Style? Get Out – Midwest Home

Photos by Dina Kantor  

Style? Get Out – Midwest Home
Excelsior-based architect Tim Alt poses in front of “Woodland House,” one of his own creations that embodies the guiding principles of his practice.

When you ask Tim Alt, “style” simply means “lifestyle.” It’s not a look, a design theme, or an artistic expression. A home’s style, Alt says, is more about its connection to a location. “We make houses that are sensitive and quiet responses to a location,” says Alt, founder
of ALTUS Architecture + Design in Excelsior. “And we don’t get caught up in the style. If I had to put a name on it, I might refer to the style as ‘organic minimalism.’”

Alt gets to know his clients and their lifestyles. He’ll ask thoughtful questions like, “What are the rituals of your day?” and “How does the path of the sun and natural light help develop the spaces in your house?” “We want to help create a residence that endures, fits their identity, their lifestyle, and the location,” Alt says. “The result will be a home that is unique to the site and their personal expression. We do not focus on ‘style.’ Our goal is to amplify experiential awareness.”

An ideal representation of Alt and his firm might look like this: “I think of a space with a great view, and tall windows that invite me outside, with continuity to the outdoors,” he says. “I like light in the space throughout the day, and I look for shadow patterns.” He also likes to work with tactile materials like “wood, maybe some stone, if that’s in the budget.”

One look at pictures of homes he has designed, and it’s as clear as a window that the outside is as important as the inside. But it’s not just about doors and windows. “Our job is to create a space that is enduring, gentle on the land, and belonging ideally in that place only.”

The nearby detached shed reflects the surrounding site and seemingly dissolves into the wooded landscape.

Have you always worked in residential architecture?

I did commercial work before I launched ALTUS, including the interiors of the Federal Reserve Bank building in Minneapolis. Residential work lets me build relationships and rapport with the decision makers: the residents. We keep our toe in commercial but only when asked.

What are your favorite outdoor places and experiences?

I’m a Midwesterner at heart, and the North Shore is my favorite place—especially Grand Marais. As a serviceman’s kid, I did live in Germany for a few years when I was young. And as a family, we were outdoors people—loving the land, camping, scouts, sailing, and skiing.

Any passion projects or community involvement?

We’re working on designing the adaptive reuse of a historic midcentury modern church that will be an arts and music center for the community. We’ve also designed a new house in Lexington, Virginia, that is currently under construction.