For Erik and Samantha Torgeson, life is all about family. With three young children, their day-to-day is focused on their kids—and managing Roughing It In Style, the store Erik’s family opened 12 years ago, 10 miles south of Minocqua.
The couple met years ago attending college at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, but with both of them having family commitments up north (Samantha’s family owns a marina in Eagle River) and Erik’s position as general manager and vice president of Roughing It In Style, the time was ripe to move to be closer to all of it.
The couple originally settled in Minocqua in a small ranch house. But when they decided to start a family, they found the house was too close to a busy road—so they started searching in Eagle River, to be close to Samantha’s family. They also wanted to be on the water. They connected with Judy Barr of RE/MAX Property Pros to start a search for a waterfront home—but one that needed a “little TLC to get to its full potential,” explains Erik.
Barr found a 1970’s ranch with 100 feet of frontage on the channel between Eagle and Otter lakes. The couple walked through it and knew they hit the jackpot.
“The bones of the home were really good, but the interior was quite a project—but we were up for it,” says Erik. “We looked at it as a way to learn some of the building trade things we’d always wanted to learn. Luckily, we had family in the area that we could stay with while we remodeled it.”
With outdated features like popcorn ceilings, a closed-off galley kitchen, a “salmon-colored, carpeted” bathroom, white linoleum kitchen cabinets and more—the couple was eager to get to work.
Erik says two hours after they closed on the home “we had a dumpster in the driveway and we had a crew with 12 friends with sledgehammers and we were like, ‘OK, let’s do this,’” he says. During the four-month renovation in which they lived with Samantha’s parents, Erik would work all day at the store, come home and go to work on the house. Samantha would put the kids to bed, then come over to work on the house until midnight, too.
“It was a little crazy,” admits Samantha.
But the results have been worth it for the family. Although they didn’t change the footprint of the house, they removed a few walls and moved the location of a few windows. And of course—they updated all of the finishes throughout the home.
Now, the main floor features a great room that connects seamlessly to the kitchen. Before, Erik says there was a tight doorway that led into the kitchen—and the small space had a patio door that looked right into the neighbor’s home. They removed the walls that cut off the kitchen from the living room and also the patio door. Then, they added a set of windows to let light in. Erik says the kitchen virtually doubled in size after they added a horseshoe-shaped island and lots more cabinetry—plus—the openness of the space makes it feel much larger.
“In the previous kitchen, if you wanted to be a part of the conversation and you were cooking … you would have been cut off from everybody else. We wanted to open that up so that we can be together as a family,” says Erik.
Luxe materials dress up the new space—like the custom reclaimed barn wood cabinetry (crafted by Roughing It In Style’s partner company Reclaimed Rustic Woodworks out of Phillips), dark granite countertops with a “rustic edge” and cool, flat river rock backsplash throughout the whole space. And the couple left no detail unnoticed—like the pantry door inlaid with corrugated metal and all of the kitchen hardware that was hand-forged by a Wisconsin blacksmith.
Luckily the living room already had some built-in character via the wood beams in the ceiling that the couple left as-is. They added in barn wood planks on the ceiling to reinforce the vibe, then outfitted the room and dining area with furnishings from—where else?—Roughing It In Style. Working with the store’s interior designers, the couple chose the hickory dining table, custom upholstered end chairs, metal twig-like chandelier and other odds and ends throughout the room—like the metal feathers that hang on the wall.
“Sometimes the hardest part about working at Roughing It In Style is not spending your paycheck on all of these things,” jokes Erik good-naturedly.
In the lower level the couple didn’t change much besides sprucing up the space’s décor. The wood-burning fireplace was swapped out for a gas insert to provide extra heat in the winter. The bar was already there, but the couple recovered it in reclaimed barn wood. They also added in a fun mosaic accent wall of reclaimed barn wood, which is a favorite of both of theirs.
The couple is grateful that they’ve found a comfortable, waterfront spot for their young family—and it was certainly a labor of love for all involved.
“We have a lot of family members with varied skills. We definitely had a lot of people helping us make this dream come true,” says Erik.
The couple was looking for an interesting backsplash and found this gray river rock that the couple’s brother-in-law helped Erik install. “We ended up running it all the way up the wall—it’s a really fun feature,” says Erik. The kitchen’s open shelving features wrought-iron brackets forged by a Wisconsin blacksmith.
The small alcove in the kitchen used to be a coat closet that the couple opted to open up—and they still use it for hanging coats—but now it feels more spacious. Erik bought the cigar store Native American sculpture from a wood carver that visits the area about once a year. “It’s just a natural spot [for it to be] right there,” says Erik.
Warm shades of brick red, mustard yellow and navy blue reflect the couple’s love of rustic style—but lends an updated edge to the aesthetic. The bar is outfitted with English campaign-style chairs and a leather-and-fabric combo sofa is traditional, yet refined.
The couple particularly loves the mosaic-style reclaimed barn wood walls and trim throughout the space.
Samantha picked up some handwoven baskets from a trip to Ecuador that now hang in the bar area.
By Shayna Mace | Photography by RKPhotoArt
2,500 SQUARE FEET / 3 BEDROOMS / 3 BATHS
This home was featured in the Northwoods: Fall 2019 issue. For more photos of featured Northwoods homes, visit the Northwoods 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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