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

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