Tommy and Shanna Ahlquist’s McCall, Idaho retreat on Blackhawk Lake had become a four-season springboard for all kinds of outdoor adventures, but the house—a log kit home built in 1999—hadn’t aged well. The couple wondered if they should start fresh with something bigger and better. “We wanted a place our kids and grandkids couldn’t wait to get back to,” Tommy says. The lightbulb moment came while the pair was out canoeing. Tommy looked back at the cabin and said to Shanna, “Let’s completely redo it and make it what it needs to be.”
An ER doctor-turned-commercial developer, Tommy immediately reached out to interior designer Jordan Yankovich, with whom he’d collaborated previously. Yankovich headed to McCall for a look. Taking in the profusion of yellow-pine logs, the dated interior accented with river rock and the too-small kitchen, she asked how big of a change they envisioned. Tommy and Shanna agreed: The cabin needed major reconstructive surgery. “It’s an amazing site,” says Yankovich, “but they needed to get more out of the house.”
Expanding was a must, but when builder Todd Allen brought on residential designer Lisa Beck, she suggested that rather than building toward the lake they extend the cabin on either side. “The idea was to elongate the house so they could enjoy the lake lifestyle much more freely,” says Beck. “Now there are plenty of indoor-outdoor spaces, and our goal was to give every room a view of the water.”
Guided by Shanna and Tommy’s desire for a family-friendly home, the team reorganized the interior into three primary zones: the main public rooms on the first floor, a kid-friendly escape with a loft, bunk room and deck upstairs, and a TV room/teen hangout in the expanded walkout basement downstairs. Oriented to provide views of the lake, one of the new wings now houses the main suite. The other contains the gathering room, a cafe-like space with a long banquette and a throwback vibe that accommodates overflow from the dining room and serves as a more intimate living area. A harmonious transition between old and new was critical, says Beck. “We didn’t want anything to feel like an addition.”
Though the house’s shell remained, the original structure gained around 1,600 square feet in the renovation, along with an expanded deck and other patios. But the biggest challenge was the nine-month timeline. “Ordinarily, a project like this would take a year, but Tommy wanted it done for the Fourth of July, and there was four feet of snow on the ground when we started,” recalls Allen, who had a team of around 40, including 14 carpenters. “Every morning Tommy would say, ‘What do you need?’ and ‘How can I help?’ ”
For her part, Yankovich, along with associates Tara Garrett and Laurie Engelbreit, knew the key to transforming the interior lay in completely overhauling the pine logs. After whitewashing a sample, she experimented with a blackish-brown stain until she achieved the contrast she was looking for. With the background established, she gave the living room’s double-height, river rock fireplace a dramatic rewrite, facing the entire wall with four massive slabs of leathered quartzite instead.
Compatible with the couple’s “mountain modern” style is the industrial-feeling metal stair and kitchen cabinets wrapped in durable cold-rolled steel, along with a palette of blues and forest greens. “As much as I like light colors and natural materials, I kept away from things that wouldn’t age well,” explains Yankovich, who frequently turned to high-performance upholstery fabrics.
Tommy made sure the cabin would contain fun details for all ages, like the sleepover deck, a 30-foot rock-climbing wall, an in-ground trampoline and a slide that spans the backside of the building, as well as a sauna and a locker room where guests can come in from a day on the slopes or the lake and change out of their “play” clothes. And then there’s the ice cream room—complete with a soft-serve ice cream maker. “Tommy would say he was playing to win the grandpa game,” Yankovich remarks with a laugh.
The lakefront cabin now embodies its owners’ dream of a legacy family home. “Anyone can buy a piece of property and put a nice new house on it,” says Tommy, “but taking something old and making it harmonize with your wants and desires, that’s more difficult. This cabin will be in our family for generations.”