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