It had been 13 years since a Wisconsin couple had purchased their log-sided weekend home—a peaceful retreat on Lake Michigan with access to a white sandy beach—when they felt the need for a renovation. “One day, I went to open the front door, and the handle came off,” remembers the wife. Those shiny brass handles had never really fit with the home’s style anyway. Using them as an impetus for change, the homeowners then realized that they didn’t really care for the slate flooring either. As their designer Jessica Jubelirer recalls, “Once we addressed the flooring, it made sense to talk about how the great room was too small, and then one thing just led to another.”
So Jubelirer—along with architectural designer Kevin Yurske and general contractor Oyvind Solvang—worked with the owners to completely reimagine the house. “Many log homes are quite elaborate, with open gables and floor-to-ceiling glass to get those full views,” Solvang says. “This dwelling didn’t really have that, and, in turn, drove the process.” Thus, the team set out to make the dark interior bright and airy while staying true to the home’s log cabin aesthetic.
Since family and friends often gather at the lake house, the great room was expanded by six feet to make it more functional. “A wall of windows was added to frame the view of the lake like a piece of art,” Jubelirer says. “We then brought in tailored Roman shades in an unlined sheer to compliment the view without taking away from it.” Other rooms were also expanded, including the tiny dining area, which gained square footage and a higher ceiling.
Next, Jubelirer focused on refreshing the home’s orangey-brown log interior. “I was at a horse farm and there was this beautiful weathered, whitewashed fence,” she says. “In that moment, I knew how we would resolve the home’s overall design direction.” Adds the wife, “Jessica had the painter work up various samples to get these logs looking like they’re sort of chipped away. There’s a grayish-brown underneath and then the white. It’s very appropriate for the beach.” The original cold slate floors were then replaced with character-grade, plain-sawn white oak for a warmer beachy feel. “They’re hand-scraped and rustic,” Jubelirer says, “so when people have sand between their toes, the floors can take a beating and still look great.”
The homeowners also didn’t want the furnishings to be too matchy or overbearing. “I love the couches in the main great room because nothing feels massive and you can see all the way through the room and out to the lake from different seating areas,” says the wife, who worked closely with Jubelirer to create the perfect visual flow. “This became a very personal project for me. The doorknobs, the way the windows are raised and lowered, the lampshades—I had input on everything. Jessica knew what to show me, and I trusted her judgment.” For example, several rooms sport colorful rugs that Jubelirer picked up on a trip to Morocco. “I carried them on the back of a mule down the Atlas Mountains,” she says. “I didn’t want to part with some of them, but they were too perfect, and they had clearly found their home.”
Far from a traditional lake house, the home now displays colorful artwork and funky details like a custom light fixture made of salvaged sockets in the dining room and a bold custom kitchen island fashioned from reclaimed timbers. “It has a distressed zinc countertop—really thick and beefy—and it’s mitered, which gives it a contemporary vibe,” Jubelirer says. “It’s not fussy,” the wife says. “It has little circle marks from glassware on it, and that will be the patina. It will end up looking like an old-time bar and that’s just what I wanted.” Adds Slovang, “The challenge was to mix rustic and sophisticated elements, and that’s not easy to pull off. But I think we did it in the overall design, as well as in many of the finishes.”
The couple and their guests spend lots of time outdoors, so Solvang’s team built a wraparound deck with large stone stairs and landscape architect Judith Stark added plantings that blend with the natural surrounds. “We used meadow flowers and beach grasses,” she says. “We then added a fire pit close to the lake and a hammock between two trees.”
Ultimately, the team wanted to create a place where the couple could kick back with bare feet and good friends—and it has become just that. The wife gathers there with her girlfriends, the family enjoys late night fires together, and it’s become the perfect spot for the Fourth of July. As the wife says, “I come in and take a deep breath. There’s not a big television, there’s no to-do list. It’s really peaceful. There’s a little sign that my sister gave me that says it all: This is my happy place.”