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Island life
Lac La Belle retreat provides quiet getaway for family



The Johnsons discovered the large metal fish hanging above the door in northern Wisconsin at an antique store. "Itís just a whimsical little thing we put up for fun," says Johnson. A cut Lannon stone path leads from the bridge to the house. "Itís an indigenous stone we bought here locally," says Johnson. Itís a random pattern continuing the informality of the space.

Kent and Heidi Johnsonís home is a small piece of paradise on Lac La Belle. The couple updated the former 1940s cottage, originally owned by Heidiís great-grandfather Henry Nagy, into their year-round residence.

"We tried to create a park-like setting with walks all the way around the house," says Kent Johnson. "Jim Kinnard was our landscape architect and helped us create the vision for the property."

Living on a lake can be colder in the spring and fall, so the couple created areas surrounding the home where they can relax and enjoy the outdoors at different times of the year. "It really provides a nice transition from the inside to the outside with the decks and the way they are positioned," he says.

Johnson, an architect who owns Johnson Design Inc. in Oconomowoc, describes his home as a relaxed lake style. "The landscape complements it. Itís not formal in any way," he explains.

The location definitely adds to the informal lifestyle. The home is surrounded on three sides by water, adding to the vacation feel of the special place.

An intimate table for two on a secluded covered porch is a quiet spot for cocktails or a cup of coffee. The western exposure allows for the warm afternoon sun to greet guests. The Johnsons grow grapes on the arbor covering the area and make their own jelly from the harvest.


Visitors truly get the feeling of being away from it all after walking across a 70-foot long steel bridge to reach the house, which is located on an island. The bridge was built by Heidiís great-grandfather in the 1940s. Besides arriving by boat, itís the only way to access the home. 


The patio located lakeside is a favorite place for the Johnsons to entertain their guests. Tall hollyhocks add a whimsical feel to the area, which is paved in brick. An abundance of flowering plants provide plenty of color to the outdoor space.