A 100-Year Tradition on Otter Tail Lake

In 2016, Bill and Sue Metzger embarked on a building project on Otter Tail Lake. The year-round lake home would be their third iteration of a lake cabin on the lot.

The land on Eldorado Beach where the Metzgers would rebuild had been in the family a long time. Sue’s mother’s family, Fergus Falls residents, bought two 100-foot lots in 1918. For 86 years until her death in 2005, Sue’s mother Kay Knoff Raiter returned from wherever she was living to summer on Otter Tail Lake.

Over time one of the Eldorado Beach lots sold, but Sue and Bill bought it back in 1974 to continue Sue’s family tradition of returning to the lake each summer. As the original cabin had no plumbing and a hand pump for drawing water, the Metzgers updated the mechanicals, but left the structure intact.

By 2000, Bill and Sue decided it was time for a major overhaul. They raised the cabin to put a foundation underneath, expanding the footprint in the process. They also upgraded the plumbing system and added a loft.

The summer getaway served Bill, Sue and their three children well for a while, but as one grandchild after another came along—nine now—they decided to create a year-round place where the whole family could gather comfortably. As Sue was retired from teaching and Bill semi-retired as a small business owner in the information technology industry, they felt they could spend more time at the lake.

After interviewing several contractors, the Metzgers selected Bladow, Sons and Daughter Construction. Bill says, “We knew Rick could take our vision, turn it into plans, and build the home we wanted.” Their challenge was to add space to accommodate a growing extended family, but stay within the cabin’s current footprint.

Turning the loft into a full second story would meet the challenge and result in a five bedroom, three-and-a-half bath home. With the existing three-season porch, the house would be about 2,600 square feet.

With variance in hand to add a second story, the project officially began in January. The Bladows gutted the cabin, tearing down to the sub-floor all but the one wall attached to the existing porch. Meanwhile, Bill and Sue worked on the myriad material and furnishings decisions necessary for creating an environmentally-friendly, easy-care home where family could gather and enjoy themselves.

Environmentally friendly. Their first decision was a heating and cooling system as the seasonal cabin was to become a year-round lake home. Bill and Sue worked with All Seasons Heating and Air Conditioning of Ottertail City, settling on geothermal for its efficiency and eventual cost savings. Foam insulation won over fiberglass because of its higher R-factor and increased energy efficiency.

Easy care. Sue and Bill’s desire for a family-friendly, welcoming lake home guided decisions on interior spaces. Karndean Luxury Vinyl planking, similar to what they had previously, was their choice for flooring throughout the main level of the house. Sue says, “We wanted a flooring we wouldn’t have to worry about with grandkids tracking in and out.”

Cabinetry throughout the home–living room, kitchen, bathrooms, and utility room—was custom built by Mike Sanders of Ottertail Custom Cabinetry. The Metzgers chose hickory for the cabinetry but asked Sanders to select hickory boards where the honey color predominated over white for a warm and even appearance.

Open floor plan. In addition to environmentally friendly and easy care, Bill and Sue wanted easy access to inside and outside spaces and convenient traffic patterns throughout the home. An open floor plan allows smooth transition between kitchen, dining, and living areas and to a deck overlooking the lake.

The kitchen is easily accessible from the lake, the road, and a three-season porch. An entry door surrounded by a deck on the road side of the house opens into a space off the kitchen, making it convenient for unloading groceries and cooking outdoors on the gas barbecue grill. 

A door off the kitchen leads to a three-season porch. Sue says the porch is a favorite gathering place for everything from eating, to game playing, reading, overflow seating and just hanging out. A bank of windows on three sides brings in sunlight and a sliding glass door leads outside to the deck overlooking the lake. Some days the sun’s radiant heat warms the porch enough to use in winter. The laminate flooring is easy-care and the cedar-plank walls and ceiling add character.

The galley-style kitchen with a breakfast bar on one end makes food preparation and serving easy. The work triangle is small enough to require few steps and yet the kitchen has plenty of room for storage. The countertop is easy-care Corian, a dark charcoal with flecks of white called Maui. Sue loves the built-in features, such as a spice cabinet, to the right of the stove and a large pantry with sliding shelves.

The interior focal point of the open floor plan is a fireplace and television on the west wall of the living/family space. Bill and Sue chose Boulder Creek Montana Ledge stone in suede gray from Hebron Brick Supply in Fergus Falls for the fireplace surround. Their previous fireplace had been wood-burning, but gas better fit their easy-living criteria for the new lake home.

South-facing Thermotec windows stretching from floor to cathedral ceiling bring in light and a dramatic view of the lake.

Rounding out the main-floor living space is a study and bathroom. The carpeted study doubles as a bedroom when needed and the bathroom is easily accessible from various spaces inside the house, as well as by grandkids coming and going from the lake.

Tyler Severson with TS Pro Install installed the tile in the bathrooms as well as flooring throughout the house. The tub surround with white subway tile and brown/tan accent is stunning. Sue says she and Bill were in Tucson when Bladow called to say the project was ready for tile. The Metzgers shopped in Tucson and returned home just in time to deliver the tile to Severson.

Upstairs, the lake home has five bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths. Between bunk beds and queen beds, there’s plenty of room for the nine grandkids ranging in age from 5 to 19 years. The Metzger’s master bed-and-bath suite opens to a balcony overlooking the lake—a perfect place for morning coffee or stealing a few moments of quiet when the house is full.

The master and guest baths are beautifully appointed with their custom-built hickory cabinetry and wall colors in soft neutral hues as is the Corian countertop. The master bath has double sinks and a walk-in shower. In an unusual, but handy arrangement, the washer and dryer are upstairs.

Carpeting on the stairs and throughout the upstairs bedrooms (EJ’s Floor Covering in Battle Lake) adds warmth underfoot, especially when the family gathers for winter holidays.

As construction wound down in May, Bill and Sue worked with Matt Hone from Outdoor Renovations to install landscaping—bullet-edged beds surrounding the house to make mowing easier and a few care-free plants and shrubs. The decks from the cabin still served well and didn’t need replacing.

The project was completed just in time for the Metzgers to enjoy the 2016 summer season in their new lake home. As always, the Metzger clan gravitated to the water. Fishing on Otter Tail Lake is a favorite activity as well as swimming and boating. Sue laughs when asked about boats, “We have them all—kayak, pontoon, ski and fishing boats, and two paddle boards!”

Golfing at Balmoral is also an activity that Bill and family members enjoy. When the weather cooperates in the winter months, Bill builds an ice rink on the lake in front of their house for all the hockey players in the family – boys and girls.

Just as Sue’s mother travelled each summer to spend time on the lake, so do the Metzgers. Sue and Bill have a home in Roseville, their daughter in Plymouth, and youngest son in Edina. Their middle son lives in Tucson. Sue’s sister, Marty and her husband Dave travel to Minnesota from Colorado each summer as do their son Andy and family from Chicago to spend time in their cabin next door, part of the original parcel purchased in 1918.

And so the Metzgers continue Sue’s mother’s tradition of spending summers on the lake and will celebrate a 100th anniversary on Otter Tail Lake in 2018. ~L&H

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