By Shayna Mace | Photography by Shanna Wolf
When you spot a gorgeous East Coast-look home from the street, it fits right in with the surrounding homes—and that’s by intention. The Cape Cod-style silhouette with gray shingles, a steep pitched roofline and tidy white trim look tailor-made for lake living. But in fact the home, which was finished in 2017, sits on the very spot a vintage summer cottage once stood before a Chicago-area couple decided to tear down after buying the property.
“The previous home presented remodeling challenges,” explains the homeowner. “It was built in the 1950s, so much of it was concrete block, so to try to remodel it [was tough]. If you took one wall down, you had to take down three of the walls, so it didn’t make sense to work with what it was.”
The couple’s goal was to intentionally lend the home gravitas with the East Coast feel, large windows and sloped roof. “We didn’t want to place this house here [and have it] look like it shouldn’t be here. I really like the overall look of it now. It looks like it could be in Wisconsin or in Cape Cod,” she says.
To accomplish their design goals, the couple recruited Lowell Custom Homes to guide them through the process. The homeowner says owner Scott Lowell even went to area real estate listings with her to gain inspiration and ideas on what the family wanted in their eventual home.
“[They] were a dream to work with because they did so much homework and came to us with an extensive idea book created from magazines and architectural sites,” says Lowell.
However, the lot had one major challenge from the outset: it’s located on a triangular piece of land with a major slope coming down from the street.
“There is a 13-foot differential between the street and the foundation,” says Lowell. “[We had to build a road to get down to the site to get bulldozers down there, and build a ‘catwalk’ from the road to the upstairs to deliver materials inside of the house.”
Despite the tricky building logistics, the family couldn’t be happier with the results of the whole process. “We showed [Lowell’s architect] Todd [Cauffman] everything we liked, and honestly I don’t think we changed a thing he did—he just nailed it—it worked out perfectly.”
The Chicagoans knew they eventually wanted to build a second home in the area. The husband’s grandparents had a vacation home in Fontana, so he grew up coming here. Once his wife joined the family, the couple continued coming up.
“We used to ride around on the boat thinking, ‘this would be so nice.’ So we were finally in the position to do it and decided to [buy the lot] while our kids were young, so they could have the same experience of growing up on the lake,” she says.
Now there’s plenty of room for their 12-year-old son, 8-year-old daughter and dog to spread out in the two-story home. Although the wife and the kids come up for the whole summer (the husband comes up on the weekends), they also use the home throughout the year on holidays and weekends to relax from the hustle of city life.
The first floor features an open floorplan with the entryway, kitchen, dining room and living room all neatly transitioning from one to the next. A half-bath, small den and laundry room are tucked off on each side of the back of the home for convenience.
And the home distinctly carries the exterior’s Cape Cod feel right into the interior too—with a subdued palette of light gray, white, taupe and splashes of blue in décor. Underfoot the couple opted for oak flooring with a light gray wash that enhances the airy feel.
In the dining room, the star of the show is the Visual Comfort light fixture that’s a mix of rustic, yet contemporary design. The homeowner says she wanted to source a light that wouldn’t block the view of the lake, so the open design of this one worked. The bleached-wood Restoration Hardware table and chairs capture the nautical feel effortlessly.
Adjacent to the dining room is the gorgeous, functional kitchen outfitted with pale gray custom cabinets by Geneva Cabinet Company. (The gray hue is also used in the bathroom and laundry room cabinetry, too). The homeowner opted to do open shelving on one wall for decorative appeal, and touches of whimsy, like in the glass-door top cabinets, custom range hood, wall sconces and porthole-like window on the pantry door, all add to the elegance of the space. The shiplap-like walls and apron sink echo the East Coast traditional vibe, too. The quartz countertops carry on the white theme and add a luxe touch. The room’s topper? The jewelry-like Restoration Hardware pendant that injects just the right amount of glam.
“I love the porthole on the pantry door, because it reflects the porthole-like accents on the light—it makes me really happy,” she says.
Amazingly, the homeowner did much of the interior design on her own. Like in the spacious living room, where she commissioned Lowell’s carpenters to craft a custom mantle and fireplace insert out of herringbone quartz, based off of a catalog picture.
She also carefully selected the wall art that adds a soft pop of blue to the living room. One print was her stepmom’s, bought from the Harvard Coop in the ’70s. The other two waterscape prints were purchased at the National Gallery on a family trip to London, before they had a lake house. “We thought, ‘wouldn’t these be great if we had a lake house?’ And, one of them looks just like where our home is located on the lake,” she says. In the home’s entryway, the couple commissioned a Turks and Caicos artist to paint the oil on canvas water scene (of Grace Bay in the Turks and Caicos) that greets guests as they walk in.
The living room’s coffered ceiling imparts a sense of history to the home—yet another intentional design choice, and one of her favorites. The couple likes to nestle into the Restoration Hardware furniture, have a cup of coffee and watch people stroll the Shore Path in the sun-filled room. They also have a great view of the large yard, which the kids love to play on.
Upstairs is truly a retreat for the family and their guests. The second floor has a den outfitted with beautiful cream and charcoal-striped Kaleem Broadloom Peter Island Stripe wool carpeting from Home Carpet One in Chicago. (She also used the same carpeting in all of the bedrooms and the downstairs den, too.) A guest bedroom down the hall has its own deck off the back of the house, and on display in the hallway is a four-foot-tall wooden sailboat that her husband and son refinished together.
The couple’s master bedroom, also on the second floor, has a treehouse-like feel with vaulted ceilings, an adjacent sitting room, deck and stunning views of Geneva Lake. The whole room is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Silver Satin and the ceiling in Lily White, and mirrored nightstands add a little dazzle to the otherwise minimal space. The master bath is a sanctuary for the couple, featuring all Carerra marble countertops and a soaking tub, custom cabinetry by Geneva Cabinet Company, Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn lighting and a custom oversized shower, done by Bella Tile.
On the third floor is a special hideaway, just for kids (or guests). The fabulous bunkroom, crafted by Lowell’s carpenters, has four beds that face the lake. White beams in the ceiling lend it a slightly rustic summer cabin-like feel—but it has up-to-date touches like a light and outlet for each bed (for iPads and phones). The cozy room even has its own balcony outside, too.
Although they haven’t had the home for long, the homeowner says the family has already made memories here—like walking the Shore Path, the kids catching frogs at the park and simply enjoying the view.
“I love the whole thing. I think the kids love having their hangout spot and the bunk room. Even in the winter, you feel like you’re outside even when you’re inside,” she says. “We love sitting on the front porch and relaxing—it’s lovely, watching the lake.”
This home was featured in the Lake Geneva: Summer 2018 issue. For more photos of featured Lake Geneva homes, visit the Lake Geneva Gallery page.
The Lakeshore Living publications are published by Nei-Turner Media Group, a full-service agency located in Lake Geneva, WI. Our four publications cover the picturesque lake communities of Lake Geneva, Madison, Lake Country and Northwoods.
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