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

Lifeform LED

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