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Memories of a Mississippi childhood and time spent overseas helped influence the highly personalised interior of this new Minneapolis penthouse

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Renowned design guru Terence Conran once said that if our homes should provide anything, they should provide a sense of who we are and how we got here – a sense of connection balanced by a sense of direction and progress.

For the owners of this new penthouse apartment, such a design approach was understood at the outset, say architects Lars Peterssen and Gabriel Keller of Domain Architecture & Design.

"The project went beyond creating a space that would highlight their art and furniture – it had to be uniquely them, an interior that referenced the past, including their time spent overseas, and their loves," Peterssen says. "We needed to work with an eclectic mix of memories and art, and make it all come together architecturally."

While a contemporary, open-plan living area was desired, separate areas needed to be clearly defined.

"Creating an intimate mood was essential," says Keller. "Even though we have provided large ceiling heights and windows, we have brought down the scale of the room in some places to keep it intimate. The use of luxurious materials and different textures, for example, helps achieve this."

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The architects also introduced a copper-clad, double-sided fireplace between the living and dining areas.

"We wanted to divide the space creatively, while still retaining an open feeling. The treated copper has a similar finish to the building's exterior," says Keller.

Interior designer Sally Wheaton Hushcha says the apartment design needed to blend the old with the contemporary.

"One owner's childhood was spent in Mississippi. Consequently, several of the materials were chosen for their visual links to this area. For example, the seagrass rug in the living room borrows from the South, as do the old reclaimed fir beams, which are a feature of the living area and the entry. Wood shutters screening the second bedroom are also an architectural nod to the past."

A rustic-style red brick wall in the kitchen is another Mississippi connection. The wall is reminiscent of many of the houses in the region where the owner spent her childhood.

"In terms of the design, the blend of both wood and painted cabinets in the kitchen is a much more traditional vocabulary than might have been expected," says Wheaton Hushcha.

The wood display cabinets feature leaded glass doors and drop pulls that hark back to the 17-18th century. However, the painted cabinets and island highlight a more contemporary treatment.

"The secret to merging the past and present is to focus on quality," says Wheaton Hushcha. "Every period has its aesthetic lows and highs. But if you work with high-quality elements, it is always possible to mix styles."

Artefacts from the owners' travels are incorporated into the design. Many items are displayed on a translucent glass wall between the living area and master bathroom, which was designed to bring borrowed light into the bathroom.

A sculptural spiral staircase leading to a landscaped rooftop terrace is another key design feature. A glazed landing at the top of the stairs allows natural light to flood the hallway – dappled light also filters through wood shutters to the rear bedroom.

"This was envisioned as a light-filled atrium space," says Peterssen. "The stairs introduce a modern industrial element to the interior, and are in keeping with the contemporary exterior. But red birch treads help warm the look, and provide visual continuity."

First published date: 28 July 2008

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Credit List

Architect Lars Peterssen, AIA, Gabriel Keller and Kris Anderson, Domain Architecture & Design (Minneapolis, USA)
Interior designer Sally Wheaton Hushcha, Wheaton Hushcha Design
Builder Streeter & Associates
Exterior doors and windows Visionwall
Flooring Red birch from Schaefer Hardwood Floors
Wallcoverings David Goldberg Remembrance in Patina; Philip Jefferies Damask Print/Manila Hemp in Graphite; Country Swedish Little Dogs
Paints and varnishes Benjamin Moore
Lighting Juno recessed and track; Lucifer puck lights; custom vanity lamps by Wheaton Hushcha Design; Holtkotter Egg pendants in kitchen
Heating Runtal radiant baseboard heat
Furniture Drexel Heritage chair upholstered in Manuel Canovas Junko in Ivoire; sofas in Manuel Canovas Palma Blanc; J Matthews cube stools and Zachary counter stools in Osborne & Little Tula; dining chairs in Bergamo Polifemo; custom benches in two colours of Bergamo Ruggero; custom headboard in Bergamo Carma
Blinds Lutron motorised shades by Xtreme Sight and Sound
Kitchen cabinetry Reclaimed fir cabinets; painted cabinets by Timber Creek Cabinets
Splashback Georgetown from Ochs Brick
Benchtops Calcutta marble from Cold Spring Granite
Kitchen sink Kindred
Kitchen taps Opella Supergrif
Oven and cooktop Wolf
Ventilation Miele
Refrigeration Sub-Zero
Bath tub Waterworks Chord
Vanity Mahogany cabinets with dark walnut stain and Carrara marble countertop
Basin Kohler Caxton
Taps and shower fittings Kohler Purist
Tub filler Dornbracht Tara
Tiles Carrara marble and glass mosaic from Fantasia