BAXTER -- From the beginning, it was the river that mattered most.
Bunny Ferrell was downsizing her lake home after her husband died and looking for a building site closer to Brainerd and Baxter than the drive along the Pine Beach Road. She had a dream house in mind with a Mississippi River view.
She knew what she wanted and found the site on a quiet stretch of the river in Baxter. Next came the task of designing the home itself.
Ferrell looked through home planning books, made drawings, incorporated ideas and clipped pictures for examples. Ferrell knew she wanted to get as much light into the home as possible while retaining a feeling of privacy.
Glass blocks allow light in but retain privacy from the open glass entrance at the foyer into the living room. Pastel walls and large windows add to the light nature of the home.
She asked her builder to construct a wall of glass block between the living room and the front entry. The result is a soft, diffused light that maintains privacy without the need for curtains or blinds.
The glass block is repeated in the master bathroom and includes lighted blocks near the floor that lead to the sunken tub.
Other wishes included lowering the cupboards above the counter by several inches so they were 14 or 15 inches above the counter instead of too-high 18 or 19 inches, making the home more user friendly for those closer to five-feet in height.
And decorating the home included an emphasis on pastels and light and a view. Most windows face the river from dining room to master bedroom. There were a few alterations along the way as the builder drew plans to match Ferrell's vision, like the addition of a corner gas fireplace for the downstairs family room. Shelves were added under the stairway to take advantage of additional storage space.
Dining room colors echo from the dining room table to the corner cupboard that features painting to display a Scandinavian heritage. Blues and pinks are used throughout the home in light shades.
"It was kind of hard to scale down," Ferrell said of the spacious, yet smaller home from her lake house.
But the vision came from Ferrell's own efforts on her behalf.
Nearing 70, Ferrell called the Navilus Land Co., put her lake home on the market and went out to see a river lot in the middle of winter. At the time there was only one other house on Parkview Circle and it was under construction.
Now the neighborhood near the new bypass bridge is full of new homes remarkable for their uniform maintenance-free siding. Ferrell brought a contractor to visit the site to confirm what she already knew. It was a perfect spot for a new home, she said.
Large stuffed chairs make for a comfortable TV room, which includes a stenciled border. And in the window view is a small glimpse at the nearby bridge constructed for the Highway 371 bypass.
Waiting was the hard part. Before construction began, Ferrell often made drove out just to look at the land.
"I'd drive out here and look at the lot," she said. "And now look what's grown up on the other side (across Parkview Circle). There is another house going up right now."
Ferrell said she gained a quiet neighborhood where a boat on the river is a big event to replace the busy noisy lake spot she left behind.
Ferrell moved in during the summer of 1997.
One resident near the new Highway 371 bypass bridge is waiting is to learn what traffic will sound like in the quiet riverside neighborhood. (Dispatch Photos by Renee Richardson)
In the long front hallway --that connects one side of the house to the other -- several original paintings hang along the wall. Ferrell took up painting after attending classes with her sister in the 1970s.
"I got hooked on it," she said. The paintings include a sense of depth and the collection includes several versions of country scenes.
"If people asked, I could tell them I painted barns," Ferrell joked.
An above ground pool and deck with brightly colored plastic chairs is a popular stop for visiting grandchildren. Downstairs in the walk-out home includes guest bedrooms and a family room with the fireplace and lots of books lining the shelves.
The house project turned into one that Ferrell was pleased with from the inside out.
"All my life I wanted a house with pillars," Ferrell said and laughed, noting that dream may have come from the love of the stately southern homes depicted in a favorite movie, "Gone with the Wind."
In fact, the home's rooms all have names and one guest bedroom reflects the movie memorabilia from that 1939 film classic.
Now Ferrell is waiting to see if the predictions that the nearby Highway 371 bypass bridge will not change the quiet of the river neighborhood. In the summer foliage, only small sections of the new bridge are visible. In fall and winter the bridge stands out as a close new object on the horizon.
Ferrell said a relief with the project's completion will come with an end to the dust clouds that turned to mud on her windows during construction.
"I've been really happy," Ferrell said walking through her home on a recent cloudy, cool weekday. "It's been really good to be this close to town."
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