In the mid-1990s, LEED-accredited architect and designer of Rainforest Café restaurants (!) Dave Solner and his wife, Chip, purchased a heavily wooded five-acre lot in Apple Valley, Minn. with grand plans to eventually tear down the property’s modestly sized ranch house and start anew. Well, 10-odd years later the couple had still never quite got around to it (blame having kids). Then, in 2008, an act of God — in this case, a tornado with 70 mile an hour winds — prompted, or forced rather, the couple to finally demolish their digs and build the dream home that had been placed on the burner for so long.


It was the very thing that attracted Dave and Chip Solner to the property in the first place, all those lovely trees, that was responsible for most of the damage sustained from the storm: over 50 trees were toppled, some of them crashing right into the Solner home.


So with that, the Solner clan, with help from friends and neighbors, went about salvaging wood from the felled trees, milled it, and stockpiled it as lumber to be used in that long-delayed dream home. When life gives you felled trees, make a felled tree house from it, I suppose.

That said, the trees downed by the storm play an integral part in the new home, a boxy, modernist abode measuring 6,000-square-feet (the original home was 1,500-square-feet … so much for starting anew with a smaller footprint, eh?). Everything from the staircases to the dining room table to the fireplace mantle was built from the salvaged wood, particularly walnut and maple. Clad in recycled stainless steel siding and cement fiberboard shingles, the four-bedroom contemporary boasts geothermal heating and various other sustainable features including dual-flush toilets, energy-efficient appliances, and recycled tile floors and countertops. There’s also a patio with an outdoor hot tub and fireplace, skylit indoor gardens, and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto a nearby lake … a lovely view that comes courtesy of all those down trees on the property.


Check it out in the video, below.


Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

The Solner Residence: When life gives you felled trees ...
It took an intervention from Mother Nature — a damaging tornado to be exact — for the Solner family to finally bid adieu to their modest Minnesota ranch hou