The notion that severe site constraints inspire creative solutions is certainly true of this perch overlooking Lake Minnetonka. A bluff setback dictated the precise footprint of a circular patio, which serves as an intimate gathering spot between the lodge-style house’s main terrace and the lake edge. By lowering it five steps, however, architect Peter Eskuche was able to preserve views from the house while bringing the owners a little closer to the water.

“The site is pretty, but you’re exposed,” Eskuche says. The wood pergola and tapered, copper-topped fireplace add a bit of coziness, as does the warm Montana stone. A wraparound hearth provides party-friendly seating, while handily doubling as space for wood storage. The patio’s details and execution struck a chord with the judges, who described it as “tranquil” and “intriguing.”

Entrant/Architect: Eskuche Creative Group, Minnetonka, Minn.; Builder: Denali Custom Homes, Wayzata, Minn.; Living space: 9,000 square feet; Site: 3.2 acres; Construction cost: $274 per square foot; Photographer: A.J. Mueller.

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Stone: Hedberg Stone,