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Casual Christmas
Cottage decor inspires relaxed family gatherings

Photos by Doug Edmunds

December 2013

Rustic holiday decorations amid the woodsy surroundings create a "home for the holidays" feeling at the McFaddens’ cottage north of Milwaukee on Lake Michigan.

Even before they were married, Dave and Linda McFadden scoured flea markets, estate sales and antique shops. "I like old things," Linda McFadden says. "I like them even more when they are a little bit rustic."

Through the years the couple have integrated their finds into their homes and also their home decor stores, Past Basket in Fox Point and Geneva, Ill., which feature tablewear, bedding and other home decor.

"I don’t just look," McFadden says of her treasure-hunting. "I’m always hopeful I will find something for the store or the home."

Many of her finds have found a home at the family cottage, just north of Milwaukee on Lake Michigan, a short commute to the Past Basket store they owned in Kohler for 15 years. The store relocated to Milwaukee and the cottage became the spot for family gatherings throughout the year.

The eclectic and casual furnishings — the result of many years of collecting — encourage family and friends to relax and enjoy their time together.

The cozy and just a little bit quirky cottage was built as a one-room fishing shack in the 1920s or ’30s and has undergone several additions since that time. Prohibited by the village from making any further additions, McFadden says they "decided to make the best of it," remodeling the kitchen and hearth room, among other areas of the home, without changing the home’s footprint.

When the McFaddens’ grown children and grandchildren visit it’s very informal. "It’s not tense about everything being absolutely perfect," McFadden says. "We want people to relax."

A sunroom turned dining room is the setting for family to gather for holiday feasting. A corner Christmas tree is decorated with antique ornaments as well as some from the owners’ home decor store, Past Basket.


The home’s interior creates the perfect environment for that to happen with its casual, collected decor. Artwork from "not famous artists," folk-art pieces, items once sold at Past Basket and, of course, their antiquing finds bring a context to the space. McFadden says the collected, layered style of decorating isn’t something that can be copied from a catalog. She knows by instinct what works and isn’t afraid to rearrange and edit her collection. "Everything you own doesn’t have to be out at the same time," she says. "If you have some good things you can reuse them in different ways," she adds.

Her best advice when looking for home accessories: "You should always be looking to find because the next time there might not be anything to find."

The kitchen by Past Basket Custom Kitchens (an arm of the Past Basket business) reflects the cottage’s casual atmosphere with its distressed cabinetry and artisan stools. The backsplash features handmade tiles and the custom range hood bears the imprints of leaves collected from the property. The birch bark ornaments on flanking "Charlie Brown" trees are a family DIY project.


The McFaddens uncovered the natural stone on the fireplace, which had been practically hidden in a previous renovation. At one time the fireplace had been the only heat source for the former fishing cottage.



This story ran in the December 2013 issue of: