By Barb Howell | Photography by Shanna Wolf
When Don and Lori Lyon started thinking about building a home on their family’s property on Green Lake, one of the lakes in the Lauderdale chain, their first concern was how to respect the past. Since the early 1950s Don’s grandparents and then parents lived on this slice of land, and to build a more functional, new home would require Don and Lori to tear down the place where the family had gathered for years — and in essence — erase a half century of memories.
“Given the history and heritage of the property, we really wanted to be careful to do something respectful of the generations,” Don says. “We were nervous about tearing down the old house my grandparents built and we were wondering how my parents would feel about it.”
As the third generation to own the property, Don and Lori decided the right design for their home needed to have the feel of an old lake cottage, yet have all the modern amenities with plenty of bedrooms and baths to accommodate visiting family, including Don’s parents and his three brothers and their families. “Old lake houses get a patina and a soul over the years,” says Don. “We wanted to design this house so it would have a patina when it was built and a head start on its soul.”
To help them achieve the look they wanted, the Lyons enlisted the help of Randy Thelen of Thelen Total Construction. Thelen quickly learned the family didn’t want to miss a summer on the lake, so demolition of the old house occurred the day after Labor Day in 2011 and the new house was completed the week before Memorial Day in 2012.
According to Thelen, the schedule didn’t present too many challenges because the Lyons were easy to work with, had great ideas and offered them in a timely manner. “Collaboration and brainstorming is really what our process is all about and it certainly was the case with Don and Lori,” says Thelen. “Our goal was to step into their shoes; see the home through their eyes, and help them create the best home for their family.”
The Lyons and their three daughters used dozens of resources to make sure they would achieve the character and feel of an older home. “It was really a family labor of love,” says Don. “It was all five of us sitting at our kitchen table going through Pinterest and Houzz and every magazine imaginable.”
Soon after beginning work with the Lyons, Thelen coined the phrase “retreat” to capture the family’s objective to use the house primarily as a weekend getaway. In keeping with that, they all agreed the house needed to feel appropriate to the site — not something that would overwhelm it, but still have plenty of space inside for everyone.
One of the first must-haves for the family was a screened porch. It’s a place, Lori says, that’s used a lot by everyone — whether it’s to slip away to read a book, watch the boats on the lake or get out of the rain, yet enjoy the feeling of being outdoors.
The home’s open concept main level has a gourmet kitchen with large island with seating, a dining area as well as a living room with fireplace. The five bedrooms, with the exception of the master are not oversize. Again, that was something the Lyons felt strongly about. “We didn’t feel bedrooms in a lake house should be a place where you spend a lot of time. The thought is to get out of bed and get to the pier,” Don says.
The master bedroom, however, with its wall of windows facing the lake is designed as an oasis where it’s easy to linger. An inset in the bed wall with two small windows and pendant lights strategically placed above the night stands are special touches the Lyons discovered while researching design ideas. The adjacent bath with vintage soaking tub and large shower offer additional serenity to the master suite.
Another idea the family incorporated was a bed nook in the dormer of a lakeside guest room. “That nook was created during the building process,” says Thelen.
“Guests who stay here love sleeping in that bed,” says Lori. “The sun comes through those two windows and rises right over them.”
The apprehension the Lyons felt as they embarked on this building project was of great concern. Honoring their family’s heritage on this property was paramount, but as Don says, their fears were eased when they sat down for dinner together as a family on the first Memorial Day after moving in. “I looked at my parents and they had tears in their eyes. They were so pleased with the fact that we had done it right, and it would be a place where future generations would come.”
This home was featured in the Lake Geneva: Summer 2016 issue.
For more photos of featured Lake Geneva homes, visit our Lake Geneva gallery page.
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400 Broad Street, Unit D
Lake Geneva, WI 53147
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