By Shayna Mace | Photography by Shanna Wolf
For many families, the lake life in Lake Geneva is woven into the fabric of their lives and passed down from generation to generation. Perhaps it’s a cottage on the water that’s rented annually or one that a family member owns and shares with friends. For other lake residents, a simple visit was what sealed the deal. Such was the case for one Illinois couple, who started considering the area after the husband visited for a work retreat.
When their family (which also includes three adult children and one teenager) lived in Indianapolis, they had a lake home there. Then the family moved to Lake Forest, Ill., for the husband’s job, so the couple started scouting locations for a waterside getaway nearby. They landed on Lake Geneva and quickly found a home on Geneva Lake. The home had been built in the early 2000s by Engerman Contracting, and the couple liked that the home was in great shape, and had a flat yard. They also liked the action on the lake.
“It’s very different from the lakes we’ve [had homes on] before,” says the homeowner. “Before, our home was on a small, private, 490-acre lake. There were no restaurants or public launch. So we were ready for a more exciting lake, and to have all of the things that are offered in Lake Geneva.”
Although the family loved the spacious home, which boasts a soaring great room with fireplace and lake views and attached kitchen and dining room, they knew they wanted to personalize the spaces throughout the abode. They turned to Philip Sassano of The Design Coach to reimagine things. “We loved [Philip’s] ideas. I’m notorious for piecing a room together here and there, so it never really flows—so we wanted to work with him start to finish,” says the homeowner.
“With clients, it’s more of a conversation of how to personalize the home—a lot of my clients don’t want their lake homes to look like other client’s lake homes,” explains Sassano. “Throughout this home on the first floor, you’ll see an emphasis on ceilings. There was also a lot of stained wood when we took over the kitchen, so we really wanted to add color.”
Although the great room was beautiful before, Sassano saw the potential to further customize the room by installing reclaimed barn wood on the vaulted ceiling (hand-stained and installed by his staff), putting up antique vintage architectural wood accents on the walls, wallpapering behind the built-in bookshelves surrounding the fireplace and hanging up part of a vintage barn door to display family photos on. He also worked with the couple on selecting throw pillows for the sofas and new drapery for the sliding glass doors and windows that lead out to the large deck. The finishing touch is a chic statement chandelier by Currey & Company that adds polish to the whole package.
“Lighting to me is a work of art—so we had to make sure it was special in this house,” says Sassano.
Adjacent to the nautically-inspired great room is the cozy kitchen. The family and Sassano knew the kitchen had great bones—it was just a matter of making it shine even more. So Sassano suggested painting the kitchen island and the range hood a beautiful navy blue, installing a new backsplash behind the stove, swapping in upholstery-inspired fabric accents in the kitchen’s wooden columns, taking down the old blinds and replacing them with high-end window treatments, and wallpapering the coffered ceiling with a luxe navy grasscloth wallpaper. The couple also put in a black La Cornue stove and selected a relaxed, coastal-look dining table and chairs from Restoration Hardware. A painting of a Lake Geneva Cruise Line boat by Anthony Soskich hangs on the range hood—a nod to the family’s adopted home. Keen observers will notice other Soskich works throughout the house that the couple picked up at the Williams Bay Fine Art and Craft Fest—including in the front hallway.
The other major appeal to the home for the family is that everyone has a spot to relax and sleep in. With three guest bedrooms plus an upstairs bunk room with four queen beds and built-in storage spots for each guest, the family frequently hosts relatives and friends for extended periods of time. Three of the four kids are out of the house (and even live on different coasts)—so it’s a chance for everyone to reconnect. “That’s what we love about the lake house—this is where everybody comes,” explains the homeowner.
Another fun hangout spot is the newly reimagined lower level. The couple worked with Sassano to breathe new life into the underutilized space. Sassano hand-sketched a new wooden bar to evoke a vintage Chris-Craft boat, and helped the couple to envision where the furniture could be arranged. His team then executed the vision for a comfortable lounge atmosphere—all with a nautical bent.
“The [previous] bar was wasted space, so as a designer the goal is to say, ‘how do we maximize every square foot?’ And the new bar maximizes every square foot—it’s all usable, and as a designer, I love that,” says Sassano.
Although the family loved the home before, they adore it even more now—because they added custom details within a classic footprint—for a one-of-a-kind escape.
“That house for me is a sum of three amazing moments, tempered with a bunch of details,” says Sassano. “The bar, the ceiling in the great room and the kitchen rework all came together. And when [the homeowners] send pictures to me of them sitting at their bar, as a design professional, you know you’ve nailed it, the client loves it and you helped them build it.”
For the homeowners, just getting away from the busyness of their day-to-day life in their reimagined home is the reward.
“I love sitting outside, reading and looking at the lake because it’s so peaceful,” says the homeowner. “It’s a place where we can really get away and relax.”
The homeowners and Philip Sassano agreed the lake house had good bones—it was just a matter of updating it.
“[As a designer] I don’t reinvent something if it doesn’t need to be,” says Sassano. “Cosmetically if something doesn’t work, then we figure out another way to do it.”
He ticks off painting the range hood navy blue as a good example, or covering the great room ceiling in reclaimed barn wood. Sassano’s staff is well-equipped to handle whatever client challenges come his way, because they do some of the actual fabrication themselves. He and his team tackled staining the reclaimed barn wood and crafting the bar rather than contracting it out. His new space in the Starline Factory Studios in Harvard, Ill., allows him and his designers to meet with clients by appointment as well as actually create pieces— like a few of Sassano’s custom paintings that now hang in the family’s home.
“We’re really hands-on—we’re not a traditional design shop,” says Sassano. “For me it’s all about how I connect my clients with great things and how I can be the creative conduit for that.” ‘
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.
NEI-TURNER MEDIA GROUP
400 Broad Street, Unit D
Lake Geneva, WI 53147