When Amy Matthews first visited the St. Croix River Valley farmstead, she was overcome with the feeling: this is home.
“The property itself was just stunning, because of how it’s nestled in this valley,” says Matthews. “It’s really magical.”
Located about 30 minutes outside her hometown of Minneapolis, it was still close to family and friends, yet remote enough to provide her and her 9-year-old son with a scenic sanctuary. It was a perfect spot to build their “Modern Barnhouse” — a journey This Old House has chronicled and featured as its Idea House for 2021.
“The idea of this modern farmhouse came about mainly because I found the property first, and the design and construction kind of followed,” says Matthews, an accomplished home remodeler and TV personality whose credits include hosting HGTV’s “Renovation Raiders” and DIY Network’s “ Sweat Equity.”
For years, the property was home to the area’s oldest operating dairy farm, and some of its historic structures — including an old red barn and milk house — remained intact. These elements, combined with Matthews’ Swedish and Icelandic heritage, inspired the home’s Scandinavian barnhouse design.
Construction of the 3,800-square-foot home recently wrapped, and the result is a striking combination of organic and modern: the long, narrow house spans 100 feet, featuring vertical cedar planks, a steel roof and vast windows. There’s also an outbuilding that’s been transformed using the same aesthetic, and it will serve as a workshop/entertaining space.
The windows are key to bringing in light during Minnesota’s long, dark winters and are in line with the Scandinavian design, which, Matthews says is more about a philosophy of living — fostering calm and comfort — than it is about style choices.
The home is open-concept — “Because my son and I are always with family or entertaining people,” she says — but the common area isn’t just one massive, vaulted room. Instead, there are intimate spaces that flow seamlessly but serve specific functions.
The dining room features walls of windows offering 180-degree views of the landscape. “My inspiration was a snow globe,” Matthews says. “I wanted the feeling of being surrounded by the weather.”
This “Scandinavian light trick” continues in the adjacent kitchen, which features white quartz countertops and white oak cabinetry that reflect and spread the natural light.
As an avid at-home cook and entertainer, Matthews put a lot of thought into appliances and worked closely with Monogram to make the perfect selections — beginning with the 30-inch Smart 5-in-1 Wall Oven. The ultimate multi-tasker is situated in the kitchen’s “working pantry,” where it serves as a convection oven, toaster, warming oven, precision cook oven and microwave. “Someone had told me, ‘Oh, you’re going to use this for everything… and I really do use it all the time!”
The 36-inch Built-In French Door Refrigerator provides ample storage for her family without taking up too much floor space — and saving room for her No. 1 appliance priority. “Having a chef’s range was my dream,” says Matthews, who selected a 48-inch Professional Range, which she uses to cook up curries, stir-fry and other favorites. “I’ve been dying for one for years and years.”
Perhaps the most unexpected kitchen fun has come from the 30-inch Smart Hearth Oven, which she regularly uses to cook up pizzas for friends and family who visit (sometimes for a few days at a time). “The Hearth Oven was probably the biggest surprise. It was something I thought I might use for specialty things, but I use it all the time for things like fish and roasted veggies… and so many pizzas.”
A nearby nook houses a stylish wine bar featuring Monogram’s 30-inch Fully Integrated Wine Reserve. “It’s such a ‘wow’ factor,” says Matthews, but also incredibly function and frequently used.
“I’m always entertaining people,” she says. “I don’t really ever have a weekend where there’s not someone coming to either stay overnight or visiting the house or coming in from out of town.”
And that’s exactly what Matthews had in mind when she created her Modern Barnhouse dream home.