During the summers when their children were small, Jack and Joan Hansen spent the weekends at their cottage on Wisconsin’s Red Cedar Lake.
Now retired and with their grown children, the St. Pauls looked forward to a full-time life on the lake. Though charming, the family’s modest cabin had a steep slope to the lake and views of the water were limited. So when they came across an estate with a cabin and 12 acres of shoreline on the north side of Cedar with less slope, it seemed like a fate.
“As we get older, we want to be able to navigate the lake without having to navigate anything steep,” Jack said.
The cab had so many structural problems that it had to be torn down. But the property, although overgrown, had the potential to accommodate the multigenerational structure they wanted and to offer picturesque views of the lake, with its coves and bays.
After vetting several companies, they hired Minneapolis-based Lundin Architects to design a contemporary cabin.
“They had a signature style,” Joan said. “It was definitely modern, clean lines.”
Togetherness and privacy
It was decided early in the design process that two empires would be created, said architect Richard C. Lundin. Known as the Red Cedar Lake Home project, the cabin was named a winner of the AIA Star Tribune Home of the Month 2022-2023, a partnership with the Minnesota division of the American Institute of Architects.
The cabin has two different sections; one contains the gathering areas, such as the living room, dining room and kitchen. A screened porch with a walk-through window next to the kitchen also provides a connection with nature.
That section is intersected by a charred north-south box, which physically and visually separates the public and private space. The other wing contains the primary bedroom, with modern elements such as heat treated wood, an alternative to green wood. For the bathroom, large terrazzo-style porcelain slabs with grain and minimal grout lines were used for the backsplash.
An office, also on the ground floor, can be transformed into a guest room.
“My mom can visit and she has access to everything on one floor,” Joan said.
Jack said they also wanted space for their grown children, their guests and, perhaps one day, grandchildren.
The thinking was how we “capture and create privacy for” [their guests]”And then for the owners of the house, they have their own realm so they can enjoy their lifestyle without feeling when someone comes over and ‘I have to transform my house for them.'” That really determines how we’ve mapped things out.”
There is a loft with a bathroom and bedrooms. Douglas bunk beds together with floors and wall coverings made of natural cork are woven into the design.
“We wanted the cabin to have a natural palette,” Lundin said. “The Douglas fir just has a wonderful warmth. The cork for the wallcovering looks just like birch bark.”
One with nature
For Lundin it was important to connect with nature. That’s why an open wind channel between the garage and the house provides a view of the lake instead of blocking it. The warm, wooden breezeway also allows direct access to the water without stepping into the cabin.
While landscaping was incorporated, the site was left as natural as possible. On the south side, a gently sloping walkway of natural wild grass leads to a fire pit, gazebo, family beach and swimming jetty.
“It’s on an ADA-grade grade path,” Lundin said. “With the gazebo, we thought it would be a place for adults to go to supervise the kids when they’re swimming, but might not want to be around all the insects.”
A wraparound path through the forest provides areas for peace and quiet. Plus, benches and a hidden dock provide places to pause and enjoy nature. There are also facilities for group outdoor activities, such as a volleyball court and a “toy” shed with a foosball table, quads and snowmobiles.
The Hansens are pleased to have found an architect who brought a contemporary vision to both their indoor and outdoor spaces.
“The house was meant to have a strong focus on us while we enjoy our retirement years,” said Jack. “We wanted it to be extremely livable, accessible and convenient.”
Today, the Hansens are settling down and enjoying cabin life full time.
Joan loves to stroll along the trails and sometimes takes time out at one of the sitting areas. “We can see all kinds of wildlife; it’s very charming and peaceful,” she said.
The couple uses the gazebo more than they imagined, eating there and just sitting to enjoy the breeze.
There is live music on Sundays [from a restaurant across the lake] and it almost sounds like the band is playing for us all the way to the gazebo,’ said Jack. ‘It’s a lovely sitting area. And there are no mistakes.”
The cabin has also provided for family bonding, gathering around the fireplace in the living room or doing puzzles at the dining table, or going outside to jump in the lake.
“It’s very beneficial for all age groups. When the kids come, they have their private space and yet we can get together in the public areas,” Joan said. “We build special memories there.”
About this project
What: A modern cabin connects the homeowners with the surrounding natural landscape while creating separate meeting and private spaces, and the forest and lake landscape offers various opportunities for relaxation.
Project type: New building.
Project Size: Over 3,000 square feet.
Cost per square meter: $375.
Design agency: Lundin Architects.
Project team: Richard C. Lundin II, AIA; Mike Bader, AIA.