Cloud Forest House

Cloud Forest House

Renovation Project  |  Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota
Drawing its inspiration and name from a source more than 3,000 miles away in Ecuador, “Cloud Forest House” underwent an extensive remodel. Kolbe’s VistaLuxe AL LINE floor-to-ceiling windows and doors connect and transcend the home’s defined indoor and outdoor spaces.
Video - Cloud Forest Home - Marine on St. Croix, MN


Set on a 6-acre wooded, lakeshore site in eastern Minnesota, “Cloud Forest House” draws its name from the homeowners’ travels to the cloud forests of Ecuador, more than 3000 miles away. Attracted to the property’s immersive natural surroundings, the owners moved into the existing house. After 10 years, they were ready to explore improvements to meet the needs of their active family of five. Their next priorities included expansive window views, a more spacious floorplan and an updated contemporary style.

Imprint Architecture and Design, LLC welcomed the challenge to reimagine the home’s indoor-outdoor connection, while redefining larger communal and private interior spaces, and creating a modern appearance.

Exterior drone shot of home

Personalized Perspective

Applying their creativity and architectural knowledge on clients’ homes and projects, Imprint’s husband and wife team, Sara and Jeremy Imhoff, also drew from a personal understanding of designing and renovating their own homes.
Whether at home or at the office, Sara said, “After being married for 20 years, being together in the architecture community, traveling together, our designs have evolved. We’re always working together. We’re always trying to create a design that responds to our clients’ needs and what their design aesthetic is.”

 Exterior drone shot of home
Jeremy agreed and added, “Working on our own personal projects together, we really learned how to work with each other. We set up a rule: If one of us doesn’t like the direction, let’s go back to the drawing board and rethink what we’re doing. And that always resulted in something better.”

Bigger, Brighter, Better

Working on Cloud Forest House, Imprint shared three design options with their clients. Jeremy explained, “One was keeping it more intact with incremental changes. A second scheme was a little more invasive, rethinking the whole main entry and roofline.” For the third option, Imprint took a larger leap. “Let’s say we want to take off the whole roof, rethink the whole main floor, and maybe we salvage portions that make sense."

Sara confirmed the clients selected option three, where the overall footprint stayed the same and retained four bedrooms, one office and three bathrooms. These rooms, plus the upstairs great room and lower family room, were extensively remodeled. A new bedroom suite addition enlarged the existing home, providing privacy between the parents and their growing children.

The first focus was on improved living functionality, starting with the garage to accommodate more utility vehicles and recreational equipment. The previous garage had been a prominent feature of the front elevation, obscuring the entry and blocking the home’s window views and light to the west. Imprint sought to open up the house on all sides, extending views and natural light throughout the interior.

 Exterior entrance of modern renovated home and attached garage

Jeremy shared, “We lay out the floorplan relative to the site and the relationships we want to create, for example, with the lake. We’re envisioning the whole entry and how you approach the house. The window areas become this thin line that separates the two. As you go along, it’s not just a thin line; we try to make that into a reality.”
Bringing the homeowners’ chosen design to life, Kolbe Windows & Doors’ VistaLuxe AL LINE was selected for the home. Like Imprint, Kolbe Windows & Doors is recognized for its personalized approach. The company began in 1946 as a two-brother team based in Wisconsin. Today, it is one of the nation’s leading window and door manufacturers known for superior quality, custom craftsmanship, attention to detail, as well as innovative and unique designs.

Interior of modern renovated home with large windows and massive lift & slide doors
Transparent Transitions
The large windows and massive lift & slide doors’ glass panels connect and transcend the home’s defined indoor and outdoor spaces. “With Cloud Forest House, we have a lot of expansive glass, but they’re in a very private wooded setting. We have to think about the context of where the house is and what they’re looking at out of all this glass. What I really appreciate about the windows are that the frames allow us to maximize their viewing area, blurring those lines between the inside and outside,” said Jeremy.
What I really appreciate about the windows are that the frames allow us to maximize their viewing area, blurring those lines between the inside and outside
Open living area of modern kitchen, dining area, and great room

“We’re always looking at what is the line of sight,” interjected Sara. “When you’re walking down a hallway, what do you see? In this house, you’re looking out a floor-to-ceiling window. The house is really made possible by the large, expansive windows that we were able to incorporate into the design.” As an example, the great room gives the impression of whole walls of glass by combining multiple large windows into a single configuration topped with clerestory windows. Operable windows are placed strategically throughout the house for natural ventilation.

The house is really made possible by the large, expansive windows that we were able to incorporate into the design
Sara also highlighted the dual sightlines offered by corner windows. Along with outward northeast views from the primary bedroom suite and southeast views from the dining room, there is a perspective inward. She elaborated, “If you’re in one room or another, you’re looking outside and then looking back into the other room. You’re having glimpses and opportunities for windows that face directions and angles that capture the light in different ways.”
Flex space featuring computer work station and reading nook bench along a wall of large windows

Jeremy noted that one of his favorite perspectives in the house is found in “this interstitial space between the primary bedroom wing and the great room. It’s kind of a flex space with a long counter along the wall, where the family can sit at their computers and get stuff done. At the end of that space is a reading nook with a bench seat and this large window that has a great view down to the lake and into the wooded area. It’s a great example of how you can maximize the use of these hallway spaces.”
“Most spaces, you’re looking outside. I love pretty much every angle,” said Sara. “The views created are of the property, the trees and nature. It’s really neat to see the outdoor environment change when you’re inside this house. You can see the leaves, whether they’re green or it’s fall or they’re completely gone because it’s winter.”

Modern open concept kitchen

Resilient Materials, Modern Style

“Kolbe Windows & Doors was a huge part of leaning into the open concept, envisioning the new design with the right materials,” added Sara. Merging indoor, modern comfort and outdoor, rugged materials, the homeowners worked with Imprint to select natural, durable materials with a contemporary aesthetic and high performance. Wood siding, floors, ceilings and cabinetry; concrete and metal wall panels; stone counters and accents; and exposed steel supports and railings unify the exterior façade and interior décor.
Kolbe Windows & Doors was a huge part of leaning into the open concept, envisioning the new design with the right materials
Sara continued, “The fact that Kolbe® had the VistaLuxe AL LINE with the aluminum interior and exterior was a big driver.” The finished aluminum requires very little maintenance. The frames’ insulated thermal barrier and dual-glazed Low-E glass enhance condensation resistance and energy performance in the hot summers and cold winters.
Complementing the natural materials and color palette, Kolbe’s windows and doors’ all-aluminum frames were finished in Onyx to resemble aged steel. The dark color on the exterior pairs well with the wood siding, and presents the desired contrast with the predominantly white interior walls. “Black is timeless. White is timeless,” observed Sara.
The windows’ narrow frames accentuate the interior’s clean, crisp, modern design with elegant simplicity. “We were very conscious all the way through about how these finishes were interfacing with the windows, and how that was going to come together. In reality, it’s harder to pull off when you can’t hide things with trim. You have to get everything down perfectly,” cautioned Jeremy.
Exterior view of home entrance with floor to ceiling windows
Balancing Beauty and Strength

Jeremy acknowledged their clients’ investments go beyond time and money, and represent their dreams and wishes. Reflecting the homeowners’ memories of Ecuador, the Cloud Forest House bridges indoor and outdoor environments, balancing beauty within the surrounding landscape.
The front of the home conveys a welcoming, single-story entrance. Jeremy sees the front as “more anchored to the ground. Then, as you go around back, it starts to float and reach out toward the view. Sitting in that great room on the upper floor, it really does feel like you’re hovering out into the landscape.”
Rear exterior of modern home renovation near patio and pool area
Looking out to the pool and toward the lake, this home’s elevation combines the delicacy of a two-story glass jewel box with the strength of visible supports. Sara called out the stacked “cantilever on top of a cantilever” featured on the primary bedroom suite and the massive steel beam that extends back into the house. “You see these elements, these forms that are strong and protruding out. It’s like somebody’s flexing their muscle. It’s a strong, powerful house.”
Dining area surrounded by floor to ceiing windows
Building, Together

The strong, consistent communication and weekly meetings between Imprint, their clients, and Hagstrom Builder, kept the project’s vision in focus and its construction on schedule, even as the pandemic and supply chain constraints posed challenges.
“We worked with a contractor to interpret the design and make it into reality. It’s quite an endeavor from the beginning to the end,” noted Jeremy. “We developed a thorough set of drawings with lots of information to make sure there’s no surprises and no bumps in the road. The builder always has ideas of how we can do it better, and we’re always open minded to that. Hagstrom was always on top of everything, always asking the right questions.”

Interior view from entrance looking out into tree line
“When we can collaborate from the point when the architects start the design, then we can really help,” said Peter Hagstrom, president of Hagstrom Builder. Like Imprint and Kolbe Windows & Doors, Hagstrom celebrates being a family business and delivering a personalized, high-quality result. “Family business is a great thing for the U.S. economy and it’s great to be part of it, having the loyalty and trust behind the scenes.”
Peter credited Kolbe Windows & Doors and other leading window manufacturers for helping expand the imaginative possibilities and performance of custom homes. “They’ve become so much more energy efficient and it’s allowing the architect to put in a wall of windows, which is just so stunning. It lets the light in and the people can enjoy the view out.”

Well-Orchestrated, Remarkable Results

Comparing Dave Johnson’s role as jobsite supervisor on Cloud Forest House to that of an orchestral conductor, Peter suggested, “Like the music the composer put together, he is taking the documents Imprint put together and makes sure that everybody hits their note at the right time, through the whole process.”
Hagstrom Builder manages budgets, orders materials, maintains delivery and installation schedules, and coordinates with specialty contractors to meet clients’ expectations so their home “really stands the test of time,” said Peter. “We’ve got a very well-oiled system. The sooner we have that team put together, the better it is.”

“It was a great working relationship,” praised Sara. “All three parties really made the legs of that stool stand very, very strong. It was a collaborative team effort. Decisions were made quickly and mindfully.”
 Interior view of master bedroom with floor to ceiling windows, looking out to pool
Dave estimated there were up to 150 different tradespeople on the Cloud Forest House project from start to finish. To avoid potential delays, many materials were ordered in advance and stored on location. When it was time for Kolbe’s windows and doors to arrive at the jobsite, they encountered road restrictions.

“These are some of the largest units Kolbe has produced,” Dave remembers. He emphasizes his appreciation for Kolbe Gallery® Twin Cities managing the delivery and installation process. Throughout the installation, he said, “They were looking ahead, making sure things were right. They knew exactly what to do. It was all around a good experience. I haven’t had that with any other window supplier. It seemed like Kolbe truly cared. Kolbe had great solutions. The partnership was great. The whole team came together.”
Sara agreed and concluded, “For a house of this size to be completed in just over a year and a half during this timeframe was remarkable.”