“Sometimes you meet people who just have it figured out,” says architect Fred Wilson about the North Shore couple who own this Wisconsin vacation home. “They’re the coolest. They knew their priorities and exactly what they wanted.” Luckily, Wilson—along with his wife and business partner Elissa Morgante, project manager America Garcia, and an extensive in-house team—was uniquely qualified to bring to life both the couple’s initial ideas and the things they had never dreamed of but would later come to love. The result is an awe-inspiring vacation retreat purposefully designed to connect with its lakeside setting while creating a relaxed environment.
“We wanted the house to feel natural, like so many of the historic homes in the area,” explains the homeowner about the first item on her and her husband’s long list of must-haves. “But we have a big extended family, so it was really about being functional and multi-generational, with rooms that could morph to the needs of the residents. We’d been fans of Fred’s and Elissa’s work and felt they had the ability to do that.”
To execute the owners’ vision, materials including locally sourced Fond du Lac Tailored stone, washed cedar and standing seam metal were folded into the home’s complex architectural design. “The main building is basically a long tube,” Wilson says. “It’s anchored at each end with round figural elements, like exclamation points, that break down the symmetry and capture the views.” At one end is the ground-level master suite, the center point of which is a circular sitting area. The owners consider it a sanctuary. “It provides privacy when we have larger gatherings and tranquil comfort when we’re staying at the home as a couple,” says the wife. At the other end, an octagon shape houses a screened porch off the kitchen, which functions as an indoor and outdoor room most of the year.
An open floor plan prevails in the center of the home, encompassing all of the main living areas, which are defined and brought down to livable scale by a formidable wood-and-steel bridge that’s supported by a steel beam system. “Those beams go all the way up to hold the roof and bridge, and then down to the basement,” notes builder Earl Pomplun, who worked alongside John Loberg as project manager of the residence’s construction. “We built each end of the house first and then connected it to the middle. It was the only way to do it.” In addition, timber strand beams link a wall of windows oriented toward the lake.
Furnishing the spaces was Morgante’s task, and her approach was to address both function and form. “The whole house had to be usable,” she says, “and no two rooms could function the same. So, we directed the clients toward an earthy, organic, midcentury modern-chic look with a sophisticated palette of colors, textures and materials. Furnishings were upscale pieces, but comfortable and inviting.”
For example, the living room features clean-lined furniture on floating plinths upholstered in tones of putty, olive and eggplant. In the adjoining dining area, the table was ingeniously designed to divide into four sections that could be aligned in various configurations or grouped together as one unit. In turn, the kitchen is both rustic and chic with its careful composition of stone, marble, wood, and glass—materials that were chosen for not only visual appeal but also practicality.
From the start, the collaboration among Wilson, Morgante and the entire design team gave the house a clear focus. “How they listen and transform ideas into reality is a gift,” says the wife. “They’ve given us a home that we can grow into for years to come.”