By Shayna Mace | Photography by Shanna Wolf
When you have a large family like Diane and Joe May, there’s no way around it—you need to have a house big enough to fit everyone comfortably. Joe is one of 15 (!) kids, and Diane has six siblings. The Mays have three grown kids of their own, too.
Searching for a lake home became a priority a few years ago for the Mays. They’d always taken an annual summer trip up to Hayward in northern Wisconsin for the last 15 years, but from Lake Villa, Illinois, where the family was based, Joe says it was a six-hour drive each way to get up there. “So we casually discussed finding a getaway. And we started thinking about how often we would go there,” says Joe. He let his friend Steve Thelen know that they were searching in the Lake Geneva area with its close proximity to Lake Villa.
Shortly after, Steve called Joe to let him know there was a property for sale on Powers Lake—only a 35-minute drive from Lake Villa. The couple immediately went to see it, put an offer on it two days later, and got it. The next step was to figure out if they wanted to keep the existing 1978 structure, or rebuild. For that, the Mays turned to Randy Thelen—Steve’s second cousin, and owner of Thelen Total Construction.
“Size-wise the home was what we were looking for, as it was 7,000-plus square feet. But it was outdated for us. We loved it, but the plumbing and electrical was not in the best shape, and we would have spent an inordinate amount of money to refurbish it,” explains Joe.
So, the original structure was torn down in February 2016 and the Mays got to planning how they wanted the home to look and feel.
Thelen talked to the couple about what they wanted in their new home. “We were looking for something of a cross between elegant and cottage-y,” says Joe. “We wanted the main floor to be the elegant part, and downstairs to be a bit more relaxed and laid-back.”
The May’s main-floor requirements are beautifully showcased in the soaring great room, with a 20-foottall coffered ceiling, floor-to-ceiling windows and stone fireplace, and cozy sitting area.
“[The Mays] really wanted a two-story entryway and two-story great room. And the wall of glass [gives them] a skyward view—so [they can see] a big panorama of the outdoors. And the texture on the ceiling gives a sense of scale to the room,” says Randy Thelen.
The understated gray and white color theme throughout is accented by glamorous touches in the décor pieces, lighting and furnishings. The Mays worked closely with Katie Wozniak and Kathleen Glynn of Katherine Elizabeth Designs out of Barrington, Illinois, for interior design guidance throughout the whole home.
“We put together palettes based off of feedback from Diane and Joe,” says Glynn. “They wanted the home to be lake-y, but they wanted it to be casual and livable as it’s a four-season house. So it needed to look as cozy in February as it does cool in August.”
Although the entire home is show-stopping, the kitchen and dining area certainly contend for some of the most wow-worthy spaces. The fashionable yet functional kitchen has two granite-topped islands (the larger of which is 14 feet long) that offer tons of prep and gathering space. The smaller island near the stove has creamy white cabinetry and a navy top, while the rest of the kitchen has light, flecked countertops and cabinetry.
“We love to entertain. So at least a few nights a week we’ll be eating in here,” says Joe.
The beautiful cabinetry throughout is by Bea Industries out of Elkhorn—including the fun navy vertical cabinet that pops in the left corner of the kitchen that houses serving pieces. With the cabinetry reaching the ceiling, it adds height to the room—and the top tier of glassfront cabinets lend a historic touch to the room.
Adding to the ease of entertaining is a six-burner Wolf stove with a cooking grate and griddle that was “Diane’s dream,” explains Joe. They also have a Wolf steam oven, too. A wine refrigerator, icemaker and two Sub-Zero refrigerators hidden behind cabinet facing provide plenty of storage room for the family and their many guests.
But the kitchen’s real highlight is tucked in the back corner—a fully-stocked butler’s pantry with more storage, lots of countertop space, dishwasher and sink. Joe loves that the room can be closed off with the slick pocket door to hide any mess from dinner parties.
“We introduced [the butler’s pantry concept] to them, and they really liked that,” says Thelen. “The working pantry [is great] because there’s a sink and a dishwasher, so if you think of your own kitchen and the things that are sitting out in the open—you can have the blender and coffeemaker in [the pantry instead], and they’re convenient to use. I think the working pantry or the scullery is a nice complement to a high-end kitchen, because it provides a lot of functionality and makes it convenient [since] you can hide things and entertain.”
The dining area boasts a gorgeous table that can seat 14 to 16 people (it has 18-inch leaves on either side that slide out to accommodate more guests, Joe notes) and upholstered chairs for a more glamorous take on dinnertime. Curtains hung strategically close to the ceiling bump up the feel of the room’s height and dress up the area a bit more.
Attached to the dining area is Diane’s favorite room—the screened porch. The room is hexagonal and has a cathedral, wood-beamed ceiling—so it feels like an escape off of the main living area, which is what it’s supposed to be. The tiled floor, indoor/outdoor furnishings (including cheeky leopard print-covered ottoman) and TV mean that this hangout room truly is an extension of the main home. The
couple can use it during the spring, summer and fall because of the heat lamps and thick plastic window coverings that ward the chill away. And during the summer it’s sublime with its treetop and water views.
The master suite is tucked off to the right side of the home and boasts a tranquil bedroom, master bath and sunroom that separates with French doors from the bedroom. The sunroom overlooks the water and can easily be closed off on both sides to provide a sleeping area for guests, or opened up for normal use for the family to enjoy.
“From a function point of view, the sunroom is … a cozy space. It could be used as a private sitting area off the master, or it can be used off the great room space,” says Thelen.
Thelen also likes that they added a master foyer as he calls it, to provide separation from the great room and the master bedroom. The hallway houses the closet and the entrance to the master bath—and the bedroom is steps away on the left. It’s also great for providing separation if one person wakes up earlier than the other—and gets ready for their day in the bathroom at the other end of the hall. “It gives more versatility to the master suite,” points out Thelen.
Upstairs from the master suite are four bedrooms and a luxe bunk room. A “catwalk” bridges together two of the bedrooms on one side of the house to the remaining beds and baths on the other end. The wood-beamed, cathedral ceiling is a unique touch above the catwalk. The May’s daughter Lauren found that touch on Pinterest.
“Lauren said, ‘That’s really cool.’ We pitched it to Randy. Now, a picture of it is on [Thelen’s] website!” says Joe, smiling.
Each bedroom bears a distinct point of view. Lauren’s room has masculine touches mixed with feminine pieces, all chosen by her. Moody black walls, a green velvet upholstered window seat and built-in dark wood bookshelves filled with favorite books and decorative brass pieces convey a cozy look. “This room reflects her well, I think,” says Joe.
Lauren’s room is connected to Hayley’s via a jack-and-jill bathroom with graphic cement tile floor, pedestal sinks (with brass accents and fixtures) and steam shower. Hayley’s room has an entirely different feel, with white walls, a carved-wood headboard, vintage-look Oriental rug and soft, patterned bedspread.
The other bedrooms were decorated by Wozniak, including son Alex’s, the guest bedroom (with soft pink and natural accents) and the uber-cool bunk room (with shades of navy and lots of wood built-ins) that has three sets of bunk beds, two queen beds and hangout area.
In the basement that’s built for entertaining, the Mays wanted a practical space that offered a stylish punch. The hangout area has cozy furnishings and a TV, and behind it is the gorgeous built-in bar—that’s quite opulent with cool pendant lights, mirrored shelving and detailed millwork. Two more bedrooms, two full baths, laundry room and lower-level patio with built-in grill finish off the space nicely.
A family member asked Joe recently if they’d change anything in their house. He replied, “We wouldn’t change a thing.”
This home was featured in the Lake Geneva: Fall 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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