By Shayna Mace | Photography by Shanna Wolf
When native Illinoians Steve and Mary Schmitendorf purchased a Lake Beulah property in 2011, they intended to use it for summers and weekends on the lake. Back then, the home was a cozy cottage-type of dwelling with three bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms and a small kitchen. And, it had a water view that couldn’t be beat.
At first the couple used the home for summers and weekends and maintained the original structure. Soon after purchasing they decided to make updates in the home and they replaced the furnace/AC, remodeled the bathrooms and installed new appliances in the kitchen. After all of the work was done, they continued using the home part-time and commuting up to Wisconsin on weekends while Steve worked as fire chief in a northwestern Chicago suburb and Mary was a Realtor.
But after all of that beautiful work was done, there was another shift in their thinking. Why not make living on Lake Beulah a full-time thing, and move up to Wisconsin permanently?
“As time went by, it was an evolution that just happened, and we both mutually came to this agreement that this is where we wanted to be,” says Mary.
So, the couple razed the home they’d renovated over Labor Day weekend in 2014. The only part of the original property they saved was the detached garage and the boathouse. Their 2014 Christmas card shows the couple smiling in front of the torn-up structure.
“It was a memorable Christmas card, that’s for sure,” jokes Mary.
Working with Randy Thelen of Thelen Construction, the Schmitendorfs had definite ideas of what they wanted in their new abode. They wanted the home to be tall, to take advantage of their hilltop view as well as make it easily accessible from the garage, and they wanted the home set back a bit to not compete with their neighbors’ views. What they got was a home that has 18-foot ceilings on the main level, 12-foot ceilings on the lower level and a wall full of windows in the living room that bring in lots of natural light and water views. Mary’s inspiration for the room was a home she bookmarked on Houzz that was wall-to-ceiling windows.
Mary also wanted coffered ceilings and a statement light fixture that would be the centerpiece of the room. Working through Katherine Elizabeth Designs in Barrington, Illinois, she chose a piece that is a lovely combination of functional chandelier and contemporary art piece. However, getting it installed was no easy task: the light wouldn’t fit through the front door, so it had be hoisted from the lower level up on to the deck, and the sliding glass doors had to be removed to get it in.
“There were about four guys up there, trying to get it in place!” says Mary. “But it is gorgeous and it’s not obtrusive—it’s like a piece of sculpture.”
The other show-stoppers in the room are the art pieces that are scattered throughout—like Montana artist Marshall Noice’s painting above the fireplace that the couple purchased in Santa Fe.
“I really love his paintings, and this was my first one,” explains Mary. “When you look at it, at first it looks like swatches of color, but when you start digging into it, you can see all of the color variation and movement that’s going on.”
The painting is on an electronic lift that’s operated by remote control and slides up quietly to reveal a flat-screen TV underneath. The couple love that they were able to hide the TV but still have it easily accessible.
Flanking the fireplace are built-in shelves that hold a variety of art pieces, including a heron carved out of wood by Dundee, Illinois, artist Bob Guge, glass pieces by Milwaukee and California artists, and an Edgar Degas reproduction sculpture from the Art Institute of Chicago.
Connected to the living room is the dining room and kitchen, which both have a fresh, clean palette of white, accented by natural wood furniture and pops of color in the art pieces on the walls and shelves.
The dining table and chairs combine a pleasing look of mid-century modern and rustic elements—Mary notes the industrial-looking ironwork legs underneath the table that seats 12. The Cherner chairs are sleek yet comfortable, and the Hubbardton Forge pendant lights chosen by designer Katie Wozniak are also a quiet design statement that punch up the area.
Flanking the dining table is a buffet and another Marshall Noice painting—the couple’s most recent purchase from the artist.
In the kitchen the couple kept it clean and contemporary with glossy white lacquer cabinets, Cambria countertops, stainless steel appliances and art pieces peppered throughout—like more of Guge’s bird carvings, art glass pieces and a large painting titled “Spring Walk” by Door County artist Ginnie Cappaert that takes up almost an entire wall.
Tucked in the back of the kitchen is a spacious pantry with prep area and lots of shelving. The small kitchen appliances like the coffeemaker, microwave and wine refrigerator are also kept in there to minimize kitchen counter clutter. And there’s a big window that lends a lot of natural light to the space.
When the couple worked with Thelen Construction, one of their must-haves was to be able to live entirely on the main floor if needed—so their master suite is right off of the living room, and offers a quiet refuge from the main living area. Large windows lighten up the master bedroom and the couple simply love the view: “It’s not bad—it could be worse!” jokes Steve.
Mary loves the chunky, textured painting that guests can see when they walk by the master bedroom by Santa Fe artist Jim Rabby. “He’s quite prolific, and it makes a nice statement,” she says.
Also in the suite is an expansive walk-in closet and bathroom. Luxe touches in the bathroom include under-cabinet lighting and heated floors. Right outside of the bathroom is a closet fitted for a stacking washer and dryer, should they decide to move the appliances to the main level (currently they’re downstairs).
Adding to the accessibility of the house is an elevator that goes to all three floors of the home. The Schmitendorfs use it all of the time, for laundry runs downstairs and running things back and forth when guests are over. With all of these amenities in the home, it’s no surprise that Randy Thelen asked the couple if they were willing to have their home featured in the 2016 Parade of Homes, and the Schmitendorfs gladly accepted.
Although the home is perfect for Steve and Mary, it’s perfect for guests, too. The second floor is a self-contained guest suite with a bedroom, full bath, workout room and lounge area. The lounge area has an opening that peers out into the living room so guests can still see the lake and gain some natural light in the area.
On the lower level, the Schmitendorfs had their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in mind when they designed the space, which has its own kitchen, living room, full bath, two bedrooms and storage closet. With the high ceilings, abundance of natural light and walk-out patio doors, it doesn’t feel like a lower level.
And upstairs adjoining the dining room is a three-season screened-in porch that Steve says is his favorite part of the house. Outfitted with comfortable furniture, flat-screen TV, heat lamps and plastic roll-down window coverings, it’s an outdoor living room.
“When it’s 50 degrees outside, we come out here. You can turn on the heater, and it’s warm. It’s amazing what that plastic can do, and then we roll them up in the summer,” he says. “And the sun sets over here, and we have the wire rail [on the deck] so you can see the view.”
This home was featured in the Lake Geneva Summer 2017 issue.
For more photos of featured Lake Geneva homes, visit the Lake Geneva gallery page.
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Lake Geneva, WI 53147
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