You expect the house of two of the Twin Cities most esteemed artworld tastemakers to teem with paintings and sculptures and artifacts.
What's surprising about the home of Emily Galusha and Don McNeil — she retired after 21 years leading the Northern Clay Center; he was the curator of the General Mills art collection for 37 years before retiring to become a consultant — is that the imprint of artists is built into the structure itself.
The Galusha-McNeil home, rising on a steep slope in the Lowry Hill neighborhood of Minneapolis, has fixtures that should come with descriptive labels. Photographer John Marshall did most of the birch veneered plywood cabinets. Sculptor Jackie Ferrara designed the tile in the owner's bathroom, and the tile setting was done by Matthew Spector.
There are doors, additional cabinetry and furniture by Artserve, the art world's full-service company. And multimedia artist Thomas Rose designed the fireplace.
There's even artistic output in the backyard that rises on a hill — a fragment from a piece by renowned sculptor Kinji Akagawa.
"Those stay, sadly," Galusha said. "We hardly have any furniture to move because these artists created part of our living environment. It's like living with friends."
The couple did not initially set out to build the four-story, two-bedroom, three-bath, 2,934-square foot structure that they have lived in since 1994. Instead, they sought open space to display works and to entertain friends.
"We wanted a loft, but that was before the Warehouse District," Galusha said.
When they explained their dream to architect Garth Rockcastle, a neighbor, he had a simple suggestion: build it. Over drinks, McNeil, Galusha and Rockcastle roughed out the design for property on a napkin. Rockcastle would refine it.
The house, built on a trapezoid-shaped double lot, was made from the inside out. It does not betray its sense of scale, including high ceilings, or the volume of light that comes into the space or even the dramatic views into downtown Minneapolis.
From the outside, it just looks like a wall that may be very dark.
"It's four cubes stacked up on top of another," McNeil said. "It's about moving through space. The stairs on which you move change as the nature of the space changes."
The stairs are made of steel risers that are tough and complemented by concrete on the main level, then are closed off on the bedroom level. But by the time you get to the top, the aerie, the risers are airy and open, with perforated tread that pull light into the house.
The windows that you see from the street approach are rewards for climbing, Galusha said.
There are few walls in the four-story house. Sound carries all throughout, giving it an intimacy. And there are lots of windows, and a skylight that brings in so much light, they draw a blind on it in the summertime. But that portal is a boon in the winter, they said.
"We thought this house may be too dark but in the wintertime, with all the leaves off the trees, it floods it with light," Galusha said.
The couple also have held a lot of receptions in the space, hosting 40 or more in rapt attention around art world notables.
"It's a really elastic space that expands and contracts," Galusha said. "There are two of us and it's great for two people. But it also works for six — artists have come and stayed with us."
The house has an enclosed porch and a vertiginous four-story deck. It surveys the approach to the street, and the nearby Blake School.
When McNeil and Galusha built it, they thought far ahead and installed a shaft for a potential elevator.
"We wanted to stay but it's best to move now while we can make the decision for ourselves," McNeil said. "Of course, we don't have a say in that. A new owner can do whatever they wish."
The couple are relocating to a downtown condo, all on the same floor.
"We just hope someone appreciates this place the way we did," Galusha said. "It's unique and original."