By Shayna Mace | Photography by Shanna Wolf
Although Kathy and Jim (who asked that their last name not be used) aren’t Lake Geneva natives, their family has a rich history on Geneva Lake. For 31 years, the Cary, Ill.-based family has enjoyed the lake—first at Kathy’s parent’s Lake Geneva Club cottage and then eventually down the road from her parents at their own place in the club. In 2013, the couple bought a waterfront home in Fontana. They stayed there for three years, but knew the house wasn’t their perfect vision.
During weekend boat trips around the lake, the couple always kept their eyes open for homes for sale, in case the ideal one popped up at the right time. Jim in particular had his eye on a specific location on the south shore of the lake.
“When [a property] on the [street we wanted] came up for sale, Jim hesitated a little bit, and our sons said, ‘you’ve been looking at those properties for almost 30 years—this is it!’” says Kathy.
So the couple jumped at the chance to live in their quiet oasis—and build their dream lake house.
The couple liked that the lot was level—a hot commodity on the water. They knew they’d have to tear down the existing 800-square-foot, 1950’s cottage to accommodate their family.
“It was a charming brick bungalow. There was no doubt the people who built it, built it with love. It was quite quaint— but small. There was no way to renovate what was there,” says Kathy.
Luckily, they already had a solid idea of what they wanted in the home and what it would look like—and even which architect to work with to make their vision a reality.
“We were looking for an architect and we both were clicking through images of houses, and Jim saved a picture of a lakeside house and said, ‘that’s really cool.’ And then [without knowing it]—I saved a street-side picture of a house—and it ended up being the same house,” says Kathy.
The house they saw online was designed by architect Kathy Alexander of the Wayzata, Minn.-based Alexander Design Group. They also liked that Alexander was from out of the area for a different perspective. So they met with Alexander to draw up plans for their house. Kathy and Jim didn’t have many requirements—besides maximizing the lake views in every room, having an open concept and keeping an easy flow for guests. The couple also wanted a coastal feel for the home’s exterior that would also carry into the interior, married with traditional touches.
Armed with Alexander’s plans, the couple then connected with Lowell Custom Homes to execute their one-of-a-kind home.
“It’s great—you get exactly what you want [with Lowell] because you spend a lot of time talking and thinking about [your home with their staff],” says Jim.
“[Jim and Kathy] knew exactly what they wanted, design-wise. This house is all about family,” says Scott Lowell, president of Lowell Custom Homes. “It’s nice to do a house like this—it’s totally personalized for their family and how they live.”
Speaking of family, the heart of this home is the kitchen, where Kathy and Jim incorporated an expansive, Calacatta marble- topped island with seating for six; plentiful cabinetry designed by Natalie Spiniolas of Geneva Cabinetry; top- of-the-line appliances (like the Sub-Zero fridge and Wolf stove); and a built-in buffet behind the island that’s a serving spot for parties as well as provides storage.
The mix of white cabinetry and walnut accents in the cabinetry and trim gives the room depth and is a departure from an all-white aesthetic, which Kathy loves.
“In the original design, the buffet was dark and the rest of the kitchen was all white,” says Kathy, who eventually opted to mix in the walnut wood with white.
One of Jim’s favorite parts of the home is the wine room that’s connected to the kitchen—a purposeful design choice, he says, because he wanted to be able to grab a bottle quickly and easily when family or guests are over, rather than running downstairs. He can just pop in the temperature-controlled room that holds 1,200 bottles to select his favorite. The room mimics a “14th-century Italian” vibe, says Jim, with a “Tuscan flair.” The barrel- vaulted ceiling features reclaimed Chicago brick, and the floor is French limestone for a worldly feel.
“A big thing with kitchens now is [incorporating] a prep kitchen to eliminate clutter,” says Lowell. “Their kitchen has that prep area and that’s a neat feature, because they tied it in to their wine room. That wine room is magnificent. They appreciate wine, and how it’s stored and displayed.”
Besides the common hangout areas, the home also offers ample spots to escape to read a book or relax. Off the main living area is the couple’s office with coffered ceiling, comfortable throw rug and Geneva Lake print. In the corner of the home (shown on page 48) is the round “gathering room” as the couple calls it—where they enjoy their morning coffee and watch sunrises, or hang out with friends. The ceiling’s distinctive pattern reminds Kathy of a ship’s wheel, which adds to the home’s coastal allure.
“We use [that room] year-round … it’s a cozy little nook. It’s a nice area to sit with people and have a glass of wine even if it’s hot outside or on a cold winter day,” says Jim.
Another must-have for the couple was enough bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms to accommodate their sons and their wives. The bedrooms offer yet another area to kick back and relax from a busy day on the water.
The couple are happy that this home is the culmination of their 30-plus years on the lake and plan on making it their full-time home soon.
“I don’t know if I can tell you I have a favorite part of this house—I pinch myself every time I look at it,” admits Kathy.
“We’re just so pleased with every design detail that Kathy [Alexander] designed, and everything that Scott Lowell and [Lowell architect] Todd Cauffman added to it, because they were instrumental in a lot of the little details too. We always wanted to build if possible, and we finally got it, and it took us 30 years,” says Jim.
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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