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
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.”