By Shayna Mace | Photography by Shanna Wolf
If you’ve ever visited the graceful streets of downtown Charleston, South Carolina, or the stately plantations of New Orleans, the deep South has a sense of hospitality and charm that permeates the air and the dignified, historic homes that are there. And up here, Middleton couple Ryan and Janelle Baxter designed their own slice of Southern paradise—right on Lake Mendota.
A long road scattered with towering pine trees takes visitors to the elegant abode with a circular driveway designed by Steven Swenson of The Bruce Company (a purposeful down-South touch) that has a classy white exterior with handsome copper accents—and wooden shutters dotted with pineapples (hand-carved in each shutter by their builder, Brian Sipple of Classic Custom Homes of Waunakee). After all, the pineapple is the symbol of hospitality down South.
“When we were in Charleston on a walking tour, we always knew pineapples meant hospitality, but we didn’t know why,” explains Ryan. “We learned when sea captains would come back from trips, they would bring this very exotic fruit home to their wives—and it was always the pineapple, and they would set it on the porch.”
“That was a sign you could come by and say ‘hi,’” adds Janelle.
And for the Baxters, pineapples turn up again and again in their home in light fixtures and art—a welcoming gesture to family and friends who are always visiting their traditional-meets-new-build home.
When the Baxters decided to build their dream home on the lake back in 2016, it was a merging not only of lives for the engaged couple at the time—he’s originally from Madison, she’s from Chicago—but an integration of several must- haves on their list, including a Southern-inspired floorplan and design, the ideal piece of property and a location close to city conveniences. Enter the overgrown, yet sprawling piece of land (that had a 1950s cottage on it) that they snagged to start the process.
“What captured me was the pine-lined driveway. That’s why we didn’t look for a ‘new’ piece of property because we really love having the established trees,” explains Janelle. “There’s character—there’s already years of growth.”
When concepting the design with Classic Custom Homes, the Baxters endeavored to incorporate their love of the tasteful, historic homes they had seen on their travels.
“We wanted something that looked like it had been here a long time—something that was unique-looking,” says Ryan. “So the home façade mirrors a home that [we saw] in Oyster Bay, outside of Boston. This home had a very unique half-circle entry, and it struck us.”
“The rest of that home was Dutch Colonial, and we love that architecture style, but the way this property lies, we wanted to maximize the lake view, so it’s kind of wide and narrow,” says Janelle. “We had a vision board of probably two or three thousand pictures. As we looked at the images, a couple of themes came about. We liked the coastal Cape Cod look, and Dutch Colonial. And once we started with that [half-circle] entrance, we built the rooms around that, and the little details fell into place from there.”
The home’s half-circle entryway is certainly the statement-maker in the home. A curvy staircase hugs one side that circles around to the second floor, where the Baxters get panoramic views of the trees in the front and the lake in the back. A soft and subtle yellow shade (Sherwin-Williams’ Philadelphia Cream) colors the entryway and the adjoining living room that has built-in bookcases, a granite-surround fireplace, wall-to-ceiling windows on one side, and white wainscoting. The room has a sense of lived-in comfort about it—which was of course deliberate.
“The other big influencer for us was Southern homes—that hospitality presence,” says Janelle. “I wanted archways because that gives a unique visual. Crown molding and coffered ceilings [were also must-haves].”
Although the home flows easily from one room to another, the couple also wanted a bit of separation in the home.
“A traditional home is very segmented—so there aren’t big, open living areas,” says Ryan. “So the living room is separated, as is my office. The remainder of the home is laid out very traditionally, where you have long hallways and not a lot of big, open areas. But then our one main living area [the eat-in kitchen and lounge area] is wide open—and more convenient.”
Ryan’s referring to the most-used area of the house—the eat-in kitchen and sitting area with fireplace. The couple like to sit here with one- year-old daughter Savannah, or entertain friends. They wanted to blend in traditional touches along with modern conveniences, so they sought the expertise of interior designer Laurie Driscoll of Laurie Driscoll Interiors, who recommended their octagonal kitchen island have a cherry base and quartz top (to reflect the character of an older home), a Moroccan-inspired backsplash, heightened kitchen cabinets and dark countertops as a balance to the light and bright kitchen. Janelle’s parents’ prized 50-year-old copper pieces sit on display above the range—a touching reminder that family is always nearby.
Tucked next to the kitchen is a spacious pantry (with a library-like ladder that moves back and forth on rails) and butler’s area with an extra sink and storage. The couple’s laundry room with extra fridge, more storage, dog-washing area and mudroom cubbies help the busy family of three keep life in order.
Through another arched doorway next to the kitchen is a small playroom for Savannah and a wet bar with mini fridge so guests can grab beverages as they make their way out the back door to the water. A final Southern- inspired touch is the screened-in porch on the right side of the house that has brick-red floors (another element inspired by the South, says Ryan) with built-in grill, fireplace and dining table. The room is the perfect place for the family to sit and eat dinner on warm nights, or for larger gatherings with friends.
“My favorite part of our home is being steps from Lake Mendota,” says Ryan. “I’m reminded daily of my fondest childhood memories, [like] taking boat rides with my Dad, and knowing that I’ll make those same memories with my kids.”
This home was featured in the Madison: Spring 2019 issue. For more photos of featured Madison homes, visit the Madison Gallery.
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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