Teamwork Polishes Maple Lake Gem

On 815-acre Maple Lake, a few minutes south of Alexandria, a recently-constructed gem of a home opened its doors to a tour. From conceptual sketches to the finished product, many provided input and no stone was left unturned in exploring and delivering immaculate detail. With Maple Lake views spanning nearly three quarters of the compass, not only do the homeowners enjoy sunrise and sunsets like few can, the home itself is more than a sight to behold.

Acquired in the 90s, the property hosts many memories – swimming, fishing, learning to waterski – yet the original home encountered a time it could no longer meet the needs of the owners. It is beyond amazing to stand in today’s masterpiece and think in 2008 the owners were told “tear it down and put in a gazebo.” Down but not out, an uncharacteristically wet 2013 pumped new life into the idea of building and in 2014, the owners reached out to Jay Paulson at HighPoint Homes to start their creative venture.

Spearheading the tremendous build, HighPoint Homes teamed up with Woodland Home Design and Blue Ox Timber Frames to bring together the owner’s dream. The tour displayed incredibly detailed taste and innovations throughout the home, many revealing adventure in their origination, installation, or imagination. Paulson, owner of HighPoint, adds that while “…a lake home plan dealing with roughly an acre and salvaging part of an old foundation was especially challenging, the [owners’] long thought process, taste, and selections give a great feel and it was a fun project.” Along those same lines, Kim Green of Woodland Home Design recalls the planning and “…how you really have to coordinate well with everyone because with the timber frame, the lot lines, and the oak to save, it was a challenge to design but very fun to see how it all came together.”

Upon moving forward, there were a few key tenets in play from start to finish. First, taking advantage of the wide spectrum of Maple Lake views was paramount. Second, the concept of an open home was crucial to accommodate several objectives. Last, and equally important, a motto of “no regrets” served as an umbrella protecting the build from rushed decisions.

The phrase “Framed in February” undoubtedly carries images of our frigid Minnesota winters, but serves as a fond memory the owners share of the home’s early building phase. Building began the fall of 2016, with major construction wrapping up later that year with some of the owners’ hands-on adventures spanning well into 2017. Ashley Trousil, of HighPoint Homes, a chief interior designer, recalls “…it was a long thought process, but I was amazed with how well prepared the homeowners were and the myriad of good questions they asked.”

Outdoors, the home has a clean, modern-meets-rustic feel as cedar timber frame components accent the Walnut LP SmartSide supplied by Hilltop Lumber. Minnesota Gutters adds to the overall look with color-matched gutters which are unobtrusive from both in and outdoors. Strategically placed outdoor lighting enhances the home further with both up and down light washing of the walls. Permeable pavers installed by Creative Landscaping tastefully comprise the driveway, sidewalk, and front porch.

Upon entry, even the small foyer provides proof of an open floorplan desire, and the kitchen catches the eye slightly to the right. With a splendid view of Maple Lake through Andersen Windows supplied from Builders Firstsource out of St. Cloud, Amazing EZ-Screens™ with wood frames serve their purpose well and amplify views throughout the main level.

Burton Forge, of Two Harbors, Minn., custom designed a light created to hang some 18-feet off the vault. It brings light to the kitchen where it spotlights an incredible center island of reclaimed long-leaf pine. With a natural patina finish and incredible wood grain, the island is finished by Swedberg Wood Products. Derek Swedberg added
“…in order to keep the lake view open, they chose floating cabinets rather than traditional on the sink wall, and incorporated various wood species to blend nicely with the timber frame.” He also noted that working with the owners and their design team “… was an absolute pleasure, from start to finish.” Soft-close doors on all drawers and cabinetry provides more small, yet important, detail to the owners’ “no regrets” approach. Sub-Zero appliances and a Wolf Gourmet range from Cullen’s Home Center round out the kitchen as “nice appliances” completes one of the owner’s non-negotiable needs for the build.

Angling northeastern from the kitchen stretches a great room with the vaulted timber frame’s distinctive upward arc creating an iconic separation. 1800-era, Gettysburg Pennsylvania reclaimed Skip Sawn Oak flooring, provided and installed by Ron Holstrom Antique Floors (Fergus Falls), holds a fond memory of the ambitious owners’ sweat-equity staining handiwork. Uniting the two types of wood, and truly defining the great room as such, is a crackling birch fire in a Rumford Fireplace by Alex Brick & Stone. Fireplace materials were provided by Alex Brick & Stone with work provided by Stonewall Masonry.

Pushing northwest off the great room toward the lake, a gas fireplace heats a 30-square foot porch with a floor of reclaimed corncrib boards which once resided in a barn on an owner’s childhood farm. Atop the fireplace rests a SunBrite TV™ designed for outdoor use and installed by Blue Collar Bobs.

The cedar timber frame ingenuity throughout the home is meticulous and eye catching. The homeowners reflected on how they “…spent a lot of time working with Ben, Ashley, Kim and the whole design team on the main part of the house,” and when they got to the great room, Ben had said, “well, how about if I surprise you here?” And that’s he did.

“This part of the design was a surprise, and we love it,” the owners declared. As the great room/porch wing of the home angles away from the rest of the home at roughly 30-degrees, there is a clear delineation in the ceiling frame as the horizontal beams arc gracefully upward and create a superb transition from the kitchen.

The reason the great room angles away from the lake is twofold. The owners desired to save the 100-year old oak tree on the roadside and accommodate the beach which carves inward on the shoreline. Both elements posed challenges in the design phase, yet were seen as unique opportunities not roadblocks. To the right of the beach, upon a small peninsula formed as the shoreline juts further inward, grows a blue spruce planted some 20-years ago by the owners.

Opposite the great room and kitchen lies a dining room tastefully lit with walls of Grecian Ivory color by In & Out Painting, with a rustic dining room table focal point. Trim of mostly Douglas fir, provided by Sunridge Construction, ties together well the varying wood species, and much of that work was done with few other subcontractors present to heighten focus and let their exceptional work speak for itself.

A guest bedroom adjoining the dining room is a favorite of one owner’s parents and boasts one of the home’s closest points to the water. A bumped out window well increases the span of the level Maple Lake view. The guest bath shower features mahogany inset shelving to maximize space in the tiled shower. Arnquist CarpetsPlus COLORTILE provided tile work and carpeting throughout the home and notably dedicated additional time working with the owners to ensure both short and long-term goals were met.
The hallway outside the bedroom leads from the dining room and front foyer to a well apportioned pantry, stairs to the second level, and a Swedberg cabinet-adorned mud/laundry room with access to the garage. The pantry not only features well lit shelving, but is framed for the future possibility of an elevator. The 2-stall garage boasts a heated floor and is well-equipped with storage and drainage for varying possible needs from cleaning vehicles to outdoor socializing while watching a game on a wall-mounted flat screen.

Ashley Trousil of HighPoint notes that within the pleasure of designing the interior, “…one of her favorite details is the Hogwire stair railing that started with just a sketch.” The ornate wrought iron was assembled and welded by Glenwood Welding and Fabrication. With extremely intricate mitering, the stair treads leading up are yet another element of high detail finishing by Ron Holstrom Antique Floors that offer an opportunity for discussion.
The second level of the home further accentuates the owners’ lake view priority and features two suites with a cozy loft overlooking the dining room, kitchen, and great room. The timber frame craftsmanship can truly be admired from the loft at eye-level as it follows the angle of the great room transition. With its own vault, the loft creates a sense of separation, yet still captures the stately feel of the timber frame.

The lakeside suite continues a theme of forethought and detail by featuring its own vaulted ceiling, a wood-lined bumped out lake window, and a master bath. With walls of Labordite color, the lakeside suite and the master bath are exquisite in both functionality and comfort. The shower is floor-to-ceiling tile that took a week of labor alone by Paul Peterson from Arnquist.

With walls of Silverpointe color, the roadside suite takes in great natural light with an octagonal window designed for just this purpose. An iron barn door frame and door separate the master bath with a cast iron claw-foot antique bathtub as a unique anecdotal centerpiece
(it was once orphaned and rusted prior to being rescued and restored by the owners).

Scattered about the home are a number of flat screen televisions and Sonos WiFi speakers provided by Cullens Home Center, with an LG OLED television over the great room fireplace. While being extremely modern, the electronics feel in no way intrusive. All is well protected via a security system and integrated cameras from Alextronics, while advanced WiFi functionality lies at the owners’ fingertips through mobile apps – the owners can even remotely open or close their Viking Garage Door or operate certain Lennes Electric-installed lighting.

Touring the home leaves one with a sense of awe and admiration of just how much thought, detail, and unique yet functional elements comprise this Maple Lake home. To say it is finely polished is an understatement as it is difficult for words to capture the entire beauty of this gem. From framers shivering on scaffolding in February to designers working with the owners at all hours, it is the teamwork of all who makes this home shine so bright. The owners would like to thank all those involved from concept to finish for their patience, perseverance, and dedication to working to create their dream home which serves them so well now and long into the future. ~L&H

by Tyler Wirth


Home Sweet Home

Family cabins are usually considered summer retreats that are beautiful, wild and rustic, especially for those families who pass them down to be enjoyed by future generations. When it comes time to update or rebuild a tired or worn-out cabin, though, memories and traditions tend to combine with conventional ideas and values when it comes to style.

“It’s common for many lake homeowners to yearn for the warmth and feel they’ve become accustomed to over the years,” says Matt Schmidt, the in-house architectural designer for Wes Hanson
Builders, a family-owned business in Crosslake, Minn. “The traditional rustic cabin look with plenty of stained wood, continues to be very beautiful and very appealing.”

Beauty can be found in many different forms, however, and over the past few years, Schmidt has seen clients looking at the lakes area styles in a different way. It’s common for design styles to transition over the years (remember the contemporary look of the 1950s?), and new, unique lake homes with their own kinds of charms are reflecting a national shift in style.

In what Schmidt calls “a breath of fresh air,” one family lake home was recently rebuilt in a style that the homeowners call minimalistic, with a combination of East Coast Hampton and modern farmhouse.

One Kind of Family
Every family has a unique situation. In this case, the original owners continued to live in the cabin during the entire summer, and their four adult children (and grandchildren) visited often. Entire family gatherings took place each year around the Fourth of July and Christmas.

When it became apparent that the cabin they had owned and enjoyed for 30 years needed updating or rebuilding, they all knew and agreed they wanted to create a plan that would fit the dynamics of this family.

With more than 5,000 square feet, eight bedrooms and 5-and-a-half bathrooms, this new home turned out to be exactly what they wanted and needed. JW Luxe Designs out of Greenwich, Conn., helped provide the contemporary and personal touches throughout the home’s interior that made it their own.

“Besides the distinctive look of this home, it was also designed to be functional for a multi-generational family,” says Schmidt. “It’s built so that when only two people are living there, it’s cozy and quaint and doesn’t feel like an expansive mansion. But when 20 people are there, it still feels cozy and quaint, but doesn’t feel crowded.”

How it Began
Construction of the new home got started in the fall of 2016. The property also boasted an original boathouse, which was left standing and remains as a focal point of this charming property on Cross Lake that has a gradual slope down to the beach.

“When the homeowners approached us about building a home in the fall of 2016, one of the most important stipulations was that it be totally completed by May of 2017,” says Schmidt. “This was going to remain a 100 percent family home, and they didn’t want to miss any part of the summer season.”

Another stipulation included their desire to work with the kind of company that could handle all aspects of the building process – everything from the beginning to the end. The homeowners had detailed ideas about all aspects of the design and specifically did not want to bring in an outside architect.

As the inhouse architect, Schmidt worked with the homeowners on all of those wants, needs and ideas, and came up with a custom plan that included everything from door styles to trim to windowsills to stair railings to layout and floor plan. Although Wes Hanson Builders has a solid reputation as a premiere home builder in the lakes area, Schmidt and others at the company were excited to branch out and expand from building traditional lake homes to show their capabilities and design options in building a home that was “more modern than most.”

A Unique Style
“This is not the usual local lake home feel, and it also is not the usual suburban house feel, with a number of contemporary design elements,” says Schmidt. “There is cable rail at the deck, a wrought iron stairway railing, antique glass in the kitchen cabinets, a Greek Revival type trim, painted cabinets in shades of whites, blacks and grays, and a black accent on the white window and door trim both inside and out.”
Other innovative elements include pocket doors in the upstairs area. Designed specifically for extended family, there is an office, a long hallway and an “adult parent suite,” a smaller bedroom and a bathroom. When the entire family is there, these pocket doors can be closed to provide each family with privacy.

Shiplap – painted white wood on the walls – brings a bit of a beachy feel to the lake home’s mood. More bold color is added as an accent with furniture, pillows, window treatments and rugs.

Living Outside
Stretching across the entire length of the house is a traditional element in this not-so-traditional home. A spacious deck faces the lake, with screened in porches on either side of it – one for dining and one for lounging. Infrared heating is built into the ceilings of both porches, and an outdoor staircase leads to the lower patio below, where a beach shower is built in below the deck.

One of the original ideas in the design of the house was a tuck-under two-car garage. Although it couldn’t be incorporated because of the lot width, a smaller storage garage was added that faces the lake and holds all of the beach “toys” and snowmobiles.

Adirondack chairs surround the massive pebble stone fire pit in the yard leading from the deck to the lake, and another family tradition is building campfires almost every night.

An Amazing App
With the homeowners out of town throughout the home’s construction, Wes Hanson Builders utilized a software app that allowed them to “be there without being there.” Each day a report was uploaded that noted which workers were on site and what they were doing, along with photos, and the ability to make choices and enter change orders.
“This is especially helpful when a client is far away – it keeps them active and involved and feeling that they know where we are every step of the way,” Schmidt says. “It’s a kind of a diary that tracks daily progress and reports it to the client. It also keeps a daily log for future reference and is a nice central hub and a way to keep track of things, especially for a builder of our size, with 50 employees.”

A Collaborative and Cooperative Effort
Keeping in line with the hopes and wishes of the homeowners, this custom masterpiece was completed within the seven-to-eight-month time frame, and the family could all be together for the annual Fourth of July gathering. That’s the kind of “happy ending” that drew Schmidt into residential design in the lakes area.

Working in residential design and building homes in the lakes area has a different dynamic from other types of architecture and design, according to Schmidt. “People have extraordinary connections with their cabins,” he adds. “There is a history and a previous legacy they hold on to. It’s a special relationship with the place, the lot and the trees, and it creates an intimacy unlike any other that drives the entire process.” ~L&H

by Patrice Peterson


Worth the Wait

The journey to their dream home on the lake took longer than expected, but Tom and Deb Hertzog truly found their own special corner of the world on Lake Ida, near Alexandria, Minn.

The Hertzogs started their adventure in Freeport, Minn. They decided early in their marriage that living on the lake was the ultimate goal for them, so they set out searching for the perfect home. The couple scouted many towns, including Brainerd and Walker, as well as Big Birch Lake and Little Birch Lake near Grey Eagle and St. Rosa.

“Every place that came up for sale, I can guarantee you, we looked at it,” Tom said.

They considered buying a few different lake homes, but couldn’t quite find what they were looking for. Eventually, they decided that maybe it was time to start looking for the perfect lake lot.

During their search for a permanent place on the lake, they came across an available lot in the Big Horn Cove Association on Lake Ida and decided to invest. They placed a trailer on their lot and spent nine summers enjoying their seasonal spot and acquainting themselves with the lake.

Five years after they purchased their lot in the association, a fantastic land lot came up for sale, one that Tom and Deb had walked past many times during their Saturday morning strolls during the summer. However, the price was higher than they felt comfortable with, so they decided not to buy.

The lot went off the market for a while, and two years later it became available again at half the price. After talking it over with a realtor and a contractor, they decided it was time to buy. With a deep ravine down to the lake, it was the perfect spot to build a two-story home with many lake-facing windows; a must-have for the couple.
After closing on the property, Tom and Deb took a small table and two lawn chairs, walked through the woods and down the ravine to the shoreline. They opened a bottle of wine and waved at the boaters passing by as they celebrated their new adventure together.

“We worked hard to get to the water, and once we gave up and said, ‘okay God, maybe we aren’t going to do this,’ it happened,” Deb said. “It was just meant to be.”

The sale of their house in Freeport and their lot in the association took longer than anticipated, but the couple persisted with their plan to live on the lake and eventually sold each property.

Even though the house was still under construction at the time, the Hertzogs moved into their lake home in December of 2014. With a toaster on a makeshift countertop, one functioning bathroom and a camp stove set up in their garage, they made it work.

The house was fully completed in January 2015.

The 2,800 square foot home is striking from the road, with its hand-hewn log siding, residential steel roof, and stonework on the lower portion of the outside of the structure.

Walking in the front door, you are immediately struck by the large windows in the great room and the fabulous view of the lake in front of you.

A noteworthy touch by the architect, Jody Wehlage from Kraemer Lumber out of Melrose, is the continuation of the hickory wood ceiling from the inside of the great room to the overhang on the outside of the home, as well as the overhang over the front door. That detail extends the room and makes it feel even more spacious. Another focal point in the room is the stone fireplace – done by Alex Brick and Stone, and Fireside Hearth and Home – that leads your eyes all the way up to the vaulted ceilings and gorgeous light fixtures.

Off to the right, is the dining area and kitchen, beautifully mixed with different materials, old and new. In their dining room sits a hutch and table setting that was in their home in Freeport. A sliding door leads to the maintenance free deck and steps leading down to the backyard that features much of the landscaping done by Bob Brickweg of Colorful Seasons.
In addition to helping the Hertzogs select the best flooring for their home, Genie from Traditional Floors assisted Deb in locating the breathtaking granite countertop for the kitchen island with its mix of shades of black, grey, copper and brown. She also helped the homeowners by selecting the matching backsplash and finding the right paint colors for the rooms. Furthermore, she guided them through the process of determining which walls would receive certain colors.

Walking back through the great room you find the master bedroom and bathroom. Like most of the rooms in the house, the master suite has a fantastic view of the lake, which was exactly what the homeowners wanted.
Heading over to the garage you walk through what they refer to as the mudroom, passing a half bathroom and laundry room.

Over their three-car garage is a fully completed bonus room that could be used for a man cave or game room. This effective use of space, that is often not utilized, was a suggestion made by their contractor Jim Hiltner, of Hiltner Construction, Inc., based out of Freeport. For now, they are using it for extra storage.

Hiltner is someone the couple has known for many years. They’ve come to trust him for his expertise. “He finishes projects well and is meticulous about the details.” Deb continued, “He communicates well and uses high-quality materials. We enjoyed working with him.”
“We work hard to put a personal touch on each of the homes we build for our customers,” said Hiltner. “We design for them.”

Off the main entryway is a staircase with a small window at the bottom, facing the road. On the windowsill there are signs that their beloved dog, Molly, has chosen her favorite spot in the home. A few precious nail scratchings mark where she eagerly watches for delivery men that stop by occasionally.

Up the stairs is a charming loft space which overlooks the great room and dining area and has a stunning view of the lake. The open and airy feel makes it a wonderful place for Deb to have her home office, a suggestion made by their architect. “She talked us through the process and presented her ideas well,” Deb stated of Wehlage. “She gave us samples and options to make the best decisions we could.”

Wehlage enjoyed working with the couple. “They did build themselves a gorgeous house,” she commented, “but I believe they made it an even more beautiful home with their awesome personalities – both inside and out.”

The lower floor includes two bedrooms and a full bath, as well as a family room area with a walk out to the backyard. They decided to put in a wet bar for the lower level, a feature of the home that has been enjoyed by the many visitors they have had, including their children and Deb’s sisters. Having a space just for guests has been beneficial, allowing them to have some privacy while they visit.

The lower level also has a workout room overlooking the lake, with its main features being a cork floor and an infrared sauna.
Another special part is the tuck under garage that is level with the lake. Although they are not able to use it for their boat like they originally planned, it has become an additional space for storage as well as a great spot for hosting get-togethers during the summer.

The couple has enjoyed the community on the lake even more so since they built on the peninsula. Deb runs a 5k each weekend with a friend nearby and is part of a book club that meets occasionally. “The neighbors are fabulous people, and fun to be around.”

Since building their home, the couple has been hosting get-togethers with family and friends, starting with a housewarming party with 70 people in attendance.

Deb has hosted a cousin get together, which included 30 people just from her father’s side of the family.

The Hertzogs are looking forward to spending Christmas with their children, their spouses, and their five grandchildren, who are all between the ages of five and seven.

Tom said, “We are appreciative that we have had this opportunity. We worked really hard to get here.”

“We get to come home to this every day after work, not for just a week or two during the summer,” Deb added. “We are very blessed. I hope we get to stay here for 30 years.”

Though the journey to their dream home took more years than they anticipated, it is clear when you talk to Tom and Deb that it was worth the effort and the wait. ~L&H

by Angela Garvin


Windows to the World

• Vaulted ceilings
• Recessed lighting
• A 2-story fireplace
• Tile floors
• Distinctive roofline
• Cedar siding
• Backyard pergolas
• Fairway views
• 4 bedrooms
• 4 1/2 bathrooms
• 2 levels
• 8,000 sq ft of living space

But the most dramatic characteristic of this remarkable golf course home? The windows. An endless array of windows wrap almost seamlessly around the entire structure.

“The most striking feature that makes this home so exceptional is the daylighting,” says Tony Stoll, the architect at BHH Partners in Perham, Minn., who designed the home. “The fact that you can sit in the kitchen, the master suite, the office, the dining room or the sunroom, and in all those rooms you can look out and have views to the fairway.”

Laid out in what Stoll calls a linear fashion – about 90 feet across the front – the L-shaped home was designed to “play to the fairway” and take advantage of both the sun and the golf course.

“I guess you could call the style of the home modern ranch,” he says. “The homeowners wanted something with cleaner, more modern finishes without the museum-type modern feel – a design that would comfortably blend into a northern Minnesota setting.”

Built by Dave Erwin Construction out of Battle Lake, Minn., the home’s modern, wide-open feel is evident immediately. A clear coat finish on the maple floors, maple doors and maple trim adds to the clean look they desired. An abundance of leather furniture and polished wood round out the contemporary design.

“This eye-catching house was fun to build with its clean lines, vaulted ceilings, and especially the numerous windows,” says Erwin, who builds custom homes all over the Otter Tail and Becker County area. “With all these windows, though, you have to engineer the balloon walls differently, keeping it all structurally sound and stable and not letting it do any twisting.”

Beyond the structural concerns are the concerns for the home’s functionality. After owning the lot for several years, the homeowners wanted this retirement home to have more than eye appeal – it also had to fit the lifestyle they envisioned for their future.
Stoll says designing a house to fit a lifestyle is the fun part of his job. He asks many questions, like: What are your main goals? How will you live in this house? How will you entertain? How often will your family visit?
“We like that challenge,” he says, “and in this case we asked those questions, and we also listened to their ideas and looked at images of many of the concepts they envisioned.”

Enhancing the Exterior
The use of pergolas on the outside of the home enhances the dramatic impact of the vaulted ceilings on the inside. These wooden posts with cross-beams combine visual appeal with functionality, offering some protection from the harsh glare of direct sunlight.

“Tony Stoll, at BHH, designed the pergolas with an eye for aesthetics, but also to get some sun protection at certain times of the day,” Erwin says. “It all fits together with the contemporary look and feel of the house.”
Another outdoor feature that could be easily overlooked is the cedar siding. If the truth is in the details, then the laced corners of that siding also keep the lines of the house clean and free of added clutter.

“If you look at the siding, there’s no corner trim on the outside of the house,” Erwin explains. “Instead of taking the easier route of having cornerboards where the siding butts up against each other, this siding is laced, where each individual piece is mitered in a perpendicular manner and basically comes to a point.”
Although it’s very time-consuming because each piece has to be fitted to the piece next to it, when combined with the standing seam metal roof, the exterior reflects the interior in a subtle but effective way.

A Distinctive Kitchen
Pairing maple cabinets with Cambria countertops continues the home’s clean, modern feel into the kitchen. The center island takes the theme to new heights with its unique design and functionality.

“Typically, center islands are built all at one height, and people purchase bar stools so everyone can sit around the island,” says Erwin. “With this island, however, the homeowners wanted it separated into two levels, but still connected as one unit.”

The dishwasher, sink and beverage cooler are on one level, and then it drops down to a lower level for the seating area, which is at table height. That way, standard sized chairs can be utilized around the island.

As the architect observing the construction, Stoll finds there will always be new products, new materials and new ideas emerging from the experience.

“Sometimes I see the homeowners request different kinds of products or systems in the kitchen that I may not have seen before,” he says. “I try to keep an open mind and learn about these new concepts that I can use going forward.”

This isn’t your Grandfather’s Garage
After learning the homeowner wanted a “nice garage,” Stoll designed the oversized area with translucent glass panels, vaulted ceilings, three full garage doors, and another smaller door in the back for a golf cart. “When it was completed, it almost felt like a wide-open greenhouse,” he says.
The vaulted ceiling provided the builder with another innovative way to keep the modern feel and clean lines consistent – even out to the garage.

“Traditionally, the tracks for garage doors would curve back at the same height as the door,” says Erwin. “With the high vaulted ceilings in this very non-traditional garage, those door tracks would have created clutter and become a distraction if they were suspended from the high ceiling in the middle of the room.”

So they decided to go in a different direction. Instead of garage doors that immediately curve back onto tracks, Erwin was able to order the tracks for these garage doors that go straight up the high wall.

“When you hit the garage door opener button,” he says, “the door goes straight up and then curls back against the ceiling, so there are no tracks ‘hanging’ in the garage.”

Measuring Success
Relationships between the architect, the builder and the homeowners are important elements to success. Erwin says that as a builder, he takes pride in the quality of his work and in his continuing relationships with the owners of the many homes he’s built since he went into business as Dave Erwin Construction 13 years ago.

“We put the same level of quality into each project – no matter the price of the house,” he says. “But of utmost importance is that I end up on good terms with the homeowner after the house is completed. That’s when I know I’ve done a good job.”

Erwin is proud to say that he has retained a strong friendship with these homeowners after the completion of this home. “I would hope that I come out of every other house I build with the same kind of relationship,” he says.

Stoll adds that with every architectural project, he feels he has “hit it out of the ballpark” if he designs something the homeowners will love to live in. When a project is completed, he asks himself three questions;

1. Is the homeowner satisfied?
2. Am I satisfied?
3. Is the builder satisfied?

“I would tell Dave that as the builder, he’s last on that list,” Stoll says with a laugh, “but what’s most important is that the homeowner is FIRST on that list. After this couple moved in, I met up with them, and they talked about how much they enjoy driving into the driveway, and each of them smiling and thinking, ‘I live here!’ I’m glad that I was able to design a house where they truly want to live.” ~L&H

by Patrice Peterson
photos by Studio Three Beau


Making Jewett Lake Home

When you roll into the driveway and up to the home of Karen and Al Fabricius, it is hard not to notice the bison statue in the front of their property. It is a unique piece that Al acquired from the Ponderosa Steakhouse restaurant in Fargo, ND, when it closed several years ago. After enlisting some help to move the concrete bison, the diehard NDSU fans placed the feature piece in their rock garden on their property at Jewett Lake.

Having a lake place was a longtime dream of the couple that they worked hard to make a reality, not realizing that it would ultimately become their primary home years later.

Karen grew up in Fargo and spent time near the water with friends and family, occasionally making the trek to Detroit Lakes, Minn., to go to the pavilion for dances. Al, a North Dakota transplant from Wyoming, did not grow up around the water but when he moved to the Fargo area, it eventually became a regular activity for their family. The couple and their two daughters enjoyed camping on various lakes in the area for a few years, including Jewett Lake.

Eventually, they decided they wanted to find a spot on the water that was all their own. There was not a lot of property available at the time, so it took a while to find what they were looking for. However, once they found the cabin on the south side of Jewett Lake, they knew it was the one.
The seasonal cabin, purchased by the couple in 1987, became their home away from home and cemented their love for life near the water and for the lake itself. They enjoyed several years, traveling back and forth between their home in Fargo and the cabin near Fergus Falls, Minn., until the year 2000 when the Fabricius clan got together and had a family meeting to discuss whether they should make the property on Jewett their permanent home.
The vote was 3 to 1, but they ultimately decided it was the right move for their family, vowing to keep ties with family and friends in the Fargo area going strong. Given Al’s flexible schedule at the time and his ability to work from home, the move to the lake made a lot of sense.

Once the decision was made to build, they started to work on the design. The couple had decided in the years prior that if they were going to build on their lot someday, it had to be made of logs. They were inspired by a property out in Montana that Al’s brother owned, a beautiful log home that had the look and feel they wanted in their home. It was also important to them that it did not feel like a lake cabin, but a home.

Their son-in-law had software to help layout the plans for the project, so he and Karen sat down together and quickly came up with a design, including the peaks and where the windows would be.

“One of the things that Karen and I wanted was to be able to see the lake no matter where we were in the house. So the entire house was built with that in mind,” Al said. “We could see the lake when we went to bed, and we could see the lake when we got up.”

Karen and Al set out on a mission to find the perfect logs for their home by researching various vendors and builders in the area as well as out of state. During a trip to visit one of their daughters who was living in Connecticut, they looked to see what was available out East. They also looked in Montana and Minnesota. The Fabricius family wanted their home to be built with 8-inch logs and have a similar look to each other to keep the style uniform throughout the house.

The hunt for the perfect logs for their future home led them to the builder they would ultimately end up choosing for the whole project. “We decided that the best logs that fit what we wanted were the ones that Log Homes Minnesota sold.”

They did not know of Log Homes Minnesota, based out of Walker, Minn., until they traveled up to see their model homes. However, upon meeting the team, they liked what they had to offer. “They seemed very above board, and very conscientious, and they listened to what we wanted,” Al said. Karen added, “Seeing their model home helped us a lot.” The samples they provided also assisted the homeowners in picking out materials and design details for their home.

“We specialize in custom design, so we are able to work directly with the client to ensure their home meets their needs, budget and works well on their lot,” said Steve Larson, of Log Homes Minnesota. “We have built over 1500 homes, many customers have built with us more than once. Al and Karen were very fun people to work with throughout the entire process.”

They were especially impressed with the masonry options available to them. They had seen the mason’s work before and were excited to have him build their feature rock fireplace in the living room of their lake home.

Another reason they chose to work with Log Homes Minnesota was the fact that they offered the option of building it as a turn-key home. This meant that instead of just building the log portion of the home and leaving the homeowners to find other contractors to finish the remainder of the house, Log Homes Minnesota was part of the project from the very beginning and until it was move in ready.

In March of 2001, the cabin was moved off the property, and the work began on building their new home at the lake.
The 3200 square foot, three bedroom home, sits on a lot on the south side of Jewett Lake. With a number of lake facing windows and a central peak standing 28 feet high, they are never short on a great view of the water, including the master suite and the loft that functions as their family room.

The main floor of the home includes a living room, master suite, and kitchen. For the cabinets, the homeowners worked with Superior Woodworks out of Bemidji, Minn., through their builder and ended up choosing hickory cabinets throughout the home. They wanted to have all of the wood in the home blend together with very little contrast.

The hickory kitchen cabinets are matched with beautiful chocolate brown quartz countertops, and the kitchen island quartz countertop acts as a subtle accent piece with a mix of tans, grays, and browns.
On the deck off of their master suite, the couple has a hot tub, a “must have” item they enjoy all year round, but especially in the winter.

The lower level consists of two bedrooms and The Bison Room. This area of the house used to be Al’s office but now serves as an extra sitting area that also has walkout access out to a patio facing the lake. The room is decorated with special NDSU memorabilia, as well as items from his 35-year career with Thrivent, such as plaques, pictures, and gavels for offices he held.

The favorite room of both homeowners is agreeably the loft, the upper level of the home. The space overlooks the living room and has a great view of the lake due to high windows reaching up to the peak of the house. “I just like being above everything and being able to look out on the lake with the big windows,” Karen said. “The loft feels very cozy, and it is our spot.”

A shop sits on the back of the lot, alongside a small screened porch. The latter is utilized as an extra space for entertaining company, or a place for the grandchildren to have sleepovers in when they come to visit.

Another feature of the home is the landscaping, which was done by Mark Jacobs from North Country Lawns in Fergus Falls. “We have to give him wonderful credit,” Karen said. “He did all the big landscaping, such as the retaining walls, and helped us with plants and trees around the house. Mark really capitalized on the rock landscaping that was already on the property and helped us carry the look through the whole property, including the rock garden around the bison and the patio blocks.”

The Fabricius family has been enjoying their home on the lake since it was completed back in September of 2001. Lake life has offered so much to them, including the great neighbors and the lifelong friends they have made over the years, not to mention the memories they have made with their family.

Karen said of living on the lake, “We would recommend it to anybody.” ~L&H

by Angela Garvin
photos by Kip Johnson


It Takes a Village

It took an architectural designer, interior designer, two dozen subcontractors and four members of the Nancy and John McEnroe family combining forces to create a new home on the south side of Cross Lake, near Brainerd. The creative team of Matt, Jeff and Renae Balmer, Lands End Development, LLC, Crosslake, guided the two-year process with the McEnroes to build the five-bedroom home on 100 feet of shoreline.

Nancy McEnroe describes the home as “rustic modern” with hand-hewn pine beams, a 20- foot vaulted ceiling in the great room, a panorama view of the lake, a walk-out room to the lake, and three fireplaces of cultured ledged stone, giving the home a lodge-like feel, cozy yet spacious and warm.

Jeff Balmer, architectural designer on the project, says the main floor has 1900 sq. ft., while the lower level has 1604 sq. ft., the 4-season porch 245 sq. ft. and the upstairs bonus room over the garage has 116 square feet, making it perfect for guests to have their own space. The exterior of the home includes the same ledged stone along with smooth cedar lap siding and hand-split cedar shakes.

For family and love of the lake
Outside, The University of North Dakota flag flies with the America flag identifying true “Nodaks” and loyalties to UND, where Nancy became a nurse, and John, a corporate agricultural executive. Nancy and John have crossed borders to become Minnesota residents, and they explain how they inherited the love of lake life.
“I learned to love lake life when visiting John’s family at a cabin in Bemidji,” Nancy says. “We would go the last week in July for the Birchmont Golf Tournament, where John has played every year since he was 11 years old. Our own family began renting a cabin for a week in the summer and our kids loved the lake tradition.”

When the McEnroes moved from Grand Forks, N.D., to the Twin Cities, they began looking for a lake place up north. Brainerd, closer to the Twin Cities, caught their interest. They had never heard of the Whitefish Chain and they never thought about building a home.

“We looked, we dreamed, toured homes, but nothing seemed quite right,” Nancy says. “Until we saw a lot for sale which had a great ‘up North’ feel with a chance to walk in the front door and have a full view of the lake.”

The couple purchased the Cross Lake property which faces south and east and looks toward Sunrise Island. Because of the island, the property has a “no wake” policy, lending to a serene and calm sand-beach bay for swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding. Cross Lake has 19.6 miles of shoreline and is one of 14 interconnected lakes making up the Whitefish Chain.

Lands End guidance
In 2012, they began to interview builders. Fourth-generation builders, Matt and Jeff Balmer and Matt’s wife, Renae, interior designer, rounded out the “dream team” for the McEnroe home. The couple, with help from their grown children, Brad and Maggie (Arnold) and Maggie’s husband Matt wrote down thoughts, questions and ideas. The Balmers shepherded those ideas all along the way.

“We knew we wanted a walk out room down to the lake,” Nancy says, “with a bathroom and outdoor shower, especially for our ‘grand dog.’ Jeff and Matt took us to other homes they had built, and it was very helpful to see the big vision. It can be quite an overwhelming process.”

Together, they began to draw the plans in a series of meetings, some long meetings according to Nancy. She says the team was so good at “getting them going” with ideas and where they might have to narrow or cut the budget. Renae also established a timeline for them on when to order such things as plumbing features and flooring.

“I consider myself a guide,” Renae says. “I translated their vision and ideas into the planning stages.”

Help from local artists and professionals
The McEnroes took great care finding the large beams for the great room ceiling. The pine beams, were hand-hewn by a local craftsman from Red Pine Log Works, in Backus, Minn., and then stained a dark brown.

“I actually watched the artist crafting the beams,” Nancy says. “It was fascinating. We tried to keep our business mostly local. The upper and lower level mantel beams were also hand hewn.”

Nancy also watched the stone artist creating the great room gas/wood combination fireplace which rises from floor to ceiling. The couple studied magazine photos of fireplaces and they knew they wanted a circular arch for the great room fireplace.

“He (the artist) used a cultured ledge stone and field stone mix,” she says, “and put it together like a big jig saw puzzle. He put in a couple of pieces and then stood back, took another look, and put in a few more pieces. It is a work of art.”

The McEnroes and Renae decided on hickory flooring because it is a hard wood but not as rustic looking as rough sawn. The bathrooms have a variety of slate and travertine floors, with natural stone for a more timeless look, as well as a variety of granite sink countertops. Renae describes the neutral colored carpet in the bedrooms as a cotton loop.

Guests view the lake from the moment they enter the front door. Marvin/Integrity windows line the entire front of the home and extend to the four-season porch. Architect Jeff points out the windows provide a high energy efficiency rating, and that Minnesota has some of the toughest building codes of any state in regards to energy conservation. The home is heated with forced air heat.

The open kitchen has granite countertops and an island complete with generous storage compartments and an island sink. The cabinets are made from alder wood and Thermador appliances complete the kitchen. All chairs in the great room swivel to enjoy a constant lake view.

Other interior highlights include the upstairs bonus room, with a built in cupboard bed for new grandson, Brooks, one bedroom with a Murphy bed, a downstairs lake bathroom, a fitness room and a temperature controlled basement wine room with travertine walls, giving a Tuscan feel. Outside the
professional landscaping and ledged stone gas fireplace, created by The Woods Landscaping, welcome guests and family to enjoy outdoor grilling and the lake view.

Keeping it comfortable
The McEnroes contacted Kaylin Stawarski, interior designer and owner of Great Furniture Gallery in Crosslake/Baxter, who consulted on furnishings. Kaylin says the store believes in local and American made products using quality and high-end materials.

“It was difficult because we didn’t know exactly how to finish a space this large,” Nancy says, who stressed they wanted that comfortable, up North feel. “Kaylin followed our lead with colors using shades of carmel, reds and earthy tones, and metal without looking industrial. She softened the large window treatments with faux panel coverings and helped us pick appropriate blinds and power shades.”

“Nancy made her vision clear to me, and then she stepped back and let me put the pieces together,” Kaylin says. “When I showed her the result, she felt I had achieved her vision. I’ll call the style a ‘rustic elegance.’”

Kaylin feels the “bark on log” style in the bonus room is a true highlight of the home as well as Nancy’s choices to use hides and natural elements, not just leather.

Nancy says choosing paint was the most challenging because the paint color seemed to change with different light. They again arrived at shades of yellow, carmel and red tones. The couple also added more canned lighting as the chandeliers did not provide quite enough light for the great room.

Family vibe
The couple’s son, Brad, who works in the Twin Cities, loves to come with his girlfriend, Meghan, and experience the “vibe” of the lake and home. He helped determine the flow from the lake to the home and other logistics.

“We even put in a couple extra parking spaces in the front, so we can be welcoming to guests,” he says. “My favorite is the bonus room for guest privacy. I don’t think there’s a bad spot in the house. I love to relax here. It’s like coming to a resort.”
Maggie and her family enjoy sitting on the outside patio and watching the boats go by. She also helped her mom make choices along the way – such as the lighting fixtures.

“I especially like all the little touches in the house, like the bed for Brooks and the wine cellar,” Maggie says. “It’s fun to think how many lake memories we can make for Brooks.”

“We want our family to carry on the tradition of loving the lake,” Nancy says. “We want them to use the house in all seasons, to sit down, relax, feel warm and comfortable and have that wonderful ‘up North’ feel.” ~L&H

by Merrie Sue Holtan


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


A Fine Line

by Erin Hemme Froslie

Sometimes it’s the simplest details that take the most thought and coordination. But for a lake home in northeastern South Dakota, that intentionality creates an effortlessly functional, yet beautiful destination for a growing extended family.

Details pop up in the most unexpected places, including an essential but often forgotten element of exterior design: the house number.

“When you don’t think about how it will work with the rest of the home, somebody will just put them up somewhere,” says Jackson Strom, project manager at Chris Hawley Architects.

But if you value function and design, you thoughtfully cut the house number out of the black metal that serves as a railing around a window well. You also conceal the window well ladder by mounting it to the backside of the metal barrier.

“So, the piece serves as a fall barrier, hides the ladder and displays the house number,” Strom says. “It serves a purpose, but it also becomes a fun detail.”

Strom designed the South Dakota lake home after receiving a call from the family. While boating around their lake one afternoon, they had fallen in love with a contemporary-styled home that he had designed.

“The homeowner’s (grown) son said if they ever built new, he wanted something like that one,” Strom says.

The family had enjoyed lake life for more than two decades. They had a small, one-level home that held lots of memories: teaching kids how to do water sports, boating and hanging out together. They cherished close ties to their lake neighbors and appreciated watching each other’s families grow.

But their children were grown and the family was expanding through marriages and the birth of grandchildren. The lake was still home for the empty-nester couple. But it also was a weekend getaway for one of their adult children’s families who lived nearby. Their other grown children enjoyed the lake as their summer vacation destination.

To accommodate the growing brood, the homeowners tore down the original home and started fresh. The result is a contemporary two-story home with a walk-out basement that boasts clean, simple lines and details that support an unpretentious welcome. It’s a place where the homeowners can comfortably live all summer long, yet easily accommodate additional visitors.

“We knew that the house would stay in the family and our kids love the contemporary style,” says the homeowner. “Now, I can’t imagine having designed it any differently.”

The family had a fairly short list of requirements when they first met with Strom. They wanted three bedrooms in an upper level and a main-floor master suite with space to get away from the chaos of crowds. They also wanted a bunk room for guests and their growing group of grandchildren – preferably in a walk-out basement.

Beyond that, the plans and details were left in the hands of Chris Hawley Architects and the construction company, Quest Construction in Aberdeen, S.D. To assist the homeowner with envisioning the plans, Strom presented interior and exterior renderings and hand-drawn interior elevations to the client.

“They saw what our vision was and trusted us to execute it in a way that was best for them,” Strom says. “It made the project enjoyable and so much better for the client.”

Architectural Features

To take full advantage of the lot’s natural beauty, Strom designed the floor plan on an axis, connecting the interior and exterior spaces in an orderly fashion. The kitchen effortlessly flows into the dining room and great room area, which leads to a screened porch and a stone patio where barbecuers have a full lake view while cooking dinner on the built-in grill or a pizza oven.

Large, unobstructed windows maximize natural light and serve as a canvas for the outdoor view in nearly every room. Even when retreating to the master suite, which is tucked in the back of the home, the homeowners are lulled by the sights and sounds of a peaceful body of water.

To keep the exterior lines clean and simple, Strom broke the home into three modular sections. Each box is designated with its own siding: dark gray vertical metal, burnt orange Dryvit and gray lap siding. The limited color pallet and clean lines carry into the interior, which is filled with warm grays and bright whites.

The kitchen boasts custom-made white oak cabinets and wide-planked engineered white oak wood floors by Shaw. To keep natural light and views unobstructed, Strom eliminated upper cabinets. An island with a quartz top by Cambria provides ample space for meal preparation and small-group meals. The countertop on the island features a larger, bigger pattern while countertops along the kitchen sides remain white quartz.

“It was a way to be sensitive to the budget, but to also put the eye-catching details where they matter,” Strom says.

Two fridges and two dishwashers ease food storage and cleanup when the full family is gathered. A bar area at the back of the kitchen provides ample space for everything from an ice machine to a wine fridge to a coffee station hidden inside floor-to-ceiling cabinets.

To offer contrast and warmth to the space, Strom painted the bar cabinets a dark gray. He carried the color into the interior of the screened porch, matching the color of the exterior lap siding. Tongue-and-groove cedar ceilings were also chosen for the porch and the attached great room with a stone fireplace.

“It created a cozy feeling. A lot of these elements make the open, clean lines seem less sterile,” he says.

The master suite is tucked into the back of the home. But because the home is angled on the pie-shaped lot, even this back area has a wonderful view of the lake. A small den provides a place for the homeowners to find peace and quiet to read a book or watch television, even when there is a houseful of guests.

The master suite bathroom has a dual vanity and a large window above the tub that lets in south light but is placed high enough to provide full privacy without any window coverings. Strom utilized a horizontal drain in the walk-in tile shower. He chose a shower tile similar to the floor, but one that had a bit more texture. The floor gently slopes to the far edge of the shower. Eliminating a center drain doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it provided a sleeker, cleaner look.

“On every piece of the house we asked, ‘How can we best do this?’” Strom says. “We spent a lot of time making sure we did the best we could do.”

Details that Matter

It is seemingly simple details that make the home stand out. For example, Strom designed a screen wall with horizontal slats that separates the kitchen from the front entryway and runs through all three levels, ending as the staircase railing on the second floor. The wall provides a sense of privacy and division in the open floor plan, but allows visibility and natural light. The horizontal lines also are replicated on a wall in the great room where the flat-screened television hangs.

At first, the homeowner wasn’t sure how the screen wall would add value. It quickly became a favorite feature. “It is so cool,” she says. “It works really well as a design element.”

Another detail that took considerable coordination is the stair treads on the floating staircase. They were custom-made to match the flooring and extended beyond the stair stringer a quarter inch, giving a cleaner, finished look to the stairs. Even the pieces that covered the screw holes were custom-made to match the home’s woodwork.

While the main floor serves as the centerpiece for daily living and entertaining, the upper floor and walk-out basement provide those extra spaces that are needed when the rest of the family arrives.

The second floor was designed primarily for the family who spends nearly every summer weekend at the lake. It features three lake-facing bedrooms, one of which is a second master suite. A second washer and dryer are stacked and tucked behind a pocket door.

The basement includes a bunkhouse, a bedroom, a family room complete with a pool table and a bar. The walkout leads directly to a ground-level patio and the beach, which is where the grandchildren will begin to learn how to water ski and wakeboard.

The family spent their first summer in the home last year. Construction finished early, meaning they had the entire season to make new memories. “I like the functionality of it,” the homeowner says. “Every space is utilized and has a purpose, but it’s also beautiful. There isn’t a thing I wish we had done differently.” ~L&H


A Timber Frame Home in the Tall Trees

by Jackie Jenson

Timber framed and filled with character in every available nook and corner, there is a home nestled among a tall grove of trees on Cormorant Lake that offers up family coziness as well as a newly-created rustic charm.

“My husband grew up loving lake life having spent every summer weekend with his family on a north woods lake near Mahnomen, Minnesota, so we knew we wanted that for our family too,” explains the Cormorant cabin lake owner.

Originally the idea was to construct a new home on the lot of the couple’s old cabin that sat on a smaller lot on the west side of the lake. The notion to build their dream home on the sunset side of this iconic lake was not their original choice.

As a young family with young children, the couple first rented a cabin on Cormorant Lake. After two years, they decided to purchase one. Then for the next 22 years, they found themselves settling in on the west side of the lake, raking up decades worth of fond lake memories of water skiing, boating and the like.

“We had planned the perfect timber frame home for that lot,” starts the homeowner. “We loved our neighbors, the sandy beach and the elevation of our old cabin.”

Then life stepped in and presented a new idea about where their dream house should go.

“We had purchased a lot across the lake from our cabin several years back,” notes the homeowner. “We would ski there and pontoon over to watch the sunsets, but we hadn’t seriously considered building over there.”

With an odd elevation consisting of hills, low spots and an eight-foot drop from where their driveway would eventually be, the homeowners said they didn’t think of the lot in any long-term home fashion. But after a now-infamous pontoon ride, a new thought was introduced into their home building plans.

“We were just taking a simple pontoon ride over to the lot when my dad surveyed the lot and quietly suggested to his son, ‘You’d be crazy not to build your lake house on this lot.’”

“This kind of caught us off guard but got us thinking,” notes the couple. “He definitely saw the potential over here.”

So after a lot of dirt work—something the homeowner had much experience with being a contractor—the couple decided to create a new dream home on their unique lot with 150-feet of frontage across the way.

“Once we really looked at the lot and realized we could build here, we changed our idea for a house too,” says the homeowner.

It was at that point the Cormorant Lake couple decided to really change up their lake home plans and build a timber frame house with a walk-out lower level. As big trucks rolled in to construct a network of large, interlocking timbers, the build presented itself as very different from the get-go.

“They put the timbers in place on a perfect Minnesota lake day. The sky was so blue that it seemed magical,” describes the homeowner. “The timbers are amazing and it was fun watching the house take shape along the way,” she continues. “I took over 800 pictures after just the beams were in, the day of the timber raising, as each was put into place, the house looked like a piece of sculpture.”

To get that perfect picture, the one that seems to sum up their project in one click of the camera, the homeowner says she laid face up on the floor underneath the point where the timbers come together and shot upward.

“I still remember that day, and we see those timbers whenever we are in our great room today. I love it.”

It took two years to complete their timber frame home project: One year to design and 369 days to build. Blue Ox Timber Frame Homes out of Alexandria was in charge of constructing the exceptional lake home with its massive timber beams, utilizing a number of local timber frame home experts from the Alex area, namely builders, electricians, and plumbers.

“I didn’t realize until we got into the build how different a timber frame building process was,” explains the homeowner. “The wiring, for example, has to be mapped out before the timbers are put in place,” he adds, noting that once the frame is up, the electrical wires go in a case in the SIPs or Structural Insulated Panels. The panels are numbered and placed together on site at the home like a giant puzzle within the network of timbers. This home had 212 intricately cut and numbered SIP panels. The SIP panels have an incredible R-value.”

“The electricians were great, and very precise,” notes the contractor homeowner. “Originally, I thought I could use local subs for the job, but I quickly saw they had a special skill set,” he adds. “They also gave us some great tips for lighting of the interior and exterior timbers that we just love.”

Placing the electrical network before much of the home was constructed meant the electricians had to do the rough-ins such as the pendant lights as the timbers and panels were installed.

‘’The wind was howling the day the electricians sat atop a very high section of ceiling beams to make sure that the position of the lights were just right two-stories below. They were amazing to watch,” the homeowner explains.

The distinct timber frame build lends a certain rustic charm to their sunset side, lake home. A sprinkling of lake and woods-themed collectibles such as fishing lures and rods also gives the house a homey, north woods touch. Its soaring two-story ceilings also provide one-of-a-kind places to put a number of these keepsakes. In addition to collecting various nostalgic water skis and fishing equipment, snowmobiles are also on the collectible list. One of the more distinctive mementos is a vintage, red, 1963, rear-engine, Polaris snowmobile that sits atop a closet nook in the couple’s entry, greeting all who enter.

“People always ask me if I am OK with the snowmobile in my entryway, thinking that I would be mad, but it was my idea. I thought it would be a great place to display one of my husband’s great collectibles,” she explains.

“And the electricians installed special lighting on it so it really looks like it belongs there,” adds her husband.

Today, their one-of-a-kind timber frame lake home is a study of water and wood. With its exposed beams, inviting lake view, and two-story entry, great room and kitchen areas, one can not help but feel like they are stepping into a north woods retreat. To enter this Cormorant Lake home is to enter an inviting cabin filled with current, rustic charm.

“We really wanted to blend a modern feel into our lake home and use our collectibles as accent pieces.”

With that said, the couple has also included four, stone-clad fireplaces; knotty alder cabinetry in the kitchen; and especially designed rough-finished barn doors in the bonus/game room to ensure their home is a pastoral yet modern wonder. Special touches such as end tables made from wood dock sections and a metal sculpture mimicking their landscape of maple trees solidifies the fact that this house pays homage to its Minnesota lake roots.

Complete at 4600 square feet, this updated timber frame home has five bedrooms, four bathrooms, a cozy sunroom, lower level bar area and a walk-in pantry. It is also designed floor to ceiling to entertain friends and family. The second floor features an additional bonus game room/guest room. A standalone shop fashioned with cabin living quarters consisting of a kitchenette, two bedrooms, bathroom and living room with deck area for the in-laws ensures this Cormorant retreat is always ready for four seasons of lake fun.

“Even as our kids are getting older, our youngest is 25 now, we designed this home to be a place for our family to come to for years to come,” says the homeowner. “And my folks literally get to drive into their cabin in the shop,” continues her husband.

They credit Ben from Blue Ox for lending his vision to the project, helping them to create a true home for their family for years to come. Ben also suggested this building site over the existing west side cabin site.

“We have a room for each of our three kids and space for grandkids as they come along too, and that is what this house is about: family,” he concludes. ~L&H


A True Family Retreat

by Jackie Jenson

Nestled within the Whitefish Chain of Lakes and its more than 13,000 acres of water and 100 miles of shoreline, Cross Lake perfectly encapsulates the beauty and serenity of the Minnesota northwoods and the lake life it reflects. Offering up great boating, fishing, skiing, and swimming opportunities, this northern Minnesota hide-a-way is the backdrop for the Stuhr family retreat.

With ties to the area dating back to the 1950s, their newly constructed year-round lake home is filled with newness and nostalgia, an impeccably designed getaway for the intergenerational family it serves.

“Our family spent the 60s and early 70s visiting my grandparent’s lake home on lake O’Brien, a small lake located a couple miles east of Cross Lake,” recalls Craig Stuhr. “My grandparents, Bud and Ruth Stuhr, purchased their lake home on O’Brien in 1950 and Gordon and his brothers, Stu and Jim, spent their youth there.”

Then, in the 70s, Craig Stuhr notes his parents, Gordon and Carol Stuhr, purchased their own lake home on Upper Whitefish, part of the Whitefish Chain of Lakes.

“This [cottage] was an old resort cabin purchased from the Red Cedar Lodge which was selling off its land and cabins,” relays Craig Stuhr. “The family spent their time here until the fall of 1994 when business interests took them out of state.”

Although the cabin was rustic, to say the least, Stuhr notes it was a great place to enjoy all the amenities the lake had to offer – namely its pristine fishing, boating, water skiing, bonfires and the like. In addition to its ideally situated location, the old family place was able to house the entire Stuhr clan due to the cabin’s open concept interior.

“Our cabin was a traditional resort cabin,” starts Stuhr. “It had a very open floor plan that could fit everyone. When we decided to come back [to the area], we wanted to re-create that 1950s open cabin feel,” he relays.

Although it took some time to return to this part of Minnesota –15 years to be precise – Stuhr and his brother Corey revisited the Whitefish Chain of Lakes area in 2008 and 2009 on a mission. The goal was simple: find the ultimate lake spot to build a family retreat.

“We wanted to try to recreate the experiences we had growing up for our families,” relays Craig Stuhr.

Strategically situated in the Whitefish Chain of Lakes, eventually Stuhr discovered a half acre-parcel of land on Cross Lake in 2010. The lake lot would be the perfect place for his wife Peggy Jessen and their two children Patrick and Kristen, parents Gordon and Carol, brother Corey and his younger sisters Melissa, Suzanne and Brynne to take advantage of Minnesota lake life once again.

With a site selected, the Stuhr families shifted gears and spent the next two years deciding on their exact priorities for their dream lake house, as well as refining the resulting house plan to accomplish that goal.

“We loved our old 50s cabin but no one really wants to go back to live in that time,” explains Craig Stuhr. “We wanted to maintain the nostalgic feeling but include a few upgrades.”

The eventual home plan, created by Bercher Design and Construction out of Baxter Minnesota, includes a variety of amenities and design elements that represent a number of Stuhr family must haves. The plan was a combined vision for what they wanted their lake home to look like, and how the shared retreat would be used to maximize their enjoyment of the lake.

“A family friend suggested we talk to Bercher Design to come up with our house plan, and I could not have been happier,” says Stuhr. “They were very attentive to what we wanted.”

With lots of family input and help from Bercher to sort through all the ideas, a collective blueprint came together.
At approximately 5,000-square feet, it was a custom home plan designed specifically for the Stuhrs and the piece of property it would sit on, notes Bercher Design and Construction president, Brent Gunsbury.

“We wanted a cohesive design that reflected the strong opinions of each of the three main decision-makers: Gordon, Craig, and Corey,” says Gunsbury. “I think our process captured each person’s thoughts and desires which were then integrated with our own ideas to create something truly special.”

Consisting of three bedrooms, an open floor plan, a sweeping two-story great room, large lake windows and vistas of the water from all angles, the subsequent two-story structure also came complete with a separate master suite that feels like a self-contained cabin within a cabin. Just one of the unexpected but appreciated touches the local design firm included to maximize use of family space in the abode.

“The plan really came together,” notes Stuhr. “They [Bercher] took our vision and got it down on paper. Then, after hours of going over and over it, we were ready to build.”

With its plan set, finishes were selected to reflect their new lake vision comprised of vaulted ceilings, reclaimed wood floors, and a refined yet rustic looking timber exterior. Then, after a year of planning, the Stuhr lake home project started its construction phase in 2011.

“The construction evokes feelings of a historic and yet updated family lodge,” reflects Gunsbury.

“There were a lot of things that we wanted in the house that would make it look like the old cabin. Things like tall ceilings and red-stained wood,” Stuhr details. “We also knew we wanted to have a timber exterior as a nod to the old resort cabin.”

In addition to the old, however, there were many new features included too. For example, French doors were utilized to take advantage of the ample lake views from almost every room, wood ceilings were incorporated to add a feeling of being up north, and notable tin roof accents on a few of the exterior gables.

“I love the French doors because we can open them up between rooms to let in light and see the lake from different points,” starts Stuhr. “The wood on the ceilings also have the same red stain look that the old cabin had. However, we did not want to over do things, so we do have sheet rock walls and such. We also used a new wood flooring product to give the floors an aged look.”

Gunsbury, notes the flooring was constructed of pine of random widths to mimic the look of reclaimed wood.

“It is new wood, but the technique we use gives it a reclaimed appearance,” explains the local builder/designer.

An avid downhill skier, Craig Stuhr notes he added one particular home highlight, the tin roof, after noticing them out West at various ski resorts.

“I had traveled out West and loved the aged tin roofs I saw out there. I wanted to incorporate that look into an architectural detail in the house,” Stuhr describes. “We settled on a neat product to reproduce the look, a re-used, galvanized tin that would partially rust in pieces but not over the entire roof. I think it turned out perfectly.”

With its many vintage touches – timber exterior and stone-clad fireplace – there was also one late addition to the plan. It was a nod to many Minnesota cabins of old, just not to this family cottage in particular, a screen porch.

Recalls Stuhr: “It took some time to take hold but my wife kept pushing it, and now it is one of the favorite places in the house. We find ourselves using it all the time. It gets a great lake breeze and is a wonderful place just to sit and enjoy the lake even when it is raining. We definitely use it more than we would have an open deck.”

Finishing up all the last minute design elements and wistful touches, the Stuhr retreat wrapped up construction on Memorial Day of 2012.

“I told Bercher I couldn’t be happier with their workmanship, but I was even happier that they would be gone by Memorial Day that year,” recalls Stuhr.

True to their word, they completed the project before the holiday weekend and were vacated from the site by Memorial Day.

The current Stuhr home has approximately 3,500 square feet of completed space with a 1,688 square-foot lower level that remains unfinished. With the build accomplished, the Stuhr family has now switched their attentions from planning a dream house to living in one.

For the past five years now, they have been living lake life to its fullest. In addition to kayaking, hiking, fishing, boating and occasionally water skiing together at their Cross Lake cabin, they have also been passing down their many family lake traditions to the next generation of Stuhrs.

“I have to admit that I don’t water ski much anymore. I’ve let up as I would rather snow ski and don’t want to push it on the water,” states Stuhr. “We do still do all the other stuff though, fishing, hiking, and lots of boating.
We even cross country ski and snowmobile in the winter. We basically enjoy the lake at every opportunity.”

As with all good things, however, some end too soon. Gordon and Carol Stuhr were able to take pleasure in the new family retreat for only a few years. Gordon passed last year and Carol just this past spring. Their warm memory lives on vibrantly in the decidedly family retreat along the quiet shore of Cross Lake.

They will be remembered always, notes Stuhr.

“They truly enjoyed every minute at the lake. In fact, they had more clothes here than they did in their retirement home in Arizona. The lake home was their favorite home,” concludes Stuhr. ~L&H

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