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John Lamb, Published June 01 2013

Secluded in the center of town: Moorhead ‘lake’ home remains remote even in heart of city

MOORHEAD - Mark Sinner sits at a small desk in his Moorhead dining room overlooking Woodlawn Park. He explains how a dike that runs across the far northern edge of his property holds back the Red River when it floods, turning the park into a lake.

“I guess this is my lake home. It’s close enough to a lake for me,” he says.

Nestled between Woodlawn and the Rourke Art Gallery and on a dead-end street, Sinner’s house is a rarity – a home just outside of downtown but with the feel of a cloistered cabin.

“It’s really quite secluded in back. You really don’t feel like you’re in a community,” he says. “It’s really a haven for migratory birds, so it’s really fun to sit at my desk and have birds pass through.”

Birding books fill a nearby shelf to help the novice identify the various species.

With slatted, sienna-colored plywood siding resembling bat and board, Sinner’s home looks like a modern home in the woods. He’s even heard the design referred to as “cabin-style” or

“ ’60s-style.”

Willis Kingsbury, who designed and oversaw construction of it, simply calls it “contemporary.”

Kingsbury finished the house in 1974 for his family, though he only lived there eight days before he and his wife separated.

While the house stands out a bit in the older part of Moorhead, Kingsbury said it still fits in.

“I’ve had many more positive comments about the location than I had negative,” he said from his home in Naples, Fla. “You’re not out in the country; you’re right downtown.”

Part of the design’s appeal was having most of the windows on the north side, overlooking Woodlawn.

The home’s Sixth Avenue façade features few windows, though that’s where the main entrance porch is.

“It wasn’t the exterior I liked about it so much as the windows and the view I appreciated,” Sinner says, when asked what attracted him to the house when he bought it in 2001.

The dining room doubles as his office, with a simple desk facing the park. Two levels of windows, stretching from the tiled floor to the 16-foot-tall ceiling fill the space with great natural light and open the interior to a large backyard, lined with trees and blooming lilacs.

It’s an office with quite a view, Sinner acknowledges, joking that he “sacrificed” his office at Creative Kitchen, the business he co-founded in 1976, to bring his work space home.

But it’s a home office that can transform back into a dining room quickly. A console table resting against a wall can be pulled out and a drop-leaf raised to make a dinner table.

“There’s just something about the light in this room that is uplifting to me,” he explains.

The dining room opens into a living room, with 8-foot ceilings allowing for a cozy, warm feel. The space features a large window looking east onto the Rourke Art Gallery.

Above the living room is the master bedroom, which benefits from the big, north windows with openings in the walls to look over the dining room.

The 2,000 square-foot home features four bedrooms, though Sinner has adapted one north-facing one with a view across the river to the Radisson into a workout space.

For all of the room in the house, the one that can get tight is his kitchen when he entertains. With custom-built, light oak cabinets and big windows, there’s an openness that quickly gets filled during a party.

“It’s not really designed for having more people because it gets crowded,” he says.

While Sinner has started to think the house may be too big for just himself and his cats, he says he utilizes the space when he entertains with semi-regular dinner parties.

“I like being here too much to throw in the towel,” he says.

Besides, where would he go? Many people retire to their lake place, and Sinner already lives in his.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

John Lamb at (701) 241-5533