Practical Magic – A Rustic Gathering Place on Fish Lake
by Alicia Underlee Nelson
Jeanie Rasche has a message for anyone who wants to build a home: “If you have the right people working for you, you can do it on your own.” Jeanie and her husband Steve didn’t use an architect to build their dream home on Fish Lake near Windom, Minnesota. But that doesn’t mean the couple didn’t have help.
They had their lumberyard draw up their plans. They worked with a trusted builder. And they had faith that a team of artisans and craftsmen would make their dream lake home a reality in just over nine months.
When their neighbors packed up their vehicles after Labor Day celebrations in 2015, they drove by a small cabin the family had long outgrown. When they arrived for Memorial Day the following spring, a modern yet rustic home stood in its place.
The Rasche family is a blended one, so the most important goal of the new home was to create a place for the whole family to gather together. When Jeanie and Steve married, he had three daughters (Alexa, Michaela and Maddie) and she had a son, Jake. They later had two daughters, Claire and Emma, together.
“We have two out of school and married, two in college and two at home,” Jeanie says. “They range in age from almost 30 down to 10, so we have a big range coming and going. It was nice to have a place where we could just be here and they could come and go.”
And the family just keeps growing. Alexa married Anthony and Michaela married Mike and now both couples are expecting babies this winter.
The couple envisioned a home that would offer plenty of space and also meet their family’s changing needs. The floor plan is anchored by two main living spaces, a communal area that holds the great room, dining room and kitchen on one side and a two story sleeping space that contains the master suite, a large bunkroom and two additional bedrooms on the other. The set-up allows for both raucous sleepovers and napping babies.
The home’s two main living areas are connected by a glass corridor that allows the eye to sweep through the structure and out across the lake. A paver stone patio and a pergola crafted from reclaimed barn wood beams create a gracious al fresco dining and living space with soothing water views.
Walls of windows inside the home welcome the outdoors in. Rasche says that the family’s first few days in their new home felt a bit like living in a house of glass, so they added electric window shades from Carey’s Electronics in Spencer, Iowa to gain a little privacy without sacrificing the clean, pared-down look they loved.
“We took a trip to Napa Valley recently for my birthday and I was really inspired by some of the architecture and the elements there,” said Jeanie. “Some of the beams and the stonework and the woodwork are a direct reflection of that influence.”
Builders Lance Freking and Jeremy Fuller of Central Construction, Inc. in Nelson, Minnesota, helped the couple turn their vision into reality. He’d already built a home and barn for them in nearby Heron Lake, so they already knew they worked well as a team.
For the builders to be efficient, the Rasches needed to be decisive. They chose design elements and finishes that evoke a feeling of solidarity, durability and history whenever possible. The result is a home that combines clean, modern lines and earthy textures and materials for a timeless, rugged appeal.
The home’s cement floors are complimented by matching rugs from Restoration Hardware. Blue Ox Timber in Alexandria sourced the exposed beams along the soaring great room ceiling from the same Minnesota barn that provided the wood for the outdoor pergola. They offer both an arresting focal point for the communal living area and a soothing sense of repletion throughout the home, both inside and out.
The home’s color scheme is muted, an intentionally neutral palette that echoes elements from the natural world. Jeanie focused her love of color into a few specific areas (a set of shelves here, throw pillows for a pop of holiday cheer there), a move that allowed her to take a break from decorating and let the distinctive design elements in the home speak for themselves.
But she let her imagination run wild when it was time to choose lighting elements. “I am a lighting freak,” she says with laugh. “I’m a fanatic. You can make such a big statement with lighting.” From a statement piece in a bedroom to the hand blown glass globes in a bathroom, each room features a unique showpiece or two that Jeanie carefully sourced from Arteriors, Hammers and Heels, Circa Lighting and Hudson Valley Lighting.
The timeless look Jeanie and Steve wanted for other elements in the home required an old-fashioned kind of bespoke craftsmanship. Whitewashed shiplap paneling combines the warmth and historical look of wood with a pale color that worked with the home’s neutral color scheme. Over grouted stonework by Al Jurgens of Jurgens Construction in Windom makes the home seem it’s been a fixture on Fish Lake for generations instead of just a few months.
Welder Nate Vortherms fabricated the distinctive fireplace, kitchen hood and the railing around the staircase. “He did an amazing job of seeing my vision,” Jeanie says. Nate and his father Dick Vortherms of Dick’s Welding in Windom collaborated on other projects, including hooks to attach optional privacy curtains on the outdoor entertaining area. “They did a lot of really necessary things, but also designed elements that are really beautiful to look at,” says Jeanie.
The practical beauty of the family’s new home makes it feel welcoming, not fussy. “We wanted things to be durable and comfortable,” says Jeanie. “When people come in, we didn’t want them to have to worry about tracking in sand.”
And they do come in. Fish Lake is the kind of place where families go for generations, where the 4th of July fireworks show is a cherished tradition and neighbors pop their heads in the door to ask if you need anything from the store before they head out. It’s a busy lake, deep, cool and clear, with ample opportunities for outdoor recreation. And the Rasche family is right in the thick of things, swimming and paddle boarding, fishing with the kids, sailing and kayaking with the neighbors.
The sense of community was one thing that initially attracted Steve to Fish Lake. But the proximity to real life – the couple’s farm about 20 minutes away in Heron Lake – made Jeanie wonder if it could really feel like a vacation spot. “I thought it was far too close to home to ever feel like we could truly relax,” she says. But she finally conceded Steve was right. “It’s amazing when you drive down here. It just feels like you’re going to a whole different place.”
It is a place for connecting, for pulling up a chair, pouring a glass of wine and sitting down for a meal at the long wooden table. “The heart of the home is definitely the great room on the communal side,” Jeanie says. “At home, we don’t always have time to sit down at the table. And here we really wanted to make it impossible to anything but that.”
Now when the family gathers, it’s mindful and intentional, in a space designed just for them. “For us, the idea of building this was about bringing our family together and having a common space they can all come to,” Jeanie explains. “We really did it for our kids. We really did it for our family life. It’ll be something we can pass on as our legacy.” ~L&H