MINNEAPOLIS — Back in the 1940s, when Minnesota’s movers and shakers wanted to build a rustic yet upscale cabin on the North Shore, their go-to guy was Edwin Lundie.
“He was the sought-after architect of the day,” said Peter O’Toole, author of a recently published book about Lundie and his work.
The architect’s cabins, country estates and city houses were distinguished by their Old World character — gables, beams, traditional materials and artisan details, such as hand-finished woodwork and forged hardware.
“His clients preferred traditional styles,” said O’Toole, and Lundie delivered, designing stately Colonials and Tudors, quaint Cotswolds and Scandinavian-inspired lake homes.
Lundie was well respected throughout his long career, but today, his classic aesthetic doesn’t carry the cachet enjoyed by some of his more modernist peers, including Frank Lloyd Wright.
“Everyone feels Lundie has been overlooked, overshadowed by the modern movement,” O’Toole said. “There’s no reverence given to the traditional architecture, but it still resonates with people.”
Including O’Toole. He lives in an authentic Cape Cod that Lundie designed in 1937. It’s smaller than the large homes Lundie designed for wealthy clients. Its original owner was a single woman, Kathryn Spink, executive secretary at First National Bank, who commissioned Lundie to design a modest home for her on a narrow lot in St. Paul. The house’s footprint is just 856 square feet, but it’s packed with signature Lundie features, including an oversized fireplace and built-ins.
“His floor plans were so efficient,” marveled O’Toole. “He was the original ‘Not So Big House’ ” architect, decades before Sarah Susanka popularized the term in her series of best-selling books.
O’Toole and his spouse, Tim Schultz, discovered their home while house-hunting in 2003. “We saw this little Lundie house and got very excited,” O’Toole recalled. Originally, the Cape Cod sat between two small cottages. Now it was flanked by two looming apartment buildings.
But it still had curb appeal, with its original curving front walkway, also designed by Lundie.
Inside, the main floor was in pristine condition, with hand-finished pine walls, walnut pegged floors, an alcove with scalloped wood trim and unique hardware, designed specifically for the home by Lundie.
“You feel like you’re in the Colonial era,” O’Toole said. “Lundie gave it a look of authenticity.”
The kitchen still had its original wood countertops, sink and cupboards. (O’Toole and Schultz have since repainted the cabinets their original blue-green hue.)
Upstairs, however, the home didn’t reflect Lundie’s vision. Spink never finished the second floor, a project that a later owner undertook during the 1960s in the style of that era. Armed with Lundie’s original blueprints, O’Toole and Schultz redid the staircase to Lundie’s specifications, with white oak treads and knotty pine risers.
They restored the porch to its original look, replacing ’60s paneling with cedar shakes, and adding a heated slate tile floor.
O’Toole also converted the original garage, built to house Spink’s Model A Ford, into a studio for himself.
Living in a Lundie home inspired O’Toole to write a book, “Edwin H. Lundie.”
The book covers Lundie’s career, which began as an apprentice to Cass Gilbert, then a draftsman under Emmanuel Masqueray, working on the St. Paul Cathedral in 1915.
“He [Lundie] kept working until he died in 1972,” O’Toole said.
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