows," De Giulio says. "We wanted to connect it with the living areas and give it views of the lake."

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Accommodating Kitchen Island

galley-style kitchen with large island and blue-cushioned stools
Werner Straube

Opening up the space provided plenty of room for a high-function galley-style work zone. A double range in brushed stainless steel sits beneath a coordinating hood and next to a refrigerator armoire paneled in eucalyptus with a gloss finish. A spacious island offers a work surface and sink on one side and bar stool seating on the other, just a step from a breakfast/coffee bar.

De Giulio crafted a kitchen made for entertaining. Beneath a dramatic beamed ceiling, a center island with a eucalyptus base and Iceberg quartzite top serves both the work zone on one side and the breakfast bar on the other.

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Sleek Kitchen Design

custom kitchen cabinets with glass doors and pots hanging inside
Werner Straube

"In this vaulted space, the trick was getting good lighting," says De Giulio, who devised a suspended metal rack that rings the room and holds a series of black pendants. "They became a design element unto themselves."

A Wolf range, Sub-Zero refrigerator, Elektra coffee machine, and custom cabinets, including De Giulio's signature "Metal Boy," ensure perfect function.

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Artful Espresso Machine

elektra espresso machine sitting inside tiled niche on counter
Werner Straube

"The lighting is spectacular," Ace says. "Really, the entire kitchen is a piece of art. It's gorgeous, and at the same time, it just feels good."

An Elektra espresso machine nestles into its own special niche on the kitchen counter.

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Built for Guests

custom chandelier above cottopesto table in dining room
Werner Straube

Guests can chat, help with meal prep, or grab a drink at the bar built into the dining area off the kitchen.

A custom Gibson & Gibson chandelier repeats the shape and elegance of a De Giulio Collection table with a hand-rubbed bronze base and cottopesto (fired terra-cotta) top.

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Glimmering Bar

antique mirror tiles behind eucalyptus cabinets in bar
Werner Straube

A backsplash crafted of antique mirror tile glimmers in the light pouring through a wealth of picture windows and sliding doors and contrasts with the rich tones of eucalyptus cabinets.

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Living Room Views

comfortable living room with vaulted ceilings and geometric pendants
Werner Straube

More spectacular scenery, along with sink-in-soft seating, beckons in the living room behind the kitchen and in the glass-framed sunroom.

Architecture plays to views of lake and sky, with a vaulted ceiling that allows for an abundance of windows. Geometric pendants echo the shape of window frames, while a sectional and armchairs soften the space and provide comfortable spots to take in the lake view.

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Contemporary Fireplace

living room with contemporary fireplace detail
Werner Straube

A De Giulio-designed fireplace warms the living room.

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Neutral Color Scheme

neutral sunroom with arched ceiling and sitting area
Werner Straube

Interior designer Joan Hebert chose neutral colors for upholstery to marry with ebony wood tones and let outdoor views remain the primary attraction.

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Spacious But Intimate

wall-mounted shagreen storage console and large artwork
Werner Straube

"With these open living spaces, people can hang out and feel comfortable," De Giulio says. "The vaulted areas make the house feel spacious, but there's still an intimacy."

A wall-mounted shagreen console provides sophisticated storage.

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Warm and Inviting Primary Bedroom

neutral master bedroom with ebony-framed bed and fireplace
Werner Straube

Setting such a mood was important to Ace. "I've been in homes that feel too large, kind of cold and lonely," he says. "Here, every room is warm and inviting." That includes Ace and wife Brittany's renovated primary suite, where De Giulio linked bedroom and bath spaces. Now an ebony-framed bed curls up next to a fireplace.

Linen-look grass cloth wraps the primary bedroom, which adjoins the primary bath, home to an Agape "Spoon" tub with a Kallista "One" tub filler. The shower wall and floor are brushed Iceberg quartzite.

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Calming, Primary Bath

freestanding modern tub and glass shower with linen grass cloth
Werner Straube

Behind the headboard, a sleek freestanding tub sits beside a soothing shower shaped from glass and quartzite.

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Gleaming Vanity

high-gloss gray vanity in master bathroom
Werner Straube

A high-gloss vanity adds an extra dose of shine to the primary bath.

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The Bigger the Better

large master walk-in closet with custom wood cubbies and racks
Werner Straube

In the nearby primary closet, wood, in this case African sapele, reclaims the spotlight in a space where custom cubbies and racks organize clothing, cuffs, belts, and boots. "You can never have a closet too big," Ace says. "I love how Mick put so much thought into every square inch. This entire house functions so well."

A skylight in a dormer showers light into the windowless primary closet.

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Meet the Designer

designer mick de giulio portrait
Werner Straube

De Giulio, though, shrugs off the praise. "Ace knew what he wanted. He's very traveled; he has sophisticated tastes," the designer says. "And that's what this house is: sophisticated, yet also extremely comfortable. After all, it's still a home on the lake."

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Happy Homeowners

homeowners ace and brittany brandt in 1977 trans am convertible
Werner Straube

Ace and Brittany Brandt, along with canine companion Zoe, arrive in style in their 1977 "Bandit" Trans Am.

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