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The Sequel
Without distracting from the lodge-like main home, a contemporary guest house accommodates a growing Cedar Grove family.


March 2018

Color and light splash as playfully as water in this scaled-down indoor water park.

Sometimes the missing piece of one’s dream home puzzle is found years later — even after the picture seems perfect.

Over the past 20 years, a Cedar Grove couple fell in love with a 7-acre prairie property located along a semi-private road on Lake Michigan. They nurtured the property’s original home, remodeled it into a 10,000-square-foot, Colorado-like contemporary lodge, and then realized their growing family required additional space.

Louise Hillegass says she and her husband, Pat, wanted to accommodate family visits for their seven children and soon-to-be 13 grandchildren.

They called on Milwaukee-based Deep River Partners, Ltd. — and architect Nick Blavat, in particular — to design a guest house on the site of the property’s eight-stall horse barn. His clients’ early thoughts of converting the barn to a bunkhouse were dashed when it was determined to not be structurally sound. That hiccup grew the dream into a two-story, contemporary guest house with four bedrooms, including a master bedroom on each floor, sleep rooms with fold-up beds, a great room loft, strategically placed large windows and skylights, and a three-car garage.

Comfortable, contemporary style extends to the main living space, with a cleanly designed fireplace, custom dining table and durable furniture dressed in vivid accents.

A centerpiece for luring family to stay is a resort-like pool-spa-play arena. Blavat and the Deep River team designed the area with the help of local concrete specialists. “The family wanted an area for a variety of activities, so we designed it for volleyball and basketball as well as for swimming,” Blavat says, noting the pool is no deeper than 6 feet at its deepest point. “We also added LED lighting strips with changing colors.” A combined video and surround sound system keeps family members of all ages occupied.

Features extend well beyond the aquatic. A two-sided linear fireplace, which divides the main living and dining space from a hall-end entry area, accentuates the domicile’s modern expression. That expression is also woven throughout most rooms and their clean, white lines, and an industrial-esque handrail lines the home’s staircase.

An expandable, custom-made dining table allows for seating of up to 16, and the home’s primarily neutral palette is sprinkled with bolder pops of color in pillows, area rugs and  framed artwork.

Blavat says the challenge was to create a space that provided a distinctly different ambiance — and yet still linked itself to the more lodge-like main house.

“We didn’t want to repeat the same (design),” he says. “We wanted it to be a sequel. It’s really a new interpretation of a barn. It was important to position the guest house so that it is (still) part of the property.”

Cement board and boldly painted trim help carve out a new, millennium-forward farm house that pays homage to the horse barn it replaced.

That link is accomplished, he notes, with pedestrian footbridges between the homes. In fact, the landscaping was carefully planned so that dry riverbeds for rain runoff are as attractive as the property’s gardens, walking and bicycle paths and tennis and basketball courts.

Furthermore, the guest house was purposely positioned behind the lakeside main house to take advantage of similar views. “You can get a peek at the lake in the summer, and a lot more of it in winter,” Louise says. “We also get a lot of views of the surrounding wooded areas.”

Those views and this particular property were important factors two decades ago, when Pat came across the locale on his way to seeing another property. It fondly reminded them, Louise says, of their years spent growing up in coastal Florida and wooded Tennessee. “We just knew this would be home,” she adds. “We moved here, heart and all.”

Resource Center: How to Re-Create the Look

»Architect Nick Blavat helped his clients construct a full-service guest house in a reimagined barn clad in
prepainted, cement-board vertical siding. The siding manufacturer is James Hardie, and the model name/number is Sierra 8.

»The linear, two-sided fireplace in the great room is a Clear 130 Tunnel gas fireplace by Ortal.

»The bamboo flooring used throughout the guest house is from a private label manufacturer and
is available at Waukesha-based Schmidt Custom Floors Inc.

»In the great room, the sectional and ottoman are available through Minneapolis-headquartered Room & Board,, and the Arhaus recliner is available at

»Deep River Partners, Ltd. designed the pool and water features with northern Illinois-based Platinum Pools,, and Madison-based Custom Metals, Inc.,

This story ran in the March 2018  issue of: