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Cottage Redefined
Lake Michigan vacation home a gathering place for family


September 2012

Outdoor living is at its best from the raised terrace that includes an outdoor kitchen, dining area, fire table and hot tub ó and magnificent lake views.
Photo by De Maio Photography

A photograph of Pat and Louiseís cottage on the shores of Lake Michigan just north of Milwaukee hangs on the wall of their master bedroom. The beloved cottage gave way to this new vacation home for the Hinsdale, Ill., family ó an impressive 10,000-square-foot house designed by Deep River Partners architects that redefines the concept of a lake cottage. Its modern rustic style is North Woods Wisconsin meets Colorado ski lodge.

Even though the structure has changed, the spirit of the original house is intact. "I was worried when we built the new house it would separate me from the things that center me," Louise says. "But the same reasons we love being up here are the same as in the old house," she says. "Itís the surroundings."

Steps from the front entry draw visitors to the lower level atrium and the stunning "river" that flows the length of the house to the lake side of the property. A boulder that washed up out of Lake Michigan was carved out to create a fountain.
Photo by De Maio Photography



Their growing family ó seven children ranging in age from 17 to 33, spouses and several grandchildren ó necessitated a larger house. "We built a space to accommodate our activities," Louise says. "We wanted our grown kids to want to come back and spend time with us."

Architect Richard Sherer, who spent his boyhood summers along the same stretch of Lake Michigan, says the lake was a driving force in the design. "The lake becomes the paramount feature of the property and is ever changing from one day to the next," Sherer says. "The vista of the lake is of utmost importance; I took that seriously when designing the home."

Dramatic architecture through the main corridor of the house frames views of Lake Michigan. It is the first view for visitors to the home designed by Deep River Partners architects. "The entry brings users from the wooded west side of the property to the lake," says associate designer Nick Blavat. Sounds of trickling water from the lower level atrium draw visitors downstairs where they find a meandering water feature that stretches the length of the house to a beachside exit.
Photo by De Maio Photography



The design concept also was driven by the needs of such a large group while balancing intimacy and privacy, Sherer says. "Itís also creating a home thatís comfortable and casual in nature where its users can feel at home and comfortable, even in a wet swimming suit," he says.

The 33-room house is divided by a three-story atrium that on the main floor separates what Sherer calls public and private spaces. Two floating glass bridges connect the bedrooms ó including two full master suites and a loft ≠≠≠ó to the great room, kitchen, dining room, sitting room and private office for Pat, a commodities trader, to work remotely.

Built-in window seats offer additional seating in the great room and panoramic views of Lake Michigan.
Photo by De Maio Photography


The lower level features a dramatic water feature that flows the length of the house from the wooded areas outside the main entry to the beach and water on the east side. Two bedrooms with bathrooms, a living room, exercise room, game room, home theater and a full spa-like bath with changing rooms and lockers for guests to change into beach attire are also on the lower level.

Architectural designer Nick Blavat says the eastern influenced architecture brings a subtle theme of sojourn to the residence, which is carried through in the interior design by Deep River Partnersí Susan Sherer and Trace Burger. The finishes throughout the house, such as African slate flooring, are meant to withstand the rigors of beach living and lots of traffic. Stained birch that gives the appearance of walnut is used throughout the residence and for the kitchen cabinets. "The finishes in the house are beautiful but not so fancy that you canít really use the place," Louise says.


The restful sounds and ever-changing views of Lake Michigan are part of the master suite experience. The fireplace mantel and surround are made from Waukesha white stone. The painting is by Peter Kudlata, owner of Flagstone Landscaping.
Photo by De Maio Photograph

Initially, the couple were considering keeping the cottage and building a guest house on another part of the property, but Louise didnít want to lose the connection to the lake. "There is something centering seeing that vast expanse of water. I find that very spiritual," Louise says. "It gets me out of myself and my everyday concerns."

Pat and Louise have hosted many family gatherings since the house was completed in May 2011, including 23 people and nine dogs last Christmas. One of her children asked Louise which house felt more like home, the one in Hinsdale where they raised their children or the lake home. "I said, ĎI canít believe Iím going to say it: This feels like home. This is the place we are going to gather.í

The lake experience continues in the master bath where a riverstone floor and blue tile walls replicate the sand and the lake. A window inside the shower maintains privacy while strengthening the connection to nature.
Photo by De Maio Photography


"We live a different life up there," Louise says, noting thatís true for both her and Pat. "I started a garden last year and quadrupled it this year. I started baking again and am cooking more."

Pat loves to get on the tractor at the beach. "He doesnít do any of that at home but he loves to do that sort of thing up here. He loves little projects; for him that is a real escape from always thinking about his work."

The lake is where the couple plan to retire; accessibility and even an elevator were incorporated into the design. "We did build it for our old age," Louise says. "I have a mother with Alzheimerís and my experience is she can still appreciate beauty. Iíve told all of my kids to make sure Iím sitting by a window because I can appreciate that." 

A 14-foot long custom live edge dining table and bench made from a black walnut slab accommodate large family gatherings, which can often number 20-plus people. The chandelier becomes a conversation piece as it holds notes from guests about their experience at the lake. Deep River Partnersí principal Susan Sherer assisted with the interior design prior to retiring; Trace Burger came on board to finish the project.
Photo by De Maio Photography

The professionally outfitted kitchen is designed to allow lots of people to participate in the cooking process. The vaulted ceiling with windows floods the room with natural light. Steven Klein of Klein Lighting designed the lighting plan for the home, which includes task lighting around the perimeter of the kitchen.
Photo by De Maio Photography

The homeowners took great care to preserve the large oak tree on the property in the design and construction of a new lake house. Limestone retaining walls, cedar siding, a metal roof and Chilton stone veneer blend modern and rustic elements in the design.


Architect: Deep River Partners, Milwaukee Builder: RP Custom Homes, Mequon

Landscaper: Flagstone Landscaping, Cedarburg

Interior Design: Susan Sherer, Trace Burger, Deep River Partners
Photo by Doug Edmunds

A lower level terrace is designed for younger family members to sit around the fire pit while still being in proximity to the rest of the group. The porch above connects to the master bedroom suite. Fond du Lac stone is used extensively in the landscaping.
Photo by Doug Edmunds

The sitting room includes a banquette area. The room was originally designed as a screen porch, but the homeowners wanted it to be enclosed for year-round enjoyment.
Photo by Doug Edmunds



This story ran in the September 2012 issue of: