Cottage Redefined / by Steven Klein

LAKE MICHIGAN VACATION HOME, A GATHERING PLACE FOR FAMILY

 Architects: Deep River Partners, Milwaukee                                                                                   Builders: RP Custom Homes, Mequon                                                                                          Interior Design: Susan Sherer, Trace Burger, Deep River Partners

 Outdoor living is at its best from the raised terrace that includes an outdoor kitchen, dining area, fire table and hot tube -- and magnificent lake views. 

Outdoor living is at its best from the raised terrace that includes an outdoor kitchen, dining area, fire table and hot tube -- and magnificent lake views. 

 (Left) Steps from the front entry draw visitors to the lower level atrium and the stunning "river" that flows the length of the house to the lake side of the property. A boulder that washed up out of Lake Michigan was carved out to create a fountain.   (Right) Dramatic architecture through the main corridor of the house framesviews of Lake Michigan. It is the first view for visitors to the home designed by Deep River Partners architects. "The entry brings users from the wooded west side of the property to the lake," says associate designer Nick Blavat. Sounds of trickling water from the lower level atrium draw visitors downstairs where they find a meandering water feature that stretches the length of the house to a beachside exit.

(Left) Steps from the front entry draw visitors to the lower level atrium and the stunning "river" that flows the length of the house to the lake side of the property. A boulder that washed up out of Lake Michigan was carved out to create a fountain. 

(Right) Dramatic architecture through the main corridor of the house framesviews of Lake Michigan. It is the first view for visitors to the home designed by Deep River Partners architects. "The entry brings users from the wooded west side of the property to the lake," says associate designer Nick Blavat. Sounds of trickling water from the lower level atrium draw visitors downstairs where they find a meandering water feature that stretches the length of the house to a beachside exit.

Written By: Janet Raasch                                                                                                                       Photos By: De Maio Photography

A photograph of Pat and Louise’s cottage on the shores of Lake Michigan just north of Milwaukee hangs on the wall of their master bedroom. The beloved cottage gave way to this new vacation home for the Hinsdale, Ill., family — an impressive 10,000-square-foot house designed by Deep River Partners architects that redefines the concept of a lake cottage. Its modern rustic style is North Woods Wisconsin meets Colorado ski lodge.

Even though the structure has changed, the spirit of the original house is intact. “I was worried when we built the new house it would separate me from the things that center me,” Louise says. “But the same reasons we love being up here are the same as in the old house,” she says. “It’s the surroundings.” Their growing family — seven children ranging in age from 17 to 33, spouses and several grandchildren — necessitated a larger house. “We built a space to accommodate our activities,” Louise says. “We wanted our grown kids to want to come back and spend time with us.”

Architect Richard Sherer, who spent his boyhood summers along the same stretch of Lake Michigan, says the lake was a driving force in the design. “The lake becomes the paramount feature of the property and is ever changing from one day to the next,” Sherer says. “The vista of the lake is of utmost importance; I took that seriously when designing the home.”

The design concept also was driven by the needs of such a large group while balancing intimacy and privacy, Sherer says. “It’s also creating a home that’s comfortable and casual in nature where its users can feel at home and comfortable, even in a wet swimming suit,” he says.


The 33-room house is divided by a three-story atrium that on the main floor separates what Sherer calls public and private spaces. Two floating glass bridges connect the bedrooms — including two full master suites and a loft — to the great room, kitchen, dining room, sitting room and private office for Pat, a commodities trader, to work remotely.

The lower level features a dramatic water feature that flows the length of the house from the wooded areas outside the main entry to the beach and water on the east side. Two bedrooms with bathrooms, a living room, exercise room, game room, home theater and a full spa-like bath with changing rooms and lockers for guests to change into beach attire are also on the lower level.

Architectural designer Nick Blavat says the eastern influenced architecture brings a subtle theme of sojourn to the residence, which is carried through in the interior design by Deep River Partners’ Susan Sherer and Trace Burger. The finishes throughout the house, such as African slate flooring, are meant to withstand the rigors of beach living and lots of traffic. Stained birch that gives the appearance of walnut is used throughout the residence and for the kitchen cabinets. “The finishes in the house are beautiful but not so fancy that you can’t really use the place,” Louise says.

Initially, the couple were considering keeping the cottage and building a guest house on another part of the property, but Louise didn’t want to lose the connection to the lake. “There is something centering seeing that vast expanse of water. I find that very spiritual,” Louise says. “It gets me out of myself and my everyday concerns.”

Pat and Louise have hosted many family gatherings since the house was completed in May 2011, including 23 people and nine dogs last Christmas. One of her children asked Louise which house felt more like home, the one in Hinsdale where they raised their children or the lake home. “I said, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to say it: This feels like home. This is the place we are going to gather.’

“We live a different life up there,” Louise says, noting that’s true for both her and Pat. “I started a garden last year and quadrupled it this year. I started baking again and am cooking more.”

Pat loves to get on the tractor at the beach. “He doesn’t do any of that at home but he loves to do that sort of thing up here. He loves little projects; for him that is a real escape from always thinking about his work.”

The lake is where the couple plan to retire; accessibility and even an elevator were incorporated into the design. “We did build it for our old age,” Louise says. “I have a mother with Alzheimer’s and my experience is she can still appreciate beauty. I’ve told all of my kids to make sure I’m sitting by a window because I can appreciate that.”

 (Top Left) Built-in window seats offer additional seating in the great room and panoramic views of Lake Michigan  (Bottom Left) The restful sounds and ever-changing views of Lake Michigan are part of master suite experience. The fireplace mantel and surround are made from Waukesha white stone. The painting is by Peter Kudlata, owner of Flagstone Landscaping.   (Top Right) A 14-foot long custom live edge dining table and bench made from a black walnut slab accommodate large family gatherings, which can often number 20-plus people. The chandelier becomes a conversation piece as it holds notes from guests about their experience at the lake. Deep River Partners' principal Susan Sherer assisted with the interior design prior to retiring; Trace Burger came on board to finish the project.  (Bottom Right) The professionally outfitted kitchen is designed to allow lots of people to participate in the cooking process. The vaulted ceiling with windows floods the room with natural light. Steven Klein of Klein Lighting designed the lighting plan for the home, which includes task lighiting around the perimeter of the kitchen. 

(Top Left) Built-in window seats offer additional seating in the great room and panoramic views of Lake Michigan

(Bottom Left) The restful sounds and ever-changing views of Lake Michigan are part of master suite experience. The fireplace mantel and surround are made from Waukesha white stone. The painting is by Peter Kudlata, owner of Flagstone Landscaping. 

(Top Right) A 14-foot long custom live edge dining table and bench made from a black walnut slab accommodate large family gatherings, which can often number 20-plus people. The chandelier becomes a conversation piece as it holds notes from guests about their experience at the lake. Deep River Partners' principal Susan Sherer assisted with the interior design prior to retiring; Trace Burger came on board to finish the project.

(Bottom Right) The professionally outfitted kitchen is designed to allow lots of people to participate in the cooking process. The vaulted ceiling with windows floods the room with natural light. Steven Klein of Klein Lighting designed the lighting plan for the home, which includes task lighiting around the perimeter of the kitchen. 

 The homeowners took great care to preserve the large oak tree on the property in the design and construction of a new lake house. Limestone retaining walls, cedar siding, a metal rood and Chilton stone veneer blend modern and rustic elements in the design.

The homeowners took great care to preserve the large oak tree on the property in the design and construction of a new lake house. Limestone retaining walls, cedar siding, a metal rood and Chilton stone veneer blend modern and rustic elements in the design.

 (Left) A lower level terrace is designed for a younger family members to sit around the fire put while being in the proximity of the rest of the group. The porch above connects to the master bedroom suite. Fond du Lac stone is used extensively in the landscaping.  (Right) The sitting room includes a banquette area. The room was originally designed as a screen porch, but the homeowners wanted it to be enclosed for year round enjoyment. 

(Left) A lower level terrace is designed for a younger family members to sit around the fire put while being in the proximity of the rest of the group. The porch above connects to the master bedroom suite. Fond du Lac stone is used extensively in the landscaping.

(Right) The sitting room includes a banquette area. The room was originally designed as a screen porch, but the homeowners wanted it to be enclosed for year round enjoyment.